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Stakeholders lament declining women participation in governance

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Remi Sonaiya

Barely eight months to the 2019 general election, stakeholders have expressed dismay at the declining rate of women participation in public service.

Speakers at the annual law week of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), at Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos; concluded that there is need to create women caucuses, stressing that that could encourage International Organisations to amplify and recognise the voices of female legislators.

Leading discussion at the occasion, founder, Attitude and Character Change Initiative (ACCHI), Mrs. Saada Mohammed, regretted that the current situation was a far cry from the past before the colonial era.

She said amazons like Queen Amina of Zaria, Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan, Moremi of Ife, Inikpi of Igalaland, Emotan and Idia of Benin Kingdom, as women who wielded huge political influence during the pre-colonial era.

Mrs. Mohammed blamed the declining female participation on certain beliefs, which said are inimical to the realization of increased female participation and productivity in the political sphere of the country.

She listed stereotyping, poor economic power, cultural and religious practices as some of the factors inhibiting women from participation in public service.

While stressing that stereotypes created for women tend to confine them in a small corner and limiting their participation, she said: “For political activities to augur well, political actors must have the requisite economic power. This makes some women unable to participate in Nigerian politics. They do not have the opportunity to hold key decision-making positions. This reason shuts them out of participating in politics.”

On the influence of religion, the ACCHI founder noted that although Nigeria is regarded as a secular state, the people are too religious such that even in religious circles women are relegated to the background.

She pleaded for Nigerian women to be encouraged and supported to win elections at the local levels, insisting that that would have a multiplier effect on other levels as well as reassure both potential female candidates and party leaders that women can win competitive elections.

She cited Rwanda as an example, saying that the approach proved very successful making the country the world’s highest proportion of female parliamentarians at 64 per cent.

“Many career politicians gain their first experience in governance and campaigning by running for local office,” she said, adding, “majority of gender quotas only apply to national-level government bodies, leaving female parliamentarians without an extensive record of government service or set of legislative skills.”

To arrest the decline, Mrs. Mohammed called for increased awareness of the role of women in leadership, stressing that when they attain decision-making positions, women would aid the development of the country.

She said: “Developing a curriculum for civic education that emphasises women’s leadership and dispels cultural norms against it will ensure that future generations are more receptive to female political participation.

“There is need to have quota representation been implemented. The 2006 National Gender Policy makes for 35 per cent affirmative action. This is yet to be achieved in its full length. But for the short period Virgy Etiaba of Anambra State had as a governor after the impeachment of her boss, Peter Obi, there has been no female governor.

“The woman so closest to winning a gubernatorial election in Nigeria was Senator Aisha Alhassan Jummai of Taraba State who lost to the incumbent, Darius Ishaku. It is noteworthy that it is not enough to create laws but their implementation is also very important.”

Earlier in her opening remarks, chairperson of the association, Mrs. Ngozi Ogbolu, advised women to eschew being over-dependent on men as a way of curbing the rising spate of domestic violence in the society.

For there to be national development, the chairperson said both genders must be alive and work together for progress, even as she decried the rising incidences of domestic violence with women killing their husbands.


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