By Yomi Kareem
Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has maintained that gender inclusiveness in the electoral process is very fundamental, as it will promote fairness, equity and all other tenets required for the deepening of democracy and to foster the desired development.
Prof. Kunle Ajayi, National Commissioner and Chairman Outreach and Partnership Committee, OPC, made this assertion yesterday during the Gender Policy Implementation meeting held in Lagos state.
He said the full participation of men and women in the electoral process as voters, candidates, elected officials, INEC Staff is fundamental in deepening democracy in Nigeria.
According to him, women face several obstacles to participate in political life and that the structural barriers resulting from cultural practices and discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s options to run for political office.
In the words of Ajayi; “Women in Nigeria, as in other parts of the world, continue to be largely marginalized from political sphere, often because of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotype, low level of education, lack of access to health and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.”
“The issue of Gender is fundamental in any democracy. Any perceived imbalance in representation or participation by whatsoever segment of society in a democracy undermines the essential democratic principles of equity, equality, and fairness. Consequently, electoral systems around the world are constantly looking for ways to reduce marginalization and improve the inclusivity of election management processes. It has come to be realized that democracies globally that practice inclusiveness in the electoral process develop faster than others that are not,” he said.
The National Commissioner posited that since the development of the INEC Gender Policy, IGP, in 2014, it has witnessed remarkable progress both at the headquarters and state offices and that part of which is the appointment of Gender Focal Persons at the headquarters and Gender Desk Officers in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to enhance gender mainstreaming at INEC offices.
He said the Commission in furthering its efforts to enhance Gender equity and equality and as well as promote inclusivity in the electoral process, created Gender and Inclusivity Department in April, 2021.
He stated further that the creation of the department is to properly enhance inclusivity, accessibility, and visibility of marginalized groups in the electoral process, increase their political participation and representation thus, enhancing the integrity of the INEC.