Since the return of party politics to much of Africa in the early 1990’s, many elections have engendered violence which deters women’s active participation and engagement in politics. Following previous successes in promoting peaceful elections in Africa, it was decided that Nigeria’s 2015 general elections warranted the establishment of a Women’s Situation Room (WSR) to provide an early warning and response mechanism, and prevent and minimise electoral violence before, during, and after the elections.
This report provides a comprehensive assessment of the WSR-Nigeria’s activities over the entire 2015 election period. It begins by outlining the concept of the WSR, their essential activities, and the process of replicating the WSR in Nigeria. The report then goes on to discuss in great detail the establishment and work of the WSR-Nigeria, including stakeholder engagement, media engagement and coverage, data-gathering, setting up physical Situation Rooms, and the electoral observation process (which included 300 youth observers). An overview of incident reports is provided, which show that one state, Anambra State, suffered a bombing incident, while there were a number of reports of violence against women (including by the military), seizure of ballot boxes, party interference, and of malfunctioning card readers.
Two main challenges that were faced by WSR-Nigeria are identified in the report: the need for greater support for analysts, who at times were overwhelmed and forced to go beyond their terms of reference, and the need for greater clarity of roles and responsibilities. Despite these challenges, and with the acknowledgement of the immense support of UN Women, the authors conclude that the WSR-Nigeria campaign was highly successful, and enhanced the image of Nigerian women as peace activists internationally. The youth volunteers felt appreciated, acquired knowledge, and according to international institutions, widely contributed to promoting peaceful elections in the country,
Best practices are identified in the report that helped ensure the success of WSR-Nigeria. These include the awarding of certificates to Incident Report Officers, which was deemed to be motivational, as well as helping ensure that the youth felt a key part of the WSR process; the successful release of a viral video relaying a message of support from President Johnson-Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female president in Africa; the performance and usefulness of the intervention desks set up by police in the physical Situation Room; and the timely establishment of a second physical Situation Room in Port Harcourt, at the request of women peace activists from that state.
Finally, the report makes a number of recommendations based upon the lessons learned during the WSR-Nigeria activities:
- Contextual analysis is required in countries where the WSR process is to be replicated, including inclusive and informed consultation with women on the ground.
- Replication of WSRs must start early in-country, including totally transparent and inclusive budgeting.
- Having an experienced person to handle media and press releases is absolutely vital.
- Future physical Situation Rooms should include police and elections commission intervention desks to help resolve incidents as they emerge. However, processes should be flexible enough to allow other agencies to play a complementary role.
- Roles and responsibilities of all actors in the WSR should be clearly defined and documented before the commencement of activities.
- Training on incident reporting should be conducted in collaboration with the police, so as to ensure accurate recording.
- All statistics and data should be sex-disaggregated, and included in reporting.