Insecurity: Nigerian leaders must step-up, UN cautions

…As INEC urges Political parties to obey own rules

29-11-22 By Emmanuel Elebeke

As 2023 general elections approaches,  the United Nations has decried the level of women participation in the  forthcoming general elections as unacceptable, saying that Nigeria is one of the lowest countries in women representation across the globe.

The UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Beatrice Eyong, made thee observation observation on Tuesday at workshop on promotion of women in politics organised by Centre for Democracy Development.

Eyong, who was represented at the event by UN Programme Special, Desmond Osemehenjie said women’s participation in politics in Nigeria is very appalling, very unsatisfactory, and very unacceptable. 

Comparing Nigeria with other African countries, the UN Rep said, “Nigeria is just 4.1% in the parliament as we speak, while in other countries like Rwanda is 67%, and Senegal is sending about 57%.

“If you look at the African sub region, Nigeria is one of the lowest countries as far as representation on the parliament is concerned. 

“Nigeria is just 4.1% in the parliament, as we speak, while in other countries like Rwanda is 67%, Senegal is sending about 57%..

“These are all countries with a very high level representation of women in parliament, but for Nigeria it is something that is very unacceptable.”

On factors responsible for low women representation in politics, he identified the patriarchy system in Africa, where societal beliefs, and religion have taken over and the men are dominant in the society, 

He also pointed out the political education of African women, which is very new, which is why women have not over the years  been able to get their feet in political education. 

He also talked about the monetization of politics in Nigeria, which has turned political activities into  an investment for  politicians.

He further identified violence in politics, which women don’t want to associate themselves with.

” They don’t want to associate themselves with their things that will bring down the society.”@ 

On way forward, he said  the UN has been doing a lot of advocacy and awareness creation and capacity building for women.

 “We support the media, we also support the political parties, building the capacity of women, and ensuring that women are able to compete effectively. 

“We have also in one way or the other, provide a kind of both internal and external training to women, where they go outside to learn from other nations where they have been able to advance.

“We make representation that will also support them.  We are training the young women known as a Young Women Academy, where  if in future we want the young women that are interested in governance, to be able to jump into political parties and be able to change the narrative. 

“We are also doing an advocacy and have met with the traditional rulers, the religious leaders, the media organizations to sensitize and mobilize all stakeholders and telling them the importance and benefits of women to be part of governance.”

In her own submission, the Acting Director of Gender Inclusiviity Department in INEC, Mrs. Dorothy Bello  represented by Deputy Director, Civil Society Division, Ndidi Okafor blamed low women representation in politics on the failure of the political parties to obey their constitutions and challenged them to always obey their rules to give women their rightful place and deepen democracy.

“The political parties are allowed to implement their own constitution or manifestos, but the commission is also doing a lot in terms of advocacy, reminding them to keep to the rules they gave to themselves. 

“The Commission didn’t give them tools, routes, they were rules that they put in their own constitution, and in their own manifestos. So the commission is constantly reminding them of the importance is also not just about the commission to people the media, civil society organizations jointly, we can all keep up and step up this advocacy, so that our country will be better.

“It’s not about force is about a group of people who have gotten together to give themselves rules and guidelines. And the commission is there saying you need to implement that which you have given to yourself that’s what it is, is not that there is a failure.”

On INEC’s expectations from 2923 elections, the Director said, “We want to see an election that is free and fair, want to see a nation that everyone is allowed to participate.

At the end of the day, we want to see a lesson that will bring the right persons to governance.

” Indeed, this falls into what the commission is doing. INEC has a gender policy, which is to drive it for inclusion of not just women, but marginalized groups like people with disabilities. To ensure those with albinism participate in the electoral process and that they stand to vote and they be voted for. 

“So this is in tandem with the work of the Commission, with a job and the assignment of the gender and inclusivity division and it is laudable  the level of implementation of this policy.

“The Commission is doing the implementation through advocacy, through persuasion, that’s why you will find that the commission is regularly meeting with political parties, in pressing it on their leadership to ensure internal party democracy and to ensure the inclusion of women. 

“The commission is always reminding them that women are not just to clap hands. You know, that they also can make contributions. Therefore, the political space, both at the executive level of the political parties should be expanded so that you have more women holding executive positions in the political parties. 

“There’s nothing wrong if a woman emerges as the national chair of any political party. There’s nothing wrong with it, gone are the time women leave Madam status,” she said.

At the end of the event, the participants at the workshop agreed that  if women are to get the right representation in politics, political parties have a role to play,  enactment of a legal regime and

identifying candidates vying for National Assembly seats.

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