By Emmanuel Oloniruha/ Patienc Omoha-Longyen
Abuja – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged its continuous promotion of gender equality in the Nigerian political space.
INEC Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, made the pledge at the “review of the 2019 general election from a gender perspective’’ held on Thursday in Abuja.
The event attended by INEC Desk Officers from the 36 states and the FCT was organised by in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
Osaze-Uzzi said that such action was important in order to address poor participation of women in elections and the drop in the number of women who occupy elective positions.
He said that at the level of political parties, legislature and governance, the representation of women in Nigeria government fell short of the National Gender Policy benchmark of 35 per cent and other global and regional benchmarks to which Nigeria is a signatory.
He said that INEC would continue to collaborate with development partners and stakeholders to encourage and sensitise political parties to open up to changes in party politics.
The changes he said would enhance women participation in the electoral process as equal partners.
Osaze-Uzzi said that the implementation of the INEC Gender policy (IGP) since 2014 had continuously impacted positively and enhanced the gender responsiveness of the Nigeria’s electoral process.
The director said that the commission had indeed recorded some progress in increasing and enhancing an all-inclusive participation and representation of women in the electoral process.
He added that this is through its sensitisation programme at the local, states and national level.
Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, INEC National Commissioner, urged the participants to share their experiences on the 2019 general election to enable the commission learn from them.
Ogunmola, who is also the Chairman, INEC Outreach and Partnership Committee, said that the activities of the gender desk officers during the general election needed to be assessed to ascertain their relevance in the states.
He said it is expected of them to submit their reports and work plan implementation to the relevant department for documentation and further action.
“The idea of the commission organising reviews is to get a detailed comprehensive assessment based on personal views and experiences.’’
Stating the objectives of the programme, Mrs Blessing Obidegwu, Deputy Director (Gender), stressed the need to map out plans for women effective participation in politics not only as voters and candidates, but in the entire electoral process.
Obidegwu said that the 2019 general election recorded the lowest number of women elected to public offices in spite of all the interventions by INEC and stakeholders.
“To strengthen women’s political participation in the electoral process which will enhance the pursuit for democracy, good governance and development, we must change the narratives,’’ she said.
ECES Senior Project Officer, Sylvestre Somo, said that effective and proportionate participation of women in the electoral process constitute a cardinal principle of a virile and inclusive democracy.
Somo said that it is not just enough for women to be able to vote but must also be able to contest for elections in an electoral environment devoid of violence, unfair practices and negative prejudices.
“The ECES is proud to support this meeting, which seeks to among other objectives to interrogate the decline of elected women in the 2019 general elections and exchange ideas on how to improve their participation in future electoral processes.’’