Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC, Nigeria) in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) conducted a customized five-day workshop on Gender and Elections using the BRIDGE curriculum at BWC Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria from 19th to 23rd March, 2018.
The program had in attendance thirty (30) participants (out of which 2 were male and 28 were female). While about 20 of the participants were Gender Desk officers drawn from various States of Nigeria, the others were departmental Gender focal officers at the INEC Headquarters, Abuja. The oldest Gender Desk officer had spent five (5) years on the Desk and the youngest had just spent one (1) week before coming to the Workshop.
The workshop was held in English language (Nigeria’s official language) and was led by one (1) international facilitator, Mrs. Rindai Chipfund Vava (an accrediting facilitator from Zimbabwe) and two local fully accredited facilitators: Mr. Chukwuemeka Ugboaja and Bar. (Mrs.) Nkechi B. Abuh.
The aim of the workshop was to build the capacity of participants on issues of Gender mainstreaming and enable them work towards achieving gender balance and access to all cadres of Staff of the Commission, as well as providing strategic platforms for engendering a more inclusive political participation across the Country. They were also equipped with the skills of reaching different strata of their target audience (mostly the women who are presently marginalised in Nigeria). The workshop particularly engaged participants on the following sessions: Democracy and Human Rights and potential gender issues in elections; Sex and Gender; Gender and Elections; International Standards and principles, Barriers women face in accessing electoral processes; strategies for enhancing women’s participation in elections, Nigerian Legal Framework (assessing provisions on gender balance); Electoral systems, Voter Registration systems and obstacles Gender and Electoral related violence, Women voting and media issues, media images and unequal access to media; working with stakeholders to deliver voter outreach etc.
Workshop was very interactive and facilitators actively engaged participants through the five days. Other methods used were lectures, practical exercises, brainstorming at group sessions and presentations, these were all geared towards increasing participants’ knowledge and skills on Gender and elections.
During the practical group sessions, participants analysed the Nigerian legal provisions as well as the INEC Gender policy and other themes, brought out what gaps existed and the way forward. They also came up with strategies and measures of better reach to women in order to encourage them to participate in the electoral process.
In fact all sessions had participants practically bringing out barriers to gender balance and seeking out the way forward. On the final day, participants had the opportunity to try themselves on Voter education – women and elections during the “Make it happen” session, and developed their skills on Determining key messages and delivery methods.
The ultimate goal of the Workshop was to train the Gender Desk officers as well as the departmental focal officers on Gender mainstreaming in the Commission and the larger political space so that they will be equipped with the relevant skills of reaching women and encouraging them to come forward and participate in the electoral process, especially as the country prepares towards its next General Elections holding between February and March 2019.
Nkechi B. Abuh Ugboaja Chukwuemeka Facilitator, INEC Nigeria Facilitator, INEC Nigeria