No Country Without Women: What data tells us on women’s representation in Government as of February 2020
According to the World Bank development indicators, women make up 49.32% of Nigeria’s population, meaning almost half of the entire population are women. Despite having this staggering number, female representation in decision-making processes has been abysmally low since the return to democratic rule in 1999. Though women have gone on to excel in other sectors like banking, health, education and distinguished themselves in various public and private-sector leadership positions, they remain largely under- represented in the political space as the space is presently dominated by men. The political space is bereft of positive/special measures to guarantee women inclusion in the political process.
Gender inequality is recognized as a global challenge with some countries performing relatively better in closing their gender gaps. Since the Beijing conference of 1995, more international and regional instruments, resolutions, and initiatives have also emerged with specific focus on bridging the gender gap and creating a safer world for women and girls.
For instance, goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targeted at promoting gender equality, recognizes the need to end all forms of discrimination against women and gender inequality as a basic human rights issue as well as a critical need for a sustainable future. Nigeria is a signatory to these international and regional instruments on women and its National Gender Policy seeks to promote the rights and provide equal opportunity for women. The existence of these instruments and policies have however yielded limited results in making women visible in the political space. The reality suggests the more the policy the higher the decline in the number of women in both appointive and elective positions. It is no doubt that women remain highly marginalized, discriminated against; and largely under-represented in Nigeria’s twenty years democracy.
Political marginalization of women in Nigeria can be attributed to factors such as cultural and religious beliefs which are further institutionalized by Nigeria’s political party system and structure. For instance, Nigeria’s current political party structure is built on party practices like the lack of internal party democracy, political exclusion, and marginalization of vulnerable groups. This is reflected in the constitution of the party leadership, membership management, and candidate nomination. All these processes are skewed to favor a select few. In addition, to the hurdle women face at the party level, they also struggle to mobilize voters to vote for a woman; they struggle to contest in a flawed, highly commercialized, and violent electoral process. These challenges make it difficult for women to emerge as candidates or win the election.
The 2019 general elections offered some form of hope for female politicians as new political parties emerged and some political parties made public commitment to support women candidacy. Although this led to an increase in the number of women aspirants in the 2019 general elections, the number, however, dropped after the party primaries.