Ahead of the 2015 General Elections the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) Project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has tasked the Federal Government to step-up initiative that would enhance Women, youth and persons with disabilities participation in the electoral processes.
Senior Gender Expert of the UNDPDGD Anne Ikpeme made the appeal yesterday in Keffi, Nasarawa State while speaking on “Understanding Genderersons with Disability (PWD) Perspectives to Political Participation” at the two-day Capacity Development for officials of the Federal Ministry of Youth Development on Electoral Issues and Election Programme Implementation.
She said that despite the better imperatives and opportunities, Nigeria is lagging behind countries like Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania among others in the degree of participation of women and PWD in elections and governance.
“The marginalization of Nigerian women in politics and decision making is as old as the Nigerian society. It actually predates the aent of colonialism in Southern and Northern Nigeria. Marginalization of women is reinforced by patriarchy, poverty, illiteracy, religious and cultural norms. The long years of military rule in Nigeria further worsened the position of women in political participation. Yet, the development of any country requires the participation of both men and women.
“Women make up 48.79 percent of Nigeria’s total population. The constitutional history of Nigeria shows that this exclusion dates back to the colonial times when women were not allowed to vote. In 1954 and preparatory to Independence, the Constitution introduced universal adult suffrage except for Northern women. While men started voting in Nigeria in 1922, women in all parts of the country started voting in 1979, a difference of 57 years. Thus in the first republic although there were prominent female politicians in the northern part of the country like Late Hajia Gambo Sawaba they could not vote or be voted for,” she said.
Ikpeme said that despite the sensitization programmes of NGOs and development partners, the percentage of women occupying elective and appointive positions has not been encouraging, even when Section 15(2) of the 199 Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, ethnicity, or religion.
She said that in Uganda, affirmative action was introduced in favour of marginalized people, particularly women and that the new Ugandan constitution entrenched the rights and dignity of women, and guaranteed equality and social justice and development and which increased presence of women in the Parliament to 24.5 percent.
While saying that South Africa has embedded a National Framework for women’s empowerment and gender equality in every facets of the society leading to achievement of 33 percent women representation at the Parliament, she added that Tanzania emphases on the girl child as a key way to promoting gender equality and women empowerment and had amended the constitution to include affirmative action providing for up to 30 percent representation of women in parliament, with a 50 percent representation by 2010.
She therefore called for concerted efforts at mainstreaming women and PWD into mainstream politics and governance in the interest of national development.
Source : Daily Trust