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IWD: EU Asks Political Parties To Review, Reform Policy Documents

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), the European Union (EU) has called on political parties in Nigeria to adopt robust measures including a review and reform of its founding and policy documents to allow more women to participate in active politics.

These include; political parties’ constitutions, manifestos, party rules, procedures and strategy documents to incorporate national and international norms and obligations on gender equality.

European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Samuela Isopi, made the call at the Women in Parliament Summit in Abuja, in commemoration of the International Women’s Week, organised by the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN), with the theme: inspiring inclusion: policy mechanisms for gender parity in politics.

Isopi who urged political parties to adopt robust measures and strategies to increase women’s participation and representation said there was an urgent need to allow women to participate in all levels of decision-making.

She said, “The ongoing constitution reform process presents an opportunity to adopt an inclusive legal framework that promotes equal participation of all Nigerians regardless of gender, ethnicity, age and disability status.

“In Nigeria, the advocacy for women’s political participation has been long drawn, and in spite of the very dynamic interventions by women’s groups and other key stakeholders, their representation remains in steady decline. For example, women’s representation in the 10th National Assembly is 7.4 per cent out of 469 combined seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“There has been no woman elected Governor in Nigeria’s 25 years of democracy and the percentage of women appointed to political positions still falls significantly short compared to men. I am not quoting these figures to make it seem impossible, but to show that it is indeed possible.

“It is recognized that political parties are the ‘real gatekeepers’ of women’s political empowerment. If the political parties institutionalise gender equality measures and transform from within, it will have a direct impact on women’s equal participation and representation in Nigeria.”

Isopi further urged political parties to set women’s representation in their decision-making bodies such as the National Executive Councils and directorates for elections at not less than 30 per cent, which was regarded as a critical figure for women to have any influence.

“The political culture in Nigeria is underpinned by patriarchy and the ‘unwritten’ rules on male privilege within political parties. Oftentimes, only women whose husbands support them or have a legacy of family political activism make it to the top.

“On our own part, Gender equality and Women’s Rights are a top priority of the European Union. This is true internally and regarding the EU’s approach to international cooperation. To achieve this, the EU launched its third Gender Action Plan on 25 November 2020.

“The Gender Action Plan aims to help establish a gender-equal world, where women and girls enjoy their human rights in full, and fairer societies, in which everyone has the space to thrive with no one left behind.

“The EU has provided support to women’s political participation since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. Technical support has been provided within the framework of our electoral cycle support programmes, which is now valued at over 180 million Euros.

“We have developed a variety of approaches to support women’s political participation. Efforts focus on women in politics, women as candidates, and women as voters, as well as in electoral observation,” she said.

Chair, House Committee on TETFUND, Princess Miriam Onuoha, said, “We could move away from conventional advocacies and campaign points to non-conventional advocacies such as appeals to our traditional institutions, faith-based organisations, wherein these advocacies will stem from our cultural heads. They should pick a female candidate and sponsor such a person.

“Even if we have a little bit of the numbers, if we are not on the core decision-making table, decisions that border on which of these bills comes as priorities become overlooked or maybe watered-down because we are not there when these critical decisions are taken.”

House of Representative member representing Nembe-Brass Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, Hon. Mrs. Marie Ebikake noted “I have been in this game of politics for 44 years. I am a grassroots woman. I believe that, first, women must have a passion for this game we call politics. When people say women are not included, I say – no, you must come out to show your interest from the grassroots.

“Women, beyond conferences and addresses, must face the practicality of this game. Don’t be afraid of any man. When we face the practicality of this game called politics, I tell you, you will enjoy it and be able to make a meaningful impact in the lives of people. Be upright; integrity is very important.”

In her remarks, Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu said, “In 1960, Nigeria had its first female Senator, Wuraola Esan. However, 64 years later, we just have 3 Senators that are women, out of the 109 Senators in the National Assembly. That is not progress!

“This is a call for governmental action to ensure the amendment of the constitution to increase women’s representation. We need intentional efforts that can be taken to ensure legislative reforms, specifically, constitutional amendments that can increase women’s representation.”

“The statistics paint a stark picture: while women constitute approximately 49.4 per cent of Nigeria’s population, their representation in the parliament falls far below this mark.

“In parliamentary representation globally, Nigeria ranks at 181 of 193 countries, 54 out of 54 in African parliament, and currently has 4.43 per cent women representation nationally. This is below the global average of 22.5 per cent, the Africa Regional Average of 23.4 per cent, and the West African Sub Regional Average of 15 per cent.

“The underrepresentation of women in political leadership often means that issues regarding women’s rights are often overlooked in setting the agenda for policy making. Hence, there is a need to accelerate efforts towards ensuring adequate representation of women in political leadership,” according to Eyitemi Adebowale, Head of Communications and Special Projects, ElectHER.

Also speaking, Programme Lead, Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Vaneza Udegbe Gregory added that, “Together, we can overcome the barriers that hinder women’s political participation and create a more inclusive political environment in Nigeria.

“Together, we can build a future where every woman has the opportunity to contribute her talents and perspectives to the political landscape of our nation.”

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