Inspite of high level advocacy from different quarters on the need for an inclusive government with women and men having equally opportunity to leadership, there continues to be a retrogression in the number of women representation at the federal, state and local government levels. ENE OSANG writes
For years, emphasis has been laid on the need for an inclusive government where both women and men will have the opportunity to leadership positions.
Though women has been defined often times as; the weaker vessel, feeble minded beings, child bearers, emotional beings, man’s helper, home managers, amongst others, it is argued that no matter the number of categories the woman is placed, women are powerfully created with superior structures.
This assertion has been ladened with sufficient evidence; scientifically and otherwise, has proved that women are capable of holding leadership positions as men.
Many women like the Former Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Minister of Information and Director General of NAFDAC Late Professor Dora Akunyili, the Former Minister of Environment who is currently the UN Secretary General Aisha Mohammed amongst others distinguished themselves in leadership and administration of Nigeria.
According to Professor Sarah Olanrewaju, of the Economics department at the University of Abuja, debates on the status of women and the need to integrate them into development processes have ranged at the national and international fora’s in the last two decades.
Prof. Olanrewaju argued that women, as many think, are not naturally weak, adding that they neither have limited contractual capacity nor lower Intelligence Quotient (IQ) than men.
Olanrewaju maintained that many women have made indelible marking their efforts to conquer the limitations of the past which have sought to permanently relegate them to the background.
She however asserted that Nigerian women are stalled by culture, explaining that this has made them vulnerable to effectively join the workforce and contribute to economic and national development.
“Majority of Nigerian women have not been fully mobilized and empowered to contribute to national development,” she lamented.
“The role of women in nation building and economic development involves more than just increasing per capital output and income; it involves initiating and constituting changes in the structures of business and the society. Therefore, it is imperative to examine the role of women in nation building,” she stressed.
Reacting to the inadequate involment of women in the polity she noted that women have made immense contributions in the political development of the country, adding that they are less destructive than men and so can be very effective in wiping out what they consider evil and their commitment is usually total.
“Several efforts has been made to address the low representation of women in elective and appointive in Nigeria including the establishment of Women Political Empowerment Office and the Nigerian Women Trust Fund. Others are the institution of an INEC gender policy amongst others,” she said.
However, the University Don maintained that the women face a lot of challenges in politics ranging from patriarchy to religious and cultural barriers, stigmatization, finance and endless list of impediments.
It is on this note that women continue to express doubt on the achievement of the Beijing declaration of 35% affirmative action for women which Nigeria is signatory.
Professor Olanrewaju, while presenting a paper titled “Women in Nation Building: The Nigerian Experience” during a book launch in honour of Nigerian women in Abuja said a lot needed to be done if the women struggle must achieve meaningful results.
She said, “Political parties should create support network of prospective aspirant by pairing them with established women politicians who will be plying key role as mentors and provide capacity building for young or aspiring female politicians to enhance and develop them ahead of subsequent elections.
She firther stress the importance of building mass coalition of women support and advocacy group using NGOs’ and grassroots women associations to coordinate support and advocacy for women aspirants.
Adding that it is also needful creating an enabling environment that allows women to engage meaningfully in decision making process in a sustainable and effective way, that is free from violence and harassment of any kind.
“There should be an establishment of legal funds to assist women politicians to challenge electoral malpractices of any format all levels of political processes.
“It is also importantant to introduce quota system for leadership at all levels of government and identifying and engaging relevant stakeholders such as the INEC and political parties to ensure strict adherence to it,” she said.
“There must also be an established legal funds to assist women politicians to challenge electoral malpractices of any form at all levels of political processes, and Women politicians should also be courageous and determined to face election rigors effectively and efficiently,” she added.