To what can be described as low involvement of citizens, most especially women, in politics, leadership and governance processes that has always been a passionately discussed issue in most nations of the world, where men play dominant roles in political and governance spaces has led to various campaigns by civil rights organizations for women to be given same opportunity with men to play their own part in leadership processes and the development of the society.
According to the United Nation Women’s report, gender mainstreaming has been said to be process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetrated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.
As part of effort to measure the involvement of citizens in governance, the Executive Director of Development Animation Programme (DAP), Felix Obanubi has reiterated that the inclusion and participation of citizens in processes of policy development and implementation is gradually gaining ground in Nigeria.
Obanubi said this at a “Two Experience Sharing Workshop in Mainstream Gender, Social Inclusion in Public Policy and Budgeting across South West State”- a program meant to strengthen Citizens-Government Engagement and Partnership in Policy Planning and Implementation for Good Governance and Service Delivery.
The two day workshop that brought together civil society organisations, media and development partners was held at Ibadan with the support of the South West Regional Office of the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID Nigeria).
Obanubi said that the last ten years have witnessed a tremendous change in the inclusion and participation of citizens in the governance of policies.
He cited an example of Lagos State government where the domestic violence law is working “the Domestic Violence Law and the Special People’s Law are two frontline laws which came about due to interventions and partnerships between the civil society and the government. These two Laws and their corresponding policies are currently being implemented with significant involvement of the citizens.”
Expatiating the importance of the workshop, South West Regional Director of United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID Nigeria, ) David Ukagwu said that the focused of the workshop is how civil society organisations, government and development partners can form a fortified synergy in this issue of mainstreaming of gender, social inclusion and public policy.
“There has to be collaboration with non-government organisation in engaging the government, stakeholder because the ideas of public policies has to be something of interest of the citizens”, he said.
Ukagwu said that gender mainstreaming is not just about women but to give everyone a fair opportunity which sometimes focuses on women because they are more disadvantage with the issue around gender.
“It more about giving everyone the opportunity to thrive and be the best they can be.”
He called for need of women to come out and create platforms where their voice can be better heard or where they can articulate their issues.
“Women should bring issues to the government and other stakeholders so that issue of developing policies that is of social good in every ramification of gender even with people living with disabilities to ensure that no one is left behind from policies and issue that emanate from government in dealing with the issue of public good can be addressed”, he said.
“As long as we have that focus of inclusiveness in all aspect of governance and government also realize that Civil Society Organisation also want the best for the society, that also create the space for people and discuss”, he said.
Also giving insight on how media can be used to propagate the gospel of gender mainstreaming, a broadcast journalist and media consultant, Ayo Makinde opined that women’s voices should be given more prominence in the media, to allow real social issues that affect communities to be more clearly defined.
“Women entrepreneurs must also be encouraged to venture into media business so that media coverage of women’s issues will be given more prominence and space. Oftentimes prominence is given to male voices and males are accessed as authorities on different topical issues.
“There should be a deliberate policy to develop women experts who then become authorities in different fields and their voices accessed in mainstream and alternative media. More women media practitioners must be developed and empowered to tackle women’s issues.”
He urged that media should also play a very critical role in the promotion of women not only leadership positions, but all sectors of society so that the issue of gender is mainstreamed to all levels and all spheres of life.
“Media plays a very critical role in the promotion of women’s issues and governments must ensure the mainstreaming of gender issues in all areas so that the full and active participation of women can be realised. It is ill- advised to mourn the negative portrayal of women in the media, or their empowered in other sectors such as education, health, economic and political’’, he said.