By Funmi Olasupo
Abuja – Federal Government has disclosed that the lack of women’s participation in decision making in Nigeria is inimical to democratic progress as it ultimately denies women mass participation in governance.
This the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development Hajia Zainab Maina said it is against the backdrop in the fulfillment of implementing programs on enhancing women’s political participation within the context of the forthcoming general elections.
Hajia Maina gave the assertion at the National Training Workshop on Voter Education for Women in partnership with United Nations Development Program, UNDP’s Managed Democratic Governance for Development Project in Abuja.
According to the Minister, there is a strong correlation between women’s empowerment and their active and effective participation in the electoral process and “it would be necessary to promote the participation of women in the electoral process. That is the essence of this activity today.
She said “Interestingly, there are already in place some mechanisms that could be used to improve the participation and representation of women in decision making. It is our desire to use these existing structures to achieve our goal of developing realistic, achievable ways of implementing strategies that have already been developed.”
Hajia Maina stressed that the theme of the project – Making Women’s Votes Count is appropriate as it helps us to focus on facilitating women’s active and effective participation in the electoral process.
Independent National Electoral Commission Professor Attahiru Jega stated that the program is not only timely, but substantially aligns with the operations and programs of the commission in the task of educating the citizenry on the various aspects of the electoral process.
Represented by the National Commissioner and Chairperson Partnership Committee of INEC Mrs. Gladis Nwafor, he noted that INEC as set up by law is expected to provide platforms to deepen the democratic process by promoting knowledge and practices through voter education, insurance of guidelines and regulations.
“The commission also strives to ensure participation of marginalized and disadvantaged groups across the country of which women form a greater part, in view of their voting population.
“As the nation moves closer to February 14th, dates for the 2015 general elections, the commission is indeed appreciative of the milestone and value added; this workshop will bring to bear on the voter education initiatives embarked upon by the commission.” Prof. Jega noted
According to him, the role and place of civic and voter education cannot be over emphasized in enabling the citizens make informed choices in regular and competitive multi party elections.
“One of the strategies in ensuring equal opportunities for all, irrespective of gender, has been reflected in the Training/Operational Manual Election official for the 2015 general elections; which includes generating data on gender participation at polling units and ensuring at least one poll official is a female. Priority will be given to pregnant women, women with children, people living with disabilities, the aged and the sick on election days.” He stressed.