In her keynote speech to ‘A Women Leaders’ Forum to Promote Peaceful Elections’ – jointly organised by UN Women, the African Union and the Embassy of Germany – Toyin Saraki called for an end to election violence ahead of the 2019 polls in Nigeria and urged all stakeholders to ensure that women are able to take full part in the democratic process.
Mrs Saraki, a pioneer member of the African Women’s Leadership Initiative, which was inaugurated at the United Nations in New York in 2016, used her speech to highlight the barriers faced by women and young people in Nigeria , stating:
“As women, I urge us to charge all candidates and stakeholders to uphold the sanctity of democratic culture and the rule of law as sacrosanct, notwithstanding the powers of executive fiat, in order to activate the nation’s progress and productivity as Nigeria decides to elect its next leaders, and always
“51% of Nigeria’s population is female, and the female gender is universally recognised as being the primary and premier gender to nurture and nourish generations, from the helpless newborn in families and communities, into responsible adults that thrive. Similarly, we must encourage the female gender to imbibe and impart the essence of exercising the constitutional civil liberty and human right of democratic suffrage, the right to vote in peace, safety and dignity, to all.”
“As a passionate advocate for the involvement of women and young people in the democratic process, I know that given the chance they can transform Nigeria and create a healthier country for us all. They must be given the opportunity to do so.”
Mrs Saraki, who is Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Inaugural Global Goodwill Ambassador of the International Confederation of Midwives and Special Adviser to the Independent Advisory Group of the World Health Organization office for Africa, also referenced key indices which she believes are “holding Nigerians back”:
“I know that Nigerians want to build a healthier and safer country. We have the talent and passion to do so, but many of my fellow citizens are held back by the realities of troubling development indices and a direction of travel which is a serious cause of concern.”
“The essential foundations of wellbeing are too often absent. Water, sanitation and hygiene standards are in a state of national emergency, whilst on our current path Nigeria will have overtaken India as the world capital for infant deaths by 2021. Meanwhile, our electricity supply is the second worst in the world – only Yemen has worse access. We must improve these conditions to build a bright future for the next generation.”
The forum was also addressed by the Deputy Head of Mission for Germany in Nigeria, Ms Regine Hess and UN Women Country Representative, Ms. Comfort Lamptey among others including representatives from the security sector and civil society. Mrs Saraki was represented by Mrs Amy Oyekunle, CEO of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa.