2019 was an exciting year for the League of Women Voters of Nigeria (Nilowv). We implemented our national and grassroots mobilisation structures and activated membership drive activities. Offices in all 36 State capitals, the Federal Capital of Abuja and the 774 local government areas were established across the country. We appointed Chairpersons to head each chapter, and they in turn, had the mandate to appoint state and local government executive committees at the grassroots level.
At the national level, 14 standing Committees were inaugurated as the vehicles to carry out operations in all the focal areas relating to empowering girls and women. In totality, these operational structures consulted, designed and implemented all our out-reach programmes in local communities nationwide for 2019. Despite the constraints of funding, we were determined to carry out several programmes and activities at both the national and state levels to ensure impact at the grassroots.
At the national level in the Federal Capital of Abuja, we conducted several advocacy visits to popularise Nilowv’s vision and programmes to major stakeholders. In September, we visited the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to strengthen our partnership and explore further collaboration; and the United States Agency for Development (USAID), where we had discussions with democracy desk officials on the role and status of women in today’s world. In October, we held a meeting the UN Women Country Representative in Nigeria, Ms Comfort Lamptey, where we exchanged views and knowledge on how best to increase the participation of women in the political and electoral space.
Nilowv’s Annual General Meeting was also held in October with the 36 State Chairpersons converged in Abuja to give reports of their activities. It provided an occasion for women to give Reports about the activities of the Chapters, exchange experiences and share information on how to deepen impact in the local communities. A presentation on gender gaps within Nigeria’s electoral politics and representation, as well as strategy sessions on how Nilowv can strengthen and strengthen its advocacy credentials, also took place during the one-day meeting.
During 2019, Nilowv engaged with ministries and agencies including the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Nigeria’s election management body, Independent National Election Commission (INEC), National Assembly, civil society groups etc to examine measures to take to improve policy-making for girls and women; to develop working relationships and partnerships in areas of shared interests.
Nilowv had an opportunity to engage with Nigeria’s electoral space when we were accredited to observe and monitor elections in February/March and November 2019. We dispatched observers and monitors to states where elections were held, and also participated in data collection for future advocacy initiatives and projects.
Media and publicity engagement was intensified in the print, electronic and social media where we publicised our advocacy activities and programmes; comment on cases of sexual violence against women and girls, teenage pregnancies, girl child labour, human trafficking, under-age marriage etc. We initiated interventions with relevant agencies, issued press releases, conducted radio and television interviews, published op-ed pieces and held press conferences. Nilowv issued press statements on incidents of election violence, including the murder of a female politician in Kogi State, abuse and harassment of a female gubernatorial candidate and observers, during the elections.
The UN Day on for Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th was commemorated by all our chapters with rallies and peaceful marches, banners and social media hashtags to highlight the depth of the problem in Nigeria; there were processions to some state houses of assembly, local government offices, markets, motor-parks; members of our teams went to schools to talk about gender-based violence, child trafficking/ labour etc. State chapters also participated in the global theme of ‘Orange the World’ and ‘Generation Equality’ alongside local partners, to mark the 16- day which ended on Human Rights Day, 10th December 2019.
At the state level, a variety of public enlightenment and awareness-raising events on gender equality and women’s political rights included advocacy visits to radio and television stations, traditional monarchs, male and female state legislators including the principal officers, government officials;awareness-raising in primary and secondary schools. Other activities include support programmes for school girls with sanitary and other body care products; seminars and workshops to build local capacity; and television and radio healthcare talk programmes and the global October Month Breast Cancer Awareness walk.
Nilovw’s social media engagement on Twitter and Facebook serves to propagate our vision and activities to a younger and wider audience.
Capacity building programmes were a central part of our focus during the year. National and state officers underwent several training sessions at Abuja office in line with our efforts to ensure we implement and actualise our mission and vision in Nigeria.
Focus for 2020:
For 2020, Nilowv has signed an MOU for Partnership with Actionaid Nigereia as part of the efforts to promote and protect the rights of Women and Girls in Nigeria. The MOU is under the Canadian Government programme titled Women’s Voice and Leadership, Nigeria Project. The MOU is the commencement of a FIVE (5)Year National Project in FCT-ABUJA with focus on Advocacy for gender equality across all sectors of the society; promoting women’s inclusion in government, political and electoral processes. The project will also involve the domestication of legal framework to protect the rights of women and girls with a view to enhancing and achieving improved management and sustainability of women’s rights and gender equality in Nigeria. This project which is to be funded and supported by Global Affairs Canada will take off shortly as one of our flagship projects of the year. Our Gender, Rights and Privileges Committee alongside other Committees, will continue the work to deliberate on principles and policies on gender rights and privileges; and will in partnership with other women- centred groups, build a movement to lobby stakeholders and raise awareness on women’s fundamental rights. Nilowv in collaboration with our partners, will redouble its advocacy on the 2016 Gender Equality and Opportunities Bill which is currently going through legislative process, to ensure that it is passed and signed into law, before the next election cycle in 2023.
Rt Hon Dame Esther Uduehi, PhD