1 Peer Review Meeting: The peer review was organised to discuss the progress made on the project, lessons learned and challenges. The meeting also created platform for peer learning on practices and strategies that can be replicated in Benue and Zamfara states to strengthen accountability to gender equality in policies, programmes and legislations. During the peer review in Zamfara State, the Program Officer of Life Helpers Foundation in her presentation disclosed that the community participation in budget planning was one of the high points of the project ‘’over one hundred women were consulted to articulate their needs into the State budget’’. The communities particularly women reported that it was first time such a meeting was organised. The consultations enabled communities articulate their challenges in development to foster their participation in governance. According to Voluntary Aid Initiative ‘’women in Rawayya community identified shortages of Water as most of their wells were dried and the available boreholes could not serve their current population’’. According to Future Hope Foundation ‘’In Kurya Madaro Primary Healthcare was selected above the list as the women believed they could manage other needs, but their health was paramount’’. Millennium Development Centre reported that ‘’in Chakal Community a primary health care centre which they lacked will be needed to reduce the mortality rate of women and children in their community’’. Following the reports it was obvious the reoccurring needs of the communities were access to clean water and health care facilities, therefore sub-grantees were advised to articulate these issues and ensure actions are taken towards inclusion in the State budget. They were also advised that social media is a strategic platform to share findings to generate public interest towards holding government accountable to projects that impact on the health, economic and overall welfare of women and person with special needs. Three areas of public financing from the MDA budget allocation, constituency projects of the parliament and Local government statutory budget allocation were identified as sources of funding for community projects. Although the constituency project in Zamfara State is restricted to construction of Islamic worship centres. CSOs were also advised to identify House of Assembly Members representing those communities to ensure inclusion in the budget. They were strongly advised to identify strategic entry points to engage Members of the State Parliament and MDAs towards ensuring gender responsive budgeting. The session with sub-grantees was followed with the session with other project beneficiaries from the Ministries and Legislative arms of government. The Permanent Secretaries of Education, Religious Affairs, Director Legal Drafting from State Ministry of Justice, Special Assistance to the Governor on Scholarship, Chairman of the Inter Party Affairs, the Deputy Clerk of the House and Director Legislatives Matters represented the Zamfara House of Assembly. The Chairman of the Inter Party Affairs reported that during the 2019 elections for the first time women contested election. They contested for the Senatorial, Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly positions “though no woman was voted in the positions contested for, but Zamfara State has made progress on inclusion of women in decision making.’’. Following session on success stories from Benue State, each participant shared actions they have taken to mainstream gender in public programmes and policies. The Special Adviser of the State Education and Scholarship Board stated that ‘’Under the Board’s scholarship program, we have increased the quota for girls from 10% - 30% to support girl child education’’. According to the representative of the State Ministry of Justice reported that since we participated in this project we have made conscious effort to promote women employment in the Ministry. ‘’currently all female corps members posted to the Ministry for their primary assignments are retained after National Youth Service Scheme’’. The representative from the Ministry of State also reported that ‘’under the health training scheme for midwives 100% of the beneficiaries of this programme are women’’ this is one of the action taken by the Ministry to ensure gender balance in public health workers. Following the sharing of the success story on adoption of the Violence Persons Prohibition law (VAPP) in Benue State, the Staff of the Zamfara State House of Assembly moved a motion for the adoption of the same legislation in Zamfara State. He reported that in the past four years our State has encountered security challenges and establishing a legal framework for prosecution of offenders to curtail probability of reoccurrence is urgent. ‘He added that ‘’recently a girl of 10 years was sexually and physically harassed by bandits. She sustained life threating injuries but has been treated and under rehabilitation at the Bukkar Yerima hospital’’. An action plans was developed which entailed strategies to foster community engagement particularly with women and youths group traditional and religious leaders in the budgeting process. Strategies for further engagement were developed; follow up to ensure that the needs identified by the sub-grantee are included 2020 budget of Zamfara State. The action plan also entailed strategies for the adoption of the Violence Against Person Prohibition Bill at the State the Parliamen. 2 Courtesy Visits to Zamfara State House of Assembly: After the 2019 elections, new members were elected in the Zamfara State parliament, therefore it was imperative to undertake a courtesy visit to officially brief the legislatures on the project to reinforce their support and buy-into the project. The project team convened courtesy visits to the Zamfara State House of Assembly where they were received by the Deputy Speaker on behalf of the speaker and principal house of assembly officials. The Project Manager with the support of the Director on Legislatives Matters and the Deputy Clerk briefed the meeting on the project and progress achieved, it was emphasized that the high points of project is the passing of the bill on Affirmative Action for Inclusion of Women in Politics and other public matters has not been achieved. Therefore they solicited the support of the leadership to ensure that the bill is passed into law. He appreciated the legislature for participating in the project activities and supporting team with valuable information that facilitated the implementation of project activities. The Deputy Speaker in his remark commended WEP for their commitment to the development of Zamfara State. He stressed that women’s participation in Zamfara State is tantamount to the achievement of the SDGs and a law will provide legal basis to accelerate the inclusion of women in decision making on governance. The Deputy Speaker pledged support to the project towards ensuring the objectives is achieved. The Chief Whip in his remark opined that the project was important to strengthen that capacity of members of parliament to mainstream gender in their legislations. He also pledged commitment to the proposed bill and the project. He drew the attention of WEP to the fact that most of the current members of the legislatures are new and not familiar with the bill, therefore it is important to create a platform to convene other members and staff of the House to further enlist their support. In this regard, the Program Officer briefed the meeting of the proposed advocacy Meeting on Affirmative Action Bill for Zamfara State to sensitise the incoming House members and MDAs. In consultation with the leadership of the house the meeting was fixed for the 27th -30th September 2019. 3. Meeting with Women contestants: Following the implementation of the capacity building of on gender mainstreaming, the Chairman IPAC made conscious efforts to support female political aspirants emerge as political party contestants. One of the outcome of his efforts was emergence of four female contestants for the positions of Senator, Governorship, House of Representative and House of Assembly Members. The meeting was essentially to share on their experiences, challenges and successes. Hajiya Zainab Danmasani who contested under Labour Party said that she received moral support from her political party, husband and Family. According to Hajiya Zarau Umar the only female Gubernatorial candidate ‘’I also got support from my family and political party, although financial support was a major challenge. Political parties provide support to male candidates while female candidates don’t enjoy the same privileges’’ She added that in future elections she still contest elections until she emerges as the first female Governor of Zamfara State. According to Miss Rabi Usman contestant of the House of Representative position under Shinkafi / Zurm Federal constituency she stressed that ‘’ there is discrimination against single or divorced female contestants, people don’t take them serious and most cases would not vote for them. Most people still women place is in the kitchen’’. The major challenge of the contestants was lack of resources to mobilise robust campaign that could have given them a win at the general election. Although none of the female contestants emerged as winners but we valued their experiences and encouraged them to continue in their pursuit for political leadership.