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2015 ELECTION: UN SETS UP WOMEN’S SITUATION ROOMS
By Abiose Adelaja Adams, Lagos
Ahead of Saturday’s general elections, the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, KIND, in conjunction with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF, has set up ten women’s situation rooms across ten states to enable election observers as well as the general public report any forms of electoral violence especially as regards women participation in the electoral process.
The program manager for KIND, Olubunmi Shonde made this known to a group of women election monitors, the media and students, at a meeting tagged “Townhall Meeting on Election Observation” in Lagos on Tuesday.
“What we hope to achieve with the Women’s Situation Room is to monitor the election, at real time, with a gender eye. We also want to have an aggregate of data in this election concerning women, pre, during and post elections,” Shonde said.
According to her, the project, funded by the United Nations Women in partnership with Democratic Governance for Development programme, has trained 300 women observers, with 30 in each of the ten states.
Explaining the reach of the projecr, she said, “This is a pilot project. It is the first of its kind even in Africa. We have had CSO, Civil Society Organization, situation rooms in the past, but none of it has really focused on how it affects women; even all over West Africa. So this is the first time. What we have is just to start off.”
A participant at the meeting, Adeola Ogungbemi, the executive director of Volunteer Corp and one of the 30 observers in Lagos, remarked that a lot of women are often disenfranchised during elections.
“What is often observed is that women are disenfranchised during elections because they have to care for their children. For instance maybe she has a baby at home and is unable to stay in the queue for such a long time. She may miss out on some voting exercise,” she observed
The team leader for the observers monitoring the polls in Ikorodu and Epe local government areas of Lagos Titilayo Adekunle agreed with this position.
“If a woman has children, where will she plan to put them if she wants to vote. Will she take them to polling centres? These are the situations we want to report. And we are not doing it for just women alone, but we are looking at gender as it affects both male and female too.”
About 74 millionm people were registered voters in the 2011 election according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, but the percentage of women that voted is not known.
“This is the kind of data we are trying to get in this election,” Shonde stated.
She added the international best practice is for there to be a separate queue for pregnant women, mothers of young children, nursing mothers and the elderly as they may not be able to stand for long in the sun on a queue to vote.
The INEC chairman has only said that there would be separate queues for persons with disabilities, including albinos, who might not be able to stay out in the sun for a long period of time.
However, on the Frequently Asked Questions section of INEC’s website, there is only a mention of separate queues – for cultural reasons.
Thus, the answer to the 143rd question, which is on whether there should be separate queues is “Yes. Where culture does not allow men and women to mix in a queue.”
The situation rooms are set up in Lagos, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Rivers, Plateau, Kaduna, Gombe and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Shonde also made known that hotlines to the public to report situations as well as a website will be officially opened on Wednesday in a ceremony in Abuja where all ten state observers will gather.
“As soon as violence is spotted in any state, the ‘why is it happening’, the ‘who is causing it’ and ‘how it affects women’ will be reported,” she said.