PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS IN NIGERIA DEC EXPERIENCE
The participation of women in governance and politics is of strategic importance not only for women empowerment, but because it has wider benefits and impact (British Council Gender in Nigeria report 2012). Disadvantaged people and or groups can obtain fair representation only if they are present in elected assemblies. Based on the above therefore, women and men should be represented at decision making-bodies levels locally, regionally and nationally particularly where crucial resources are distributed and are allocated.
Nigeria has made several efforts to ensure the participation of women who are the excluded to participate in governance issues through the adoption and creation of some institutions that will facilitate the full participation of women in governance. However, the question here is, are these institutions and agencies fully implementing the charters and treaties to its convincing conclusion?
In 1985, Nigeria ratified the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women of 1979 (CEDAW). But it is worthy to note that the operation of the 30 articles of the convention in Nigeria is not achieved. Nigeria also adopted the 1985 Beijing Platform of Action and signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The African Charter on People’s Rights, The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo protocol).
Even with the affirmative action of 35% representation of women in political and non elective positions in Nigeria, the number of women in the legislative houses is not encouraging as a result of the patriarchal dominance of the men in Nigeria.
In the elective positions in Nigeria since 1999, it is evident that women have not reached 10% representation. From 1999 till date, no woman has been vice president of Nigeria and not to talk about president. In 2011, only one woman contested for the post of the president in Nigeria under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party and she did not survive the primary election. How could she survive the primaries when she got only one vote despite the large number of women that attended the primary election but refused to vote for her even on sympathy bases.
In 2015, 5 women out of the 14 persons contested the vice presidential position while 14 men contested the post of president.
Out of the 109 senate member in Nigeria senate chambers, women were 7 in 1999, 4 in 2003, 9 in 2007, 7 in 2011 and 7 in 2015. In the house of representative, out of the 360 members of the house in 1999, 7 are women, while in 2003 21 are women, 27 in 2007 and 25 in 2011 and 14 in 2015. No woman governor since 1999 till date apart from when the governor of Anambra state Peter Obi was removed from office for one month and as soon as he won his case through the courts, the women governor stepped down to her deputy position,
Out of the 990 seats in the State houses of assembly in Nigeria, in 1999 we have 24 women, 40 in 2003, 57 in 2007 and 68 in 2011 the local government councils that are closer to the people, in 1999, out of the 774 councils 13 are women, 18 in 2003, and 27 in 2011. The councillorship position is where some women are compensated for their efforts in making sure that the men get their positions. Though we say that women are compensated here, the numbers of women that are councilors are still less than 30% of the total number of councilors in Nigeria. Out of the 6368 councillorship seats, 69 are women in 1999, 276 in 2003, and 235 in 2011.
The problems many a time are the stringent measures that our political parties put in place for a person to qualify to run for the elective positions. Looking at the number of men and women that participated in the 2011 general election in Nigeria, we will come to terms what the women face in the hands of male politicians in Nigeria.
In 2011, out of the 20 persons that contested for the position of president in Nigeria, only 1 is woman and men are 19. Out of the 20 persons for the position of the vice president, 3 are women. Out of the 353 candidates for the post of governors in the 36 states in Nigeria, 13 are women. 347 deputy governorship positions, 58 are women and 1 got the position of deputy governor. The 2408 candidates contesting for he seat of house representatives, women are 220 and men are 2189 and only 19 of the women won seats for the house of representative, and out of the 890 that contested for the senate in Nigeria, 90 are women while 800 are men and only 7 women won the senate in Nigeria 2011 general election. These statistics show the level of gender disparity in the Nigerian political system. This same number of female got the senatorial seat in the current 8th assembly in Nigeria
When we have this kind of system in our governance process, how can women make concrete decisions when they are excluded in the process of making the decisions. Why have we not implemented to its fullest the charters and conventions that Nigeria are signatories. This problem is better imagined than witnessed in the rural areas where culture and tradition has its own effect in the participation of women in governance. Individual participation and involvement in governance to make a difference is more or less seen as an aberration of the norm and a misnomer.
Achieving gender parity in Nigeria especially in the rural communities need serious and committed people to enforce policies that are made by the government that listens to the plight of her citizens of which women are part and important member of the society.
Development Education Centre (DEC) Enugu having seen these problems of women in over the past 30 years of her work in the rural communities in the South East communities in Nigeria employed the strategy of 100 women group initiative that gives women the voice which they cannot as individual have. The 100 women group initiative offers the women the opportunity to make impact in the governance of the community, through civic engagement their critical mass action and advocacy to change the policies and decisions that affect them as human beings in their communities DEC has used the 100 women group initiative to ensure that women are part of the decision making bodies such as members of Igwe-Cabinet in Ezere community of Awgu LGA Mkpamte in Igboeze North LGA both in Enugu state and Amata Afikpo North LGA of Ebonyi state, Town Union, Development Committees, members of the local government legislative council, Neighborhood committee members e.t.c. despite these efforts, it Is important to state that interest and unreserved quest for continued domination by the men in power and authority has increased the fight from the men folk to use various strategies and intimidation to fight the coming together of women as one strong united body. A typical example was the case of Ogboji community of Ishielu LGA in Ebonyi state where the men through their president general ensued that women of the community never united as one even when most of the other stakeholders in the community were of the opinion of having their women come together as one to help in the development of the community.
Other issues used by the men are the traditional institutions and cultural practices that are used to deprive the women the opportunity of making changes in the community governing institutions where policies and decisions are made.
It is therefore necessary that we revisit the level of inequalities and disparity that exist in Nigeria, if we will make good developmental impact in the live of all citizens. The more time we give women, and contributory opportunities to the development of the house hold income and ownership of land and other capital income generating ventures, the better their chances of seeking and having justice in their work and community issues.
Our old policies of early marriage and lack of educational opportunities to the girl child should be redressed as to cope with the changing trend in the world today. Women on their own should work hard to encourage the mass action to change injustices and inhuman treatment against women and the society in general.
Chief Project Implementation Officer
DEC Enugu and Human Right Education