By Lateef Ibrahim
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday assured that it will continue to promote the issue gender equality in the Nigerian political space.
The Commission gave the assurance through its Director of Voter Education and Publicity, VEP, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, during the review of the 2019 general election from a gender perspective held in Abuja.
Such step, Osaze-Uzzi, reasoned, was important in order to address poor participation of women in elections and the drop in the number of women who occupy elective positions.
The Director of VEP of INEC noted 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 however pledged 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.
Such changes, he contended, 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 revealed that the commission has recorded some progress in increasing and enhancing an all-inclusive participation and representation of women in the electoral process.
This, he said, is being done by INEC through its sensitisation programme at the local, states and national level.
Also speaking at the event, 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 chairs the 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.
Highlighting the objectives of the programme, 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.
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).
A Senior Project Officer of ECES, 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.