By Ayo Kehinde
On the back drop of the ongoing electoral reforms and constitutional amendments at the National Assembly, Nigeria women, stakeholders and other women empowerment organisations are poise to make inputs that would enhance gender equality in political participation in Nigeria.
Towards this end, the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, held a virtual media roundtable on gender and electoral reforms in collaboration with Yiaga Africa, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, other EU-SDGN partners, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) on Tuesday, February 10, 2021 at 1.00pm under theme: ‘Dissecting the issues for gender inclusion in electoral reforms’.
Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director of IPC gave the opening/welcome remarks, while Mrs. Mufuliat Fijabi, CEO of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (who was represented by Ms. Lois Chinedu) and Mr. Samson Itodo, Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, respectively gave perspectives on the background to the inclusive issues of gender in the ongoing electoral reforms.
Others who made presentations at the roundtable were Mrs. Rhoda Tyoden, National President of FIDA who spoke on sub-theme: ‘Why gender matter matters: Prioritizing the demand for gender-driven electoral reforms’ and Mrs. Ladi Bala, NAWOJ President who addressed the sub-theme: ‘Prioritizing gender inclusion in the electoral process. How the media can storify and amplify the issues’.
Female politicians including two serving States of House of Assembly members (Hon. Adeteju Okuyiga of Ekiti State and Hon. Favour Tamomewo of Ondo State), gender activists, male and female journalists and editors from the broadcast, print and online media – across the six-geo political zone attended the roundtable.
In his remarks, Mr. Lanre Arogundade noted that IPC along with other EU-SDGN partners are interested in ensuring that the on-going electoral reform process leads to the passage of an electoral legislation that would serve as an enabling instrument to promote qualitative female participation in the electoral process while serving as mechanism that enables more women to be elected.
Mr Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director of IPC
He emphasised the need to have amendments to Section 31 (1) of the Electoral Act to make it mandatory for political parties to include women, persons with disabilities and youths in their list of candidates for elections and Section 87 of the Electoral Act, to make it mandatory for political parties to ensure 50 per cent inclusion of both genders as delegates in their primaries.
He also said that Section 100 of the Electoral Act should be amended to make it mandatory for the media to grant special advert concessions to female candidates, youths and PWDs while Section 104 needs to be amended to ensure that the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the political parties are not of the same gender.
Lois Chinedu of NWTF on her part highlighted the three items of concern over women’s limited participation, namely:
- Political party nomination, wherein women are rarely nominated;
- Campaign funds, in favour of men, as most male candidates spend more than what was stipulated in the electoral act,
- Needs for amendment in the electoral Act, and Constitution.
She agreed that Section 31 should be amended so that every political party can include women, youths and PWDs as candidates for electoral positions and suggested that Section 87 of the constitution should also be amended to reduce the cost of nomination forms to make them affordable for women. She also called for transparency in the political process by making open and public for 21 days the register of political parties stressing that the only way for women to participate effectively is through their activities in political parties.
In her presentation on ‘Why gender matter matters: Prioritizing the demand for gender-driven electoral reforms’, Rhoda Tyoden lamented the inadequacies of some reforms process including voter education which she noted often took no account of many germane issues. She said, though women were more in terms of population, yet they were lagging behind in the scheme of things.
Mrs Rhoda Tyoden, FIDA National President
She expressed concern that despite series of constitutional provisions that prohibit gender inequality including the National gender policy (2000) which she observed is all-encompassing, as well as the Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee recommendations and other international treaties to which Nigeria was a signatory, the implementations has always been jettisoned.
Speaking on ‘Prioritizing gender inclusion in the electoral process. How the media can storify and amplify the issues’, Ladi Bala lamented that the Nigerian constitution from time immemorial have been gender-blind; that is, gender-inclusivity had been largely evasive. She expressed worries over the ineffectiveness of the National Gender Policy adopted in the year 2000 in addressing issues affecting women political participations. She said it was shameful that, after the Goodluck Jonathan administration that allotted about 32 per cent of political office holders to women, the figure had dropped today to around 7 per cent.
Samson Itodo, speaking on the lacuna created by the constitutional provisions, revealed that politicians have cultivated the habit of citing the constitutional provisions in sections 40-42 which prohibit gender inequality to argue against making needed amendments to the Electoral Act to promote women participation.
Mr Samson Itodo, Executive Direcor of YIAGA Africa
According to him, there was a dilemma as to whether it was the constitution that should be amended before the electoral act reform. He noted that what women were indeed asking for was simply for improvement in women and youth representation in the electoral process. He proposed that there should be mobilization targeting the legislators, female members of the National Assembly and the media to ensure the passage of the amendments that would empower women in the electoral process.
Deliberation and Observations
Followed the presentations, the participants observed that:
- There have been lots of rhetoric and less actions around gender-inclusivity in the electoral process.
- There is a dilemma between the need to first amend sections of the Nigerian constitutions before the reform of the electoral Act;
- The National Assembly have received good electoral reforms recommendations which have not been acted on and so remained as mere decorations;
- Members of the National Assembly members have practically handed over so many things to political parties to decide; hence, parties have been relegating women when it comes to making important decisions in the electoral process.
- Women are affected by electoral delineation and so find it difficult to vote during elections;
- Vote buying/vote selling is a major obstacle to women participation in politics.
- The Media often under-report women political office holders.
- Women politicians do not always make themselves readily available to journalists.
- Funding and god-fatherism are huge challenges limiting women participation; and
- Women in political offices do not do enough to mentor upcoming female politicians.
Based on the observations, the participants recommended as follows:
Ø National Assembly/INEC:
- The National Assembly should ensure that affirmative principles are embedded in the electoral law, starting with the suggested amendments to sections 31, 87, 100 and 104 of the electoral law;
- Serious consideration should be given to the provision for electronic voting in the electoral law to aid women participation;
- INEC should ensure that there is proper boundary representation and provision of polling booths as women are often affected by fallouts of boundary delineation as many of them are far away from the points of polling booths on Election Day,
- Firmer regulations should be put in place to eradicate issues of vote-buying and vote selling. Political parties who compromise the process with money should be severely dealt with.
- CSOs should urgently engage the National Assembly and INEC on the gender issues of concern in the on-going electoral reforms;
- CSOs should undertake serious voter and civic education on the need to vote more women and support greater women participation in the electoral process;
Ø WOMEN IN POLITICS
- Women need to be groomed and mentored to take political leadership positions;
- Women should be well funded to be able to participate and compete effectively with the male counterparts in politics;
- Women should develop political will to grow in politics. They should have political foundations;
- Women need to look at the internal party mechanism of their political parties and assess how to overcome the issue of godfatherism that is limiting their chances;
- Women should not wait for the amendment of section 81 of the constitution before pushing for the reform of the Electoral law;
- Women politicians should regularly engage with and make themselves accessible to the media to ensure better visibility;
- There is need for experienced women to mentor and support other women so that when women in offices are leaving, they should be able to hand over to other women.
- Journalists should publish special reports on the inclusive issues of women in the electoral process to aid the passage of amendments that would advance female participation;
- The media should adequately report the position of the 11 female members of the National Assembly on the on-going electoral reforms and other issues of gender concern.
- Media should mount pressure on members of the National Assembly to be interested in women issues including adopting the “naming and shaming” approach;
- The Media should go beyond mere reporting to set agenda for the political leadership on gender-inclusiveness;
- NAWOJ should sensitize women to support and vote women;
- Journalists need to create social media group platforms on WhatsApp and Facebook to further promote dissemination of information on gender issues in the electoral reform process;.
- The media should undertake special reports about the electoral Act and reflect the views of stakeholders on need reforms to aid women participation;
- Media should conduct special interviews that will serve as a platform to access and aggregate priority issues on gender inclusion in electoral reforms;
- Media managers need to deliberately create free slots for women to air their voices in the media during the electoral processes including elections.
Ø POLITICAL PARTIES
- Political parties should adopt affirmative principles by putting in place policies to choose reasonable percentage of women as candidates while ensuring gender balance in elective or appointive leadership positions;
- There is need to build social contract with politicians by making them accountable on their campaign promises;
Ø SECURITY FORCES/GOVERNMENT
- The security forces and relevant agencies of Government should protect the life and property of women involved in politics, either as politicians or as voters.