Although women constitute 45% of Nigeria’s voting population, the national average in female representation stands at an abysmal 6.7% in contrast to the global average of 22.5% in 2018.
This disclosure was made by the Chairman , Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who said female representation in Nigeria is one of the lowest amongst the countries in ECOWAS region and Africa, especially when compared to Ghana (10.7%) and Togo (37.6%).
The INEC chairman said this at the opening of a two day workshop organised by INEC with the support of the European Union and European Centre for Electoral Support.
The title of the workshop held at the Hawthorn Suites, Abuja, is “INEC’s Role in Enhancing Women’s Participation in the Electoral Process: Creating Synergy Amongst Women Politicians, Scholars and Activists”.
Represented by a National Commissioner in-charge of Outreach and Partnership, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, Yakubu said “global statistics for gender parity indicates that in 2015, out of 188 countries, Nigeria was 152nd in the Human Development Index on Gender Inequality and 118th of 192 countries in 2017”.
He said the statistics portends that female representation remains low in Nigeria while urging the need to take urgent steps to improve the profile in view of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in particular.
The INEC boss said, “A lot needs to be done by all stakeholders to ensure more practical, effective, sustained and inclusive programmes of action designed at deepening the participation of women in our political and electoral processes are designed”.
Yakubu said women around the world are still largely absent from national and local decision-making processes and face enormous exclusionary mechanisms that have become serious barriers to participation.
He said: “From discrimination and violence to lack of support and resources, women face countless barriers to participate in civic and political arenas. Strengthening women’s rights, addressing barriers to political participation and expanding civic spaces are thus critical to the deepening democracy”.
Yakubu said in furtherance of its efforts to work out actionable programme on female participation, INEC in 2014 launched a Gender Policy aimed at expanding and deepening female participation and representation in the political process, and more specifically, in encouraging the party system to be more open and inclusive to the participation of women, youth and people with special abilities.
“The commission has been holding stakeholder meetings with women groups and organisations to enable an understanding of common concerns, identify key issues and formulate practical programmes that can deepen participation”, he said.
Corroborating the chairman, Monica Frassoni, President, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), said: “There is still need to do more in meeting global agenda on increased participation of women in the political process.
“For example, the percentage of women in upper house or Senate as at January 2017 was 6.5% in Nigeria, 63% in Rwanda, 35.2% in South Africa and 24.1%, 25.8%, 16.4%, 17.6%, 19.4% and 10% in Somalia, Lesotho, Equitoria Guinea, Gabon, Congo DRC and Liberia respectively”, she said.
She said the workshop is a timely response to the imperative of ensuring active participation of women in the electoral process both as candidates and voters.
Hon. Aishatu Jibril Dukku, chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Electoral and Political Party Matters, said participation of women in politics will be meaningful only if the process is just, fair, permissive and level playing ground is guaranteed for possible ascension of women politically.
Arguing that Nigerian political process is male dominated, she said men cannot adequately represent women’s interests, needs and concerns in the legislature.