By Ene Osang
The Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) has emphasized the importance of grooming younger women into politics, saying this will enable a smooth succession of capable women leaders in the country.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NWTF Olufunke Baruwa, stated this in Abuja at the launch of the Young Women in Politics Forum (YWiPF), held in partnership with National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Voices4Change and the Women in Politics Forum (WIPF).
Baruwa while introducing the young women leaders project, also stressed the importance of mentoring of younger women by the older generation of women leaders, saying this will give them an edge to breaking barriers which had inhibited the growth of women in politics and leadership.
According to her, the launch became necessary following the need to build a pool of young women leaders with political inclinations across political parties, to create a movement that can push for change and negotiate spaces for young women in the democratic in Nigeria.
“We don’t want to keep giving men who are the political gatekeepers the chance to always say there are no qualified women to hold elective positions.
“We want to bring women who have built social capital over the years into politics and that is why the theme for this launch is “ breaking through the ranks” because women cannot wait to get these positions and the younger women cannot wait too,” she said.
She added that women have continued to suffer setbacks because the platform to engage with men is narrow, adding that it shrinks more because women don’t have a voice.
“But they need to find their own voices one way or the other and that is why today we have brought together young women from over 17 political parties, students from higher institutions and women in Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
‘’We want to support these younger women run for elections at various levels because the majority of people in Parliament today started their activism from student union government,” she noted.
Appraising the project, the Deputy High Commissioner of the British High Commission Ms. Harriet Thompson, regretted the low percentage of women in politics, noting that Nigeria, just like other nations, is yet to get the active participation of women in politics right.
Thompson, who described the level of female participation in governance as poor, said Nigeria is missing out on what women can contribute to development.
She said” the non inclusion of women in politics is a common issue across the world. No country has got the issue of women’s political participation quite right and no nation can say it is developing, or is developed by excluding more than half the population of it’s citizens.
“With seven Senators, 21 House of Representative members and no female governor ever, Nigeria is missing out on what women can contribute and women should be included in governance to enable growth and development,” she added..
In her remarks, President of WIPF Ebere Ifendu, lauded the young women forum initiative by the NWTF, urging them to register with a political party and aspire to be youth leaders of their parties whenever there is opportunity for youth leader position.
Also, the Country Representative of the International Republican Institute (IRI) Sentell Barnes encouraged the young women to network with each other as well as think of better ways of overcoming the challenges in politics.