Today is International Women’s Day which is usually marked by women celebrating their peculiarities to womanhood. It goes without saying that in commemoration of International Women’s Day, women all over the world are applauded for their effort in every aspect of human existence; this is also keeping in mind the challenges, limitations and discrimination that women have faced for years, while trying to rise from historical obscurity into positions of influence, leadership, modern democratic governance in both private and public sectors.
Over the years, there has been an increasing global recognition that gender equality in political participation is a fundamental aspect of the growth and development of many Nations. Nigeria needs to take a cue from this, even more so as women constitute more than half her population.
In the last few decades, the world has seen countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Iceland and a whole other bunch embrace an increasing number of women in Politics.
During the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, women had 33 percent of executive cabinet positions but this figure has since decreased to 19 percent during the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. This is a regressive movement as we witness countries like Rwanda having 63.5 percent of women in lower house and 38.5percent for upper house, Senegal with 42.7 percent, South Africa with 41.9 percent for lower house and 35.2 percent for upper house, Burundi with 36.4 percent.
This abysmally low participation of women in politics is, however, not for lack of trying. It shows in Nigeria’s constitutional history that women have been excluded from politics as far back as the colonial times when women were not allowed to vote. Men began voting in Nigeria in 1922 while universal adult suffrage took effect in the 1979 elections when women in the North were allowed to participate, for the first time, in elections; a monumental difference of fifty seven years.
It is evident that politics in Nigeria remains dominated by men, what with their unwillingness to prioritize women on the electoral pedestal during elections. Women are seldom included in decision-making processes within political parties and their issues remain low on priority lists of those parties.
This reflects poorly in party manifestos and activities where women are treated as subordinates and mere supporters instead of equal partners in progress. This is discouraging for a lot of women who have agenda to run for leadership positions at local, state and federal levels of government, or even in private sector boardrooms. Nigeria has watered down the excitement and interest of women in this Political Landscape.
Women representation in 1991, 2003 and 2011 general elections.
Despite the shoddy architecture of the political administrative process in Nigeria, there are women who have demonstrated great courage step up to the plate and their numbers are growing increasingly.
One of such Nigerians is Ayisha Osori, a Lawyer and advocate for social justice who wrote a book that chronicled her somewhat bitter yet illuminating experience of running on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party [PDP] to clinch the ticket to the House of Representatives in Nigeria in 2015. She Lost. Our initial submission was that her primary reason was that she was a woman and a rookie politician in Nigeria without a political godfather but she was quick to inform us that “the main reason why she lost the primaries is because Political Party processes are designed to be rigged; from selection of delegates to the conduct of primaries”.
We also remember the monumental strides of other modern women who have ventured into the political fray like Rinsiola Abiola, Tolulope Ebun, Sharon Ikeazor, Aisha Alhassan, Abike Dabiri amongst others in addition to those who have led excellently in appointed positions like Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, Omobola Johnson and Amina Mohammed, who is currently serving as Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, just to mention a few.
These days, Ndi Kato, a Kaduna State indigene and political activist is working assiduously on PolitiSHEan, a platform to amplify the voices of women in politics and mainstream their participation on all fronts in political parties.
In recognition of the epic awesomeness of womankind as International Women’s Day, women in Nigeria should be encouraged to take up the mantle of leadership in every sector and industry in Nigeria.
The more women who step up in solidarity with other women and embrace the idea of women in politics and leadership in the private, social and public sectors, the faster we’re going to progress as a Country.
We need a social revolution and like Thomas Sankara said, “Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women…”
Happy International Women’s Day to all the Women around the World.