Gender Equality: Factors Hindering Female Participation in Nigerian Politics

Ohis Samson Amu
Posted April 29, 2016 from Nigeria

Today, more women serve as members of their countries legislative bodies at the local, regional and state levels; In Namibia women account for 44% of local government official. In Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, women make up more than 36% of the legislators at the National level, and are making a difference in creating public policy beneficial to women.

In the United States, almost 50% of all women of working age work in labour force and career opportunities have expanded for women. Today, rape during times of war is treated as a crime against humanity, punishable by the International Criminal Court (ICC) created by the United Nations and launched in 1998.

Women are active politically, economically, and socially in ways that were unimaginable decades ago. Political and economic rights acquired by women allow them to live their lives quite differently from their fore mothers. Reproductive rights allow women the freedom to choose to have or not have a child.

The burning issue is why are there a low percentage of women in politics and leadership? Why is there need for women to acquire critical skill? There are two schools of thought on women and leadership issues. The first school believes women in the past had demonstrated leadership qualities in various strands of life but gradually their power was eroded, while the second school believes women have not been given opportunity to demonstrate their leadership prowess, that only quite recently, women have access to leadership. It is our beliefs that both positions are true, because we can support the two assertions from historical records.

It is said that political participation is the key ingredient of every political system, be it traditional or modern, democratic or totalitarian. This means that in every political system there must be somebody in a position to take political decisions and perform other political actions like appointment and removal of officials from time to time. Factors like age, sex (gender), financial status, level of education, political and economic experience, psychology, geo-political zoning, primordial factors (religion, ethnicity), and nature of government, affect political participation of women.

Nigeria today, in terms of women in politics, there are few occasions you would witness women participating in any political activity, especially during elections, few contest for political positions and very few women vote. Some factors that hinder women participation are discussed below:

Education This is one of the important factors that hinder women participation in politics, not all women have acquired adequate political education and so they know nothing or less about politics generally, although in Nigeria, the only specification given to those contesting for any political position is the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE), but not every woman have acquires a political degree or political knowledge hence they are not conversant with the political orientation or structure to enable participation.

Cultural This is a major factor because it is an ethos issue. In the traditional society, women are made to stay out of politics. In a traditional Nigerian society, politics is believed to be the duty of the man, since he is the head, participating in politics automatically bequeaths one with power; it is generally accepted that only men be allowed to wield such political power.

Psychological This factor hinders women participation in politics by implanting various reasons or motives in the mind on why women cannot participate fully in politics. A good example, a married women with kids would be insulted even by her fellow women, if she attends political party meetings frequently and she is hardly at home to take care of her children, especially if the meetings are held at night, a typical Nigerian husband or man, would suspect her of having extra martial affairs since his wife would be coming back very late. This psychologically discourages and hinders women from participating in politics.

Poverty and Dis empowerment In a country like Nigeria, we can conclude that the most empowered gender is the man, some women are also empowered but cannot exceed the number of empowered men, and being empowered attracts authority, dominance, wealth, etc. With all these factors that the male specie possesses, there is a tendency of intimidation springing up, thereby leading to the laying back in political participation by the women.

Nature of Politics in Nigeria In Nigerian the nature of politics is characterized by violence, it is said to be very violent for those with the hearts and minds of stone, can withstand such violence. We have witnessed and heard about violence that transpires every election season, a woman, naturally would not want to get involved in such as she has a lot to lose, health wise and beauty wise. If most women continue to think this way, there is no way any woman would want to participate in politics, or allow any family member of hers to participate. There are many more factors not mention, but it is believed that the above factors are major factors hindering women political participation, however it is time to take action by calling on all women to learn how to participate in politics (local, state, national or international level).

In conclusion, the Nigerian society is blamed for identifying the roles of a man and that of a woman in this way from the very beginning. Both men and women are endued with leadership qualities, and the society needs both sexes to work together for the good of the society.

A society that plays premium only on one sex will lag behind in the new millennium. It is imperative that adequate spaces be created in leadership for women. Nigeria is a member of the United Nations she signed the Convention on all forms of Discrimination against Women and also appends her signature to the Beijing Platform of Action which prescribes 30% seats for Women in Elective Offices, while we note that we are moving progressively towards the goal.

However, we are worried about attitude of men in the work place, a lot of men still loathe women leadership, we need to understand that for any meaningful development in the Country, both men and women must work together to chart the way forward.

The United Nation Population Fund’s ‘’State of the World Population’’ report for 2005, ‘’Gender equality, and the social transformation it implies, is most likely to be achieved when men recognize that the lives of men and women are interdependent and that the empowerment of women benefits everyone.’’

The power of a Woman in politics should never be underestimated, as she takes it very serious; like the political field is her kitchen, and makes sure nothing goes wrong. The limits set by society are only man-made not ordained by God; just ask Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and Christine Lagarde among others globally.

Comments 4

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Kristina M
May 01, 2016
May 01, 2016

Dear Ohizzy,

I agree with you that the power of a woman should not be underestimated and we do need more women participating in politics.  Even here in the United States, despite the fact more women are registered (and actually vote) than men, there often is not a woman running in the races from the local level on up to national races.  I think part of the problem here the belief that you must be negative toward your opponent and put them down in order to win.  I do not know that many people (men or women) who would want to put up with that much public verbal abuse. 

I hope we are reaching a turning point in this country where more women are willing to stand up an run for more offices because it has been shown that it only takes 20% of a legislative body (or a boardroom) to be made up of women for real change to start happening.  I would also be very happy if we did not stop at 20%!​

I know that I am too much of an introvert to run for office but I cannot help and watch in wonderment those who gather up the courage and step into that arena for the first time because that is how they want to make a difference.

I hope for both our countries sake, more women find that courage so we can work towards meaningful changes.

Ohis Samson Amu
Jun 13, 2016
Jun 13, 2016

Thanks Kistina........women will find that courage to become change agents 

Osai
Sep 02, 2016
Sep 02, 2016

Hello Ohizzy,

Your article clearly identifies key barriers to women's political aspirations. Women actually turnout to vote and  there is a mobilization strategy by political parties that target women voters. But while the number of women as candidates have progressively increased in the last 3 elections, fewer women are elected, showing a push-back and erasing of gains made since Nigeria's return to civilian rule in 1999 after years of military rule.

If you compare the global rankings among African countries in the IPU status of women's representation in parliament, Rwanda is no. 1 globally and in Africa. Nigeria is bottom at 178 only ahead of Comoros who is no. 182. Looking at the other top African countries, Seychelles, Senegal and South Africa for example, the unique factor is that they all including Rwanda have applied quotas either constitutional, legal, electoral or party lists in ensuring the emergence, participation and election of women to positions of political office and influence.

While we cannot ignore the socio-economic and cultural issues which limit women's participation, Nigeria must use legal and constitutional reform to facilitate women's rights to participate in the decision-making process of their country. Nigeria has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (i.e. the Maputo Protocol). Article 9, of the protocol clearly directs States to "take specific positive action to promote participative governance and the equal participation of women in the political life of their countries through affirmative action, enabling national legislation...." The use of affirmative action often through the application of quotas is recognized as an effective tool for political empowerment.

The emergence of women leaders must start from the basic unit of human society the family and transcend to school life and the community. The breaking down of stereotypes, promotion of strong female role models and affirmation of women by media will all go a long way in changing culture and acceptance of women as leaders. It starts with each one of us. Glad to connect with more gender champions like yourself to advocate for a more gender equal and gender sensitive world.

All the best,

Osai

Ohis Samson Amu
Sep 05, 2016
Sep 05, 2016

Hi Osai,

it is nice to hear from you again and thanks for the encouragement surely women will wake up from their sleeping beds and fight for their rights in developing countries like Nigeria.

We will not stop advocating for women