By EricJames Ochigbo
Abuja – Some stakeholders in politics on Monday, called on political parties to field more women as their candidates in the 2019 general elections.
The stakeholders made the call at a summit entitled “Working Together for 2019” organised for female aspirants, in Abuja.
The event which was organised by Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) and Women FM, was to enable the aspirants to network ahead of 2019, irrespective of party affiliation.
In a remark, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission was interested in increasing the number of women who were participating in politics in the country.
Represented by the Head of Gender Division in the commission, Mrs Blessing Obidegwu, Yakubu said that the commission was committed to providing a level-playing ground for all stakeholders.
He called on political parties to field more female candidates and support them to win elections.
He said that with women constituting 48 per cent of Nigeria’s populations, political processes needed to be more vigorously respond to issues of women inclusion and empowerment.
According to him, this has become imperative considering the marked decrease in the number of women who won elective positions since 2007.
Yakubu said that available data in the commission showed that in 2015 general elections, only 44 per cent of female voters were accredited to vote compared to 56 per cent male voters.
He urged women to take advantage of the ongoing continuous voter registration and get their Permanent Voter Card (PVC).
According to him, nations where women and men are involved in decision-making at all levels tend to develop better and faster than those that do not make deliberate effort to include both gender.
In a contribution, the Chief Executive Officer of NWTF, Mrs Mufuliat Fijabi, urged the participants to take the summit seriously.
She congratulated the courage of the women to vie for political offices as it was a male dominated sphere.
Fijabi expressed hope that more women would be represented in elective offices in 2019 as Nigeria could no longer boast to be the giant of Africa with low women representation in politics.
In her remarks, President of WIPF, Mrs Ebere Ifendu, urged men to canvass votes for women, saying that women had always been supporting male political ambitions.
She said that 2019 was the turn of women, expressing confidence that majority of the female aspirants would become candidates in the coming weeks.
Ifendu urged female aspirants to evaluate themselves and be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for the 2019 general elections.
She said that women should also aspire to occupy elective offices of political parties, adding that political parties were the engine rooms where decisions were made.
On his part, the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Lehmann, commended the organisers of the summit for focusing on aspirants.
He said that Australia remained a major supporter of women as the country was among the top 10 donors to UN Women.
Lehmann pledged the support of the Australian Government to the ambitions of women aspirants as they were looking to fulfil their dreams in the political sphere.
While saluting the courage of the female aspirants, the Country Representative of UN Women, Ms Comfort Lamtey, said all the women aspirants were winners.
Lamtey said women must run for elective political offices with a purpose and not just because they were women.
“Think of yourselves as transformation leaders and agents of change that would mainstream and allow more room for women participation.
“Women must work towards a common agenda; when you do this, Nigeria will be a better place not just for the women but men as well,” she said.