Brief Description and Objectives:
The Nigerian Women Trust Fund and UN Women, Nigeria jointly hosted two events aimed at strengthening women’s political participation. The first activity was “A Dialogue Between Young Women and Women Politians” which was held on 25th – 26th June, 2018 while the second activity was “A Consultative Meeting of Young Women Politicians” held on 27th – 28th June, 2018.
This engagement, supported by UN Women was organized to evaluate gender responsiveness of stakeholders in the electoral process and ushered in efforts to make the systems that govern political participation fairer and more inclusive, particularly for excluded populations like women. The two-day evaluation meeting between young women and women politicians held in Abuja with participants attending from various states in Nigeria, including other critical stakeholders to share experiences, learn from each other and chart a way forward towards the 2019 general elections. The dialogue was held against the background of growing concern about the decrease in women’s political participation and to groom young women in the build up to the 2019 general elections.
Similarly, to ensure there is an increase in knowledge, capacity and in the long run women’s participation in politics, a Consultative Meeting for Women Politician also held with participants attending from 17 states and the FCT; Imo, Delta, Enugu, Kogi, Edo, Rivers, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti, Lagos, Kano, Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, Plateau, Benue, Nassarawa, and the FCT. It also comprised of facilitators with strong background and experience in politics, strategy and planning, and communications. The consultative meeting took place in FCT, at Barcelona Hotel.
The meetings were initiated to identify and proffer solutions to barriers impeding young women’s participation in the democratic process while it also responds to the gaps in the electoral system that keep women out of the process. The goal of the project in general was to strengthen women’s engagement with the whole democratic process including the electoral process and deepen democratic governance in Nigeria.
The Project objectives include:
- Experience sharing, analysis and evaluation of developing trends in the lead up to the 2019 General Elections.
- To explore the opportunities and challenges for young women in political parties
- To support women, especially young women, and women to participate in and influence the electoral process.
- To equip young women in politics for effective intra party advocacy and lobbying with the aim of having more women emerge as candidates in the 2019 General Elections.
- To come up with mutually acceptable recommendations to enhance young women’s participation towards increasing the number of women who participate as candidates and eventually win elections in 2019 and beyond.
One key objective of the consultative meeting was for participants to come up with a work plan that will be used to advance the course of young women’s political participation in the 2019 General elections. At the end of the event, participants came up with a detailed work plan for two years that will guide through further engagement in the political system. The detailed work plan included activities like Sensitization, Advocacy, Empowerment of Young Women, Financial Literacy, Vocational Skill Acquisition, Mentoring and Mobilization. This work plan will be reviewed by the year 2020.
Summary of Products and Project Activities:
Welcome Address, Goodwill Messages, Agenda Setting, Dialogue with Experienced Women Politicians, Panel Discussions, Experience Sharing, Communications Training, Questions and Answer
Welcome Address During the Dialogue with Young Women politicians ( 25- 26 July 2018)
The CEO of the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund, Ms. Mufuliat Fijabi welcomed everyone. In her welcome address, she told the participants that the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund with support from the United Nation’s Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment – UN Women and the Canadian High Commission put forward the dialogue aimed at strengthening the inclusive participation of women and all citizens leading to the deepening of Democracy in Nigeria. She stated that NWTF is hopeful that the interaction between young women politicians and the older more experienced women politicians will contribute significantly to the expansion of the pool of women politicians and contribute to the closing of the gender gaps at all levels of governance in Nigeria.
The main goal of the dialogue is to identify the obstacles that inhibits young women’s inclusion in the electoral process, deliberate on strategies that can help overcome the challenges identified leading to more meaningful results in the 2019 general elections and beyond, thus, these young people will serve as potential agents of growth and democratization in Nigeria. The signing of the Age Reduction bill by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria intensify the need to continuously engage young women to ensure that they do not remain behind as more young people advance their participation in Nigeria’s Democratic Process.
Good Will Messages
Good will messages were received from our sponsors – UN Women, The Canadian High Commission to Nigeria. Good will messages were also received from IPAC, WIPF and some Politicians.
Setting The Agenda: Joining Political Parties and Sustaining Interest in the Activism
Ms Omowumi Asubiaro – Dada set the agenda and context of the Dialogue. In setting the context for the dialogue, she made a presentation on “Matriarchs of Political Parties”. She shared with the participants the profiles of three key female politicians who have been involved in active politics for years and have sustained their activism with the following high lights:
- Iyom Josephine Anenih – Joined the National Party of Nigeria(NPN) in 1979, later moved to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was active in party affairs which made her a force to be reckoned within the Party ; she became the First National Woman Leader of the PDP, was the secretary of the constitution review committee of the PDP, member Presidential Policy Advisory Committee, Member- Board of Trustees, National Executive Committee and National Working Committee. She aspired in 2007, for the House of Representatives but lost and was appointed in 2010 as the Minister for Women Affairs.
- Mulikat Akande – Adeola – Joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998, made a first attempt to contest in 2002 but lost, contested for the House of Representatives in 2007 and won, contested again in 2011 were she won and became the first Female National Parliamentary Leader. In all these years, she remained active in her party’s affairs.
- Senator Binta Masi Garba – Joined National Centre Party of Nigeria in 1989, moved to All National Progressive Party in 1999 in Kaduna State, contested elections in 1999 and in 2003, won both times. In 2007, she changed both her Political Party and her State to contest elections and she won. In fact, she is the only known female politician that has changed her state and party at the same time and still won her election. She was the first Female State Chair (APC, Adamawa State). She also contested under APC in Adamawa State and won her elections too. She ensured that she was active in her party PDP she was the deputy publicity secretary and she also became the first female chair of APC in Adamawa state.
From the These three women politicians, their story outlines the following practical steps that young women venturing into the political space should remember:
- Mobilize other women to join political parties so that you can negotiate with them ;
- Be strategic in your contribution to the party for negotiation arsenals
- Keep at it and see it as an investment
- Publicize what you do to the roof top
- Contextualize your solutions – apply global ideas to local problems.
After the agenda setting, the following activities and presentations which generated very robust discussions and outcomes were:
- A Dialogue Session between Young Women and Experienced Women Politicians
- Panel Discussion on Young Women, Political Dynamics and Trends in the Lead up to the 2019 General Elections
- Experience Sharing and Volunteering on an Election Campaign
- A Presentation on Using Modern Communication Techniques to Advance Women’s Political Ambition
- Young Women and Election Experience
- Women, Elections and the CVR Process
All these activities generated key learnings and outcomes that will be used to further strategise on women’s engagement in the political arena in 2019 and beyond. For example Some of the young women present volunteered on the election campaign teams of some of the older and more experienced politicians who mentored them during the dialogue.
- The Two – Day Consultative Meeting of Young Women in Politics
The welcome remarks was delivered by the Mufuliat Fijabi, CEO of Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund (NWTF), where she expressed the pleasure of being in the midst of young people who honoured the invitation to discuss, engage and learn. She informed the participants that the meeting started on Monday, 26th June, 2018, which target young politician and Student Union Activists. The facilators included men and women with vast experience in the dynamics and play of politics.
This meeting involves Young Women politicians, that the NWTF have been working with. The essence of the meeting is to prepare and equip young politicians who are already members of different political parties for the 2019 elections. She explained that the consultative meeting will equip the young women politicians with knowledge and expertise to draw up their individual and collective workplans towards the 2019 general elections. She further clarified that Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund (NWTF) is non – partisan and works with politicians from different political parties.
Good will messages were received from UN Women and the Women in Politics Forum (WIPF).
Agenda Setting: Women and Political Participation: Between Theory and Practice
In setting the context for the Meeting, Architect Abiodun Owoborode and Hajia Ireti Kingibe jointly set the context of the meeting. According to Architect Abiodun Owoborode, Politics in theory is different from what is seen and experienced on the field. He further explained that women’s discrimination is engraved in culture and religion giving diverse example of patriarchy that is perpetrated unknowingly sometimes from classroom to board rooms. He stated that some of the false stereotypes about include that women cannot be trusted with certain level of responsibilities especially high profile, decision making positions which he also said is never true.According to him data has shown that, globally, women’s participation in politics is abysmally low. He urged women to take charge as participating in politics intensely is one of the ways for issues to be solved as experience has shown that women lead better than men. Only twelve (12) countries globally have 33% of women participating in politics. In Nigeria, we only identify the problems but are yet to solve them.
Women must know that there is strength in numbers. Women contribute immensely in the economy as such should have more candidates in Nigeria emerging ascandidates for elective and appointive positions. Emphasising the need for more women to participate in politics, he stated categorically that it is high time for women to began to work together and create the desired change.
Networking is very key as that has been what has helped the men in continuous growth in politics. Networking amongst women with the numbers they have will be one of the many ways for campaigning against ills and mitigating issues at all levels of governance. He emphasized and reinforced the need to have a common goal irrespective of divergent party membership. One of the reasons why there has been increase in the non-passage of gender bills in the National Assembly is due to the many voices from men against that of that women. Being Collective will increase women in politics and build a formidable force.He summarised his intervention stating that the most sustainable thing that women can do to increase participation in politics is to have a collective voice, goal and reliance on the strength of their numbers.
Hajia Ireti Kingibe in her intervention stated that It is very clear that politics for women is very daunting as patriarchy has not in any way reduced, so women in politics are faced with stigmatisation, inadequate finance, fear of life, late meeting times, and many more. She urged women to be collective in their strategy despite party affiliations, these affiliations must translate to becoming a candidate to run and improve their capacity in lobbying, negotiation, fundraising, ability to convince the electorate. She went to state categorically that, ‘’women make better politicians as they are more committed, more honest, less violent’’.
Afterwards, the lead facilitator, Wumi Asubiaro – Dada explained that the interventions and interactive sessions are aimed at opeining participants’ minds to begin to think on actions and next steps that are strategic to increase women’s participation in politics in 2019 general elections and beyond. The consultative meeting had sessions that were garnered for the participants to increase knowledge, enhance and harness skills and learn from experiences of other women with vast practical experience in politics.
The participants were also taken through the following presentations:
- The Not –Too-Young-To-Run-Law (Age Reduction Act) and Young Women’s Political Participation – YIAGA Africa
- Key Elements of a Strategic Plan and workplan development for Young Women Politicians – Wumi Asubiaro – Dada – Gender Specialist.
- Developing a Workplan Plan – Mufuliat Fijabi, CEO, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund
- Strategies for identifying and Raising Resources – Barrister Ebere Ifendu – President Women in Politics Forum (WIPF)
- Using Modern Communication Techniques to Advance Women’s Political Ambition – Adetunde Ademefun, Research and Communications Officer, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund
- Experience Sharing and Volunteering on an Election Campaign – Hajia Bilkisu Maigoro, expérienced politician.
At the end of these sessions during the two day consultation, the participants were equipped with the new skills on developing a workplan and the importance of strategic planning. This required participants to draft a strategic plan and make presentations. The participants brainstormed in five (5) groups with already discussed objectives and were able to develop a collective work plan.
- Partners & Beneficiaries:
A total of over Seventy (70) participants convened in Abuja for both meetings made up of mostly young women politicians and former female student union leaders who are now aspiring for political offices as well as critical state and non-state actors/stakeholders, a representative of the Canadian High Commission to Nigeria, the Country representative of the UN Women in Nigeria, the Honourable Commissioner of Women Affairs in Kaduna State, the President of the Women in Politics Forum, Former Special Adviser to Ex – President Goodluck Jonathan on National Assembly matters, Seasoned Politicians, Young Women with Political Aspirations, YIAGA Africa, Women Politicians, Inter Party Advisory Council etc. who dialogued together, shared experiences and learnt from one another.
- Implementation till date / Achievements :
- Gather data of women who are contesting in 2019 election in different states and evaluate factor mitigating against their success
- More women who are building capacity and following political trends to contest in 2019 and 2023 élections.
- Developed a work plan for women politicians that will guide activities towards the build up to the 2019 General Elections and beyond.
Key Learning Outcomes from the Two Day Dialogue
- Politics is not a free for all affair where people can go into without specific development and governance interest.
- Young women going into politics should see themselves as young transformational leaders who would effect changes into the current political arena.
- The days of voting aimlessly are over. There is a need for the different women groups to synergise and strategise to vote for candidates that will gurantee women’s interest.
- The media is a powerful tool. It can give women the needed visibility. However, young women should be careful of how they use the media because, if not well managed, it can have a negative influence on women’s political participation.
- Young women with political aspirations should have an agenda before coming out to contest for elections
- Women venturing into politics need to build their resource base because money is very crucial in politics. Requesting for wavers and concessions when it comes to money issues at the party level makes the women more vulnerable.
- There must be a sincere and committed willpower to address the challenges and barriers. Those interested to contest elected post should start very early. They should develop themselves and know and interact with their constituencies.
- Character and Integrity is key in politics
- Women especially the young politicians should participate actively political party and invest reasonable time to understand the party politics very well.
- Planning is a key ingredient to success
- There should be more hands-on sessions like the Strategic planning session for participants to be more equipped with skills to develop their workplans and strategies for proper political advancement.
Recommendation and Way forward
- Young Women should get involved in the activities of political parties if they are serious about winning elections in Nigeria
- Due to an increasing number of women not making it past the party primaries, there is a need for women to focus more on becoming party delegates as this will invariably increase their chances of winning elections
- The advocacy for increased women’s political participation must incorporate the men that will champion women’s right, (the he4shes). The dominance of the fight for women’s rights by women has created more chauvinism and enhanced patriachy. Considering that men are also victims of the patriarchy system, it is important to have more men championing the women’s cause, so in consultative meetings as this, young men in politics should be invited to participate.
- The number of days for the consultative meeting would have been more, where these young women could have had more opportunities to learn from the older women politicians
- During the meeting it was very evident that these young women are very eager to participate in politics, so it is pertinent to ensure that these Young women have more opportunities for more mentorship sessions.