By G9ija

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on Friday advocated for increased participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the political system to vote and be voted for.

Mr Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, NHRC, made the call when the Network of Disabled Women (NDW) led by its National President, Lois Auta-Udonkanta, paid him a visit at the commission on Friday in Abuja.

Ojukwu, who was represented by Dr Agharase Arase, the Deputy Director, Vulnerable Group Department in the commission, stressed the importance of creating a level playing ground for the female gender in politics, especially disabled women.

He said women should be placed side by side every other citizen in contesting positions, as well as voting for candidates of their choice to enable them contribute to national development.

“It is high time women political participation, especially the involvement of women with disabilities is taken to the next level in Nigeria.

“Disabled women should be placed side by side every other citizen contesting elections because they also have a lot of capacity and should contribute to national growth.

“We protect the rights of every citizen of Nigeria, as long as it is within our organisation’s goal and has legal backing.

“I want to assure you that the commission will protect your human rights if you contest election and if there is any case of violence against women with disabilities,” he pledged.

Earlier, Auta-Udonkanta said the visit to the commission was to solicit its support on the group’s call on the National Assembly (NASS), to reform legislations that would enhance inclusive political participation, particularly for women and girls with disabilities.

She said the call was in line with the Article on Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) article 6 (Women with Disabilities), 29 (participation in public life), Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5, (Gender Equality) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

While recalling the challenges she faced when she contested for the House of Representatives position in 2019, Auta-Udonkanta expressed her intension to run for same position in 2023 with greater hope of winning.

“I am the first disabled woman to run for a political office, I ran for house of representatives position in 2019 but lost. Yes I got only 2500 votes while the winner got over 19,000 votes, but I am more encouraged to contest again because I have learnt the lessons.

“I have started consultations to ensure we do not repeat same mistakes. Women contribute more to the GDP, we are best managers and when given the leadership opportunity, we leave office with better achievements,” she said.

On his part, Imoh Iteh, the NDW Programmes Officer, called on the NASS to create legislations that would enable women with disabilities to occupy leadership positions and participate in public life.

“Women are generally neglected in public life and it is worse for women with disabilities.

“If men refuse to partner with women, they will not see the good qualities in them beyond marriage or friendship, but records have shown that women who have held leadership positions have performed excellently,” he said.

Similarly, Ms Janet Alabede, member of NDW, said PWDs had the capacity to contribute to national development, and so should be supported towards advancing their political and economic participation.