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UNFO / FIDA Nigeria Seminar on Women in Politics
- Published on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 12:59
- Written by fidaadm
A POST EVENT REPORT ON WOMEN IN POLITICS SEMINAR ORGANIZED BY UNITED NIGERIANS FORUM (UNFO) IN COLLABORATION WITH INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF WOMEN LAWYERS (FIDA) NIGERIA
1.1. WOMEN IN POLITICS: Complementarity or Competition was the theme of a seminar organized by the United Nigerians Forum (UNFO) in collaboration with International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria held at the Convention Hall, Barcelona Hotel, Wuse 2 Abuja on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.
1.2. The event started at 11.am. In attendance were female politicians, members of Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society organizations, The Academia, Lawyers, grassroots participants and the general public.
1.3. It was a day of identifying, exploring and addressing the myths, the realities and the challenges that constantly confront women participation in politics.
1.4. The seminar turned out to be very interactive and created a platform for discussion and free flow of ideas with the aim of articulating how Nigerian women could be more relevant in politics by addressing unjust representation and challenges they face in their quest for enhanced political capacity and participation.
1.5. The seminar was facilitated by Ms. Olaedo, an accomplished broadcaster. The Keynote Speaker was Prof. Sam Egwu, a professor of political science, former UNDP Governance Adviser and currently a delegate to the National Conference.
1.6. The Panel of Discussants included the following; Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, Hon. Minister of Water Resources, represented by Engr.Dr. Roseline Ada Chenge, MD of Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority(LBRBDA); Mrs. Saudatu Mahdi, Executive Secretary, WRAPA; Mrs. Ijeoma Nwafor, National Coordinator, PUT NIGERIA FIRST; Dr. Ejike Oji, President, Dr. Ejike Oji Community Development Foundation; Mrs. Stella Ezeife, a Lawyer and wife of the former Governor of Anambra State; and Barrister Hauwa Shekarau, National President, FIDA Nigeria.
1.6. Two Special Guests of Honor that also doubled as Discussants were Former Minister of Women Affairs and member, National Confab, Iyom Josephine Anenih and Prof. Ibrahim Dan Fulani, former DG, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).
2.0. THE SEMINAR (OBSERVATIONS):
2.1. The seminar took off with a welcome address by the Convener of the United Nigerians Forum, sponsors of the seminar, Comrade Umar Farouk, who noted in his speech that women's political backwardness was due to cultural and social hindrances and therefore called for an enabling law that would effectively address acts of discrimination against women.
2.2. He went on to pay glowing tributes to the likes of Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Gambo Sawaba, Laila Dogon Yaro and several others for their ingenuity, resilience and courage in championing the campaign for gender quality in the political firmament of our dear country. He made special mention of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan's unrelenting efforts of radically taking the gender equality in politics to an unprecedented level in Nigeria.
2.3. In her own submission, the National President of FIDA, Barr. Hauwa Shekarau canvassed for greater space for women in politics, especially the eminently qualified ones who have what it takes to challenge their male counterparts, saying that the seminar was aimed at motivating greater women's participation in politics.
2.4. In his keynote address, Speaker, Prof. Sam Egwu said that women deserve to be given ample space to participate in politics and governance and to occupy important decision-making positions. This, he said, was as a result of sterling performance by several women who have over time demonstrated integrity in governance and public service since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.
2.5. The Professor of Political Science however concluded that women's participation in politics is not about competition but complementarity. He further argued that should participation be about competition, it would definitely instigate opposition from men and deny women the strategic support that they require to legitimize their quest, whereas if it were complementary, the expected consequence is that men will feel less threatened and endorse greater women participation in politics.
2.6. By and large, it was a general consensus among discussants and participants that greater space should be accorded more women in the polity, thereby encouraging more women to seek elective offices with government providing a level-playing ground.
2.7. However, there was a sharp disagreement among the discussants, when in separate presentations, the former DG, NIPPS, Prof. Ibrahim Dan Fulani and the keynote speaker, Prof. Sam Egwu, accused women of frustrating the chances of their colleagues who had made efforts at securing elective offices.
2.8. In reaction to this, Mrs Josephine Anenih, Mrs Stella Ezeife and the FIDA President, Barr. Hauwa Evelyn Shekarau would rather blame male politicians for manipulating the system to the detriment of women. Mrs Ezeife particularly noted that the male politicians designed political activities leading to the choice of their representatives at odd hours which obviously were not conducive for women, hence, any woman found in such gathering were often labelled as prostitutes and never-do-wells.
2.9. For Hajiya Saudatu Mahdi, there is ample evidence to say that in Nigeria the role of women in democracy, in governance or in politics generally has been nothing more than complementary. There has been no room for competition. She contended that competition only arises when the factors for competition are equal, when you have a level playing field, or how do you start a race with a one-legged person and you have three legs.
2.10. She concluded that the dynamics and prospects of competition are absent since the men own and control the institutions and instruments of democracy.
2.11. The essence of the seminar was indeed summarized by one of the discussants, Mrs. Ijeoma Nwafor, that to increase women's political capacity, they should be empowered and encouraged to aspire to political leadership and governance positions, which she said was critical to societal and human development.
2.12. She also shared her experiences as a contestant in the 2011 elections during which she contested the primaries for the House of Representatives. She told the gathering how she was able to develop effective outreach strategies that won her the election even though she was asked to step down for the incumbent due to political exigencies.
3.1. A special mobilization fund for women in politics is strongly recommended. This will help in no small measure mitigate some of the challenges facing women such as lack of funds, insufficient education and mobilization. For instance, there is a need for NGOs and other relevant agencies in partnership with government to start providing budding female politicians with training and support so that ultimately they become better equipped to participate in future elections.
3.2. The forum also recommended that in promoting women's inclusiveness in politics. A pilot scheme should be developed, especially at the local government level which is expected to serve as springboard to other levels of government. The scheme should focus on how to enable women not only to earn leadership positions within political parties, but also how to efficiently perform duties assigned to such positions.
3.3. Female politicians must see Political Rights as an integral part of their Fundamental Human Rights and as such should be ready to challenge any violation of such rights and other forms of inequalities in the law courts.
3.4. Again in terms of inclusiveness, women must seek new ways of networking, carry out sustained awareness campaigns on why more women deserve not only to be in politics but to win elections, register en masse, infuse and permeate the party structures in such a manner that moves them from participants to representatives in the political space. In short, grassroots mobilization of women by women for women must be carried out on a large scale.
4.1. Based on the above observations and recommendations, it is implied that women's participation in politics is fraught with a lot of problems and frustrations. They don't usually get the support and mentoring needed to compete with their male counterparts.
4.2. The general consensus by the keynote speaker, the discussants and participants was therefore that women participation in politics could only be complementary and far from being competitive, more so that the dynamics and prospects of competition such as instruments and institutions of democracy were in full control of their male counterparts.