In strengthening alliances for an inclusive democratic process in Nigeria, The Nigerian Women Trust Fund with support from Australian Aid (AusAid) organized a two-day National Strategy meeting for practitioners from reputable media houses and female candidates on positive portrayal of female candidates in the 2019 General Elections. The event which took place in Abuja on the 22-23 November 2018 and themed “Strategy Meeting on Media Portrayal of Female Candidates in the 2019 General Elections” was aimed at analyzing the central roles played by the media in shaping and portrayal of female candidates as well as to collate strategies and commitments towards the visibility of female candidacy in the 2019 General Elections.
The Chief Executive Officer of NWTF, Ms. Mufuliat Fijabi, in her welcome remarks mentioned that the unbalanced media coverage and reporting has been a major limiting factor for women in leadership. Ms. Fijabi added that women in leadership in Nigeria encounter bias, which makes it difficult for women to serve in public leadership positions in the country. “The criticisms from correspondents, reporters, analysts and the social media became laced with unsavory cliché and stereotypes of women and sometimes comments could be personal and misogynistic,’’ she reemphasized. She acknowledged that although there have been improvement and an increase in the visibility of women in the country, existing structural and systemic imbalances in media coverage have continued to reduce democratic spaces for women. “I would like us all as stakeholders in the democratic process to reflect on how we can capitalize on our different perspectives and mandates to accelerate the achievement of women’s political participation. I call on all media practitioners to give media visibility to women so as to boost their participation in politics in the country” she buttressed. The Chief Executive Officer concluded by urging media practitioners to increase the reportage of women’s role and be strategic in seeking more inclusion especially in the build-up to 2019 General Elections.
The Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Lehmann, while rending his good will message hinted that media narratives with high readership around the world are focused on women contributions. He added that stories that would be read across the globe going into the 2019 General Elections would be such story that speaks about the progress women had made in the political process. “When a woman is elected into leadership office, everybody including men, women, boys’ and girls’ benefits” however, women representation in government is a global struggle and Nigeria is not alone in it” he affirmed. In a similar line, The Country Representative of UN Women TO Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Comfort Lamptey represented by the Women Programmes Officer, Mr. Desmond Osemhenji expressed commitment to promoting inclusive and peaceful elections in Nigeria in 2019. Ms Lamptey advised that the enormous potentials of the media must be tapped into in order to change the narrative and experience around women’s participation in Nigerian politics. “Globally, the power of the media helps to shape and influence public opinion around social-cultural and political priorities,” she said. Ms Lamptey reassured of the UN Women’s commitments to promoting inclusive and peaceful elections in the upcoming 2019 General Elections in Nigeria.
In the remarks of the President, Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Ifeyinwa Omowole stated that the association had always been in the forefront of promoting Nigerian women in public offices and across all levels. The president, however, said that a lot of female aspirants, unlike their male counterparts are media-shy. She emphasized that the men understood the power of the media and uses it to their advantage, thereby urging women to do likewise. “I call on you to take advantage of the media; it is not every media person that will misrepresent you. If you are friends with them, they will not misrepresent you, rather, they will help portray your point better and correct you when you are going wrong’. Ms. Omowole said. Towing Ms. Omowole voice were the CEO/MD of Women radio 91.7FM and Barrister Ebere Ifendu, President of Women in Politics Forum.
Other notable contributors included Professor Remi Sonaiya, former Presidential Candidate, Editor in Chiefs of Media Houses, Female candidates from different political parties and Development Practitioners as well as representatives of civil society organizations.