The Gender Strategy Advancement Initiative (GSAI) has urged political parties to give room for women to fully participate in piloting the affairs of the party, and to contest and win elections.
The group, in a campaign embarked on to increase political consciousness, tabled their demands during a courtesy visit to the leadership of some political parties recently.
Executive Director of GSAI, Adaora Onyechere, said one of the things the Organisation had been able to do was to produce a baseline report of the happenings in the political space from 1999 till date, through their partnership with the Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and support from the MacAurthur foundation.
She disclosed that the report asked
where the role of the political parties was and how do they ensure that more women come out? It also asked what the issues were and how come that when it came to voting, women were in their numbers but when it came to representation, the reverse was the case.
Similarly, GSAI Project Manager, Mr. Francis Oyewole stated that statistics from the Organisation’s baseline report showed that Nigeria had achieved only 8% female representation in politics. Meanwhile, she had a gender policy that says 35%, “it’s unfortunate that we are not close and we feel the political parties have a lot to do to change the narrative”, he said.
According to Oyewole, recommendations from the report to improve Nigerian women’s visibility in politics include equal representation where, “if the president is male, the vice should be a female and vice-versa”.
He explained that, in the recently concluded voters registration exercise, women made up to 60% of the registered voters but when it came to representation, the reverse was the case.
“Where is the role of the political parties, how do we ensure that more women get involved? Is it the case of gender? Or the case of political will? Or is it the case of political parties restructuring, where if we had more women at the exco/ leadership, they will be more deliberate?” Oyewole asked.
In response, the National Chairman, Action Alliance, Barrister Kenneth Udeze
said his party had a policy that encouraged women to vie for positions of their choice at no cost:
“For us in this political party, in this political season, we made it clear that, no woman running for any office under the platform of the party should make any payment. It’s no longer the issue of 50% discount but they won’t pay a dime to the party.
“The idea is to encourage women to participate in politics. We will keep encouraging them.
“One thing is opening the door for women to participate, the other thing is to see those Nigerian women that can come and take advantage of those offer to showcase themselves.
“They complain of Insecurity, lack of funds, lack of confidence, but we’ll keep encouraging them” Udeze informed.
He listed one of the challenges faced by women to be lack of funding and called on external sponsors like the MacArthur foundation to liase with political leaders and brainstorm on ways to increase women participation in politics.
Additionally, the National Chairman, Action Alliance pleaded with husbands to allow their wives who have the interest to participate in politics:
“When you marry a woman who has the interest, allow her to participate fully, nothing should discourage men from allowing their wives go into politics.
“We should not stop them because from women, you can get people that’ll change the nation. Women can change the ugly situation the country is in. Involving women in politics is the only way to go”, he stated.
On her part, the National Speaker of Women Parliament of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Hajiya Sa’adatu Abdullahi revealed that, SDP was a gender sensitive party:
“The gender inclusiveness is high, we have 4 National Working Committee members that are women; the National Treasurer, the National Welfare Secretary, Civil Societies and Groups Like and the National Women Speaker.
“We got it rooted from our constitution, we have surpassed the 35% affirmative action, because the membership of the national working committee are 15. Also, in SDP constitution, women contesting for public offices are given free tickets
“The only thing they do, because of administrative purpose is the payment for expression of interest which is only 10%.
“If a man and a woman from our party are contesting for the same office and we see that the woman has a higher chance of winning the election, we encourage the man to step down for her.
“So that we don’t waste money during the primaries, And then we also support her to win the election
“Our party has a female gubernatorial candidate in Abia, about 3 deputy gubernatorial candidates, some of the gubernatorial candidates have their DGs women. We encourage that they include women.
“Where there are no deputies, they should have the strongest office to function. We have 6 senatorial candidates and they are very strong”, Abdullahi informed.