One woman's quest to become a Nigerian Senator

Princess Kemi Oluwatumi
Princess Kemi Oluwatumi standing in front of the Ondo State Governor offices, where she works to further gender policies. Photo: UNDP Nigeria

 

For Senatorial candidate Princess Kemi Oluwatumi, standing in the shadows and hoping for change was never an option. Whilst living abroad, she came to the realization that for the plight of women in Nigeria to improve, she had to come back home and make a difference herself. It is this drive that propelled her to contest elections in 2007 and 2011, and it is that same drive that is pushing her to run again in the upcoming general elections in 2015.

When she was abroad, Princess noted that women were often critical of their plight in Nigeria, but there were very few stepping up to enact change from the frontline.‘Most of the women back then would stay in the background. I decided that there should be room for women to stand up and have a voice. The time was right’, Princess explains.

After running very competitive but unsuccessful campaigns in 2007 and 2011, Princess became involved in politics in her own Ondo state in South West Nigeria. Through her office, she attended a workshop held by the UNDP Democratic Governance for Development (DGD II) project, which identified a clear twelve point agenda to ensure gender responsive policies in her home state. The workshop, which directly targeted gubernatorial candidates, inspired Princess to clarify her ideas and strategy to gain office and implement strong and coherent policies.

‘The workshop had a big impact on me personally. It allowed me to narrow down to the critical things I want to focus on as a candidate’, Princess states.The workshop directly engaged all gubernatorial candidates and asked them to sign a contract to commit to introducing key gender policies. The contract was signed by all candidates, and the new Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, has already enacted many of the policies agreed upon. Thanks to the contract, gender has become a major focus and is factored into the governance decision of the State.

Two of the key new initiatives have been to encourage women to take up agricultural jobs, which have traditionally been reserved for men, and an award winning policy that provides free health care for mothers and children up to the age of five.

‘The Governor had many of these ideas already in mind, but the workshop enabled us to clearly make it work. We are now more aware of the things we should be looking for and the answers we should be getting,’ Princess explains.After seeing the impact of the workshop at the State level, Princess immediately realized that she could utilize this approach in preparation of her run for the Senate in the upcoming 2015 general elections.


‘I have seen how having a clear plan has realized great projects for women at the State level. Now on a smaller scale I can use this approach for my own constituents. Down the road when I get into office I will use this as a baseline for how I work. It has been very helpful for me’, she explains.There is no doubt that Princess’ spirit is strong. Her story shows that choosing to stand up and fight for what you believe is not the easy option. But with the support of her colleagues and a clear road map to what she wants to achieve, Princess can continue to strive to make a difference for the women of Nigeria.


DGD is a joint funded project managed by UNDP in support of deepening democracy in Nigeria. The project is funded with contributions from the European Commission (EC), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

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