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‘More support required as women occupy 6.7% of elected positions in Nigeria’

Advocates for women’s rights have pointed out that more support is required for women to mount key positions in the country as women make up only 6.7 percent of elected positions in Nigeria compared to an average of 15 percent across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Speaking during the maiden edition of Nigeria Info’s Glass Ceiling Convention, a 100 percent virtual summit held on Sunday to discuss practical steps and actionable strategies for achieving gender equality, Nicolas Simard, acting high commissioner, Canada said these figures point to the need for greater support and encouragement to female candidates at all political levels.

Simard added that the figures also call for more focused and sustained attention on the underlying barriers that prevent or discourage women and girls from considering a career in politics.

“These include deeply rooted social and gender norms, as well as unequal access to educational and economic opportunities that can provide a gateway into politics. This is why Canada has adopted a feminist foreign policy and why we put such an emphasis on better understanding and addressing the structural barriers to gender equality. This is reflected in all of our advocacy and programming in Nigeria.

“The latter includes our support for women’s political empowerment and leadership through UN Women, as well as multi-year core funding to grassroots women’s rights organizations through Action Aid Nigeria, with the program Women’s Voice and Leadership,” he explained.

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Speaking during her keynote address, Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project (NGP), a US-based civil society group that helped register over half a million voters in the last election cycle, mostly women, youths and people of colour said when NGP launched in 2014, there were several black Americans in Georgia who were eligible to vote but unregistered.

Ufot disclosed that the goal was to be specific on how they needed to bring the change in Georgia where the minimum wage was not enough for people to sustain themselves and retire in old age and where there were maternal mortality, poor quality health care and education.

She explained that the idea was to sign people up to enable them to vote as leaders were becoming unaccountable to the people and NGP set out to change this narrative.

“In less than five years, whites will be a minority in Georgia and some people are afraid of this and want to break the machinery to avoid this from happening.

“The reason that people showed up in the extra-ordinary numbers during the last election is that we have been doing the work to ensure people participate and we do this by talking about our shared vision. Race, wealth gap, gender inequality and class are issues that affect people’s daily lives and we used these issues to develop our solutions,” she explained.

She disclosed that since NGP launched, they have registered over half a million people and by 2025, it has plans to get the numbers to one million people.

“We value integrity, fairness and gender. We need access to quality affordable healthcare. I think about myself, us and now. These stories inspire people to act. You can move people intellectually.

“We know there is nothing that stops a woman from being a leader. We need to shift cultures and change the hearts and minds of people. We need to bring about that change by telling our personal stories. We can inspire others by sharing our vision. We are the ones we have been waiting for,” Ufot assured.

Panellists on the Glass Ceiling Convention include women who have enjoyed success in active politics, have experience with mobilization and campaigning, or want to apply their success and experience in other fields to the goal of achieving political parity for women.

They include Nnenna Ukeje, 3-term House of Representatives member; Rinsola Abiola, APC grassroots organiser; Kate Henshaw: Actress, Ambassador for various humanitarian causes; and a contestant to represent Cross River State at the House of Representatives in 2014; and Ndi Kato, politician and executive director, Dinidari Foundation.

Others are Zainab Buba Galadima, former FCT Councillor, and former Technical Assistant to the Vice President; Cynthia Mbamalu who is the co-founder, Yiaga Africa; and Damilola Odufuwa, who co-founded Feminist Coalition, an NGO that was fundamental to the successful mobilization of #EndSARS.

These women shared their experiences and how these experiences have shaped them and influenced the people around them.

They collectively sought the support of men who are experienced in politics and participation of women in politics, stressing that for women to make an impact in this space, they need to have the numbers.

The Glass Ceiling Convention is a spin-off event of the popular radio show, ‘The Glass Ceiling with Sandra Ezekwesili.’ The event was hosted by Sandra Ezekwesili. The UK and Canada High Commissions as well as the US Consulate General partnered with Nigeria Info for the event.

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