James Azania, Lokoja
INDEPENDENT National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday said steps have been taken to deepen women participation in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State.
INEC’s Head, Gender Department, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, said in Lokoja during a one-day sensitisation forum organised by the commission in partnership with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), for selected young female voters.
She said as a result, more women would participate in the election as voters, adhoc staff and election observers.
Three females are among the 23 candidates that will be contesting the Kofi governorship election.
She said that female voters were free to vote for candidates of their choice, irrespective of tribe, gender or religion.
She explained that the forum was organised for the young female voters to meet and share experiences and to build gender confidence in the electoral process.
She reiterated INEC’s resolve at building a virile democracy based on egalitarian electoral system that will accord equal rights to citizens.
INEC National Commissioner in-charge of Partnership and Outreach, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, said that equal participation of men and women is key to the success of the coming election.
He said that the sensitisation forum was designed for young female voters as part of efforts to enrich the electoral process and in line with INEC’s gender policy.
He lamented the decreasing number of victorious women at the last general elections, saying efforts would be made to further mainstream them in politics.
“The degree to which young women participate in politics can be strongly influenced by the policies and programmes of government, civil society, political parties and the commission,” he said.
Country Representative-Nigeria of ECES, Mrs. Teresa Maurio, said the group’s partnership with INEC was to ensure that women played active roles in the coming election.
She said that young female voters would be encouraged to vote and serve as mobilisers in the election to enhance women participation.
“The women constitute an important segment of the voting population and for Nigeria, with a youthful population, the participation of young women in particular in the electoral process is important,” she added.
According to her, this will ensure broad based participation and promote gender-inclusive electoral process.
She commended INEC for drawing participants from credible visible youth groups across the state and from tertiary institutions, saying that they would be encouraged to sensitise their peers back in their respective localities.