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Women groups lament violence, low turnout in 2023 elections

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
13 May 2023   |   3:55 am
With women winning only 75 legislative seats out of the 1,459 seats up for grabs at the state and national levels in the 2023 general election, a coalition of women groups has decried the violence that induced the low turnout of voters recorded in the polls.


Seek Passage Of Gender Bills
With women winning only 75 legislative seats out of the 1,459 seats up for grabs at the state and national levels in the 2023 general election, a coalition of women groups has decried the violence that induced the low turnout of voters recorded in the polls.

The coalition, led by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) in collaboration with Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and supported by the Macarthur Foundation in conjunction with National Coalition on Affirmative Action (NCAA), Women in Politics Forum, GECORN, 100 Women Lobby Group, Gender Technical Unit and Womanifesto, bemoaned the under-representation of women in politics in both elective and appointive positions despite the consistent push for increased representation during a public hearing it organised on the 2023 elections.

Tagged, ‘Impact of Violence and Corruption in the 2023 Elections’ in the six Southwest states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo, the group observed that at regional level, Southwest had the lowest turnout of voters.

With cases of late arrival of voting materials and INEC officials, voter suppression, violent attacks on women, which led to deaths in some cases and disenfranchisement of the electorate, the group said the irregularities observed in the last elections underscored the need for a road map for future elections in Nigeria.

Speaking at the end of the public hearing, Coordinator and Founder, Visionspring Initiative, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, said the general election saw more women lose their seats, adding that it was a poor score card for women.

“The National Assembly has about 95 per cent men and so we don’t have the capacity to get the gender bills passed. Some of us have had to reach out to these senators one-on-one; we have been pushing. We even went to court and won 35 per cent affirmative action but implementing the judgment is a problem. So, it is an issue of lack of political will,” she said.

Also speaking, Executive Director at Women’s Rights and Health Project, Bose Ironsi, said: “Women are very meticulous and our politicians know this. But then there is no stopping. We will ensure there is a high level of advocacy, mobilise more women and ensure that if they don’t play our cards, we call them back. We will definitely lobby more and we want them to sit up. Women are not discouraged. This is not a fight, but we want them to understand that in this process of leadership, women need to be there.”

On her part, Executive Director, Women for Peace and Gender Equality Initiative, Dr. Mojisola Akinsanya, noted that the government used the weapon of economic crisis to disenfranchise women.

“You cannot tell a rural woman who doesn’t have access to basic amenities to come out and vote. There were barriers of threat to life, ethnic profiling and hate speech. All these made women not participate in the elections,” she said.

The recommendations made at the public hearing include that security agencies vested with the responsibility of monitoring elections should be more proactive in ensuring the safety and security of citizens during the electoral process and ensure they hand over electoral offenders to the court for punishment to serve as deterrent to others; political parties should promote gender equality and inclusiveness by embracing Affirmative
Action from their manifestos to reserving seats and supporting women and vulnerable groups participation in the electoral process as candidates, party officials and voters; and there should be a legal framework to regulate and enforce campaign financing and spending by political parties and candidates to curb the prevalence of vote buying and other corrupt practices.

Others include that law enforcement officers should ensure that election violence does not deter women, girls and other vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities from performing their role as voters and those to be voted for; the National Assembly should as a matter of urgency revisit the five gender bills as a means of ensuring women’s participation in equal terms with men in politics and other decision-making positions considering that gender equality is critical to sustainable development; the National Assembly as the law-making agency of the country should ensure that gender inclusion and equity is mainstreamed into its structures at all levels.

The group also demanded that qualified women be considered for the top three slots of principal officers of the National Assembly either as Senate President, Deputy Senate President or Speaker, noting that this would contribute to inclusive governance leading to national development.