Nigerian Women Leaders call for more involvement of women to promote peaceful elections

Date: Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, a pioneer of African Women’s Leadership Network (AWLN)  introducing the network to the audience
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, a pioneer of African Women’s Leadership Network (AWLN) introducing the network to the audience Photo Credit UN Women Nigeria

Women Leaders in Nigeria converged in Abuja this week to call for greater involvement of  women to promote peaceful elections, as the country  prepares for General Elections on 16 February 2018. The appeal was made at a forum jointly supported by UN Women, the African Union and the Embassy of Germany on 30 January, which brought together women leaders across public and private sectors, ahead of the launch of  the African Women Leadership Network (AWLN)   in Nigeria.

The forum gathered various actors including  representatives of political parties, the security sector, the media, academia and  civil society, to discuss their roles in promoting women’s peaceful participation in the elections as candidates and voters.

With women and youth constituting more than half of Nigeria’s voting population, and identified as most vulnerable in situations of violence, the need to prevent the growing scourge of gender-related violence in elections is  of priority concern for women. Violence against women in elections is not just a personal violation of a woman’s civic rights, but constitutes a systematic barrier to free, fair and inclusive democracy.

Nigeria has witnessed in recent months,  increasingly visible cases of violence and disruptions of peace during the campaigns season across different political parties and within various electioneering activities across the country. As elections are the main vehicle by which leadership is established in a democracy, violence of any sort remains a danger to preserving and upholding the democratic life of any nation.

Speaking during the forum, the German Deputy Ambassador, Regine Hess said “the role of women in politics has to be strengthened. Women represent 50% of the Nigerian population – or even a little more. Participating in elections – as voters but also as candidates – is one way of making women’s voices heard. Women have to be at the polls on February 16th and March 2nd!”

Deep-rooted patriarchal cultural patrons, high levels of poverty and illiteracy among women, as well as gender-based violence, are  major obstacles to women’s full political participation. At the same time, the perception that the realm of politics belongs only to men is still widespread . Women leaders in Nigeria are advocating for stronger measures to remove such obstacles to their full participation in the electoral process and the political sphere more broadly.

UN Women’s Country Representative, Ms. Comfort Lamptey in her welcome statement, noted that “peaceful Elections devoid of all forms of violence can only happen when citizens fully understand how it impacts our progress as individuals, citizens and as a nation. Women need active roles in elections. We need women’s full participation not only as voters but also in increasing women’s access to  leadership positions.  Building sustainable peace requires commitment and strong partnership between the government, security sector, electoral bodies and the media to create a  peaceful environment where the differences will be respected, and the focus must be the development of the country”.

The Africa Union country representative, Dr Tunji Ashaolu emphasized the importance of involving women at all levels of decision making. “Women are not only at the centre of development but are central to the development of the continent” . Dr Tunji called on all relevant stakeholders to follow the principle of the AU on democracy and governance to ensure that elections are not only free and fair but to make sure no citizen’s life is put at jeopardy because of the elections, especially the lives of women and youths.

The African Women Leadership Network is an initiative that seeks to create space for African women to share leadership experiences and seeks to enhance the leadership of women in the transformation of Africa with a focus on governance, peace, stability and development. It is a joint initiative of the African Union  Commission and the United Nations , through the Offices of the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, and UN Women. It is supported by the Federal Republic of Germany. It mobilizes African women leaders to play a significant role in the transformation of the continent, as aspired to in both the “Africa Agenda 2063” and the 2030 Global Sustainable Development Goals.  “The Africa We Want”, envisions an Africa that is people-centered, with gender equality and where women are empowered and play their rightful role in all spheres of life.