Full text of DG NCWD at the National summits for women aspirants

DG/CEO, National Center for Woman Development, Mary Ekpere Eta, 

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the national summit for female political aspirants organised by the office of the Wife of the President, Dr Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, in collaboration with the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), the National Council for Women Societies and Women in Politics Forum.

 I'm confident that today's summit, which I must say is timely, will be solution- centered as key issues of immense importance to female aspirants from across the political divide will be methodically analysed, with answers given to questions on the minds of  these hopeful aspirants.   

Indeed, female aspirants gathering here from different parts of the country, to rub minds with the other critical stakeholders in the political process and listen to  strategies for a more transparent political process from heads of relevant government agencies, is very much necessary as there is growing recognition of the need to take action towards significantly increasing women's participation in politics.

I commend and appreciate the Wife of the President, Dr Aisha Muhammadu Buhari for taking the initiative to bring together female politicians from the level of those in the grassroots, to those seeking positions at the state and federal level, for them to confront the challenges, women who present themselves to serve the people often face.
President Muhammadu Buhari and wife, Aisha Buhari at the summit

Indeed, by coming together today, Nigeria is only aligning with the renewed global thinking  on how to adequately harness the untapped capacity and talents of women and women’s leadership.

Over the last two decades, the rate of women’s representation in national parliaments globally has incrementally increased from 11.8 percent in 1998 to 17.8 percent in 2008 to 23.5 percent in 2018.

However total global representation is still well below the 30 percent benchmark often identified as the necessary level of representation to make an impact on laws and policy.

Here in Nigeria,women's participation in politics has sadly remained poor and  as suggested by data, the participation of women in the affairs of political parties has not transformed to real opportunities as to allow them participate effectively in governance.
DG with the national Chairman of APC , Comrade Adams Oshiomohle

What are the solutions? How can we change politics from being  a male-oriented, male-dominated enterprise in Nigeria?

We can start with a merit- oriented quota system, in which qualified women are supported to occupy a designated percentage of positions within the party, political appointments and for elective office.

Then there is the issue of violence that often characterizes Nigerian politics, right from within political parties, through to the campaigns and elections proper.

Elections in Nigeria have often been characterized by one form of violence or the other. Due to the fear of violence, many women think it wiser to leave politics to people with daring.

It is pertinent, that I use this opportunity to commend the security agencies for the work they do to make the entire political process safe and attractive to women. But a lot more needs to be done to reduce violence in politics at every level, as this will lead  to  more women actively participating in politics in rural and urban areas.

When perpetrators  of  politically related violence are arrested and prosecuted, not only will lawbreakers be  kept off the streets, the absence of trouble makers will go a long way in improving women's confidence of their safety as political actors. 

The gigantic role money plays in Nigerian politics is one other issue that scares women. Though many parties have given female aspirants waivers on paying for nomination forms, they often lack the huge sums needed to buy over delegates or even members of the party with the introduction of direct primaries by the ruling All Progressives Congress. Women still have to struggle financially to prosecute campaigns , as running an effective campaign cost more money as elections come and go.

It is however gladdening to note that aside from urging women to  exploit the legal means of raising funds for campaigns, like our male counterparts, female  aspirants are encouraged to take advantage of  the support provided  by the Nigerian Women Trust Fund.

   For us at the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), we have pushed for female participation , using the holistic approach of  increasing the number of  women that have benefited from our empowerment schemes .

The NCWD has trained many women in highly sought skill-sets. Our belief is that economic empowerment is the first step to equipping women to aspire to political leadership,  because with financial independence and social relevance, comes the confidence to contest for leadership positions.   

The Centre equally has a role to play in advocacy  and we have in the past year  sensitised women on the need to get registered to vote.

This summit provides a golden opportunity for me to call on women not sell their votes. Women must understand that vote buying and selling is a crime and it further keeps women out of positions of authority .

Regrettably, women being more economically disadvantaged, they hardly can compete in this illicit trade of vote buying, therefore female voters shouldn’t accept to sell their votes as it keeps women out of the corridors of power.   

There is the strong need for security agencies to come up with strategies to support INEC's move to greatly reduce vote buying  by keeping the voter far from  mercenaries at polling centres.
President Buhari addressing the women

I would like to reiterate that, to get more responsible and people oriented women into public office, women who constitute about 50 percent of our population would have to support and vote for good candidates, especially good female candidates.

Women should  be keen on searching out "he, for she" candidates, men who have well articulated or are already implementing good policies on girl-child education, health care, economic and political empowerment.

Judging by the negative impact of corruption on the country, a good candidate for female voters, must also be that person who isn't coming to enrich him or herself in politics.

Having called on women to come out  to vote, to critically examine the candidates and the promises they will be making, today equally presents another occasion to encourage female aspirants to go out there and compete for tickets of the parties they belong to in order to contest for public office.

Female candidates are encouraged to speak to aspirations of the people they seek to lead or represent as running successful campaigns is critical to electoral victory.

Ahead of  the 2019 election, the Centre has trained and re-oriented relevant  officials to see to effective partnerships with Nigerian and international agencies and NGOs, to take women's participation to a higher level.

 In 2015,  seven female senators and six female deputy governors were elected.  Only one female contested for the office of President and four for Vice-President.

Global statistics for gender parity indicates that in 2015, out of 188 countries, Nigeria was 152nd in the Human Development Index in Gender Inequality and 118th out of 192 countries in 2017.

 For us here at the Centre we are willing to collaborate with old and new partners to improve the aforementioned statistics come 2019.

Thanks for listening

Mary Ekpere Eta
National Center for Woman Development
Politics 8556440556706714775

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