In March 2022, Nigerian women suffered backlash in their pursuit of gender equity. Five gender bills presented to the National Assembly were thrown out.
The bills sought to advance women’s rights on a number of fronts. These included: providing special seats for women at the National Assembly; allocating 35% of political position appointments to women; creating 111 additional seats in the National Assembly and the state constituent assemblies; and a commitment to women having at least 10% of ministerial appointments.
The rejection of the bills showed that the assembly wasn’t interested in gender parity in politics. It has 469 members. Only 21 are women.
This is a tragedy for Nigerian women, whose representation in politics falls short of the goal set by the National Gender Policy in 2006. This policy demands that 35% of women be involved in all governance processes.
Women make up about 49% of Nigeria’s population. Their representation in government is a far cry from what’s been achieved in other countries on the continent. For example, in Rwanda women make up 61.3% of members of parliament. In South Africa, they make up 46.5% of the country’s parliament.
Women played important roles in the struggle for independence. They wrote petitions, staged protests, mobilised and challenged all forms of oppression and suppression which permeated their economic, socio-cultural and political spaces. Also, during the years of military rule a significant number of Nigerian women stood their ground across governance strata, and spoke truth to power.
Since protracted military rule was ended in 1999, previously marginalised populations and segments of the country have gained the confidence to participate in governance. But the going has been slow for women.
Gender inequality refers to unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals wholly or partly due to their gender or sex. It arises from differences in socially constructed gender roles. Gender inequality in Nigeria is influenced by different cultures and beliefs.
Gender inequality especially in the political arena is a serious challenge being faced by women in recent times. Gender inequality has been an issue for several centuries, the world over.
Women’s participation in politics is a contentious issue in the Nigerian political life. Over the years marginalization has characterized women participation in politics due to various inhibiting social, cultural and religious forces. These forces affected women’s perception of politics leading to a very low level of political interest, knowledge and activities of women in politics. Nigeria politics became male – dominated almost making the women virtually politically invisible
Women are believed to have an exciting political prospect in Nigeria. The issue of inequality has therefore been perceived by different people especially the women folk as an attempt to erode their fundamental rights.
In short, Women Participation in Nigerian politics is a topic of importance. Politically, women have been relegated to the background, despite the tremendous effort put forward by government and non-governmental organizations following the declaration made at the fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, which advocated 30% affirmative action and National Gender Policy (NGP) recommendation of 35% affirmative action for a more inclusive representation of women both in elective and appointive positions.
It is important to note that Nigerian women are still being marginalized due to the style of leadership inherent in the country. Despite the challenges women are facing, it was discovered that women activism and advocacy, education of women, positivity on the part of successive governments towards women empowerment and interest of women to participate in politics is getting a lot of positive energy.
Women participation in Nigerian politics is crucial to the development of Nigeria and since women constitute a sizeable proportion of the population, neglecting them may mean losing their valuable contribution. Traditional socio-economic and political and cultural structures aid discrimination against women leading to loss of contributions of women to societal development. Raising the status of women through gender empowerment has is considered in certain quarters as vital in the quest towards improvement in living standards and wellbeing of the masses in economies transiting to stability.
It is therefore recommended that Women participation in Nigerian politics is very crucial to the development of Nigeria and since women constitute a sizable proportion of the population, neglecting them may mean losing their valuable contribution. Despite this, the divide of gender roles vis-a-vis between both sexes as prescribed by culture will only exacerbate inequality. Gender discrimination or disparities were found to exist in all variable indicators considered.
In fact, in traditional Africa, a married woman is considered as the legal property of her husband. Ideally, a real democratic system should allow voluntary individual participation in politics, without any sentiments about gender, to optimally benefit from the potentials of women in Nigerian social and political life.