SOURCE: allAfrica
THAT women got only 96 out of 1531 elective positions available in the 2007 elections in Nigeria in 2007 is a big concern to major international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This was however, a major improvement in the sense that it was 27 in 1999 and 67 in 2003 it is still worrisome. There are 109 seats in the Senate but three females got elected to the upper house in 1999; four in 2003 and nine in 2007. In the House of Representatives which has 360 seats 12 women were there in 1999; 23 in 2003 and 27 in 2007. The 36 states House of Assembly together have 990 seats women got 12 in 1999; 38 in 2003; and 54 in 2007.

One woman was deputy governor in 1999; two were in the seat In 2003 while six became number two persons in their states in 2007.

No woman has ever been a governor in the real sense of the matter despite the fact that Dame Virgy Etiaba was at one time sworn in as governor of Anambra state when the substantive governor, Peter Obi, was impeached.

In recent times gender equalities has been a major topic in global issues as it has been found that women are the catalysts to development strategies focused on improved standard of living and good government that give men and women equal voices in decision making and policy implementation, good governance, attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In fact the number three item on the MDGs table is gender equality and women empowerment.

Before the MDGs programme there have been other global treaties, conventions and declarations such as Mexico '75, Nairobi '85, Abuja '89, Dakar '94, Beijing '95 and New York 2000, all aimed at promoting women in politics.

Currently wife Nigerian President, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan, has been in the lead in the mobilization of women to demand for the 35 per cent women representation in all the affairs of the nation. She toured the 36 states of the federation, urging women to come out and take what rightfully belongs to them.

Under representation of women in Nigeria politics was one of the reasons the United Nations through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a three-day workshop for journalists on Professional Reporting of Electoral Processes for Nigeria's 2011 Elections with a bias on "Reporting Women in 2011 Elections" in the six geo-political zones of the country. The last of the workshop, that of the south east zone, ended last week in Owerri, Imo state.

According to one of the facilitators at the workshop, Dr. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, who presented papers on "Calculus of Gender Equitable Politics In Nigeria: What Role for the Media" and "Reporting Women in 2011 General Elections: The essence, gaps and challenges", "The facts and figures on representation of women in elected positions from 1999 to 2007 in Nigeria show that they are inadequately represented in the executive arm; Senate; House of Representatives; state legislatures and local government councils".

"During President Olusegun Obasanjo administration (1999-2003) women were still grossly under represented in governance despite the fact that the administration was credited to be the most gender friendly in the history of Nigeria in terms of appointing women into political offices. The political arena is dominated by men; and despite the fact that women make up half the population, they occupy infinitesimal fraction of political positions". She wondered why there is this deprivation when it is said that "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"?

She said that these increases in the number of women occupying elective positions, no matter how marginal, attest to the fact that women are determined to overcome these challenges and register their participation and contributions to Nigeria' democratic governance. She noted that this was why the UNDP has enlisted the support of the media in the quest for gender equitable politics in the forthcoming 2011 general elections in Nigeria.

Dr. Ogwezzy-Ndisika pointed out that media have been on top of the agenda whenever women issues are discussed because they have been seen as a critical variable in the calculus of gender, politics and power because media description prescribes societal perception and play the leading role in shaping public opinion and urged media personnel to assist Nigeria in promoting gender equitable politics targeted at achieving MDGs 3.

She added that media institutions are crucial in the study of elections because they are charged with the responsibility of providing information, discussion and debate on political issues; provide concrete and practical information relevant to promoting the course of women in the 2011 general elections. She even noted that the media have become the most powerful socializing agents in modern society and their role in either shaping stereotypes or promoting fair and accurate representation of women in politics is unquestionable and that as such the media are potent in reshaping the gendered Nigerian polity by influencing a change of the attitude and opinions on Nigerians towards a gender equitable polity.

However, it is generally known that many factors such as male dominance, misconceptions about feminism, motherhood, family, the culture of male supremacy affect women participation in politics. Also, societal perception of women in politics as sociological male, prominence given to men, violence, women's ignorance of their rights, religious doctrines, sexual harassment, poverty, illiteracy, media representation and the believe that men are natural leaders have also affected the women.

Another facilitator at the workshop, Mr. Tunde Laniyan, managing director of SPOLAN Communication Limited, Ibadan, agreed that the media have the potentials of altering significantly people's perception of the world around them in addition to shaping their opinions and attitude; political articulation, mobilization and conflict management; partly responsible for determining which political demands in society will be aired and which will be relatively muted and also affect the chances of political actors, especially women to secure essential support.

He urged journalists to assist women through various mass media messages such as news stories, feature, editorial and commentaries and inform citizens of women's basics right to vote and be voted for, and also to use the frequency of reportage give prominence to gender issues in Nigerian politics, as well as build public confidence on the need to give women a chance to occupy elective offices by questioning party processes that do not favour the course of women and motivate the people to vote for the women.

He is of the view that the media can promote the involvement of political parties, male candidates and the electorate to achieve a gender equitable 2011 general elections and also present women's political agenda to political parties and request that government include at least 35 per cent female representation in government appointment in line with National Gender Policy.

In the communiqué the participants agreed that their key messages should be that women are under represented in elective positions in Nigeria; women can vote and be voted for; women have the right to choose those who would lead them; women can occupy leadership positions which benefit the nation because elected women are expected to promote the cause of the socially excluded because of their roles as mothers, care givers and custodians of social conscience and that nobody can get an elected position without the support of women.

They also agreed that ethics and social responsibility principles should be upheld by the media effectively carrying out surveillance function and hinging on the fact that women are under represented in Nigerian politics in order to promote gender equitable politics; the media should mirror and promote women's interests in the 2011 general elections and to use the human right standards, especially against the backdrop of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as platform to tackle the problem of women representation in the media from a social responsibility angle and a right-based approach to development that emphasize social inclusion, which would lead to gender equitable representation in Nigerian politics.


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