Women are strongholds. Weak they seem yet powerful, cowardly yet brave, little yet great. The power of a woman cannot be played down. She deserves to be celebrated and given an opportunity to showcase her strength, her skills, her prowess.
But she never gets the chance to prove herself. “There isn’t more to her” they say. “This is all she can be” they think. But she says she can be more. She has lots of potentials to unleash.
Why not give her a chance? Why not let her prove herself? No nation rises above its homes, and no home rises above its motherhood. This implies that no nation rises above its motherhood.
Politics involves being able to influence decisions that affect a country or a society. And since a country constitutes men and women alike, equitable participation of women in politics and government is essential for building and sustaining democracy.
Democracy cannot truly deliver for all its citizens if women remain under-represented in political activities. Women can also do great in parliaments, not in kitchens alone.
It is so disheartening but true that almost never, do women in Nigeria win their election contests especially when running presidencies. They even encounter difficulty in getting elected at their party primary levels because there are always a lot of contentions with their male counterparts even in the same party.
History tells us of a female presidential candidate in a particular political party who emerged with just one vote which was hers. Can’t we at worst have a female Vice President? Apart from Nigeria, countries that have been led by women all over the world are relatively small and in most cases, these women haven’t held power for long.
Nigeria now seems to be a man’s world. The average Nigerian woman never even thinks of venturing into politics. All she has been taught right from the word “go” is how to take care of her husband and children, keep her home and mind her business.
And yes, she has been minding her business! Although she knows she could be more, she could mother a nation (in the real sense), she never gives it a second thought and gradually that potential dies in her. The potential to lead, to rule!
Many factors are responsible for women’s under-participation in politics. One of such is low level of education. Statistics reveals that more than ninety-three million children in Nigeria who are not in school are girls. This explains why women are least qualified for political offices since they have low educational attainments.
Gender inequality within families, inequitable division of labor between boys and girls in house-holds also further subjugate women and serve to limit their representation in public life.
Societies that are highly patriarchal often have low power structures that make it difficult for women to combat. Thus, the interests of women are often not represented or under-represented.
Political violence has always characterized Nigerian elections in one way or the other. Politics has appeared to be a dirty and bloody game which often times costs the lives of people.
Females generally cannot withstand political violence and this has reduced drastically their participation in politics.
Women also tend to lag behind men in terms of finance. The cost of running electoral campaigns is high especially in Nigeria. As a result, women’s campaigning are frequently on a smaller scale, with less coverage than that of men.
This explains the lower success rate of women at the Federal compared to the Local and State levels because higher political level require broader advocacy efforts beyond the immediate locality and thus greater financial resources for campaigning.
Religious and cultural barriers also contribute in a major way to restricting women’s participation in politics. Both Christianity and Islam do not accord women any pivotal role in public life, and same is obtainable in most cultural values.
Women are taught and expected to be images of virtue and submissive and therefore not encouraged to participate in politics. As a result, women involved in politics are seen not to be religious in practice.
There has to be a way out of these problems. Something has to be done. It gladdens my heart that with the advancement of technology these days, people are beginning to see that there is more to the female gender than ever before, although not yet as should be.
In Nigerian secondary schools and higher institutions, there is no gainsaying that females take lead positions academically than their male counterparts. This has been statistically proven. This implies that our women are to be valued and held in high esteem.
They are brains needed in nation building. They should also partake to a reasonable extent in the nation’s political affairs. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Korean, said and I quote, “In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated, but valued.”
Apart from valuing women, there should be gender equality in democratic governance. Democracy is government of, by and for the people –not men alone. For instance, it was recorded that in the 2011 general elections, only nine seats were occupied by women in the senate while 100 were occupied by men.
That is just about 9% of women being represented in the senate. How can nine women senators represent 54 million women in Nigeria? Women should not always remain at the bottom of the list.
If we cannot have a true gender balance of 50% male and 50% female (which should be), women should at least be able to attain a reasonable percentage.
There should also be political re-awakening and enlightenment for women. Females tend to see politics as a “males domain.”
They have been brainwashed right from childhood that only males are capable of venturing into politics. This theory has to be unlearned and discarded. Socialization agents such as families, schools, mass media and the likes should awaken and educate the public especially females in order to foster their desire to enter into politics.
Females should be better educated in order to give them opportunities to lead and hold political positions. Someone who is illiterate cannot offer much in the society and hence would not be able to hold political posts.
Nigeria, of all countries, has the largest number of girls not in school. In northern Nigeria, less than one in 10 girls generally completes secondary education. Most of them are married off as child brides. Every girl deserves a formal education and for those whom returning to school is no longer an option, alternative learning pathways should be supplied.
Policies previously laid down to increase women’s participation in politics should be effected. The United Nations created some avenues by which female participation in politics and government may be strengthened.
Some of those avenues are; equalization of educational opportunities, financing gender-responsive budgets to equally take into account the needs of men and women, and furthering the presence and agency of grassroots women empowerment movements.
If the above stated are critically worked upon, we can look forward and hope for a better future for women in Nigerian politics. The following would begin to happen:
National and local policies that address the socio-economic and political challenges facing women, children and disadvantaged groups would be promoted as women would not only advance their rights, but also that of their children and everyone around them.
Women are peacemakers and are committed to peace building therefore reconstruction and reconciliation efforts tend to take root more quickly and are more sustainable when women are involved.
By helping women participate better in politics, conflicts can be mitigated or even prevented from occurring.
Women are strongly linked to positive developments in education, infrastructure and health standards at the local level. Where women empowerments are higher, human rates of development and standards of living are also higher.
Women are particularly effective in promoting honest government. If women are supported as political leaders, there will be a corresponding low level of corruption in Nigerian politics.
Finally, if all these suggestions are taken into consideration and acted upon by concerned individuals as well as organizations, politics in Nigeria will take a new and of course, better shape. Madeline K.
Albright, the National Democratic Institute Chairman said, “Every country deserves to have the best possible leader, and that means women have to be given a chance to compete.
If they are never allowed to compete in electoral processes, then the countries are really robbing themselves of a great deal of talent.”