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Cablegate: Dhrf Grant Encourages Women Candidates in Niger Delta

DE RUEHOS #1417/01 3461433
R 121433Z DEC 06





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: Twenty-eight women candidates, campaign
coordinators, and aspiring political and party leaders attended
the October 24-25 Democracy and Human Rights Fund (DHRF)
workshop, QMainstreaming Women Leaders into the Political
Process in NigeriaQs Niger Delta States of Rivers, Bayelsa,
Delta, and Edo", sponsored by Niger Delta Professionals for
Development (NIDPRODEV). The participants discussed democratic
principles, created election strategies, and learned from
experienced political leaders. End Summary.

Workshop Participants from Diverse Backgrounds
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (U) Workshop participants were drawn from a wide range of
backgrounds, including current candidates, chairs of womenQs
societies, agency directors and members of registration
monitoring committees. Among the offices for which the women
are candidates are State House of Assembly and Federal House of
Representatives. A participant explained to the SSH/DHRF
Coordinator that, although the women were running for office
from different parties, they had agreed to encourage and support
each other in their campaigns.

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Supporter of Female Candidate Describes Death Threat
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (U) A Commissioner in the Bayelsa State Civil Service, also a
former member of the Bayelsa State Assembly, is currently
campaigning for a woman. She described a death threat recently
sent by text message: "If your life is worth living, you are
advised to stop supporting [this woman] as candidate. If you
dare continue, you will be sent to meet your ancestors in cold
blood." The commissioner told the group that she informed the
police. She believes the threat came from the campaign of an
opposing candidate.

Campaign Manager Shares Experience and Offers Advice
--------------------------------------------- -------

4. (U) On the workshopQs second day, a former national assembly
member, now campaign manager for a gubernatorial candidate,
contrasted his experiences with political systems in Nigeria and
in other countries. Based on his observations of elections in
both Britain and Bangladesh, he outlined the challenges to free
and fair elections in Nigeria. In his opinion, all elections in
Nigeria should be held in one day, because the current system
allows the incoming president and governors, who take office
after the first round of elections, to influence the elections
for other offices weeks later. Nigeria, he warned, has
"leadership by the few for the few." Nonetheless, he noted that
many stable democratic countries went through similar stages,
and that military decentralization has greatly decreased chances
of a military coup.

5. (U) He also gave practical instructions for running a
political campaign. He advised the women to create a mission
statement, decide on a slogan, and enlist intelligent aides. For
women candidates, he advised they get to know their
constituents, choose their support committees carefully and
cultivate the media. He encouraged the women to become active
in formal and informal political structures, including
participating in party caucuses.

6. (U) Following his discussion of "godfatherism" in Nigeria,
one woman asked the presenter for his advice on how to exchange
godfathers for godmothers. His response, that such a change
would be like "exchanging a monkey for a baboon," reflected his
condemnation of how eminences grises have marred the Nigerian
political process. The women however, took the remark as a
challenge. As each individual stood to engage the speaker, she
would begin by speaking softly, then build to a stronger tone,
and conclude loudly that women are as capable of leading as men.
One participantQs fiery speech called not only for support for
her candidacy, but for a revolution as well.

Political Aspirants Define Obstacles, Brainstorm Solutions
--------------------------------------------- -------------

7. (U) Following the speaker's presentation, the women divided
into groups according to their State of residence: Edo, Rivers,
Bayelsa, and Delta. In each group, they created election plans,
campaign strategies, learned to consider constraints and
recognize opportunities. Among the obstacles the participants
identified were stereotypes of womenQs "place," low education
levels of women, political environments hostile to women,
poverty, low self-esteem, systemic corruption, the public

LAGOS 00001417 002 OF 002

perception of politics as "dirty," and the inaccessibility of
women to people in power. Several women related how men had
excluded them from party caucuses or other decision-making
opportunities, often hiding behind cultural norms. One
participant described how men would offer her a ride home from a
political meeting, then return to the meeting where they would
then make decisions.

8. (U) To carry out their campaign plans, the participants
determined that they must identify funding sources, support
other women, consult women leaders, increase the number of women
commissioners, conduct sensitization programs, monitor election
activities, monitor womenQs campaigns, personally contact chiefs
and other traditional rulers for support, increase womenQs
representation on state action committees, contact delegates,
and mobilize local womenQs committees.

Confidence-Building a Major Element of Workshop
--------------------------------------------- --

9. (U) A management consultant told the SSH/DHRF Coordinator
that what made this workshop unique is its emphasis on boosting
the self-confidence of the women participants. Although there
are many intelligent and qualified women, they face so many
obstacles that it becomes difficult to believe they can be
successful in politics. The second dayQs speaker also stressed
the importance of self-confidence, saying that women are brought
up to fear, and that fear must be overcome. Mantras of
encouragement adorned the walls of the simple conference hall,
and were echoed in the workshops: "I know that I can succeed".

Workshop Launches Support for WomenQs Campaigns
--------------------------------------------- --

10. (U) On the workshop's final day, participants created a
song, QVote for Woman-O,Q which NIDPRODEV plans to have produced
professionally and to run as an advertisement for women
candidateson local radio. The close of the workshop coincided
with the first day of voter registration, and several women told
SSH/DHRF coordinator that they were eager to become involved in
voter registration when they returned home.


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