City Life Mega City

Seeking more political positions for women

 

Pauline Onyibe

 

It is not new that in African setting, mostly in some part of Nigeria, culturally, it is believed that women are not supposed to be heard but seen.

 

That is the reason any woman that speaks up is seen as dominating either the husband or men folk. Here in Nigeria, some parts of the country are so unfair to the womenfolk to the extent that they are forced to stay within a highly fenced environment, especially for religious belief.

 

Also, some women are forced to shave their hair, drink water used to bath their dead husbands, forced to leave the properties of their dead husbands, or forced to remain unmarried for some time among other wicked treatments which incidentally are not applicable to men if reverse is the case.

 

For these reasons, there has been aggressive advocacy for women to be empowered politically to fight their own course. From time immemorial, the women folk have been struggling to liberate themselves from the shackles of bondages of men.

 

An example was the Aba women riot of 1929 and late Margaret Ekpo, a woman activist and politician who stood against every form sidelining against women.

 

She helped change the face of politics in Nigeria Although there has been an agreement reached then by the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to give 35% slots of the entire political position to women, it has not actually been achieved.

 

Available statistics reveal that out of the 109 senators in the National Assembly, only nine are women, while only 27 out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives are women. Record has it that no woman has ever become a president or a vice president in Nigeria.

 

This is regardless of the fact that a National Gender Policy has been formulated to promote a 35 percent affirmative action for women a policy that demands 35 percent involvement of women in all governance processes. The exclusion of women in politics has been identified in recent times as one of the major setbacks for economic development.

 

Women’s groups are a strong pillar for grassroots politics; and a drive for more women participating in politics at the grassroots still faces a lot of challenges, making it difficult for them to harness available opportunities for economic development.

 

The Nigerian Women desire and deserve equal political rights with their male counterparts yet they struggle for the 35% affirmation action.

 

Ironically, there are no legal instruments to reduce the overarching dominance of the male folks in the political landscape.

 

In Bayelsa State for instance, since 1999 till date, only three Assembly seats have been left for women out of twenty four seats. At the state level, not more positions were also given to the women except in the present Douye Diri government that he gave about four slots to women.

 

This is the reason, a non-governmental organization known as Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) with support from the Royal Kingdom of Netherlands in a bid to get women sensitized, organized a political party consultative forum for women politicians in the state.

 

At the summit, women politicians agitated to be given 50% affirmative action in governance. They said even though the 35% affirmation has not be achieved, there was need to increase it to 50%.

 

Under the umbrella of women in governance, the women advocated that they should be in decision making bodies, be educated while those in high political positions should avoid degrading women when mentoring them.

 

They also agitated that the political environment should be made friendly for everyone stating that loans should be provided for women.

 

The participant however agreed that women have same right as the  men to go all out for a 100% affirmation adding that it was necessary to first achieve and ensure that the 35% affirmation does not fall short in all level of governance. The participants pointed out injustice on the side of the court, high financial involvement in pursing political issues in court.

 

Furthermore, participants lamented the low state of women in economic empowerment maintaining that finance is a huge problem hindering women’s participation. The participants also said that there was need for the Government to have a physical support system to empower the women economically nationally, state and party wise.

 

They said there should be a law to ban political parties involved in political violence and malpractice. They also urged government to ensure the judicial system has an enabling ground for all cases, there is need to create a special court for political issues.

 

For political parties the participants added should policies should be made available for ease and true assessment, party friendliness to women and to aid advocacy adding that there was need to check gender-based system in the political parties.

 

“Political Parties should encourage women to participate in political parties activities by engaging women at all levels. “Political parties should translate party policies into our indigenous languages or in Nigeria Pidgin.

 

“Political parties should encourage women to contest into various political parties leadership position not just women leader adding that they should provide an enabling playing ground for all. The participants also suggested that women should register and get voters card, learn to speak frankly, plainly and sincerely in women political  engagements and meetings stating that these will help to resolve issues amongst them.

 

Women they also said should have a common purse where contributions should be made for women political actions adding that women should advocate against disparities in the political parties. Those in high political positions the participants said should avoid degrading other women while mentoring them insisting that women mentoring women is necessary.

 

Juliet Pulu one of the participants narrating some of the challenges they face in politics said” We women face lack of support from men. A lot of men feel that women should not represent them.

 

Advising women, she said ”We should also throw our support behind our fellow women. If we the women who have the largest voting strength throw our support behind women we will find out that a lot of women will come out in different positions as elected members.

 

Also Mrs Tari Oliver narrating her ordeal when she contested for Lagos state house of Assembly seat last year said “I once contested for Lagos state house of Assembly, Lekki constituency one in 2019 under PDP.

 

Lagos state has forty seats and out of that forty my election was the only one declared inconclusive. At the end they took it forcefully. She said. Earlier, the chairperson of international federation of women lawyers Bayelsa state Tariere Egbegi in her lecture said that women have been relegated to the background, despite the tremendous effort put forward by government and non-governmental organizations.

 

She said “Despite the declaration made at the fourth world conference on women in Beijing, which advocated 30 percent affirmative action and National Gender Policy recommendation of 35 percent affirmative action for a more inclusive representation of women both in elective and appointive positions, it is worth noting that Nigerian Women are still being marginalized due to the style of leadership inherent in the country.

 

She lamented some of the challenges women face in politics as rules are dominated by men, Stigmatization, Low level of Education, wrong meeting schedules, Political Violence, Religious and Cultural barriers among others.

 

Political parties the FIDA chairperson said should introduce quota system at all levels of government stating that programmes on leadership should be guided by UN regulation to women participation.

 

In his welcome remarks at the forum, the Head of Programmes, Styvn Obodekwe representing the Coordinator of Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) Professor Nenbarini Zabbey thanked the participants for coming to the event.

 

Obodoekwe highlighted how important women are in the society and the influence they will bring if given the full opportunity to be part of the leadership in political parties and hold esteem political position in the country.

 

He said “CEHRD has been in the fore front to ensure women are involved in active politics. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation. If you build a woman, you build a nation.

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