For former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “gender equality is more than a goal in itself, it is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
He was pellucidly accentuating the storyline of political processes above prejudices. He was particular about an inclusive government as a panacea to the seeming cord of discrimination, inequality and sheer dominance that sprawled across the face of the polity.
Political participation is the key ingredient used in the making of any political system. Thus, the equal participation of all is not only pertinent but also crucial for national development. However, imbalanced politics in most African countries has been instrumental in the crass disparity and major governance crisis that has crippled democratic principles and values in the continent, denying a particular gender of the populace equal access to the dividends of good governance.
In Nigeria, the number of women in politics is appalling. This is as a result of the chauvinistic nature of colonial politics, which placed the workload of governance on men as well as various inhibiting social, cultural and religious beliefs. These idiosyncrasies affected women’s ideas of politics, leading to a very low level of political interest, knowledge and activities of women in politics.
Statistically, women and youth make up almost 80 per cent of the eligible voters in the country. Unfortunately, they have no say in the running of governmental affairs, except during elections when their votes count. Strictly speaking, the stringent measures put in place by most political parties in the country, especially the two dominant parties –APC and PDP– do not encourage active participation of women in politics. Except for holding some ministerial positions, women hardly occupy elected offices when compared to men. The distribution of gender in the National Assembly, so far, has been extremely low. Since the return to democracy in 1999, the percentage of women in the National Assembly has not surpassed 10 per cent since the country’s return to democracy in 1999.
To some extent, the cultures and religious practices of the Nigerian people which barred women from participating and discussing issues of national importance, reserving such exclusively for the men, is another factor against gender parity in governance. For instance, even if women vied for political offices in some parts of the country, the people are not likely to support their ambitions as it is different from the status quo.
When we have this kind of unequal representation in our electoral process, we have unequal representation in government. It is, therefore, imperative that we bridge the glaring disparity in our political landscape.
Men and women should be involved in the decision-making process. As Kofi Annan implied, supporting gender parity in politics is more than a goal, it is a necessity. By engaging more women in governance, Nigeria will be tapping into a previously unrecognised reservoir of great intellect and ideas necessary for good governance.
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