INEC promises to ensure level playing ground for women
Ahead of February 25 general elections, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged to ensure that there is level playing ground for women vying for political offices in the country.
The commission, therefore, said it would ensure that women vote and are voted for in the coming general elections.
Deputy Director, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Division, INEC, Ndidi Okafor, gave the assurance at the launch of the Roadmap to Advance Gender Equality in Political Leadership in Nigeria, organised by International Republican Institute (IRI), Women’s Democracy Network and a Civil Society Organisation, ElectHer on Friday in Abuja.
According to Okafor, INEC as an electoral umpire takes gender issues seriously, adding that it had been working hard to ensure that no gender is suppressed when it comes to voting and aspiring to be voted for.
“We are committed to mainstreaming gender issues in elections. We are committed to ensuring that women vote and are voted for. Women are intellectually healthy. Make use of the best information from this programme and participate in the elections. Support one another,” Ndidi said.
Speaking, the Programme Officer, Women’s Democracy Network IRI, Bryant Martin Fiesta, said many women leaders and civil society organisations have expressed fear about the likelihood of insecurity affecting women’s participation in the forthcoming poll.
He, however, expressed confidence that the female candidates would perform well at the poll, adding that the roadmap to ensure gender equity was aimed at ensuring that “we bring down structures that prevent women from advancing in politics.”
He said: “I have had a chance since I arrived here in Abuja earlier this week, to sit down with women leaders, civil society representatives, as well as a people running for election.
“We have found that they are very much committed to running effective campaigns. Now, there are some concerns with insecurity and the peculiarity around the policy around the naira and fuel scarcity, but they’re committed and we’ve seen that they have mobilised effectively at the local grassroots level party agents to support them and come out for them when the poll opens on February 25.”
Founder, CEO/Founder ElectHER, Ibijoke Faborode, raised concern over the low participation and representation of women as candidates in the 2023 elections, describing it as unacceptable.
She, however, said her organisation would continue to work at ensuring total implementation of the roadmap and ensure that women in Nigeria participate actively in politics.
She stated: “As we know that the numbers right now are not great, women are being marginalised, and it really serves no one. However, I don’t think everyone knows that and I feel a lot of people in Nigeria are operating from a place of ignorance because sometimes, people get angry when we advocate for women, but we should all know that women’s issues are not women’s issues. It’s a national issue and a global one at that.
“This is because in the population and economy, women are all factored in. During COVID, a lot of women were affected. A lot of women were victims of gender-based violence. So, when we talk about women’s issues, we talk about the protection of human life and about our existence and survival.
“I look forward to a Nigeria where when we’re talking about women issue, we just don’t have women in the room. We have men who are male allies. Just now, I spoke about the correlation between women’s issues and the current issues we’re facing as a country like instability, inflation, foreign exchange, reduction in foreign direct investment, all those things are linked to the lack of equity. This is because when we don’t have the right people that reflect society, and when our policies are not shaped in a way where we protect our social structures, we’re going to have issues like this.”
The Resident Programme Director, IRI Nigeria, Santiago Stocker, said the institute has been working to empower women to participate in politics, adding that they would ensure a structural change.
“Democracy is for all human beings, both men and women. This roadmap is to effectively advance gender equality in political leadership in Nigeria,” he said.