Stakeholders at the Twitter Spaces event organised by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) in commemoration of the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March called for affirmative actions, compelling constitutional provisions, women-inclusive news sourcing, and change in reportorial styles to improve the participation of women in politics.
In line with the global theme of IWD – #EmbraceEquity, the event raised conversations on how the media has engaged and reported Nigerian women’s participation in the 2023 elections. Panelists at the discussion titled ‘Nigeria media, political leadership and women equity’ were Remi Sonaiya, 2015 Kowa part presidential candidate; Victoria Bamas, Editor- International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR); Sadiq Umar Ashafa, Secretary – Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), Kaduna State, and Rommy Mom, President – Lawyers Alert. It was moderated by Kimberly Nwachukwu of Nigeria Info, Abuja.
In her welcome address, Busola Ajibola, Deputy Director of the Journalism Program at the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) said the conference was important because of the poor women representation in leadership which has remained prevalent in Nigeria. The gender disparity is a cause for concern because policies made without adequate representation of women may not address the socio-economic realities of women and children in the country. There was therefore a need for a call to action for all to embrace equity to help achieve gender equality in all spheres.
Remi Sonaiya said the current nature of Nigerian politics which promotes violence, incompetence, and rigging discourages competent Nigerian women from politics. She stated further that this robs the country of its best talents who often migrate to climes that recognise and reward talent. The 2015 presidential candidate also believes that the media can improve the fortunes of women in politics by amplifying the voices of female political candidates.
Another panellist, Sadiq Umar Ashafa, advocated for strong support systems. This include strategic positioning of women in leaderships of political parties to ensure they get required representation government. The gender activist also said the significant drop in women candidates and elected members in the last National Assembly elections should be a source of concern to all stakeholders.
Although laws exist in the Nigerian constitution to protect women, Rommy Mom said implementation is the greatest challenge that prevents the country from achieving equity. Describing Nigeria as a patriarchal society, the President of Lawyers Alert said the century-long suppression of women’s rights on the altar of tradition has made it impossible for women to compete favourably with men. The only way to bridge this inequality gap is to adopt equity in the political process of electing and appointing leaders. He also emphasised the need for Nigerian laws to address these issues with affirmative actions such as directing political parties to have a mandatory percentage of political offices reserved for women to fast-track equality.
Victoria Bamas noted that the dominance of men in the media industry has affected the newsroom, representation of women as news sources in the news, and media policies. The media manager reiterated that the higher the positions in the media industry, the fewer women you see. Bamas said this stereotype often reflects in policies formulated, roles assigned, and stories approved. The multimedia journalist also advocated for a top-to-bottom approach in the news report and media coverage.
In her comments as a participant, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Professor, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos lamented that based on available evidence, voices of women are least projected in the Nigerian political stories as she suggested intentionality news sourcing and a change in reportorial style to enable the media influence people’s thoughts and views.
Oge Ezeobiorah, Programmes Officer of WSCIJ thanked all participants as she urged them to continue the conversation in their immediate sphere of influence to improve the equality between men and women using the equity tool. Present at the conference were journalists, representatives of all tiers of government, women’s rights advocacy groups, civil society organisations, human rights activists, students of communication, political science and journalism and the public.