In the last decade, the global political pendulum has been swinging steadily in favour of women. This is upped by the current wave of dominance of the women folk in the major economies and political hubs of the world. In this report, Omonu Yax-Nelson dissects the issues in women phenomenal political gains.
The age-long induced prejudice that ‘it is a man’s world’ is gradually crumbling like a pack of cards. From the beginning of humanity, institutions are set in such a way that male dominance is constantly re-enforced. The mindset had always been that ‘women could only be seen and not heard.’
Despite the lopsided societal engagement, women have, through thick and thin, recorded exploits in socio-political and economic sphere. However, on a scale, such exploits is at best supportive in a world that is socio-culturally, economically and politically skewed against them.
The collective-will of women was well demonstrated, for example, in 1929, Aba women riot, where women defied the limitation the society placed on them; to protest the harsh colonial tax policies. When men were hiding their head in the dust.
For the daughters of Eve/Hauwa, the journey to political emancipation has been a very long and tortuous one. For the American women, they had to wait for well over a hundred and thirty years after independence, to be granted voting right. Recall that, the 19th amendment, which granted women in America, the right to vote was passed by the congress on June 4, 1919 and was ratified on August 18, 1920.
Even the United Kingdom, whose forbearers colonized Nigeria, did not extend voting right to women, until the Political movement towards women’s suffrage began during the war and in 1918, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed an act granting the vote to: women over the age of 30, who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities.
In Nigeria, it was not until 1958 before women could be allowed to vote. This marked the evolution of women participation in Nigerian politics. Despite the social stigma, faced by politically active women, political figures like Fumilayo Ransome Kuti, Hajia Gambo Sawaba, Chief Mrs Magret Ekpo, Ladi Kwali with her women empowerment initiative, and later in the Second Republic, Senator Franca Afegbua.
They emerged to ask for the right of women to have a say in the decision that determines their destinies.
At the twilight of the 19th century, the global socio-political and economic order began to take a reverse order in favour of women, with the emergence of political phenomenon like the former ‘Iron Lady’ of British politics, Prime Minister Margret Thatcher in 1979.
Thatcher’s emergence was the blast that casted-off the veil that has limited women for so long as Corazon Aquino emerged the 11th and, in 2001, Gloria Macapacal Aroyo became the 14 President of Philipine.
In Nigeria, a seasoned Diplomat, Prof Joy Ogwu, became the foreign affairs minister. With the return to democracy in 1999, a new era beckoned for women, following the appointment of a charismatic amazon, late Dora Akunyili in 2001 to confront the deadly monster of fake and adulterated drugs and foods. Not only did she surpass the expectations of Nigerians and beyond, she was ready to pay the ultimate price. Her charisma, gut and resilience redefined the womanhood and shattered the historical prejudices against the women folk.
Under the same Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, another woman became finance minister in 2003. Dr. Ngozi Oknojo Iweala’s deft economic acumen and brilliance was all Nigeria needed to get-off the debt trap that had burdened the Nigeria of that era. She introduced far-reaching reforms in the nation’s defaulting public system.
At the continental level, the emergence of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberian President in 2006 provided another beckon of hope for the African women. Meanwhile, through the United Nations in collaboration with notable international NGO’s, something good began to happen to the political fortune of women in Rwanda. For instance, 60% of legislative seats in Rwanda is constitutional reserve for women.
In July 2012 also, a woman, Dr. Nkozana Dlamini Zuma, became the African Union Commission President (AUC). The competent manner with which she has managed the affairs of the continental body, culminated in the inauguration of the new African common passport.
Across the Pacific, a woman Park Geun –hye was elected president of the Republic of South Korea on the February 25, 2013. She has since extended the frontier of economic expansion to other continents of the world. When other countries are facing economic crunch, the South Korean economy under Guen-hye has no-cause-for-alarm.
The rising influence of women in administration of public affairs continued to swell phenomenally in Europe. In 2008, for instance, the engine of European economy, Germany, elected a woman, Angela Dorothea Merkel, the Chancellor. Her doggedness and can-do-spirit of the woman is evident in the matured way she has handled the migrant crisis so far.
The upsurge in women’s political profile around the globe is like what the great French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau said a longtime ago, that “nothing is as forceful as an idea whose time has come.” In what appears like an unseen force pulling-down the social barriers and prejudices against women, on July 13, 2016, a British Parliamentarian, Theresa May, without bruises, emerged the Prime Minister of one of the oldest civilization, the United Kingdom (UK).
In the God’s own country, the United States, with undoubtedly the most sophisticated and intricate web of presidential democracy, women were relegated to the role of second fiddle until it began to witness astronomical increase in the women political capital. Under the presidency of Bill Clinton, notable women like Magdalene Albright and under President George Walker Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and, when Barack Obama was sworn-in the January of 2009, he appointed his then, political archrival, Hilary Clinton. They all served as U.S. secretary of state.
For the emerging political order, a woman becoming the president of the U.S. is an icing on the bake or better still, what Francis Fukuyama refer to, as the ‘end of history’ in his 1989, celebrated thesis at the fall of Berlin Wall. ‘End of history’ because, Hilary Rodham Clinton’s emergence as a candidate of Democratic Party, one of the two biggest party in U.S. and a frontrunner in the 2016, race for Whitehouse, is in itself, the end of history because no other history in the political evolution of women folk would be more than having a woman preside over 240 years democracy.
Hillary Clinton missed the ticket in 2008, because of Obama’s cutting-edge charisma, candor and iron-will. In January when the party’s primaries began with IOWA Caucus, all odds were against her. In the true sense of the word, because of diplomatic and political baggage like the invasion of the U.S. Consulate in Libya in 2012, which resulted in the death of the U.S. Ambassador, John Steve and scores of Consulate staff.
Worse still, was her unlawful use of a private email server, as the American Secretary of State. Against all that odds. She is today leading her rabble-rousing New York estate mogul, Donald Trump.
Political book makers are already going for the broke by placing their bet in favour of a Clinton Presidency. All the opinion polls from the three swing states without which no one can ever win U.S. presidential election are all leaning towards Clinton’s direction.
In fact, at the time of putting his piece together, the Amazon of United States politics, Hilary Clinton, has opened a 12 point lead in most national opinion polls. By the time the November 8, election will be winding-up, the world would be expecting the first woman chief executive of God’s own state to be sworn-in on the 20 January, 2017.
Just when the world thought that was all for the women political revolution, the 193 member world body, the United Nations, for the first time since 1945 is clamoring for a woman to be the next Secretary General of the 71 year-old organization. So far, there is a sustained pressure from a quarter of member countries for a female to succeed the former South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki Moon at the end of his tenure on December 31, 2016.
The pro-female advocate consists of 56 countries led by Columbia and several civil society groups. Coincidentally, of the eight candidates jostling for top job, women are five. The incumbent UN Chief, Ban Ki Moon has also expressed his desire to have over the multi-national institution to female successor. The current helms man has also, not hidden his preference for a female successor.
Imagine a world where, the unofficial policeman of the world is led by a woman. The two most powerful European economies (UK and Germany), the United Nations, African Union Commission, the South East Asia emerging economy, South Korea are in the firm grip of women? The implication of these political setting is that, the social and economic barrier that has long condemn women to inferior position would have been permanently broken.
Again, since July 2012, the South African, former anti-apartheid campaigner and wife of President Jacob Zuma, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, as the chairperson of African Union Commission, has effectively piloted the continental body. Her effort culminated in the launching of African common Passport.
However, the emergence of another woman as the president of an African nation after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Joy Banda of Malawi still remains a tall order, specially in Nigeria and few other African countries where the role of women in party politics is still limited to just women leader and supporters or praise-singers.
Public affairs analysts are of the opinion that with the absence of women in political party hierarchy, the chances of women in Nigerian politics still remains slim, unlike in Rwanda, where women constitute more than 60 per cent of the parliament. They attribute the slim chances of women in Nigerian politics to social, political and cultural issues, citing the fate of women like Hon. Patricia Olubumi Etteh as example.
A women affairs activist who pleaded anonymity opined that, there seems to be a relapse after the last administration nearly attained the much clamoured 35 percent affirmation for women. She said the social barriers that has been the bane of women aspiration, especially in political aspiration must be redressed through constitutional and societal re-orientation.
Citing the examples of Prof Rukkayyat El-Rufai, late Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Mulikat Akunde Adeila, etc, the activist said that women were better administrators and manager of resources.
“Women are ripe for governorship, though we have produced one before, in the person of Dame Virgie Etiaba, who succeeded Peter Obi, when he was impeached as governor of Anambra state in 20. We need a popularly elected governor. We have gone as far as speaker of the House of Representatives and Chief Justice of Nigeria. But by our population as women we need more. The south west is better because we have had many deputy governors from that zone”, she added.