On its way to development, every nation must abide by the understanding that every progressive society needs its citizens -men, women, youths, PWDs, basically, all demographics to be adequately represented.
We have seen movements like the “not too young to run”, highlighting the importance of youth participation in governance. While that has been a success – with a bill passed to reduce the entry age of individuals vying for governance positions, we need to take it a step further to advocate for more women representation. Like many other professions and leadership positions, the “Nigerian woman” has been culturally relegated to positions outside governance and politics, despite the fact that we make up about 50% of the nation’s population.
Very recently, a bill to create special seats for women in the National assembly passed its second reading. At surface value, this seems like a brilliant idea and a path to improve women participation in governance but the not-so-hidden meaning and implication of this bill is that the current seats are reserved for men only – a very dangerous narrative.
Nigerian women, throughout our history, have participated in fights for gender equality and freedom from oppression. In more recent times, they have continued to lead and thrive in different sectors. A glaring example is the recent #EndSARS protests. Parallels can be drawn, and lessons highlighted from aspects of the protests which are pointers to how successful women can be when given the chance to lead. These can and should be replicated on a national scale.
Trust in Leadership: Although there were no official leaders, the people who stepped up exhibited leadership traits that point to young people’s efficiencies, especially women’s role, which was evident from how they notably spearheaded the movement.
Responsible Citizenship: Nigeria needs everyone, especially young men and women, to be interested in how our country works. We need more Nigerians to take responsibility and engage with the government by demanding transparency and accountability and beyond that, vie for governance positions. It is very easy to critique from the outside but much better, albeit harder, to work for change from the inside.
I often say that “youth” is not a skill-set, the same way being a woman does not automatically make us skilled at governance. Therefore it is even more expedient to have systems and clear-cut paths for mentoring and training people interested in politics and governance careers. From analyzing the EndSARS movement and drawing lessons for effective governance and active citizen participation, we can then infer that women have proven that they can thrive in positions of authority.
To start conversations on women participation, Dinidari Foundation will be hosting a conference (on the 20th of July, 2021) that will bring together notable and relevant women voices from the older and younger generations. We will be engaging female activists and politicians of different generations, women-led civil society organisations and the wider civil society sector, young women with an interest in politics and the critical public interested in current political affairs via the new and traditional media.
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By Nsidibe-Abasi Joy
For Dinidari Foundation Africa