Media practitioners across Nigeria have decried the “marginalisation” of female political candidates ahead of the 2019 general elections.
At a seminar organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday, the participants agreed that there is a need for increased participation of women in the Nigerian political space.
The one-day seminar on media and gender-sensitive election reporting, attended by 50 participants from various newsrooms across the southern part of the country, was held in Lagos.
Media organisations like the Nigerian Television Authorities (NTA), The Nation newspaper, Punch newspaper, Radio Nigeria, Inspiration FM among others, were represented.
Among the facilitators were Nosa Owens-Ibie, a professor of media and communication; Ifeyinwa Omowole, president of National Association of Women Journalism (NAWOJ); Lanre Arogundade of the International Press Centre (IPC); and Funke Egbemode, president, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE).
In the welcome address, the representative of UN Women, Desmond Osemhenjie, said Nigeria had only six percent of women elected into political offices, making it the lowest in the continent, which significantly undermines the country’s democratic growth and aspirations.
“When it comes to women participation in Nigeria, it is not good for us. There is need to increase the participation of women in politics.”
The deputy director, Gender Division of INEC, Blessing Obidegwu, said male political candidates have enjoyed more publicity from the media at the detriment of female candidates who are being ‘marginalised’ as a result of the society.
Advocating for women’s participation in elections, Ms Egbemode urged women to make their voices heard clearly and loudly in the 2019 general elections as a means to redefine politics in the country.
“We are still a largely male-dominated society and virtually everything has been about the men,” said Ms Egbemode.
“That has been a challenge. The cultural environment has refused to let us go and we must admit that that environment won’t let us go, but we just need to go and start doing things differently.
“We must redefine the narrative and not the other way round. We will be heard loudly and we will be seen clearly in 2019 and beyond. Every step is a right step in the right direction and every movement is a movement forward for the Nigerian women.”
Ms Omowole said women should remain resolute and persistent in their involvement in elections.
“It goes beyond lip service; it is an action which should be seen in our reportage. Our clamour for women in governance is not a cliché, it is a development issue,” she said while delivering a paper on “Media and Gender Stereotypes in Nigerian elections”.
In his paper titled ‘Media gender and elections in Nigeria: An appraisal’, Mr Owens-Ibie highlighted the cultural and societal stereotypes as challenges of gender sensitivity during electioneering periods.
He added that paucity of funds also poses threat to the involvement of women in politics starting from the party level, where nomination forms are very expensive to purchase.
Mr Arogundade, while speaking on electoral processes, placed emphasis on fact-checking as a way of preventing misinformation ahead of the 2019 election.
He advised journalists against presentation of opinions and stereotypes instead of fact and figures so as to enhance a balanced reportage of the forthcoming polls.
Participants who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES applauded the moves of the electoral commission and made some recommendations known.
Jadesola Ajibola, a broadcast journalist with Inspiration FM, Ibadan said the seminar would facilitate an all-inclusive participation in the 2019 elections and subsequent ones
“Away from women participation, we also looked at young people and people with disabilities. It is important for INEC not to end the discussion on a table.”
She promised to also “download the lessons” learnt for female journalists and politicians in Oyo State during a capacity building programme, which she will organise after the seminar.
Another journalist, Adewale Mohmoh, from Daily Post newspaper, said the seminar was timely, especially as it further broadened the horizon of journalists on issues bothering on gender balanced reporting and sensitivity.
“No doubt, female politicians in this part of the world have been grossly under-reported, and I believe with the seminar put together by INEC, the gender-based scope towards the 2019 elections would be positively affected.”