By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday launched its revised Gender Policy 2021-2026, as part of its commitment towards electoral inclusivity.
The INEC Gender Policy (IPG), which was first developed in 2014, guided by the National Gender Policy (2006) and other Regional and International Instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory, has a provision for review every five years.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, speaking at the public presentation event in Abuja, supported by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), described the document as a milestone achievements.
Yakubu said the policy would strengthen the commission’s capacity to engage stakeholders to take on broad gender-sensitive issues in their mainstream operational and electoral plans and actions.
Yakubu, represented by the Chairman of the Outreach and Partnership Committee (OPC), Prof. Kunle Ajayi, explained that the revised policy would further boost the commission’s electoral inclusiveness.
Yakubu, according to INEC daily bulletin issued in Abuja, commended the painstaking efforts from within and outside the commission put towards developing the revised document.
He said that the reversed policy was another successful outcome of intensive and extensive engagements with INEC stakeholders, including political parties, MDAs, development partners, gender-focused CSOs and other leading gender experts.
Harping on the premium placed on gender mainstreaming and deliberate steps taken to work the talk, Yakubu recalled that the commission in March 2021, created the Gender and Inclusivity Department.
This decision, according to him, was carefully taken by the commission to give a special focus to electoral equity, fairness and inclusion, especially the universally recognised rights of the disadvantaged groups, including women.
Yakubu said that was for them to participate in the electoral space on equal basis by addressing the structural impediments that hinder their effective participation.
“Strategically put, with a Gender and Inclusivity Department established and a revised policy tool for intervention put in place for another five years, show the commission’s unrelenting commitment on electoral inclusion.
“This policy outlook for seamless interface on gender sensitive issues on the electoral process in the country could not have been more reassuring, even as the nation is gearing towards another General Election and off-season elections,” Yakubu added.
He commended IFES for providing technical support in the development of the policy and its subsequent review, saying other strategic interventions over the years have immensely enriched and stabilised Nigeria systems of elections and infrastructure.
INEC Commissioner, and Chairman of Legal Drafting and Litigation Committee, May Agbamuche-Mbu, described the policy as a living document.
Agbamuche-Mbu said that the policy was expected to foster gender balance in the commission and to stimulate stakeholders in the electoral process to do the same.
“It was revised to codify the commission’s gender sensitive actions for sustainable implementation.
“The public presentation of the Revised INEC Gender Policy is an attestation by the commission to the fact that its structure and operations at all layers, both internally and in its service delivery will progressively improve.
“This is with regards to gender-responsiveness in line with global best practices,” she said.
In his goodwill message, the Country Director of IFES, Seray Jah, said the launch of the updated gender policy had set the tone for increased women’s engagement in politics in Nigeria.
Jah added that INEC and its gender and inclusivity department now have a solid document to back its financial demands and material resources to achieve women’s participation in governance and electoral processes.
“This policy handbook is a powerful accountability and advocacy tool for the Commission as well as Nigerian women and will remain a key tool to realising national development goals,”Jah said.