The minister of Women Affairs and Social Development has visited the national chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Ahmed Makarfi, at the party’s secretariat in Abuja.
In her address, the minister said she was at the party’s secretariat as part of her special advocacy visits to political parties.
Below is the text of her address during the visit.
ADDRESS BY SENATOR AISHA JUMMAI ALHASSAN,HONOURABLE MINISTER OF WOMEN AFFAIRS AND SOCIAL DEVELOMENT ON THE OCCASION OF HER ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY PDP, 17TH JULY, 2017.
I am delighted to be here today as part of Nigerian women’s special advocacy visits to POLITICAL PARTIES to advocate for greater women participation in political activities, especially as preparations for the 2019 General elections builds up.
2.May I from the onset commend the PDP and all other Nigerian Political Parties for their individual and collective efforts and commitments to the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment at all levels especially in the grassroots.
3.As you may be aware, from the lowest all the way to the highest levels, women are often underrepresented in leadership positions and decision-making and are only sought after as electorates, during electioneering campaigns. This sad reality of women being underrepresented in all facets of the political process is often due to social-cultural barriers leading to poor public, social and political party support. Also, entrenched traditional views, lack of financial means, lack of capacity building opportunities especially access to technology, gender discrimination, divisions along ethnic lines, violence, and intimidation have all contributed in poor performance of women in political activities especially elections.
4.Although the Nigerian constitution guarantees equality for everyone in governance and political participation, women have not fully enjoyed this constitutional provision. Globally, Nigeria remains one of the most backward and poor performing countries on the African Continent, in the area of women’s political leadership. As a result, we have been overtaken by countries like Rwanda with 66% women’s representation in Parliament, South Africa with 40%, Seychelles over 50%, Ghana 35% and a large chunk of the other African countries with over 25%. Unfortunately Nigeria stands at less than 6%.
5.Thus Nigeria faces an urgent need to “fast track” increase in the representation of women in parliament and other decision-making organs to produce results that adequately reflect a genuine commitment to the principles of equality in all its ramifications.
6.Undoubtedly, Political parties are among the most important institutions affecting women’s political participation. The role of political parties as gate keepers in the electoral process makes it imperative to engage them for the purpose of engineering increased participation of women in politics.Because political parties are so influential in shaping women’s political prospects, Governments and international organizations seeking to advance the participation of women in elections have as a matter of necessity, focused on the role of political parties in promoting women’s political participation and development.
7.Distinguished Party leaders, there are at least three compelling reasons why Nigerian Political Parties should enhance women’s political participation:
i) Equity and equal participation and representation of women in political leadership are one of the targets for measuring SDG Agenda 2030 Goal 5. So as each country reports annually, attaining the global target of 50:50 by 2030 and the “Leave no one behind” and reach the last first principle is a benchmark for assessing all countries including Nigeria. From current data, we are a long way from this target, so spirited action is needed to get Nigeria on track;
ii) The Africa Union Agenda 2063 also places emphasis on women’s equal representation in governance and politics as a key target for all AU member states. Nigeria cannot therefore afford to continue to lag behind smaller African countries in the pursuit of this common African goal;
iii) UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the recent UN Resolution 2349and CEDAW all spotlight Nigeria as a country that needs to improve women’s representation in governance and political life demand that we redeem the image of Nigeria and improve our current performance.
8.To overcome the obstacles to women’s participation and reposition Nigeria as a good global example, the following are some of the measures recommended for political parties and other institutions responsible for women involvement in political leadership positions in Nigeria;
• Make Women’s wings within political parties to be part of the political party decision making structures
• Formulate strategies for prevention of, and mitigation measure for violence against women in elections.
• Establishment of Women’s caucuses to provide structured support through training programs and also making workplaces more hospitable for women.
• Mandatory quota for the participation of women in all elections.
• Fundraising for women political candidates
• Giving training in the political process to women
9.In addition to the above measures, permit me to also highlight the need for more sustainable solutions to reverse the trend of women’s under-representation in politics, which requires conscious efforts to interrogate the numerous factors that suppress women’s political participation and successful emergence at the polls. This will demand that Political Parties undertake some or all of the following:
✓ Provision of free nomination forms to ensure that women constitute at least 35% of party leadership positions and in addition, embrace, develop and implement initiatives that facilitate full participation of women in all internal policy-making structures and promote the inclusion of gender-sensitization training into national curriculum for political development at all levels;
✓ Review Party constitutions to ensure that allocation of 35% of leadership positions to women is reflected in the distribution of offices at the national, state, local government and ward levels. This should of necessity, be extended to candidatures for elections in the national and state legislatures for impact. Since this is easier to implement under Proportional Representation, the party should decide how the offices/positions are distributed across state and federal constituencies. Furthermore, Parties that comply should be incentivized through financial grants from INEC to support party administration and other organizational work;
✓ Provide mentorship programs for women to improve their leadership and politicking skills and
✓ Clearly identify the advancement of women and issues of special concern to women as priorities in the party agenda and manifesto and ensure that women feel a sense of belonging in their chosen political parties.
10.Notwithstanding our current situation, there are models that show us that the goal is achievable if we are strategic in our effort to bridge gender gaps in politics. For instance the Zebra party arrangement is already fully functional in Lagos and Ogun States. The party has adopted a deliberate policy of ensuring that when the Governorship candidate is male, a female becomes the running mate or deputy as a bold initiative to break perceived barriers and put women in political leadership positions.
11.Similarly, Kogi State has also, through deliberate policy, created a unique avenue at the Local Government level for all deputy positions to be reserved for women to provide unparalleled opportunity for women to contribute to the building of the State and the nation at large. This singular move translated to over 33% women’s representation in leadership instantly, making Kogi a leading State in this sphere. This was globally shared as a model at the 61st CSW session held in New York in March and we are eager to report more of such positive results.
12.My visit today therefore, is to highlight to the party leadership, the opportunities available to etch the name of the party in gold in the unique area of women’s political participation and representation at leadership levels. Building on our constitutional provision of equality regardless of sex, Nigeria through the party can seriously consider adopting the Voluntary Electoral Party Gender Quota system. This is a deliberate strategy of earmarking constituencies solely for women candidates. This is a globally acclaimed and proven modality for promoting affirmative action without compromising on merit and competition as the best and most qualified women within the designated areas ultimately compete for available seats. In essence, Parties would create through their zoning system or geographic areas, positions where women alone via for election through the ballot.
13. By the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), half of the world’s countries currently have in place, some form of electoral gender quota system to address gender imbalance. Pointedly, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has observed that quota systems have had a positive impact in redressing gender imbalance in national parliaments across the world. We therefore call on all political parties in Nigeria to adopt the above tested principles.
- According to Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace winner, “gender equality is critical to the development and peace of every nation.” Therefore, the role of Political parties in building viable governance structures cannot be over-emphasised. By implication, the journey to sustainable peace and development starts and rests with political parties creating more space for women to participate and succeed in politics.
15.Your Excellency Mr Chairman, with every sense of humility, it is good to note that the problem of women’s marginalization, social, economic and political exclusion does not affect women alone. We all collectively pay the price for women’s exclusion and stand to gain tremendously from redressing the problem as the gains of social and gender inclusion benefits all of society in every sector. I therefore appreciate most sincerely, this unique opportunity to address the Party leadership.
16.My Ministry stands ready to work with partners to provide the technical support to help broaden the political line, so that women can make their full contribution into political development in the overall interest of communities and the nation at large. My personal experience is that every opportunity given to a woman, affirms women’s competency and capacity for leadership. This in turn inspires and motivates other women, creates huge platforms for even more women and promotes the “I can” mentality among women, and this translates to gains for all.
17.Your Excellency, most respected Party Leaders, I thank you for your kind attention and God bless you all.