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Women and political empowerment


Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan

Woman political empowerment in Nigeria is a topical issue and it has generated mixed reaction from both the educated and the general public. There are those who argue that women should be confined to their traditional role of keeping the domestic front “stable”. These according to them include procreation, taking care of the children and preparing food for the family. However, there are those who argue that there should be a level playing ground for both men and women in politics. They believe that women should be encouraged to participate in politics so as to control the decision-making organ of government and bring about the much-needed change that will transform the society.

Nigerian women constitute over fifty percent of our country’s population. It is also widely acknowledged that they form majority of the electorate at any given election. Unfortunately, a few women today occupy top positions in government.

The decline in women participation in politics has been attributed to contemporary socio-economic and cultural factors such as religion, traditional beliefs and cultures in some ethnic groups, which have made their participation an impossible task. Other factors include apathy, poverty, and lack of internal democracy in political parties, money politics, god-fatherism syndrome and unfavourable terrain of politics, which is characterised by thuggery, zoning and other forms of administrative fiat; the political space is also dominated by men. Women are generally under-represented in the structure and institutional arrangement that exist within parties. Within political parties, women are denied leadership positions that are sensitive to decision making on behalf of the party. Even where there are rules, parties do not obey the respective provision on gender parity reflected in their manifestoes. Women’s absence in the executive position of parties has thus continued to constitute a serious challenge to their nomination as party representatives for election.

Women interests and dreams in society can only be fully realised if they have significant representatives in the Executive and Legislative Arms of Government.

Women effective participation in politics has become imperative and the narrative has to change, considering the fact that the 1999 Constitution of Federal republic of Nigeria provides for equal participation for both men and women folk in the electoral process. In other words, Nigeria women are entitled to vote and also be voted in elections. Nations all over the world are beginning to give women their rightful place in the scheme of things. This is noticeable in both politics and economy. Nigeria cannot be an exception in a changing world. No community, nation and society can be said to be truly great if it neglects the need towards the political uplifting and development of the women. The current growing violation of the rights of women through marginalization and denial of access to political power, as well as isolating them in decision-making have become a bleeding wound in the eyes of our society.

Active participation of women in politics is a goal that should be sought by all in view of the accruing benefits not only to the women folk but also to society as a whole. In the first place, only woman can best represent woman’s interests. The presence of woman in power will ensure that the various arms of government mainstream gender into their policies and programmes, thereby bettering the overall lot of women.

Political participation will invariably improve women and girls’ education, assertiveness and business opportunities. Making government accountable and responsive to the yearnings of women as part of political participation will also improve health services and lead to the enactment of laws forbidding discrimination against women on different fronts. Improved women political participation will keep political apathy at bay in future generations because as nurturers of children, they will inculcate civic responsibilities in them and the value of political activism. More importantly, improved women participation in politics has encouraging implications for good governance as it is widely believed that “women are less corrupt and more dedicated” than men.

To achieve women Political empowerment therefore, government should ensure that provisions of the constitution that guarantee equality of all citizens are strictly observed, while those that tend to promote discrimination on the basis of gender are expunged. Government should also intensify effort to domesticate all international treaties relating to empowerment of women to which Nigeria is a signatory. It is equally important that an effective machinery be set up to undertake and organise campaigns of enlightenment and awareness to demonstrate that women are not inferior to men by virtue of their gender and that empowered women have important roles to play in society.


Even though some physical and administrative structures are in place that can sustain women mobilization and conscientization, the attitude of men to women must change. Women are not in any way scientifically inferior. Men should consider and see them as equal partners in progress of the human family, and their roles as complementary. On their own part, women need to get better organised, to address their peculiar challenges, as well as the general problems of the masses.

Women must organise themselves in order to advance their social and political power. Good Government policies and programmes as well articulated as they may be will not enhance women’s position unless backed up by sustainable action. Nigeria is not short of women organisations, which can make great impact and have great potentials as effective platforms for advancing the course of women. Such organisations are Nigeria Girls Guide, Federation of Women Lawyers and National Council of Women Societies, among others. These organisations can be utilized as viable platforms toward ensuring women mobilisation, dissemination of information, conscientization, and advancement of women cause, imbibing political tenets and charting women course for effective political participation, integration and development.

The National Orientation Agency’s orientation programme on mainstreaming gender in politics, which is aimed at effective participation of women in politics, is a positive step in the right direction. It is expected that before long, women will begin to seek for elective positions in political parties, legislature and Executive arms of government.

Nigeria cannot afford to continue to treat half of its population and a significant part of the productive force as inferior beings. We must give our womenfolk the full chance to participate in all sectors of society in view of the fact that shared responsibility and shared commitment will lead to shared prosperity. Some efforts have been made so far but the Government needs to strategize, redefine its policies, and step up a sustained campaign of political and economic empowerment of women because women political empowerment would lead the emergence of a much better and viable society.


In this article:
Aisha Alhassan
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