The first in the series of Democracy E-talks focused on women’s participation and influence as pillars of democracy in Nigeria. This remain a crucial aspect of democratic growth as  Nigeria continue to struggle to close the gender gap in political participation with a paltry 4.43 percent national representation of women in elective office at federal and state level. The conversation hosted by Yiaga Africa in partnership with Sweden Embassy in Nigeria provided platform for discussion on the role of women, opportunities for women’s political inclusion and investing in building a democracy that truly promotes equality and inclusion.

Chair of House of Representatives Committee on Women in Parliament, Honourable Taiwo Olukemi Oluga, rights activist and Coordinator of proactive gender initiatives, Esther Uzoma provided insights on challenges and prospects of women in Nigerian democracy during the one hour webinar hosted via Facebook LIVE.

Mrs Oluga decried the masculine nature of Nigerian politics saying women are just beginning to overcome the fear and stereotypes that surround politics saying there is no way women can actively participate in politics without overcoming fear and stigmatization. According to her, financial obstacles will no longer be a barrier for women’s participation as women in parliament are actively planning to advance the number of women in politics. She said, women in parliament will change the trajectory of women political participation in Nigeria.

She said, “Nigerian women no longer desire 35% affirmative action. We know we deserve 50-50 representation in democracy and are advocating for legislative backing to support this great mission”. She said, “we Nigerian women are not yet where we want to be as regards political representation, but we celebrate that we are not where we used to be”.

Mrs Oluga reiterated the capability of women saying Nigerian women know that being in the kitchen is not all that they can be. She also advised women to get the right information they need to succeed as she praises Yiaga Africa for advancing women political participation.

Sharing similar opinion with Mrs Oluga, rights activist Esther Uzoma decried the patriarchal nature of Nigerian democracy despite the international conventions that advance women’s participation. “Article 9 of the African Charter provides that women should be adequately represented in electoral process, but Nigerian women are not adequately represented, we need to change this undemocratic reality”, she said. According to her, “inclusion is a practice of democracy, but Nigeria has grappled with this concept as it relates to women”.

According to barrister Uzoma, Nigeria need to revisit the institutions of democracy particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and political parties to ensure they respond to the needs of women inclusion in democracy. “Political parties will not naturally give power to the women, we need to demand for the change we want by pressing for positive legislations to advance women’s political participation”, she said.

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