The issue of women being under represented in governance has been over flogged and there seems to be no improvement. A major indication of this was seen in this year’s elections when 19 of the 36 states in the federation had no women slots in elective positions. As the number keeps dwindling, JOY YESUFU, in this report, looks at the diminishing presence of women in Nigerian politics and the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration.
Last week, the world celebrated women on International Women’s Day (IWD 2019) as part of the focal point in the movement for women’s rights.
This year’s campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter was a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world and to tell the world that now is a great and important time in history to do everything possible to help forge a more gender-balanced society everywhere.
Most female activists in Nigeria are of the opinion that their male counterparts over the years are making it difficult to get a balanced society as some would not want to have women at the helms of affairs or have a woman lead them.
Others say the society is naturally patriarchal and day to day activities are tailored to suit men, thereby making it almost impossible for the women to fit in.
The minister of women affairs and social development, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, during a visit to Government Girls Secondary School, Dutse, a suburb of Abuja, as part of activities to celebrate the international women’s day, said the gender inequality in Nigeria is widespread due to patriarchy, imbalance in socio-economic opportunities, cultural and religious factors and inadequate enabling legal and policy frameworks, among other factors.
She said IWD 2019 should provide a good opportunity for women to accelerate advocacy for increased participation in inclusive development as well as decision making, which is in line with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Nigerian government that gives prominence to social inclusion and investment in the Nigerian people as a national priority.
The minister also said countries are expected to sensitise and encourage stakeholders to examine ways in which innovations can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality, women’s empowerment, encourage investments in gender-responsive social systems, build services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.
She urged all stakeholders to join hands with the ministry in line with the theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, to ensure that Nigerian women and girls are empowered, advanced and adequately participate in the political process.
Director-general of National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Mrs Mary Ekpere-Eta was of the opinion that the theme for this year’s celebration is quite apt as it speaks to current day realities women face in achieving equity and equality with regards to women’s representation, information and communication technology and the emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Nigeria.
She said #BalanceForBetter focuses on innovative ways to advance gender equality and empowerment of women particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.
In Nigeria and around the world, women are underrepresented in politics, decision-making and at different levels of government. In the current Nigerian 8th National Assembly, women occupy seven out of 109 Senate seats and only 22 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives.
Globally, it has been recognised that inclusivity in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern democracy. Improved representation of women has been shown to have benefits such as improved policy changes, economic growth, enhanced peace building and a more egalitarian society.
There will be no improvement in the number of female lawmakers in the 9th National Assembly as results so far declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicate that the 9th Assembly will have fewer female lawmakers than the outgoing 8th Assembly.
In the Senate, for instance, there will be only seven female senators as against the eight females elected in 2015.
In the House of Representatives, results also show a diminishing number of incoming female lawmakers in the 9th House.
Increase in women participation in politics has been hailed as a fundamental aspect of modern democracy, especially with regard to policy changes, peace building, maternal health, economic growth and development.
In Nigeria, there is no gainsaying that women are underrepresented in politics and decision making at all levels of government.
The head of European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, Maria Arena, in a report shortly after the 2019 general elections said the fall in percentage of women candidates in the election is because of “lack of promotion of women by political parties.”
She said Nigeria has the lowest rate of women in parliament in Africa, with the number steadily decreasing since 2011 noting that both in appointed and elective positions, women did not reach the 35 per cent target.
“Women comprised only six per cent in the outgoing National Assembly. While attempts have been made to introduce legal reforms, political parties have not promoted women in party leadership or as candidates,” she added.
Several calls, advocacy, seminars, appeals, protest yet women participation in political processes in Nigeria keeps deteriorating, going from bad to worse. At the moment, the question women are asking their male counter part is what they should do to placate them so as to get the deserved 35 per cent affirmative action?
Others are saying if the men don’t want them to participate in governance in the country they should simply state it so they don’t waste their time and money going through the rigorous political process and still be frustrated out at the end.
Observers are calling on legislative architecture in Nigeria to give women more platforms through the enactment of laws that would acknowledge and encourage the contribution of women to development.
Sustaining the advocacy for the rights of women is key to ensuring the establishment of gender equality for both women and men. Women must also be innovative and think smart in their studies in order to create a path for development of gender responsive society.
Balance brings a rich mix to the process of what will help us solve issues in Nigeria, as having ideas from one direction doesn’t bring the desired result. Gender balance shows that we will have better outcomes in whatever we do.