This Saturday, 25 February 2023, Nigerians head to the polls to elect a new president, Senate, and House of Representatives. The course of this election in Africa’s most populous nation, in a year when sixteen other states across the continent will also head to the polls, has crucial implications for peace, gender equality and, in turn, societies as a whole.
Of the 18 candidates running for the country’s top political seat this year, there was only one woman – Chichi Ojei.The party that nominated her withdrew their support a week, ago though it looks like she remained on the ballot. She was replaced by a male candidate. Only one woman is represented in the race for governorship as well. In fact, since Nigeria regained independence, only one woman has ever occupied a top political position in the country – back in 2007. Moreover, Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of female representation in politics in the world, with only 4% elected in the last election. Women face overwhelming barriers to political participation, including deeply engrained patriarchal structures, inability to access funding and the high cost of nominations and political campaigns, hate speech against female candidates, as well as high rates of gender related electoral violence and threats.
Nigeria continues to be marred by internal conflict, and violence, including high rates of gender-based violence, across the country. That violence affects people's, especially women's, ability to participate in the elections safely. And the outcome of the election will have direct impact on the conflicts.
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize laureate 2011 from Liberia, comments: “These Elections are very crucial to peace and development in Nigeria, it is very important that Nigerian women exercise their right to vote and also serve as vigilant guard over the peace of the land. Peaceful elections in Nigeria are essential for regional peace and security.”
Joy Onyesoh, from the Women's Situation Room which works to ensure peaceful elections and participation of women in elections in Nigeria, comments: “We need to take concrete steps to improve and increase women’s participation in elections and representation in politics. The media have to ensure equal exposure and fair representation of women as candidates, voters and election officials. Local authorities have to take threats, hate speech and violence against women seriously, and ensure safety and proper investigation so that we can take part in elections as voters, candidates and as election officials”
With 16 other elections across Africa coming up this year, global media can also play a role in facilitating women’s participation and inclusion by elevating the voices of women on the ground, drawing attention to the challenges women face in running for office, and the benefits of broader diversity in political processes.
Head of Media and Communications
Nobel Women’s Initiative
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