Ahead of the November 16, 2019, gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has intensified its sensitisation campaign with a forum organised for young female voters in the state.
In collaboration with the European Union (EU), the event, according to the commission, is part of their commitment to providing a level-playing field for all stakeholders in the discharge of its duties, realising that equal participation of women and men in all aspects of public life is a key principle of democracy.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voters Education, Festus Okoye, said the sensitisation programme for young female voters was in line with the mandate of the electoral umpire.
Okoye, who was represented by Edwin Enabor, said: “This showed that the election management body is ready to discharge its statutory duty of conducting a free, fair, credible and inclusive election effectively.
“Again, nation-states where men and women, including the young females, are involved in decision-making at all levels, tend to develop better and faster than those that do not make deliberate effort to include all levels of people who have attained adult age.
“Democracy offers equal opportunity for citizens of all status and gender to participate in governance. INEC, as an umpire, has ensured that Nigeria’s political landscape is and will continue to be level and gender-sensitive.”
In her remark, the Programme Co-ordinator of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Maria Teresa, said the objective of the workshop was to encourage young female voters.
She said the sensitisation programme, which was meant to mobilise young female voters in the forthcoming governorship election, is indeed a positive step towards fostering an inclusive electoral process.
“The women constitute an important segment of the voting population and for Nigeria with a youthful population, the participation of the young women, in particular, is crucial to the electoral process both to ensure broad-based participation of young women and also promote gender-inclusive electoral process.”
Also, Deputy Director, Gender Division, INEC, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, said that young female voters were often marginalised in the political sphere due to restrictive laws and institutional barriers, discriminatory, cultural practices and disproportionate practices.
She said: “Analysis of participants in our previous elections shows that not many young females take an active part in the electoral process as voters, candidates, observers or election administrators.
“The implication of this becomes a cause for concern considering the fact that democratic elections ought to reflect participation from all segments of the society, including young females.
“This group deserves the opportunity to bring their representatives to bear and make their impact felt by getting actively involved in various electoral roles of their choice as a way of deepening our democracy and making it more inclusive.”