In the season of politics and elections, stakeholders in Nigeria are always one call away to discuss issues that can establish the sustainability of democracy. One of the topics that cannot be over-discussed is the issue of women’s participation in Nigerian politics. While several conversations revolve around the novel topic of inclusivity of women in
In the season of politics and elections, stakeholders in Nigeria are always one call away to discuss issues that can establish the sustainability of democracy. One of the topics that cannot be over-discussed is the issue of women’s participation in Nigerian politics.
While several conversations revolve around the novel topic of inclusivity of women in leadership positions, there are a plethora of questions to ask the media executives in respect of their contribution to enhancing female candidates in the 2023 elections. Do women get enough visibility? Are women well reported? Has the media done enough to promote women’s participation in leadership? What can the media do to change the existential narrative of inclusivity in Nigeria’s political space?
Those were some of the issues raised at the quarterly dialogue between the United Nations Women and media executives on Saturday 26th November 2023. The dialogue was attended by heads and editors of mainstream media, including the print, online, radio and television platforms. The roundtable dialogue was organised by Women Radio in Conjunction with UNwomen to evaluate the media’s performance in reporting female candidates and their political activities ahead of the 2023 elections.
In her opening remarks, Ms Beatrice Eyong, the United Nations Women’s country representative commended the media for being the frontrunner in the promotion of women’s participation in Nigerian politics. She also highlighted the activities of the United Nations by engaging female candidates to contest actively for their desired positions like their male counterparts.
Apart from the engagement, she noted that the UN has established resource centres for women’s empowerment. According to her, the centres have been saddled with the giving them logistics needed for their political campaigns
She further explained that the UN has trained over 80 journalists to enhance female leadership in Nigeria. Despite the training, she claimed that the media platforms are not doing enough to include women in their coverage.
She, therefore, appealed to the media to be more deliberate about reporting women, particularly women contesting for political positions. She added that putting women in the spotlight is another way to promote peace in the country.
“I wish to inform you that UNwomen has commenced the implementation of these resolutions, some are already in the advanced stage. So UNwomen did not go to sleep, and we continued our agreement. This is one thing, as a person, I always respect the agreement. When we agree on something, I take it seriously. Immediately, after the release of the names of candidates by INEC, UNwomen launched the contact of women candidates, some of them have responded which will be presented today.
We have also organised some round table meetings with some female candidates and private sectors as part of support to their campaigns. Training of media reporters is currently going on, over 80 reporters have been trained in Kaduna, FCT and Kwara states.
“I will also add that we just launched the first resource centre for women in politics in Nigeria in Abuja. It is a pilot that we have started, and we do not know what the effect will be, we have started in Abuja, and we will go to Calabar and Borno.
The intention of those resource centres is that since we know we do not have money to give to the female candidates, and it is not even allowed to give money to them, we are supporting them with the money they would have used for campaigns, they can use as material supports at the resource centre. They can print their posters; they can get books and they also are trained there. So, every woman regardless of the party can go there.
“Personally, I know that the media is doing a lot, and very well since the release of the candidates’ list by INEC. I have seen many candidates invited to speak on many programmes, particularly radio and television on elections. Unfortunately, I have not seen any of the female candidates in any of the media programmes. The female presidential candidate is not known. Nigerians do not know who she is, and what she has as a program.
She then urged media platforms and their executives to restate their commitments to promote women candidates.
Executive Director, International Press Centre, Mr Lanre Arogundade, while giving reports on the media reports of women candidates in October 2022 presented that the media’s performance was not impressive. He noted that data generated from monitoring 15 print and online media platforms as well as the INEC news portals revealed that women were the least cited in their reports.
Mr Arogundade further analysed how women were sparingly included in media representation. Quoting the available figures, he noted that print media only had 1.8% of women reportage while the online performed at the lesser range of 0.5%.
He added the media’s performance on the deployment of pictures for reportage was below the expected commitment. He noted that the media only deployed women’s pictures where they are sandwiched with men. He also explained that the media only showcase women’s photos to support male candidates. Mr Arogundade added that women’s pictures were only prominent
“In print, a total of 2,180 stories were monitored. Of these, issues relating to youth, women and People-With-Disabilities featured in 78 stories, representing 3.6% of total relevant stories.
Of the 78 stories, Youth recorded 41 stories (1.9%), women (32, 1.8%) and PWDs recorded (5, 0.22%). In online media, a total of 623 relevant stories were monitored. Of these, 13 stories bordered on issues relating to youth, women, and People-With-Disabilities, representing 2.1% of total relevant stories.
“Out of the 13 stories, Youth stories recorded (9, 1.4%), women (3, 0.5%) while PWDs got only one story at 0.2%. In many cases, reports on women’s participation were scanty (1.8% in print and 0.5% online) of all stories on inclusive groups. Women in some cases appeared in photos (Daily Trust, Oct. 30, pg…). They were used as men’s campaign supporters (Daily Trust, Oct. 30), sandwiched in pictures with male politicians or candidates in campaigns.
“This occurred in (Daily Trust, Oct10, pg 4, Daily Independent, Oct 7), where a woman politician was photographed with APC presidential candidate and on the front page (Daily Independent, Oct 11) where a woman was flashed in a photograph with PDP candidates).
“And even when the political event was their own like that of the launch of the APC women presidential campaign team (Daily Sun, Oct 9, pg 25, ThisDay , Leadership, Oct. 9, pg 12), women were not given voices in the media report of the event. Where women’s voices were heard louder, media reports include cases where women were used as protesters (Daily Trust, Oct. 20, pg. 37).”, Mr Arogundade analysed.
In his recommendation, he charged the media to be more deliberate about women’s inclusion in their daily coverage. He suggested that each media platform should prioritise reporting women’s stories at least three times a week. He also urged the media to add more prominence to the encouragement of women’s matters.
“My own recommendation is this: how do we increase the quantum of coverage? I hope media executives can agree to ensure their reporters report female candidates. Another recommendation is that in this period of political campaigning, can we take this in this forum that in our reporting of politics, we will have at least one story on female candidates or women issues in the electoral process on our front pages. For those who are editors of Daily newspapers, we can say at least thrice a week, there will be on front page stories or photographs that will be exclusively devoted to women in politics”, Mr Arogundade concluded
In their reaction to the presentation, media executives urged the UNwomen to encourage women to be more expressive and available for media engagement.
Also, the media executives made commitments to improve their female coverage by reaching out to female candidates for adequate engagement.
Mojeed Alabi, the Head of the development desk, of Premium Times newspaper, who spoke on behalf of the publisher, Mr Dapo Olorunyomi expressed his satisfaction in the dialogue. He encouraged his colleagues to put more effort into promoting women’s participation.
“I think we need to call on the women candidates to make themselves available for the media. If they do so, we are always ready to reach out to them, we are willing to assign a permanent reporter to the gender and women in politics desk, but UNwomen should get us the needed database to reach out to them.
Kolapo Olapoju, the editor of TheCable newspaper also urged Women Radio to always liaise with the print and online media platforms and how to get to the women candidates. He also suggested cross-publishing across all media platforms. According to him, cross-publishing will establish more visibility for women in leadership. “We all have to work together. For instance, if the women radio interviews a candidate, they can send the clip to us, and we will transcribe and publish it. I believe if we cross-publish too, it will have more visibility.
Kayode Ladeinde, the Executive Editor, TVC, also submitted that the television will expand its coverage of women’s visibility ahead of the 2023 elections.
In her concluding statement, Ms Toun Okewale Sonaiya, the Chief Executive Officer of Women Radio, commended media executives for their commitments to the sustainability of democracy. She promised to continue to form synergies with other media platforms to achieve inclusivity in Nigeria’s political ecosystem.