A CALL TO ACTION ON WOMEN’S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
One thing we cannot afford to do is to continue to be in denial about what Nigeria truly is.
It is excellent to be patriotic and fiercely defend negative narratives, but we cannot deny that we are in a terrible place and that all hands – men, women, and youths, must be on deck to do something about it. Nigeria is yet to consolidate a culture of active citizen participation in governance and equal opportunity between genders to participate in the democratic process; A nation that operates a true democracy must, as a necessity, have gender equality enshrined in the fabric of its society.
As part of Dinidari Foundation’s work in advancing equal opportunity for women, girls, and youths, empowering them to use their voices, Dinidari Foundation, in partnership with Heinrich Böll Stiftung, hosted a conference with the theme; “From the Street to Parliament: Strengthening Women’s Political Power in Nigeria” the conference which was held on the 20th of July 2021, live on AIT hosted young and old politicians, activists, and some key women voices within the political and civic space.
A recurring theme from all our speakers was the lack of representation of women in politics and governance, peace and conflict resolution, and the visibility of women in the already shrinking civic space. This is not a result of women’s inability to lead but a function of a patriarchal society that is unwilling to accept women’s rights and the principle of non-discrimination in all our dealings.
Women have been systemically and historically excluded from these spaces; there needs to be a top-down, bottom-up approach that must simultaneously make gender equality and women’s liberation a part of our core values as a nation. Adequate female representation in politics is a political, psychological, socioeconomic, cultural, and religious “warfare’; it has become expedient for more permanent interventions from all sides to get us to the point we desire.
In other countries, female participation in their parliaments is a function of what they did to their constitution. This is proof that it is possible and all we need is to put appropriate laws in place.
CALL TO ACTION
Politics and Governance: we need transformative ways of including women; affirmative action must seek to repair historical wrongs. The Constitution needs to be reviewed and used to engender the principle of non-discrimination, clearly stating women’s equality, and ensure that laws/policies made have a footing in the constitution. We urge the National Assembly to pass the 35% Affirmative Action and the Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEO) Bills to make women’s participation in politics enshrined in our laws.
Education/Political Literacy: For effective governance, we need a system where political literacy is embedded into our school curriculums. This will invariably lead to an increased interest in politics and governance and teach Nigerians from a young age how to hold leaders accountable.
Socioeconomically: Nigerian women are economically disadvantaged due to sociocultural factors which cannot be overlooked. Free or reduced nomination form fees for women put them at the spot where their representation is at the benevolence of the patriarchy. These problems need to be addressed via government interventions that will give women a better economic stance.
Peace & Conflict Resolution: women are significant players in the process of change and development. They are also disproportionately affected by conflict situations and thus need to be consulted and allowed to play vital roles in achieving peace after conflict.
Shrinking Civic Space: women primarily engage in civic spaces since formal political processes are often inaccessible due to gender inequality. As active citizens, we need to consistently refuse the shrinking of the civic space by the government and continue undeterred in our advocacy and activism to avoid its effects on the roles women play.
Media: The Nigerian media and entertainment industry have a responsibility to change the narrative by putting out content that will positively influence the Nigerian people to know that women are part of society and belong in leadership positions.
Dinidari Foundation Africa