Promoting gender parity in political representation. Nigeria's First Lady urges women to work together

Dec 1, 2014

Nigeria’s First Lady Dame (Dr.) Patience Goodluck Jonathan has called on Nigerian women to close ranks and work in harmony to overcome the low female representation in Nigerian politics. “The implications of not doing enough through a common ground to finding solutions to the poor participation of women in decision making, would only put us at risk of continuing to run a democracy where the aspirations of all members of the population are not truly expressed” the First Lady said.

Speaking through the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe at a two day conference on enhancing opportunities for women candidates in the 2015 elections held in Abuja on 24th &25th November,2014,  Dame Jonathan said the effects of the under representation of women combined with terrorism and human trafficking have contributed to undermining efforts at promoting peace and the rights of women.  
Compared to several other countries in Africa such as Burundi, Rwanda and South Africa which have elected women representatives of above 35%, Nigeria, with the highest number of female population on the continent has one of the lowest percentages of women in parliament at 6.4%.  “It is only through gender equitable society that would ensure sustainable development and lead Nigeria to the achievement of being one of the top twenty economies in the world by the year 2020” the First Lady said.

Speaking earlier, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina said in order to broaden and deepen commitment to democratic governance, Nigeria has to double efforts to ensure gender equality and promote increased involvement of women in the electoral process and top decision making processes.

Hajiya  Maina said in Nigerian context, women’s performance in elections is constrained by a number of factors such as traditional beliefs and values, culture, marriage and reproductive roles, societal imposed limitations, lack of confidence, parental/spouse inhibitions, insecurity on the part of men, money politics and fear of violence.
 
To address the challenges women face in participating in politics and decision making in governance, Mrs Hajiya Zainab Maina said her ministry has embarked on several initiatives such as the establishment of zonal political empowerment offices, the hosting of the national summit on women in politics, the launching of 100 women lobby group, and the establishment of Nigerian women trust fund where more than 200 female politicians benefitted from grants support in 2011.
 
Speaking at the event, the Project Director of the Democratic Governance for Development Project (DGDll) in Nigeria, Dr. Mourtada Deme, called on Nigeria’s political stakeholders to broaden the political space to guarantee women’s effective political participation. “There is a mountain of data today that shows that investments in women correlate positively to a country’s prosperity, poverty alleviation, and economic growth; moreover, according to the World Bank, at the country level, higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption.” We shall continue to support and push for electoral law reform and processes which are conducive to women’s participation in politics and decision making, training for women candidates, and support for elected women to be effective in their roles” Dr. Deme said.

 The two day conference on enhancing opportunities for women candidates in the 2015 elections was organised by the Democratic Governance for Development Project (DGDll), the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

DGD is a joint donor funded project managed by UNDP in support of deepening democracy in Nigeria. The project is funded with contributions from the European Union (EU), UKAid, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) and UNDP. The project provides technical and financial support to the Independent National Electoral Commission, civil society organizations, and institutions such as the Judiciary, the Media, National and State assemblies, and political parties as a means of strengthening accountable and responsive governance institutions, and consolidating democratic governance in line with international best practices.  

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