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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Towards enhancing women’s participation in politics

The clamour for more women to participate in politics and leadership positions is continuously gaining momentum across the country. Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Anambra state council and other media practitioners were recently trained to join the campaign. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU was there and reports.

Nigeria is one country in Africa where the percentage of women in active politics and leadership positions seems to be declining on daily basis despite various legislations and sensitisation campaigns to change the status quo. 

The various laws of the land agrees that women are qualified to enjoy every right including to vote and be voted for as contained in the Electoral Act and the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended). 

Also, there is a National Gender Policy that came into force during the tenure of the former President Goodluck Jonathan, which among other things, eliminates all forms of stereotypes and cultural stigmatisation against women participation in government, as well as provides that 35% of every appointive and elective positions in the country should be reserved for women.

Aside the legislations, available records indicate that although women have lesser population compared to men, they participate more than men in voters registration, campaigns and voting processes; a clear indication that they have the capacity and capability to defeat their male opponents in any election. 

However, from 1960 to date, a woman is yet to emerge as elected President, Vice President, Senate President or state governor. 

Only in Anambra state where a first female Deputy governor, Dame Virginia Etiaba emerged as Acting Governor when her boss, Mr Peter Obi was impeached in 2006. 

Etiaba held the position from November 2006 to February 2007 when court reversed Obi’s impeachment. Since then, no woman has ever risen to the deputy governor position in the state nor has any of woman risen beyond the deputy governorship position in the country. 

Also not many women are found handling appointive positions like Service Chiefs, leadership of some federal and state ministries, Vice Chancellors and Rectors of some Universities and Polytechnics, Speakers of some State Houses of Assembly, among others. 

It is also Anambra state that has the credit of producing three female Speakers of the State House of Assembly, including a commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs (offices previously reserved for men).

The state currently has two women serving as Senators out of three constitutionally provided, one house of representative member out of eleven, one House of Assembly member out of thirty existing in the state, some commissioners and other political aides. It has equally produced a female Chief Judge, some female appointed Local Government Transition Committee Chairmen and Transition Committee Counsellors in the past.

As at press time, only three females have indicated interest to govern the state as the November 6, 2021 gubernatorial poll thickens. Interestingly, the three are among the thirteen eyeing the ticket of PDP and include Senator Uche Ekwunife, Mrs Chidi Onyemelukwe, and Mrs Jane Enekwechi.

Perhaps this entails why the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), recently held a workshop to train  journalists in Anambra state to professionally join in “Enhancing women’s participation in politics and visibility in leadership.”

The host and first female Professor of Mass Communication in Africa, Prof. Chinyere Stella Okunna said the event was a product of her research with which she won a grant to assess the level of women participation in politics and governance with focus in Anambra state with a view to brainstorming on how to get more women into elective and appointive positions in the state. 

Okunna, who posited that her findings were surprising because Anambra state has recorded some milestone in female political emancipation in the past, wondered why the state suddenly began to slide in terms of women participation in politics and governance. 

She found among other things that Igbo culture, finances, religion, self esteem, male chauvinism appointment decisions and perception of Nigeria politicians were factors militating against women in politics and visibility in leadership. 

Okunna, who served as Anambra state commissioner for Information, Commissioner for Budgeting and Economic Planning, Chief of Staff, as well as coordinated the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) during Obi’s administration, recommended that women should be confident and strive to govern, build their self esteem, capacity and support fellow women to realise their political ambition. 

She further explained that “women are not demanding for equality but equity,” and implored the men to “give women maximum support in realising their dreams in politics and leadership at least up to 35% as contained in the National Gender Policy,” because according to her, women have all it takes to reposition the country, state, local government or political wards.

On why she has not contested for any elective office after serving in different capacities, Okunna maintained,  “I’m an academics and prefers to support a cause when invited (appointed) but I can support any woman with capacity to win and lead any political leadership one hundred percent.”

Contributing, the lead paper presenter, Dr. Chinedu Ekwealor, an assistant professor in Conflict Resolution and Peace in United Nations mandated university for peace, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, urged journalists to “leverage on your roles as agenda setters and watchdog of the society to bring women in politics and leadership through your daily reportage, investigations and others.”

On his part, the Chief Host and Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Professor Charles Esimone, identified the media as the engine block behind the successes so far recorded by his administration, and charged them “never to relent in providing necessary support to women in achieving their political and leadership ambitions.

Also speaking, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Anambra State Council, Comrade Emmanuel Ifesinachi, assured that “journalists in the state would use their platforms to propagate news and information capable of enhancing women participation in politics and leadership.

Contributing, a participant at the workshop, Mr Jude Atupulazi, entreated women “to build their capacity, learn from women already succeeding in politics, and support their colleagues to succeed.” 

Other participants, Mr Tony Okafor and Prof. Bentina Mathias, said “the training is apt, because women if supported to lead, are more transparent and focus while handling public offices.”

In their separate contributions, Sir Abuchi Onwumelu and Mr Chinedu Madu advocated for the training to be stepdown to primary and secondary schools, as well as August meetings and other female gatherings so as to inculcate the spirit into the younger generation.

Earlier, the Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, commended Okunna and the Nnamdi Azikiwe University for finding out time to train journalists on a good cause and tasked the participants to utilise the knowledge. 

Picture Caption: A cross section of journalists in Awka at the workshop on enhancing women’s participation in politics 

Disclaimer: The Post Towards enhancing women’s participation in politics was first Published by Editorial IV on www.blueprint.ng.

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