A low representation of women in political decision-making processes plagues Nigeria. The factors making for this unfortunate situation are varied and include: a lacking legislative framework to guarantee a minimum representation of women; an absence of mechanisms to unite women in politics across party lines to advocate for gender-responsive reforms that seek to promote equality actively. Dinidari Foundation via the Women Political Empowerment in Nigeria Project sought to work with political parties to mitigate the low representation of women in political decision-making processes by carrying out a capacity needs assessment for women wings of political parties with representation in the National Assembly. For this project, the focus was on two states in northwestern Nigeria; Kaduna and Plateau States across select local governments and political parties in these states.
The Women Political Empowerment project began with an in–depth research into the constitutions of political parties and the affirmative measures put in place to promote and ensure women’s integral participation in party politics as political participation in Nigeria is very dependent on party support. Working with women leaders and other party stakeholders, the Women Political Empowerment in Nigeria Project sought to create a network of women political leaders and key partners working to support a reversal of the low representation of women in politics. Women in political parties carried out the validation of the assessment report, and civil society organizations and most importantly took cognizance of persons with disabilities in all invited political parties.
The key findings from the research that needed strategic intervention to promote women’s political participation were;
Women are heavily disenfranchised by the finance needed to run and win a campaign. A level playing field can only be achieved when the incentives to run are backed by an internal spending cap that acknowledges the financial capacity of all its members and regulates its candidate spending on the generally agreed point.
The party’s women leader confirmed the inclusion of women in executive positions at the state and national levels with a women’s wing created to uphold the affirmative quota for women and help them vie for political positions with ease. More efforts need to be put into normalizing women participating on equal footing
Advocacy Committees for traditional, religious gatekeepers.
Advocacy Committees would be an intentional and strategic move by political parties, to the traditional and religious gatekeepers across communities. This singular act will go a long way in causing a ripple effect across households, associations, and other institutions, as they both serve as two strong channels through which members of communities are influenced and informed.
Internal funding in political parties to provide a level of independence for the party:
In order to curtail this challenge and ensure a more inclusive environment and platform for women’s participation, political parties need to revive the culture of membership dues (monthly) that will create a sense of ownership for political party members as well as promote democracy in the governance process, devoid of personal influence or financial blackmail to provide a level of independence for the party.
This led to the three-day capacity strengthening for women in politics across select local governments and political parties in Jos and Kaduna State. The training featured modules on understanding gender, and the need for women’s increase in politics, advocacy, lobbying, resource mobilization, networking, partnerships, and collaboration. The women in attendance were guided through the processes of coming up with a work plan on specific things that will enhance their participation in politics and some of which includes advocacy among party members, training and supporting other women on leadership and lobbying skills, increasing the knowledge of other party women as regards party policies and practices.”
At the end of the training, women across the varying political parties came together to create and adopt a gender-responsive work plan to help them canvass for establishing women’s wings in political parties. Capacity strengthening training is the beginning of a new political era for women in politics as they all departed with a new drive to foster and prioritize women’s political participation regardless of party affiliation.