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Call for women’s political participation heightens at womanifesto dialogue

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
08 January 2022   |   2:06 am
Women are powerful agents of change; their far-reaching benefits of diversity and gender parity in leadership and decision-making are increasingly recognised in all spheres.

A cross section of participants at the Womanifesto dialogue, holding copies of the Demand Charter on, ‘What Nigerian Women Want.’

Women are powerful agents of change; their far-reaching benefits of diversity and gender parity in leadership and decision-making are increasingly recognised in all spheres. Still, women continue to be vastly under-represented in decision-making in politics, businesses, and communities.

The rise of insecurity in Nigeria and the accompanying backlash against women in public life, as well as a general fatigue about addressing barriers to women’s access to leadership and decision-making, all present serious challenges.

Admiting these civic spaces have been shrinking, while attacks on women in political and public life have been increasing.

Against this backdrop, the Womanifeso Dialogue with theme, ‘Connecting Voices for Transformative Leadership, Agenda 2023’ and ‘Secure Our Lives Gender Dimensions of Insecurity in Africa,’ is developing a strategy to break the bottlenecks, balance the power equation in leadership and elevate women in decision-making while developing strategy for peace and security.

At the Dialogue, women representatives from governance in National and State Houses of Assembly, civil society organisations, women with disability, academia, and autonomous women groups were present.

Speaking at the event, Co-Convener, Womanifesto Dialogue, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi emphasised that issues of women’s political participation in the midst of insecurity remains a daunting challenge that needs to be tackled. “We stand at a pivotal moment for women’s leadership and gender equity as we head towards the 2023 elections.”

She added that constitution amendment creates a clear case for balancing the power equation in leadership and elevating women in decision-making, urging women to demand accountability at their constituency level for inclusion of women in political leadership.

Chairman of the event and Secretary General, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, Hajiya Saudatu Mahdi, emphasised that women’s low political participation calls for a state of emergency.

She noted that progress in women’s leadership would not happen automatically, saying, “We must dedicate resources and build a roadmap towards repositioning women to take up positions of leadership at all levels. The more women lawmakers we have, the better the laws that will be made. The 2023 election will be a litmus test of how much we connect our voices and demonstrate our unity.

During her keynote address, a senator representing Ekiti South Constituency, Abiodun Olujimi disclosed that the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill would remove the endemic barriers to women participation in politics.

She said the bill was designed to increase women’s political involvement, while House of Representatives Chair, House Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, expressed optimism that a female President would be possible in the 2023 election provided women were given the opportunity.

“Democracy is a majoritarian system and we need numbers to win, people can be upskilled after elections to foster competence if they don’t perform the option of recall which also applies to me.”

Onyejeocha also noted that Constituency engagement between elected officials and their constituency is relevant to making democracy vibrant.

Highlight of the Womanifesto Dialogue was the launching and adoption of the Women’s Charter of demand, titled, ‘The Nigeria Women Want.’ The charter encapsulates issues such as wpolitical participation, women peace and security, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Constitution Reform, Girl Child Education and Sexual Gender Based Violence.