The United Nations has lamented the decline in number of women elected into political offices in Nigeria during the last general elections, insisting that the country which pride herself as a giant on the continent has not lived up to the appellation in terms of women involvement in politics.
The body also condemned violence during the last elections, stating that it was one of the key obstacles to advancing women’s participation in public life.
Speaking at the Post-election conference in Abuja organised by UNWOMEN, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Government of Canada and European Union (EU), the UN Women Country Representative in Nigeria, Ms. Beatrice Eyong said it was so sad that the numbers of women voted into political offices continue to reduce with subsequent electoral season in Nigeria leaving the ratio of women to men political office holders nothing to be pride about.
She said while many countries in Africa are gradually getting to the universal ratio prescribed for women in politics, Nigeria that has been continuously described as giant of Africa continued to drop and is not dictating the pace.
Eyong, who decried that the situation in the country is not soul lifting for women, credited the downturn to violence targeted at women during elections.
She said: “Violent acts committed towards women are gender-based and they intend to discourage women from being politically active. It is often used to intimidate women from practicing their political rights in the first place.
Eyong while stating that it was an honour to welcome participants to the important event convened to assess where Nigeria stands regarding electoral gender-based violence and to agree on a coordinated national summary report on violence against women in 2023 elections of Nigeria, lamented that: “Women have been killed or have had to quit their positions after receiving death threats. Some women have also often withdrawn from public life citing abuse including online abuse and cyberbullying. Women candidates have faced various forms of targeted, gender-based violence.”
She noted that: “The agreed conclusions of the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (2021), emphasized that the promotion of full and equal participation and leadership of women in public life and the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls are interconnected. CSW 65 also recognized that all forms of violence and discrimination, including in digital contexts, prevent women from exercising their equal right to participate in all spheres of public life and encouraged member states to take measures to create a safe and enabling environment so that women are protected from all forms of violence and discrimination for engaging in public life, including in digital contexts, and take practical steps to prevent and address violence, including by combating impunity and ensuring that those responsible for violations and abuses are promptly brought to justice.
“The Maputo Protocol also guarantees comprehensive rights to women including the right to take part in the political process, to social and political equality with men. It states clearly in article 9 the Right to Participation in the Political and Decision-Making Process.
“Undertaking firm measures to prevent violence including legal reforms is one of the most effective means to ensure women’s protection, participation and representation in public life including eliminating laws, policies and practices that discriminate against women.”
She however lamented that: “The Lack of data on violence against women in politics (VAWP) negatively affects evidence-based advocacy for influencing changes in laws and policies and for establishing comprehensive protection systems for women in politics.”
Eyong said: “I believe, today this interactive conference constitutes the right space for sharing information and experiences on data collection and how can we all together improve our methods and approaches in a more coordinated manner. We are also looking to a joint summary national report on violence against women in 2023 elections that we will use all together as an advocacy tool for action and protection.”
On her part, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mrs Samuela Isopi, said: “The European Union is delighted that UN Women, in collaboration with the Nigerian government, security services, traditional leaders, civil society, INEC IPAC, and the Canadian government is providing a platform to hold serious conversations on deepening the democratic space for women and addressing root causes for low women’s participation in the elections.”
She added that: “It is a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in Nigeria’s political environment, unfortunately, the 2023 elections show a trend in the wrong direction.
“Women candidates and women voters have faced violence and aggression, including in the online sphere.
“This is the moment for serious reflection about how to break cycles of gender-based violence affecting women, in the electoral process.”
Isopi noted that: “Because the active participation of women at all levels of decision-making and politics is not only a human right, but also essential to the achievement of equality, peace and democracy.
“The full and equitable participation of women in public life is essential to building and sustaining strong, vibrant democracies.”
She said: “There is strong evidence that as more women are elected to office, there is an increase in policymaking that emphasises quality of life, and reflects the priorities of families, women, and marginalised groups.
“This is why concerted efforts must be made to break the barriers to meaningful participation of women in leadership positions.”
She assured that: “The European Union remains committed to collaborating on this very important cause.”
The Emir of Fika and Chairman, Yobe State Council of Traditional Rulers, Dr. Muhammadu Idrissa who declared the workshop with theme: “Where do we stand regarding Electoral Gender Based Violence?” opened: “On behalf of Council of Traditional Leaders of Africa COTLA and the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria NCTRN, I welcome you very much. On the dangers of GBV alot has been to address it, we hope that with this conference, we will get solutions to improve the course of Women in Nigeria.”
The traditional ruler added that: “Am happy to say that we in Yobe state, in my Local Government Area, Fatima Talba won the Federal House of Representatives for Nangere/ Potiskum constituency and another Woman Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim won the Damaturu, Gujba, Gulani, Tarmuwa constituency . We’re moving forward and we hope for a remarkable change by next elections with the efforts of our partners especially the UN Women, so I wish you a very successful conference, it is my honour and privilege to declare the conference open.”