As part of the lined-up activities towards ensuring a closed gender gap at all levels of governance, The Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) with support from the African Women Development Fund (AWDF) organized a “Post Elections Lessons Learned Meeting” for female aspirants, female candidates and campaign managers on 16 April 2019 in Edo State. The meeting was aimed at assessing women’s participatory in the just concluded 2019 General Elections against the background of trainings and technical support provided to women in Edo State. It was also a process to document all forms of barriers to women’s participation and make recommendations for  more strategic actions in subsequent elections.

Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer of NWTF – Ms. Mufuliat Fijabi, during her welcome remarks stated that the meeting provides an opportunity to assess the impact of previous trainings from the Creating Spaces project during the pre-2019 General Election phase while it also enables a learning opportunity that guides future interventions on women’s political participation in the state.  She lamented the current realities emanating from the just concluded elections where the share of women in Nigeria’s elective positions has further witnessed a drop-in percentage.  In addition, Ms. Fijabi encouraged participants to focus on how they can leverage on prospects in the political sphere and also tackle obstacles to achieving political parity in the State polity. “Stakeholder need to be more strategic by making sure they are enlisted as appointive office holders” she concluded.

In other opening statements, a former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Josephine Anenih lauded the timeliness of the meeting and commended the efforts of NWTF in ensuring that rising inequality and shrinking democratic spaces for women politicians in Nigeria is addressed.   She also noted that results from the 2019 elections have necessitated a reawakening call with renewed purpose for women to network and be confident to challenge all forms of discriminations against them in the electoral process. Mrs. Anenih concluded by urging women to always amplify their humanitarian interventions and professional achievements as this will put them in public light which could assist their political aspirations. In the same similar, Comrade Daisy Osunde, the Chairperson for the Women Chapter of Nigerian Labour Congress in Edo State decried the non-gender responsiveness of key political structures in the state. The Comrade pointed out that as against the previous representation of only one female legislator in the State House of Assembly, the next Assembly will have no female representative. Comrade Osunde admonished participants on building lasting supports to break some the challenges faced during electioneering period, most of which are usually premised on campaign financing.

In concluding opening remarks, The International Federation of Women Lawyers, represented by Barrister Maria Edeko – the outgoing Chairperson of the Federation in Edo State and current Financial Secretary at the National level – acknowledged that an increasing number of women are becoming involved in politics as aspirants and candidates, although this has not led to a reversal of  dismay trends in representation of women in politics. As a candidate for the State of Assembly in the State in the 2019 elections, Barrister Edeko mentioned that venturing into the political reality test has reoriented her belief towards concrete experiences that could be useful in future political aspirations. She opined that the Nigerian political system will become sanitized when all key stakeholders begin to truthfully engage in political activities according to electoral rule of Law.

The meeting was well attended by prominent female aspirants and candidates in the state- including the only female legislator in the State House of Assembly, Right Honorable Elizabeth Ative- strategic Professional Women Bodies and male politicians. Recommendations from the meeting included the need for political parties to be more responsive to the need to support women’s political participation and the need to reduce the exorbitant campaign finance which is difficult for women to match.  A similar event was also organized in in Kano State on 6 April 2019.