Every four years, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducts national general elections to elect members of the legislative and executive arms of government at the three levels of government, fulfilling one of the principles of democracy.
Since Nigeria's return to civilian rule in 1999, there have been calls for a free and fair election open to all, regardless of origin, gender, race, or disability. In keeping with this, measures targeted towards an inclusive process were implemented, as evidenced by the introduction of BVAS, Card Readers, and the passage of the "Not Too Young To Run" law.
Despite these reforms, there are still gaps anchored in thematic areas of party manifestos; these gaps are established in ageism and patriarchy, frequently leading to governance and leadership deficits. Young women, girls, and juveniles are often the load bearers in this scenario, increasing gender-based and domestic violence, exploitation, abuse, increased violence, extremism, and delinquency.
Citizens are becoming more aware of the importance of voting in general elections, with the Independent National Electoral Commission recording over 12 million newly registered voters across Nigeria and statistics showing that more than 70% of the newly registered are students, with over 26% being women classified as housewives.
Girls, young women, and youths won seats in state houses of assembly during the 2023 Presidential, Gubernatorial, and National and State Houses of Assembly elections, like Rukayat Shittu, a 26-year-old woman from Kwara State, did. These are significant milestones in the engagement of women and girls in politics, democracy, and governance. While the administration is being formed and agendas are being created, girls, young women, and youths must build an organic agenda and positions, as this would affect the development of girls, young women, and youths across Nigeria.
Although there is widespread public awareness of and interest in democratic processes, political parties' degrees of commitment to gender-aligned programmes and objectives in their manifestos remain deficient. In response, young people, particularly girls and young women, demand inclusion through political parties' explicit commitment to development through gender lenses.
It is against this backdrop that a youth group sharing the same vision, consisting of The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Open-Minds, Young Voices, Girls Get Equal, Nigeria, Activista Nigeria, Artvocacy, The Voice by Oxfam, The Nigerian Youth Parliament, and The Youth Council of Nigeria, came together to form a coalition that eventually birthed the Democracy Convening 2023 tagged "Girls and Youths Takeover: Democracy for All."
The 3-day event was held in Abuja from July 26th to July 28th, 2023. The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Nigeria, Plan International, Oxfam Nigeria, Action Aid Nigeria, and Leap Africa supported the Democracy Convening.
In attendance were Girls, young women, and youths, representing the dynamics of girls, women, and youths in Nigeria; He4She Champions; Girls' Rights Activists; Girls and Young Women in Politics; and Development Professionals. The delegates at the conference critically analyzed the problems affecting young women and youth while favouring solutions and a work plan to carry out advocacy for them.
At the end of the Summit, participants created a citizens-led governance scorecard and monitoring and evaluation in line with critical thematic areas such as sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Education, Women in Politics, economic empowerment, and Digital Rights to aid in assessing the government's commitments and execution while also establishing advocacy messaging and actions. Partnering organizations pledged to sustain support for the Democracy Convening.
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