By Gabriel Chy Alonta
Low participation of women in politics in Anambra state and their rather scant appointment into positions in Nigeria at large, were the focus of a one-day consultative meeting as the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and its implementing partner Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) met in Awka.
The event, which attracted experts, civil society groups, Inter-party Women Network, political parties, government agencies and media organisations, was aimed at improving women inclusion and participation in politics as well as assessing the activities designed under the Women in Politics (WiP) project, Orient Weekend reports.
Delivering a keynote address titled, ‘Benefits of Women Political Participation in Anambra’, a professor of mass communication at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Chinyere Okunna, bemoaned negligence of women in political appointments despite their high level of exposure.
Professor Okunna noted that women were not asking for equality but equity in governance, regretting that out of the 21 appointed local government chairmen in the state that no single woman was appointed.
She identified cultural factor, religion, financial resources, poor self esteem, male chauvinism, among others as major challenges discouraging women inclusion and participation in politics.
Speaking on the benefits of women in politics, the former dean, faculty of social sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, argued that with gender balance in governance, qualitative development would be achieved.
She recommended that women exude high self-esteem and confidence in themselves to run and win any elective position as well as developing their personal capacities.
In a remark, Ashley Dauda, senior programme officer, Women in Politics (NDI), regretted that, despite all efforts to get more women in politics, there had been negative results, citing Adamawa, Anambra, Jigawa, Kano, Lagos, as places where women participation in politics had continued to decline.
She maintained that when women occupied elective positions, there would be development of human capital as well as sufficient attention to health and education, while calling for balance governance.
The CIRDDOC project manager, Mazi Jerry Udochu, said that it was painful that the results of women occupying public offices have not been reflected positively; rather it kept dwindling, expressing optimism that the fight to improve the situation by 2023 would continue.
Udochu identified vote buying, unnecessary rivalry and jealousy as part of the problems affecting the participation of women in politics, noting that it was part of the reasons for forming the Inter-party Women Network – to make women work as partners rather than enemies.
Participants, in their various contributions, posited that having a trust fund to support women who will want to venture into politics would yield better dividends. They also agreed that such issues should form part of ‘August Meeting’ organised by women, while they called for more re-orientation of women.
Earlier, the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Anambra state chapter, Ichie Damian Okeke Ogene, said that, in spite of the support of women to hold elective positions in the state, people’s culture should not be neglected, stressing that a community without culture could not stand.
The president said parents must start to combine the spirit of self confidence in their children – both female – to enable them participate actively in politics. He disclosed that the Ohanaeze group was planning to celebrate outstanding women in the south east.
The WiP project is being implemented by NDI in collaboration with CIRDDOC with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The project seeks to support and strengthen women’s participation in the political process and representation in public and traditional offices to become more effective and to serve as powerful role models for other women, thus challenging negative stereotypes of women as leaders in politics.