In the build up to the 2019 general elections, Nigerian women have thought it wise that if nothing is done urgently, the few women that were lucky to secure their party tickets may not get the kind of publicity they deserve to win during the 2019 general elections thereby being extinct from governance. To achieve this feat, they have called the media to make more visible their good character is capacities, competence and integrity since they do not have money for many adverts. JOY YESUFU takes a look at steps taken by women to achieve this feat.
In the build up to the 2019 general elections, women aspirants have complained of media bias in their reportage about them as against their male counterparts as they are often judged differently in all they do.
ost women aspirants said aside internal party wrangling, they way their candidacy is portrayed by media organisations has also affected their candidacy at all levels as being portrayed negatively in the media can work against their interest at this critical period.
It is true that the power of media helps shape and influence public opinion about critical socio-cultural, political and developmental priorities. The media in this context are important stakeholders in safe guarding the inclusiveness in electoral process and helping to create an environment where gender-based electoral violence is prevented.
In the light of the dwindling women candidacy at all level of elections, various women groups have come out to appeal to the media to portray the few women that secured their party tickets in a way that would ensure they garner votes and win during the elections.
As the campaign for 2019 general elections begins in full force, various women groups thought it wise to sensitise media houses on projecting female candidates to electorates in positive light.
The president of Women in Politics Forum, Ms Ebere Ifendu, at a media workshop on electoral coverage with the theme “Media and Elections Campaign: Gender Responsive Reporting, said women politicians have been under-reported by the media urging the media to do more to project women’s character, capacity, competence and their Integrity.
She said what the forum needs from media houses is to make the few female candidates who were lucky to have party tickets more visible since most women don’t have money.
She said, “Since 2019 general elections are just around the corner, we have women candidates and what we need from the media is the visibility since most women don’t have money. Media can do a lot to project them. Media are the greatest people in this world and can influence voters. If you present our candidates as people that can win and deliver, the populace will listen, they will begin to work towards the women but if we are not talking about them and projecting the men only, that is when you hear that the election is just between Buhari and Atiku.
“Let’s work together, let’s project our women, and see what we can do to support having more women in politics or in governance. We lost from the last primaries, instead of having more women contestants, the number dropped because of party politics and internal party democracy that is lacking. High cost of forms that women were not able to buy and so much harassment, intimidation and the rest, so concerning the few women that we have that are contesting, I don’t want to hear that they didn’t win.
“If we are presenting 20 women, my desire is that they should all win. Gender and equal opportunity bill is before them and nobody is talking about it. We don’t have the number in the National Assembly. Some people will always stand against having the gender and equality bill passed. So, we need the numbers. We have lost it, appointive positions are there, appoint them”.
At the same workshop, the country representative of International Republican Institution (IRI), Mr Sentell Barnes, urged women to reach out to media more on how to portray them in better light to the public since Nigerian women are still fighting the stereotype that they are not more than cooks and mothers in the home.
“You should reach out to media, you should have discussions with many of your political leaders on issues, you have to go above and beyond what your male counterparts are doing. Women have to work even harder to deal with these issues. We have to have a coordinated effort among people in the political sphere from local parties to global leaders, to Media to everyone. Everyone has to be involved in this process. It’s a concerted effort that is more than just over night thing,” Barnes said.
He further said there seems to be a deliberate effort by men to exclude women from Nigeria political scene. ” I think there is a deliberate effort to exclude the women but I also think there is an unconscious effort trying to ensure that their friends and family are part of the system so they unconsciously exclude women to include their family members.
“There is a certain stereotype that we are still fighting in Nigeria. Women are just more than cooks in the home, mothers in the home but people that also have jobs and careers and other things.”
Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Ms Mufiliat Fijabi, at a strategy meeting on portrayal of female candidates in the 2019 general eections in Abuja said ungendered media coverage is a major limiting factor for women in leadership making it harder for them to serve in public leadership positions.
She said women candidates are often judged differently in whatever action they take adding that the criticism from correspondents, analysts and social media becomes laced with unsavory cliches and stereotypes of women, which could sometimes be personal and misogynistic.
“No doubt, there have been some improvements and visibility of women however, structural and systemic imbalance, in media coverage has continued to take place. Women in leadership attract many media comments and profiles that emphasise gender, age, hair, marital status, motherhood and even physical size.
“Questions have been raised as to whether it is a case of stereotyping, where journalists revert to stereotypes to explain and interpret actions of women or are there general institutional constraints that contribute to the skewed reporting.
“Once women aspire to hold leadership positions, their looks, laughs, handicaps, hairstyles, dressing, dressing, noses appeal etc become for all the corners of media establishments.
“It is also debatable if the media portray women in public life more negatively than it does for men in similar situations,” Fijabi said.
United Nations Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey, during the strategy meeting on media portrayal of female candidates in the 2019 general elections said the world at large has consistently witnessed the power of media in helping to shape and influence public opinion political issues.
She said Nigeria is among African countries with the least number of women elected to political office with just approximately six per cent representation, which significantly undermines the country’s democratic growth and aspirations and ultimately its developmental potentials.
She said, “over turning this bleak outlook requires concerted efforts across different sectors and the role of journalists in supporting this agenda cannot be over emphasised.
“The 2019 general elections provides an important opportunity to increase the current level of representation of women in politics and to create a more conducive environment for women to run for political offices in future. The media has a pivotal role to play and we count on you to champion and spearhead this effort.”
Nigerian women expect to have partnership with the media with serious publicity for women candidates after now.
They are urging the media as stakeholders in democratic process to reflect how women can capitalise on different perspectives and mandates to accelerate the achievements of women’s political participation.
Expectations are that during the build up to the general elections, media practitioners give more visibility to women to boost their participation in politics in the country, increase reportage of women’s role in nation building and be strategic in seeking for more inclusion. Media should show more respect to the sacredness of facts among women and encourage them to participate in electoral processes.
There is a certain stereotype that we are still fighting in Nigeria. Women are just more than cooks in the home, mothers in the home but people that also have jobs and careers and other things