Invest your professional skills in politics, women told
In order to address female confidence and capacity gaps to participate in political processes, professional women have been advised to convert their professional capability to political capital.
The admonition was handed out to female participants during a one-day sensitization workshop for professional women participating in electoral process.
The women were tasked to develop self-esteem and respect for each other, build bridges across party, ethnic and religious lines to promote shared agenda.
The workshop, which held in Abuja recently, was organised by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for women drawn from various professions across the country.
Speakers at the event said it was about time women practised and promoted gender solidarity by genuinely supporting female candidates, as well as identify and select the right candidates.
In her presentation, Prof. Funmi Para-Mallam advocated for a changed system that challenges the patriarchal interpretations and stereotypes, saying, “Change your mindset; get off the sidelines and network with other women at community level. Women must learn not to be shortsighted by acting the PhD script (pull her down syndrome). Rather, they must develop the culture of supporting and promoting each other.”
While speaking on ‘Professional Women in Leadership and Decision Making,’ a Senior Fellow of National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Plateau State, Dr. Musa Umar, said it was crucial to be sober and reflect on the kind of leaders that should address Nigeria’s problems, especially at this critical period.
According to him, “With women, there is hope for Nigeria. They need to be engaged in decision making of the country. When government fails to engage women, it raises issue of its legitimacy. Only six per cent of women are currently involved in governance; this shows illegitimacy of the government. I must say that Nigeria is still far from achieving inclusiveness in governance.”
He lamented that women are usually marginalised in political process, which is a manifestation of a weak political process. Umar pointed that women were key to changing the narrative as leadership is about influencing behaviour, and charged professional women to echo the voices of women who are in politics, especially in the rural communities.
He stated further, “If women can have the conviction of where Nigeria ought to be, it would reflect on the entire country because women are better at driving vision. But when you marginalise women, you marginalise their potential.”
Earlier, National Commissioner, INEC, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, said the workshop was imperative as strengthening women’s rights and addressing barriers to political participation were critical to achieving gender equality and female empowerment.
Ogunmola who was represented by Deputy Director, Gender Division, INEC, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, said the workshop would provide the platform for professional women to engage and see reason to be part of the election process, as well as assist other women in voter education to address voter apathy.
He said, “Professional women as leaders in society are best suited to influence their peers and change the negative narrative regarding women. They are a critical component of the electoral system and are the missing link to inclusive elections.
“When women participate in elections as voters, candidates, electoral administrators or party supporters, they express their own needs and interests. It is, therefore, in our collective interest as electoral stakeholders to eliminate gender barriers and pave way for fair representation of women.”
Also, Director, Voter Education, Publicity, Gender Division, INEC, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said the workshop was aimed at finding new ways of tapping the intellectual and professional capacity of professional women to enhance the quality and quantity of women’s involvement in the country’s electoral democracy.
“It is our expectation that career women will step out and take up roles as voter educators, campaign advisers, mobilisers, trainers, mentors, sponsors and even as party flag bearers,” he stated.
In her speech, Obidegwu stressed that women elites deserve the opportunity to bring their capacity and capability to bear and make their impact felt by getting actively involved in various electoral roles.
Her speech, which was delivered by Deputy Director, Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society Organisations, Liaison Department, INEC, Mr. Jamilu Sabiu, uged women to deploy their experience and skills to facilitate improvement in women’s political visibility by tackling various the factors that perpetuate gender disparity in politics.
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