The Arise Monalisa Foundation, a platform promoting gender equality and equity, has lamented the declining number of women in the political life of Nigeria, stressing that urgent steps must be taken to give women the needed support to get more involved in shaping the political destiny and development of the country.
This was the focus of the Foundation’s First Annual International Women’s Conference with the theme “Equity Vs Equality: Redefining Gender Roles”, which was held in Abuja.
Popular Nollywood Actress and Convener of the conference, Monalisa Chinda, said the conference is to celebrate the achievements of women and raise their status in the society irrespective of the challenges they are facing.
She said in an interview that“it is about expression, it is about showing what God has given to us as potential to thrive in a chosen field, and to celebrate women who are doing well in male -dominated professions like the female mechanics, female pilots they are not often celebrated. So, the gathering here is so that people can come and network to serve the nation better and this is what I mean by redefining gender roles in the country.”
On the dwindling number of women in politics, Chinda blamed it on the nature and character of politics in Nigeria and Africa, which alienates women. She however, urged women to be more strategic thinking, create more awareness and stop unproductive competition, adding that they can do better through education and research.
“In Africa there is an inherent sickness. The political space is full of constraints that are structured against women, the men must be encouraged to support women to thrive in the political space. Women must be given the chance to participate in reshaping the destiny of the nation and plotting its development in the next political dispensation,” she said.
Also speaking at the conference, a filmmaker and writer, Zik Zulu Okafor, lamented the declining participation of women in politics especially in the legislature where the laws are made to guide governance, describing it as ”a tragedy”. He pointed out that since 1999 only 157 women have been lawmakers at the National Assembly far below the men who number about 2500 since 1999.
He attributed this backwardness to the nature of politics in Nigeria that is replete with violence and voter intimidation and suppression, adding that Nigerian democracy has become a product of poor thinking driven by very less hourable people.
“I believe in parity, I believe in the power of women, I believe that the strong presence of women in our national leadership will mark a major turning point in the progress of our country. Today, we are talking about equity just as the UN SDGs has made gender equity agenda no 5 and that is my passion for women. We cannot have any meaningful development when the voice of women is held back, that is why I speak about parity to lead our country to its manifest destiny.
“I think we are not thinking the right way, that is why we are having poor representation of women. Our democracy is not being practiced in such a way that women can come in because our democracy employs brute force, violence , vote suppression and women don’t have time for that because they are very honorable people.
“Unfortunately in Nigeria we are doing things that have left the women behind and it is a tragedy because Nigeria has women that can change the country, so we need to rework, to rethink, to reconstruct the practice of democracy in Nigeria.
“Women are transformative change agents and they need support to manifest their potential in the area of politics and governance,” he said.
A communications expert Alex Okoroji while speaking to reporters said there are many gaps that women must fill.
“There are many gaps and the way these gaps will be filled is by bringing more women into the discussion. First of all we need to acknowledge the contribution of women in driving society forward. I believe that there are not enough laws to support women and that is an area we need to look at because most of the laws are created by men and most times they don’t understand the issues that women face.
“Women need to support each other because when women stand up to run for elections they are pitched against a system that does not favour them. They face violence and attacks online, pointing to their families and their children and creating scenarios of threat. You realize that fewer women are involved in politics because we have socialized our society to favour men, ”she said.