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 inclusive of the challenges, limitations and discriminations 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 in developed countries. Nigeria needs to take a cue from this, even more so as women constitute more than half her population.
In the last few decades, Nigeria has seen countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Iceland and a whole other bunch, take to the inclusivity of women in Politics.
During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, women occupied 33 percent of cabinet position 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 engage 63.5 percent of women in lower house and 38.5percent for upper house, Senegal with 42.7 percent inclusivity, South Africa with 41.9 percent for lower house and 35.2 percent for upper house, Burundi with 36.4 percent inclusivity.
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 women suffrage took effect in 1979; a monumental difference of fifty years.
It is evident that politics in Nigeria remains dominated by men, coupled with the unwillingness to place women high on the electoral list during elections. Women, especially youths and upcoming leaders in government, are seldom included in decision-making positions within political parties and their issues remain low on priority lists. This reflects in party manifestos and activities where women are treated as subordinates and mere supporters instead of equal partners. This is discouraging for a lot of women who have agendas to run for leadership positions on local, state and federal levels of government, or even in private sector boardrooms. Nigeria has somehow made women and female youths dread the politics that will take them to the pinnacle.
Despite the shoddy architecture of the political administrative process in Nigeria, there are women who are not afraid to 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. She wrote a book that chronicled her process of running for the People’s Democratic Party’s ticket to the House of Representatives in Nigeria in 2015 and how she lost. Her primary reason was that she was a woman and a rookie politician in Nigeria without a political godfather.
Many other Nigerian women have helped set the precedent for the braveness of women who would like to run for top positions. Women like the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Oby Ezekwesili have all been instrumental in opening doors for those behind them.
In recognition of the epic nature 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 for the agenda of inclusivity of women in politics and leadership, in private and public sectors, the faster we’re going to progress as an economy. We need a social revolution for women, for the betterment of our women and the female youths, trying to get a foot in the door.