By Chinwe Ogbuka (Asst. Director)
The Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Gender Policy has paved the way for key institutional changes at both its Headquarters and state offices.
This assertion was made by the Commission’s National Commissioner, Prof. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine at the opening of a series of sensitization workshops on the significance and implementation of the INEC Gender Policy organized for the Commission’s staff in Abuja.
Prof. Simbine noted that the Commission recognizes the place of gender equality and women empowerment in the credibility checklist for the management and administration of electoral processes. According to her, the role of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) like INEC in a democracy “is to conduct free, fair and credible elections as well as provide an enabling environment for all eligible citizens irrespective of sex, creed or tribe to exercise their constitutional rights and privileges to vote and be voted for during periodic elections.”
The National Commissioner said that the electoral umpire, having recognized the importance of gender issues, would continue to adopt procedures that align with the constitutional principles of social justice, equity and equality, in a bid to eliminate discrimination, foster inclusiveness and full participation of every segment of the society in the electoral process.
The aim of the workshop, she averred, “is to build the capacity of staff, improve their knowledge of the INEC Gender Policy and spur them to be committed to the roles required of them in achieving the objectives of the policy.”
Prof. Simbine reminded the staff that as the Commission’s personnel, they share in the role of building a gender responsive electoral system, adding, “the INEC Gender Policy provides a road map and activity outline to mainstream gender policy in the Commission and encourage other stakeholders in the electoral system to do likewise.”
She enjoined the participants to pay attention to the speakers as they lead them through an awareness journey and expressed the confidence that at the end of the workshop, “you shall return to your work with better understanding of the place of gender in election management.”
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi said that the workshop was significant in exposing the staff to the gains of a gender responsive electoral Commission. Represented by the Deputy Director, Gender Division of VEP, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, Osaze-Uzzi reminded participants that as INEC Staff, “we are all voter education officers and we need to be well grounded on what to give out to the public.”