Demystifying Political Participation for Women of my Community

Louisa Eikhomun
Posted April 23, 2015 from Nigeria
'I LOST BUT WON' by LOUISA ONO ElKHOMUN
This is the story of one woman who demystified political participation in her community by being the first woman to seek elective position despite the odds.
During campaign with support from women
During campaign with support from women: The women of my community finally realised a woman can seek elective position. (1/1)

I come from an African community in south south Nigeria where women are seen as useful; as wives, care givers and for family multiplication. Girls are a delight for their deligence in domestic chores until they are married off with bounties from in -laws. The role of girls and women have been so defined even in political participation only to vote. Since Nigeria's independence in 1960, women in my community have been voting but none ever ventured to seek elective post. Not because they do not have what it takes, because they have been conditioned to accept that political office is not for them. I was worried by this and began a movement in 2012 called 'Esan Women Movement' with the aim of breaking cultural barriers to women political participation and calling for equal opportunity for women in voting and being voted for. While mobilising, sensitising and motivating the women on their political rights, I involved the men on the issue but they laughed and mocked the idea claiming women cannot lead men in politics. I went further to mobilize young girls to contest as ward counsellors, they all declined for fear of their fathers, fear of violence and fear of "no woman has ever sought elective position before". In 2013 during our local government election seeing no woman was ready to contest, I mobilised the women to agitate for appointive positions. This yielded little as a handful of women made the list. As Nigeria's 2015 general elections drew near, in 2014, I tried talking to the women to believe in themselves to participate but the responses were the same. In my dilemma I realised I was like the women too. What is stopping me from contesting? We have seen political participation as a mystery and this needs to be demistified. I began to consult with women groups and my political party on my interest in contesting for the Edo State House of Assembly. It was a tall ambition coming from a woman who was yet to cut her teeth in politics; and coming from a patriarchal culture of the Esan tribe. From my declaration, to my campaigns and the primaries it was a huge battle. I was mocked, plotted against, threatened to step down, called all sort of names. Women were told to aviod me or else they will be sent packing from their matrimonial homes . I exhausted my savings, energy and goodlooks. I began to borrow from my mother's rural cooperative to meet up. I did all that was required by the electoral body. I was interviewed and cleared for the primaries. I was challenged during the interview for contesting. I almost backed down, but each time I remembered that no woman has ever ventured into the political space to lead, I encourage myself to get to the end. At each campaign ground after my speech the men would rise to shake my hands and wished I was a man that I would have been their choice. The political leaders told me in confidence that they know I could represent the people but their hands were tied. The women wanted a change and saw me as that change. But then they are not their own owners in a society where husbands watches their wives and daughters at polling unit and monitors their votes. The night to my primaries I was approached by various persons to step down or be put to shame. I received all manner of threats. By morning all my followers disappeared and only two men went with me to the local government headquarters for the primaries. At the end of the primaries, of the 300 votes from the 300 delegates men and women, I only got ONE VOTE. Yes one vote and till date the most celebrated vote by all. I became a instant reference point. I am still celebrating my ONE VOTE because as a woman from my ward Ugboha in Esan South East Local Government, Edo state, I finally broke the yoke of non female participation in elective positions. I have demistified political participation and I am able to motivate women and girls better from my experience. Men honour me now and secretly come to me to say their wives should work with me. I am accorded a lot of respect any where I go even by those who threatened me to step down. I did not make it from aspirant to candidate but I made it for the women of my community, I won for all women. I won because women can now participate in politics in my community despite the odds.

The Path to Participation Initiative from World Pulse and No Ceilings

Comments 23

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Erena Bayessa
Apr 23, 2015
Apr 23, 2015

Dear Louisaono,

Thank you so much for your inspirational post. .   It is a message of courage and optimism indeed. Thank you so much for your resolution to move forward despite of the huge challenges and blockade. I understand in Africa, we most lack balanced women representation particularly in the political arena.  Yes, we have to change, and that change will come by visionary and resolute women like you. We need many women like you who are not stopped from moving forward to ensuring balanced women power in social, economic and politics, because balancing women power will benefit all: family, community and society

 Women equality is development issue along with good governance, human rights, and environmental sustainability. Women equality is an important development objective in itself, but it is also instrumental for the achievement of poverty reduction and any other development goal. I feel, your post calls for adhesive social, economic and political fair participation and right of women in the country and all nations. Thank you so much indeed, I would love to give you applauds for your significant achievement!!  

Louisa Eikhomun
Apr 23, 2015
Apr 23, 2015

Dear Bayessa, I thank you for the applause. I quite agree with you on African women political representation and this is still at its lowest ebb. Right now the percentage of women in decision making in my country has dwindled from what we had in 2003 and 2007. There is need for affirmative action otherwise we would be back to where the advocacy started from.

Kim Crane
Apr 23, 2015
Apr 23, 2015

Dear louisaono,

Thank you for sharing your incredible story. I am thinking of the amazing women leaders I admire in my country. After reading your story I am now thinking of the less recognized women who came before them who likely broke down barriers with their determination and may have earned 1 vote to make today's women leaders possible. Your perseverance is an inspiration! 

Louisa Eikhomun
Apr 23, 2015
Apr 23, 2015

Dear Kim, am indeed moved by your praise. Yes many unsong women paid the price for the political positions of todays female leaders.I am glad my story will help to remember such courageous women. Thank you.

amymorros
Apr 24, 2015
Apr 24, 2015

As they say, every vote counts (no matter the outcome). Congratulations on your campaign. You have surely inspired woman to get more involved in politics by your courage and will serve as an inspiration for them to run for office in the future.

Even in the US, we need more women to run for office. Unfortunatly, when they do they are often judged harshly by the media and they must be able to endure attacks on their character.

Please continue your work as a mentor to others and a leader in your community.

Louisa Eikhomun
Apr 26, 2015
Apr 26, 2015

Dear Amy, thanks much for your encouragement. The discrimination against women in politics is more institutional than cultural in developed society. Here culture is the greatest barrier. I believe if more women make attempt in politics our society will get use to women in decision making.

Bharti Singh Chauhan
Apr 24, 2015
Apr 24, 2015

Dear Sister Louisaano

You story is really inspiring. And I congratulate for your campaign and the great work you do in the society. Every vote counts and hence you are the winner. Keep Rocking and do be in touch.

Also spare our some valuable time and guide us on the work we do in India

https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/bharti-singh-chauh/posts/3...

Regards

Bharti SIngh Chauhan

Louisa Eikhomun
Apr 26, 2015
Apr 26, 2015

Dear Bharti, thank you so much. I know my story is similar to what others have experienced. I will go through the link and get in touch.

Celine
Apr 25, 2015
Apr 25, 2015

My dear Louisa,

Good to read your story here and welcome to World Pulse! I followed through in your campaign/activities, prayed along and got to know the outcome. You broke the record-- the record of women cannot contest for political positions. I am so so so proud of you my, comrade. You made it, congratulations! Some day in future, we will celebrate your victory, your record-breaking in Esan land. Your bravery, your strong heart to dare the patriarchy and change stereotype.

In solidarity,

Celine

Louisa Eikhomun
Apr 26, 2015
Apr 26, 2015

Comrade Celine, thank you so much for all the wonderful support you gave me during my campaign. I so much appreciate the women groups in Nigeria. Right now only one woman out of 24 legislators made it to Edo State House of Assembly. We are now advocating for her to be elected as Speaker. The work is endless and no going back so our daughters would have a better society with equal opportunities to grow and develop.

OMagdalena
Apr 25, 2015
Apr 25, 2015

Dear Louisa,  

Thank you for sharing the story. I am very moved by your courage. I can only imagine how difficult it is for a woman to contest for political position in Nigeria, and how brave you have to be to break all the barriers which you face on your way there. I am very touched by what you wrote that at first you tried to mobilize other women, but then you realized – and had enough courage – to participate in the election yourself and to give the others the best example.

In my country, there are still less women than men in politics, but it is easier for them to participate in elections, as I believe they have more support – however, at the same time I feel sorry that some of the women who want to contest, just do not believe they can make and leave their dreams. When I read stories like yours – I believe that everything is possible and I also hope that you will continue your work and I support you!

All the Best,

Magdalena

Louisa Eikhomun
Apr 26, 2015
Apr 26, 2015

Dear Magdalena, thanks much. Yes many women don't believe they have what it takes. But we do. Women are democratic in nature and have the natural ability to lead like managing a home. But fear and lack of courage from political low self esteem prevents a lot of women. All things are possible. Thanks.

Olivia
Apr 25, 2015
Apr 25, 2015

Dear Louisa,

Your story is inspiring and touch me a lot, thank you so much for sharing.

The partiacrhy system is really hard to break especially when it is rooten deep in the society. However, it does not mean that we shall give up. We shall fight for the right we deserve, including the right to participate in politics and policy making process. Because at the end, women will get impact from every decision that is made in the consitution both in national and local level. 

Don't give up striving for women participation in Nigeria. Individual action matters a lot and slowly we can change the perception of the women and men there and later they will realize how important it is to have both sides of gender equal participation in politics. We will always support you!

Cheers,

Olivia 

Louisa Eikhomun
Apr 26, 2015
Apr 26, 2015

Dear Olivia, thanks for your encouraging words. Women have come of age and what belongs to us will not be given freely. We have to fight and prove we can. I tried to do just that. I pray to continue and motivate young girls in solidarity. Thanks again.

bitani
Apr 29, 2015
Apr 29, 2015

Thumbs up for you dear Louisaono,

please do allow me to celebrate this one vote with you! 

Your post is very inspiring and encouraging to all of us as women to participate in politics, both in voting and running for candidacy.

It's sad that in many countries, women are underrepresented in bureaus and official agencies. So indeed you have made a changed and started a crucial journey for the women of Nigeria and the women of the world.

Best,

bayan

Louisa Eikhomun
May 13, 2015
May 13, 2015

Dear Bayan, Thanks much for your kind words. We wont give up in the face of discrimination and inequality. The resilience we need to overcome lies within us. Warm Regards, Louisa

annadassa
May 07, 2015
May 07, 2015

Dear Louisaono,

What a great story of courage! This remember me of a verse in the Bible that says: It Is the little things that spoils the vine",.  Louisaono, because of that one vote you have spoiled the vine Inequality. You have made a point!

A plane always rise against the wind. Thank you for your great story and most of all your wonderful spirit of courage.

I honor you,

Annadassa

Louisa Eikhomun
May 13, 2015
May 13, 2015

Dear Annadasa,

Thank you so much. I am greatly encouraged. I am honoured by your honour.

Louisa

JANEKALU
May 29, 2015
May 29, 2015

Dear Louisaono,i'm so impressed and inspired by the courage you took.Despite the challenges and the treats you were not discouraged.Even though you got one vote,the facts still remains your Name has been recorded not only that, you have inspired some women who most has thought is a taboo for a woman to participate.Thumps Up.

Louisa Eikhomun
May 29, 2015
May 29, 2015

Dear Jane, So glad to hear from you. Coming from the same society, its daunting to know less women made it in 2015 election. All barriers to women active and successful participation in elections must be dismantled. Women are democratic naturally. Thank you for your encouragement.

Jenna Kz
Jul 01, 2015
Jul 01, 2015

Dear Luisa,

Thank you for sharing your story! Taking on the challenge of becoming a leader in a  this male-dominated government position speaks to your character, bravery, and dedication in the empowerment of women. Your efforts inspired many women and girls who are  used to being treated as martimonial tokens and chore assigness. Thank you for leading the way to creating a space for women in the political arena.

Sincerely,

Jenna

Louisa Eikhomun
Jul 20, 2015
Jul 20, 2015

Dear Jenna,

So glad ot receive your comment. Dismantling partriachy is an assigmment for all men and women as culture is man made. In our small corners of the world we all can make impact to liberate women from barriers that hinder their advancement. Thanks so much.

Tamarack Verrall
Aug 29, 2015
Aug 29, 2015

Dear Louisa,

I have told your story to many women across Canada this summer and the response has unanimously been a celebration of your victory and inspiration by your courage to do the seemingly impossible. We are currently facing an election in which the one woman leader is not given press time that the 3 men get, however what she has to say is so profoundly more wise and visonary, she is affecting the election, as you did yours. Thank you for your courage and detemination. You are an inspiration.

Best wishes for all you do,

Tam