Source: Talk Nigerian
Women’s representation in the Federal Government has now steadily declined for three general elections cycles, women hold less than 5% of seats in the National Assembly and 11 State Houses of Assembly including Kaduna State have zero women in office.
This is abysmally low when compared to the stipulation of the United Nations which calls for at least 35%women in elected and appointed office.
Stop-VAWIP, made this known in a press conference organised to highlight it’s initial findings and recommendations from their Survivors Service Centre in Kaduna.
Rebecca Sako-John, Executive Director, Legal Awareness for Nigeria Women (LANW), who is also the campaign Coordinator in kaduna state said many women suffered significant and barriers to their participation in the political arena, including violence targeting them specifically during electoral cycles.
“The Stop-VAWIP campaign in Nigeria is unique because it works to ensure that immediate services are available for VAWIP survivors who may not otherwise have access to the social and legal assistance they need. The program also addresses the gender data gap and strengthens the capacity of domestic election observers to recognize, monitor and mitigate violence in Kaduna State. Through continued and thoughtful communication and outreach, the Stop-VAWIP campaign has increased community and public awareness about violence against women.
“Stop-VAWIP is a nationwide initiative led by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that supports and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government. Since 2015, the Stop-VAWIP campaign and its various partners likeLegal Awareness for Nigerian Women (LANW)have documented incidents of violence against women, raised awareness of VAWIP and advocated to relevant stakeholders on the need to mitigate VAWIP. Its overall goal is to mitigate violence against women and encourage them to actively participate in politics.
According to her, the Stop-VAWIP campaign established a centre to receive calls to its violence against women hotline, that the centre has served as the central location for all operations, including where incidents of violence against women from the hotline are tracked and crucial support is bridged to survivors through collaboration between the security services,the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA),and other service providers.
She added that, prior to the election, the Stop-VAWIP campaign lead in Kaduna, LANW and its women mobilizers widely publicized by raising awareness of the hotline and the Stop-VAWIP campaign’s mission, on the wholewomen of Kaduna state to have greater confidence to participate in the election, knowing the concerns of women were being monitored and supported through the survivor’s service methodology and a comprehensive training, the hotline operators learned how to receive calls, record incidents systematically, and refer the incidents to an array of services including: legal, counselling and other psychosocial support.
“The Stop-VAWIP campaign deployed a critical system for coordinating service delivery and timely access to services for survivors, otherwise known as the response procedure. Through the procedure, hotline operators would share incident information with service providers with the mandate to respond to such incidents. These stakeholders constitute the Stop-VAWIP Action Committee, or SVAC: a collaboration between security, government agencies and civil society in Kaduna state.
“The SVAC, evaluate cases as they are received to determine how to verify and escalate them. As incidents are verified, the response mechanismdeploys respondents to survivors and/or the location of the incidents, hence leading to an effective response to incidents before, during and after the election. These respondents include police, social workers and other victim support services. In addition to the Stop-VAWIP Action Committee and trained hotline operators, the Stop-VAWIP campaign trained about 69Local Government Area (LGA) coordinators/Mobilizers spread across the 23 LGAs to verify incident reports and provide support to VAWIP survivors.
“Despite the setback of the postponement of the elections from February 16th to 23rd, many registered female voters in Kaduna State rose to the challenge and trooped out in their numbers to participate in the elections, despite free use hate speech by political gladiators in their campaigns and on social media to intimidate their opponents.
“On Election Day, the SVAC and Stop-VAWIPSurvivor Center received over 100 calls. About 95% of the calls were on logistic challenges – malfunctioning card readers and insufficient materials (e.g., ballot papers, ink) and late arrival of INEC officials in several locations in Kaduna South, Chikun, BirninGwari Kaduna North, Sabon Gari and Igabi. One of the issues reported was at Stadium Roundabout, where security personnel blocked voters from polling units includingthose who traveled a long distance to vote, which almost devolved into a security crisis.
“In terms of security breaches, callers from Gwaraji and Joga in Igabi LGA and Giwa in Giwa LGA reported of some skirmishes. Callers reported that in Gwaraji, Joga, KofarGidanGandu at Limancin Corner in Zaria LGAs, no security personnel were available.
“Although we are happy to state that very minimal incidences of VAWIP were reported across the State, the Stop-VAWIP Survivors’ Service Center noted with great concern the following
GiwaLGA topped the LGAs with VAWIP cases. Giwa LGA witnessed a high turnout of voters perhaps due to the fact that Alh Shehu Bala, one of the candidates for House of Representatives position, is from the LGA. Due to the large turnout of women, the women at a point in the elections fought themselves to gain access to the polling unit. As this settled down, some altercation was witnessed between men and women arising from perceived preferential treatment of women to the extent that a man joined his wife to slap another woman.
“Also in Giwa, LGA, the female family members and children of the household of late Mallam Sani Mai were psychologically traumatized following a raid by security personnel instigated by party agents allegedly in search of an opposition party loyalist. In the process, the security agents broke down doors, physically assaulted the family and left live bullets in their wake. In Lere LGA, a woman was not only intimidated her PVC was forcefully snatched and broken into pieces”.
She went further to say that, “for some women, their spirits were dampened by inability to locate their PVCs at all or successfully changing polling units to new area of residence.
“In some polling units, PU officials and the voters used alphabetical order of names to accredit voters instead of separate queues for males and females in order of first come first serve thus making women, the elderly to stand unnecessarily longer before casting their votes.
“In a Polling unit in Ungwan Liman, Kaduna North a lady wearing an INEC accredited observer tag was canvassing for votes for a political party to women on the queue.
“It was observed that in many polling units and areas like in Gwaraj, Jogain Igabi LGA where there were some skirmishes and many other places like in Kaduna South Kabala West etcinstilling some reasonable fear in the women and might have discouraged some of them from coming out to participate in the elections. People called from BirninGwari complained of attacks allegedly carried the previous day by security agents.
“A Female candidate, Zainab Saka Yusuf who ran for House of Representative position for Kaduna South was threatened to accept cooked up results where there has been irregularities.