By Eric Ugbor
ABA- PARTICIPANTS at a one day programme on Women In Politics organized by the Alliance for Africa (AFA) in partnership with UNWOMEN Funds For Gender Equity (FGE) have identified Sexual Harassment, Culture, Election violence and Stigmatization as some of the major obstacles hindering the active participation of women in the politics of Abia state.
The participants who were gathered from all works of life including traditional rulers, women leaders of different political parties in the state, the clergy, media among others met last week in Umuahia, Abia state.
Many of the women if not all alleged that women who participate in political activities in the state suffer sexual harassment from the male folks just as it happens in different fields, stating that such hinders many women from participating and occupying political positions with the male counterpart.
The participants who were drawn into three different groups each came up with the same allegation of Sexual Harassment against women by the male politicians in the state who demand sex from the women to enable them lift them (women) into higher political positions.
Although they agreed that there are also women of female integrity who have resisted the men and excelled in the game of politics but the participants especially the women maintained that it was because of the issue of sexual harassment that many women are deprived and discouraged in politics.
They said “even the men who are not politicians don’t allow their wives to participate in the game of politics because it is assumed here that women in politics lack virtue”.
They stated that despite the fact that the political parties issue forms free to women who contest political positions that leaders of the parties sexually harass the women inorder to allow them grow in the system.
A woman in one of the groups who belongs to the ruling political party in the state made a statement supported by all the women that “ many of us in the have remained politically irrelevant and stagnated today because we have refused to succumb to the sexual harassment of some of the political leaders in the state. They would want to sleep with you before you are politically projected”.
The participants stated that “as long as women are continually harassed by their male counterparts for political elevation that the participation of women of Abia state in politics must continue to remain low”.
Apart from Sexual Harassment, the participants also identified culture of the people of the state where women are consigned to the background by the men especially women who are married from other places outside the homes of their husbands.
The other points identified by the participants militating against women participation in the politics of the state included, Election Violence, stigmatization, Finance and among others
The participants proffered solutions to these hindrances and the media of communication of effective messages that will change the negative actions against active participation of women in politics of the state.
Earlier, the coordinator of AFA, Mrs Blessing Duru had said that the organization decided to conduct the programme within each state to identify the peculiar problems and challenges as they affect women of the state in the south-east.
She said that the intention is to discover the challenges and proffer the solutions and motivate and encourage women who form large percentage of the population to engage in politics and make favorable policies that will impact positively on the women and the society at large.