By Constance Meju
Families have been charged to change their attitude towards the girl-child with provision of opportunity for acquisition of leadership skills by the girl child as preparation for a more active role in national development.
Thiswas part of resolutions at a town hall meeting in Calabar, Cross River State topromote enhanced participation of women in elections.
Thetown hall meeting was held with women groups and gender focused civil societyorganizations on enhanced participation of women in elections in Cross RiverState on Friday February 8, 2019 at the Nebulla Hall, Axari Hotel MurtallaMohammed Highway Calabar, Cross River State. It was facilitated by Women inAction for Positive Development and Gender Enhancement Centre (WAPDAGEC)and funded by the Independent National ElectoralCommission (INEC) with a total of 140 participants comprising of 125 women and15 men in attendance.
Theobjectives of the meeting were to sensitize participants on the generalelections and women’s rights to vote and be voted for.
The town hall featured presentations by Mrs. Inyang Ikpeme, Head of Voter Education and Publicity, INEC Cross River State on update on INEC’s preparedness towards 2019 general election and election day procedures, Tammie Kammonke, Executive Director of Gender Perspective on Women’s participation and the 2019 general elections: Rationale and challenges and Rev Fr Bekomson represented by Barr Williams Itorok on issues and priorities for the 2019 elections.
Therewere interactive sessions on each of the presentations and a discussion onfollow up action session facilitated by Tammie Kammonke.
Atthe end of the town hall meeting, a communique was issued highlighting key resolutionsreached. The resolutions are captured below under specific categories:
- FAMILY/PARENTS (MOTHERS &FATHERS)
- Thereshould be re-orientation on gender norms and roles beginning from the family – thegirl child should be socialized to be open to leadership responsibilities.
- Parentsshould apply the principle of equal opportunity for boys and girls in assigningroles at home – roles should not be based on the sex of the child.
- WOMEN/WOMEN’S GROUPS
- Women’sorganizations should use their platforms to sensitize their members toparticipate in politics/elections.
- Womenneed to work in partnership with men towards actualizing gender equality andelectoral rights of women.
- Womenshould not give in to intimidation and fear but be courageous in participatingin electoral activities.
- Womenshould tackle issues of electoral violence by applying both short term and longmeasures such as application of security precautions while participating inelectoral activities to avoid risk to their lives and support advocacy forchange of rules that undermine women’s participation in election activitiessuch as late night political meetings among others.
- Anotherlong term measure proposed is for Civil Society Organizations to carry outadvocacy towards policy changes that will enhance women’s effectiveparticipation in elections.
- Toaddress women’s apathy towards female aspirants, women should use the platformof their women’s groups to sensitize and mobilize fellow women to supportfemale aspirants.
- Womenshould not trade off their political rights for “peanuts” (short term handouts)given during campaigns.
- Womenshould leverage their huge voting population and large social network ofwomen’s groups in support of women aspirants/candidates.
- INECshould carry out continuous voter education activities and not just duringelection time and in the state capital alone.
- INECshould also decentralize voter education to the rural areas across the threesenatorial districts of the state and not just concentrate on the statecapital.
- Aconscious effort should be made by INEC to target/sensitize men on genderissues in elections.
- INECshould increase number of polling units in new settlements
At the end of the town hallmeeting, action points were identified demonstrate commitment at the level ofindividual participants, collective group of participants, civil societyorganizations and INEC.
Individual participants made apersonal commitment to take the following actions:
- Vote during the elections (thisincludes those who had previously decided not to vote prior to attending the townhall meeting).
- Collect their Permanent Voterscards (PVCs) using the extended window between the weekend and Monday February11, 2019 to pick up their PVCs in order to vote (for those yet to collect theirPVCs).
- Personally, sensitize theirhousehold members, neighbors, colleagues, and friends on the elections and toencourage them to vote.
- Look out for, draw the attentionof INEC officials to and support vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, theelderly and people with disabilities during the elections.
- GROUPOF PARTICIPANTS
All participants agreed to Voteand Sensitize others to vote
- CIVILSOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS
Civil societyorganizations/women’s groups represented at the town hall meeting offered to, conveneemergency meeting to sensitize their members on voting in the forth- comingelections, sensitize members on the coming general elections and include politics in normal meeting agendaon a regular basis
- INEC was charged to ensure that there is securityat the polling units before, during and after the elections.
Thecommuniqué was adopted by Mrs Effanga Aye Henshaw and seconded by Helen Kanu. Thecommuniqué committee comprised of seven persons: Tammie Kammonke– Facilitator, Elder Grace Inyang, Mrs Effanga Aye Henshaw, Glory Ene , EffiongStephen Edet, Aniekan Dan and Helen Kanu,secretary.