It’s a fact that instead of picking up momentum, the movement for women’s political participation has faltered and the number of women in governance has decreased over time. JOY YESUFU writes that bent on reversing the downward trend, a group, African Women in collaboration with Young Female Advisers are working towards achieving 50 per cent representation across board by 2030.
It has been recognised globally, that inclusivity in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern day democracy. This is on the basis that improved representation of women in all.spheres of life proves to have benefits such as ; improved policy changes, economic growth, enhanced peace building and a more egalitarian society.
As it’s widely acknowledged , the return of democracy on May 29, 1999, gave hope for a new dawn in the struggle for more participation of women in Nigeria politics. Gender equality pushers have repeatedly said that democracy, is about fair representation of all groups in the society, and that the low representation of women as is the case now, is a violation of the principle of democracy.
Sadly , despite efforts put in place, Nigeria is yet to meet the 35 per cent affirmation , as contained in Beijing platform for action and National Gender Policy respectively. There have been five administrations between 1999 and 2015.
Needless to say that there has never been an elected female president or governor since the return of democracy for over 20 years running, and very few females have been ‘selected’ as deputy governors within this period.
Regrettably, this is in spite of efforts made to address the low representation of women in elective and appointive positions in Nigeria; among such efforts are the establishment of Women Political empowerment office , the Nigeria Women Trust Funds as well as Women Lobby Group.
READ ALSO: Advancing Women’s Financial Inclusion In Nigeria
Recall that there was also the institution of an INEC gender policy, the national multi stakeholder dialogue; the initiation of several interventions to actualise affirmative action and the convening of the Nigeria Women Strategy Conference. National Center for Women Development in collaboration with National Bureau of Statistics are making efforts to have evidenced based data about this issue. Presently the available data are not harmonised.
Today, the 50:50 campaign by African women is aimed at inspiring the federal government and other stakeholders to lead the way and implement equal gender balance on governance by 2030.
These women are buttressing that policies and creative decisions so far made by the few women in politics, holds up to a basic requirement of a 50:50 gender balance across their yearly content.
The 50/50 Africa women group is a non-partisan organisation, advocating and campaigning for an increased political participation and equal representation of women in decision-making processes and initiatives at all levels in the country.
Records has it that in 1999, there were only three women out of 109 , representing just 2.8 per cent of the Senate, while the House of Representatives, had just twelve out of 360 members, representing paltry 3.3 percent of the number.
Though still not impressive, there was just an addition of one woman in 2003 to the senate (3.7 percent) , with a reasonable increment in the House of Representatives from twelve to twenty one women (5.8 percent).
The year 2007 however, saw the number in the Senate doubled to eight (representing 5.8 percent), the House of Representatives had just two more women added, thereby, increasing the number of women to 23 (6.4 percent) out of 360 members.
Unfortunately, in 2011, there was a downturn for women in the senate as one woman lost out , dropping the figure from eight toseven, , (6.4 percent) while the House of Representatives witnessed another increment from 23 to 26 women (7.2 percent).
In 2015, the women again increased to eight in the senate but recorded a serious drop to nineteen (19 ) in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the year 2019, saw more decline in women representation in both the House of Representative and the Senate.
Disturbed by this downturn, the African Young Female Advisers Initiative, a group of young female advisers across Africa , came together in Abuja.
President of the initiative, Hon Abiodun Essiet, who is also the special adviser to the executive chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council ( AMAC), disclosed that their vision cuts across all African continent .
Essiet stated this at the opening ceremony of a three-day capacity building workshop on leadership and management, media and communication, and gender budgeting for young female special advisers in Abuja
She said the movement , is among other goals working to bridge the gap in the inclusion of young women in decision making platforms, amplify the voices and profile of young females serving in the position of media aides, special advisers and special assistants from the local , state and federal level.
Essiet said: “Our vision is centered on equal representation and participation of women and men in public life in Nigeria’s political life and in governance processes at all levels.
In her words: “We specifically envisage among other positions, the following : 50 percent representation of women in Parliament, local government and decision-making positions at all levels”
She said “this meeting is organied by Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN) in partnership with African Young Female Advisers. We are going to touch areas like capacity building on leadership and gender budgeting on media because a lot of young us are doing so well but both the media and the public are not aware of our strides .They will learn how to use the media to promote what they are doing.
” They will also learn different leadership skills and leadership management because some of them are occupying a leadership position. This is the whole essence of why we are in this capacity building.
She said: “Importantly, we have included gender budgeting in this capacity training because some of our special advisers are operating in different departments within their ministries and government and they have the capacity to influence whatever is being incorporated in their budget.
“We feel that they need to know the budget processes, procedure as well as what defending the budget is all about and how they can use the budget to impact on men and women, on women especially”.
Secretary of the initiative, Adaora Onyechere , said they do not want to wait till election year before making effort at increasing women representation in governance.
Onyechere who regretted that women suffer set back in politics, governance and policy making because there is no visible platform that brings visibility to their initiative , assured of a positive shift.
She said:, “As promoters of gender equality, we want women to be represented in governance in a way that reflects the full extent and diversity of their presence in the real world.
“We want to work with industry partners and celebrate the successes of innovative organisations that are committing to equal representation and work to accelerate change.
“We are also looking at teaching our women how to profile themselves, how to engage with the media, specifically, how to communicate.
“Oftentimes, we understand that it is a patriarchal system and that women are not really led to be able to come out in the media . It’s is also believed to be expensive ,so we are looking at media partners to be able to look at their social corporate responsibility as very key on the issue of visibility for women”
“ I pray that just before the election and even after that, more voices of women will come to bare” Onyechere added.
In her welcome address, Executive Director, (PWAN), Kemi Okenyodo who was represented by the programme manager of the organisation, Valkamiya Ahmadu-Haruna, said the world is looking more towards women’s leadership , particularly, as we are gearing towards the 20th anniversary of UN Res 1325 on women, peace and security.
She stressed that while political landscape and leadership remains a coarse for women in Nigeria, various development partners, civil society organisations and women movement are intensifying their efforts in advancing the cause for gender inclusion in all aspects of political economy.