The Independent National Electoral Commission has declared its readiness to address what it describes as the age-long inequality and gender imbalance in the nation’s politics. The commission is also set to achieve gender balance across the various cadres of its personnel.
Deputy Director, Gender Division, INEC, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, said the electoral body would ensure that women occupy 35 per cent appointive and elective positions in the build- up to the 2015 general elections.
Obidegwu spoke in Lagos on Monday, during the technical review of the draft INEC Gender Policy which had in attendance members of women rights groups and gender-based civil society organisations.
She stated that to achieve greater women participation in politics and institutionalise gender equality in the political process, INEC was finalising plans on its gender policy.
Obidegwu said, “The objective of the draft INEC Gender Policy is to integrate gender awareness into the electoral process and encourage gender equality and balance within political parties and in the identification of candidates.
“It is important to note that in January 2007, INEC came up with a mandate to address gender issues related to the 2007 elections and beyond. This is to strive towards the 35 per cent affirmative action for both appointive and elective positions for women.”
She explained that in response to the general challenges faced by women in politics, INEC had transformed its Gender Desk to a fully fledged division to canvass access and acceptance of women in politics.
“The focus of the INEC Gender Division is on opening up and expanding the political space for women in the 2015 general elections and beyond,” she added.
INEC National Commissioner, Election Monitoring and Observation, Dr. Ismael Igbani, in his key-note address, noted that the societal attitudes to women had to change for better.
He restated the commission’s resolve to remain committed to global best practices on human rights especially those bordering on women.
“But gender is a cross-cutting issue and the implementation of the INEC Gender Policy will require the commitment, participation and contribution of every stakeholder in the electoral process,” Igbani added.
“The problem of under representation of women is a universal phenomenon and the UN and European Union and the Commonwealth have had their own gender policies.
He said, “What we intend to do is if political parties have five women, we want to tell them to increase it by one”.
He added that the commission would report any political party that failed to carry women along to the National Assembly.
The Project Director, United Nations Development Programme , Dr Mourtada Deme, lauded INEC’s effort to carry women along in its activities.