UN Canvass Greater Women Representation in Nigeria’s Political Process

UN Canvass Greater Women Representation in Nigeria’s Political Process

By Raji Rasaki The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) has again reiterated its resolve to increase support for women representation in the political process leading to 2019 general elections in Nigeria. This was disclosed at a seminar, titled: “Media and Gender Sensitive Reporting in Elections”, organized by the

By Raji Rasaki

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) has again reiterated its resolve to increase support for women representation in the political process leading to 2019 general elections in Nigeria. This was disclosed at a seminar, titled: “Media and Gender Sensitive Reporting in Elections”, organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the support of UN-Women in Lagos.

According to UN Women Representative, Mr. Desmond Osebije, the organisation had always partnered with INEC and the media to improve women participation at all levels. In a keynote address, Osebije said, “UN-Women representation in the seminar is a part of the partnership with INEC”.

In his view, the media has been very strong in shaping opinion and setting agenda; hence, “We must tap into media power”. While stressing the need for Nigeria to raise the bar of women representation, the UN-Women representative observed that women had not fared well in Nigeria unlike other African countries.

Said he, “Nigeria has 5.6% women representation in politics while Rwanda has 68%. 2019 election is an opportunity to increase the level of women representation. UN-Women is ready to increase support for women participation and representation”.

Urging the media to do the needful in the quest to mainstream gender issues, he added that the UN-Women has enough tools which would aid the media to report with facts and accuracy as he added that “not supporting women is keeping a part of the body not functioning”.

In his welcome remarks, Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC, Lagos State, Mr Sam Olumekun said the aim of the seminar was to provide technical support to the media and other stakeholders to support equality.

According to Olumekun, who was represented by Mr Bolaji Ashadu, “INEC is committed to providing level playing field for the media and other stakeholders to be gender sensitive and gender responsive”. He also called on politicians and other stakeholders in the process leading to 2019 elections to “shun violence, hate speech and vote buying”.

While stating the objectives of the seminar, Deputy Director, Gender, INEC, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu stated that the objectives of the seminar were, not only to build capacity of stakeholders in the electoral process, but also to see how gender issues could be mainstreamed in the media.

“This seminar is to discuss the best way to report women and form template for reporting other groups such as persons with disabilities and the youths. As 2019 election comes, we expect the media to be public educator, opinion shaper and be gender responsive,” she said.

According to her, the Commission recognized the roles of UN-Women and media in strengthening women and gender. Obidegwu observed that the electorate rely on the media for information, adding that democracy would not grow, if the media capacity was not strengthened. She also observed that election reporting was generally gender blind and this often perpetrated gender stereotype.

Also speaking on “Balanced Media Reporting as a Tool for Strengthening Nigeria’s Electoral Process Towards 2019 General Elections,” Mr. Lanre Arogundade, director, International Press Centre, (IPC) noted that the objectives of the INEC seminar were in consonance with the work of his organisation.

According to him, available data have shown that women were often less projected in the media and it was against the backdrop of this that IPC has been organizing workshop for journalists under component 4B, support to the media under the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project..

In his words, “The Code of Election Coverage (2018) enjoins the media to report women. A Resource Manual on Reporting Elections and Accountability is also helpful in reporting women. The Institute for Media and Society (IMS) has guidelines for election reporters. In addition, INEC training and materials should help the media to do a good job in the 2019 elections.”

Mrs. Funke Egbemode, president, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), also urged journalists to educate women in politics on how to get favourable media reportage. According to her, since journalists “don’t create news, women must say something that resonate to appear on the front page. Headlines are gender-insensitive. Women in politics should answer questions on issues in such a way that editors will want to use their stories”.

While advising women politicians on the right thing to do, the NGE president said neither power nor political office was served al carte, urging that women should make realistic demands, refrain from being overtly emotional about women running for offices and creatively examine whatever agreement they had with male counterparts especially at the party level.

Also speaking on the topic: “Media and Gender Stereotypes in Nigerian Elections,” Mrs. Omowale Ifeyinwa, president, National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), admonished journalists covering political issues to ensure that lip- service was not paid to women issues.

She warned, “When we tear down a woman, we do it for a generation. We should project women in our community…Any community growing is because women there are allowed to grow.”

Speaking in the same vein, Prof. Nosa Owens-Ibie, general secretary, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN), who spoke on “Media, Gender and Elections in Nigeria: An Appraisal,” highlighted some of the age-long issues bedeviling women adequate representation in politics to include “Historical Inequality, More Talk/Less Change, Entrenched Stereotype/Relative Under-representation, Valued in voting and not to be voted for, Wavering Commitment to Affirmative Action, and Business-as-Usual Media (BUM)”.

As part of solutions journalism, Owens-Ibie, also dean, College of Social and Management Sciences, Caleb University, Imota, Ikorodu, urged the media to provide platforms for debate about women and electoral process, increase the number of media prominence given to women, focus on women contesting elections and provide opportunities for women aspirants to also compete favourably.

In a discussion on the topic, “The Role of Media in Enhancing Women’s Participation in the Electoral Process”, Mrs. Ene Ede, chief facilitator, Equity Advocates and publisher, The Women Today, observed that reporters’ cultural biases often played out in their reportage.

She advised journalists to always be equipped with the data and statistics of women aspirants as well as those that eventually became candidates. On how this could be achieved, she added that journalists should do a checklist of women candidates, using “INEC materials/record and the structure of political parties…We should find out the roles played by women in party primaries.”

After primaries, she said journalists should ask questions while reporting women: “What about reconciliation committees? How many women were there? And is the whole process consultative?” To mainstream gender, she concluded, “We must do it in the interest of the nation, not because women are weak”.

Responding to a poser by Ms Suzan Serekara, a journalist with The Tide who asked to know where to place the role of an editor when a story is edited to suit an interest that’s in dissonance to what was filed by a reporter, Arogundade said, “editors decide what is published. We should only be professional. If the story is well done, your mind becomes less guilty. If you know your edited story is damaging your personality, you can demand that your by-line be removed.”


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