By Olaitan Oye-Adeitan

What are the barriers to the full inclusion of women, youths and people with disabilities in the political sphere of life?

Are Women ready to pick up the challenge?

Is the not-too-young-to-rule law realistic in practicality?

Any help for people with disabilities?

These among other questions were issues addressed by the Centre for Media and Society, CEMESO during a-day National virtual conference for stakeholders and participants in Nigeria.

The conference with the theme, “Promoting The Inclusion of All;  A Searchlight on Policy and Practice”, was the 2nd in the annual series of conferences and will run through 2027.

The aim was to achieve a synthesis of best practices and approaches to ensuring better inclusion in the electoral process and politics through the Media.

 Executive Director,  Centre for Media and Society, CEMESO, Dr Akin Akingbulu explained that the conference was an effort to strengthen the electoral process in Nigeria with emphasis on the inclusion of women, youths and people with disabilities as one of the components of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria, EU- SDGN.

“Everyone is moving in the direction of let no one be left behind but some citizens are still unable to participate actively in electoral process. Three important segments in this regard are women, youths and people with disabilities”.Dr Akingbulu said.

To address the challenge, Dr Akingbulu listed the implementation strategy of CEMESO to include; Monitoring of Media outlets for performance evaluation in this regard, organising capacity-building activities for media personnel and developing as well as disseminating resource materials that would aid the functions of the media for effective service delivery, among others.

CEMESO Programme Manager, Mr Timothy Bamidele, said, the conference had been running for four years and anchored on six thematic areas including; Providing support to electoral management bodies, Providing support to the National Assembly, Providing Support to political parties, Providing support to the Media, Providing support towards the participation of women, youths and people with disabilities.

“The goal is to strengthen the media to facilitate a fair, credible and ethical coverage of elections and the National Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria BON, to perform its mandate”.

While taking participants through CEMESO’s Media Monitoring Report, a writer and analyst, Rotimi  Akinola revealed that the media was not doing well enough in its coverage of women, youths and people with disabilities during elections, though with a little fluctuation at certain times in some parts of the country.

In a paper entitled “Achieving Enabling Frame Work for Women Inclusion in Governance and Leadership in Nigeria, Executive Director, Women Information Network, Enugu, Miriam Menkiti, called for the implementation of national policy on gender to achieve inclusion of women, the establishment of a framework at the federal, state and local governments for women inclusion. “There is also a need for political parties to begin to consider more women for elective positions and appointments”.

Another facilitator, Dr Patricia Taiwo of the Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan, spoke on Women’s Full Participation in Nigeria’s Democratic Processes: The Barriers that remain.

Dr Taiwo observed that women were being sidelined due to cultural and religious biases and lack of integrity on the part of some women who had been privileged to have occupied leadership positions. 

According to her, “Economic empowerment of women to make them less dependent on men, a proper mentoring programme to correct negative stereotypes against women and encourage their participation in politics,

promotion of more women participation through civil society organisations and 

enforcement of the law on violence against women is necessary to change the narrative”.

In her paper, ” Disability inclusion updates on government policies and practices, Zainab Saidu Abdulnaseer from The Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Sokoto, noted with concern that there was no significant improvement on issues affecting people with disabilities, especially in terms of accessibility.

Dr Abdulnaseer therefore suggested the commission of the rights of People with disabilities to be able to live up to expectations and the need for enhanced support of civil societies and faith-based organisations for people with disabilities to be able to utilize their full potential.

Some of the participants raised concerns over the readiness of women to support one another to occupy leadership positions.

Another issue was that of lack of provision of supporting facilities for people with disabilities at the polling centres during the 2023 election contrary to the stipulations of the electoral law was a major factor responsible for the low turnout of voters for the general elections.

In a goodwill message,  the Executive Director, the International Press Centre, Mr Lanre Arogundade, thought that the inclusion of women, youths and people with disabilities in governance would enable the tapping of diverse skills and talents inherent in these groups of people for the overall development of the nation.

He however cautioned the media to be mindful in handling issues affecting women, youths and people with disabilities.

The Executive Secretary, Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, BON, Dr Yemisi Bamgbose observed that media ownership was affecting the coverage and reportage of elections in Nigeria and called for a change to the narrative, especially in the mode of operations of state owned media.

Founder and CEO ,The Albino Foundation, Africa, Mr Jake Epelle underscored the need for electoral media guidelines to be inclusive of people with disabilities while stories must be credible and evidence-driven.

Participants were drawn from the Academia, Association of People With Disabilities and the media among whom was Mrs Olutola Daramola of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria,Ibadan Zonal Station.


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