The Role of Women in Development of Politics
The study was designed to analyze and understand the level of omen participation in politics in Nigeria. It specifically examined the factors that positively affect women’s participation in politics. Moreover, the study also grappled with the problems affecting women participation in politics in general. Both primary and secondary methods of data collection were employed. The primary sources of data consisted of structured interview and the use of questionnaires while the secondary data were collected from various literatures on the subject matter. Complementing the secondary data were information from publications of relevant women Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and official document. The study revealed that the low level of participation of women in politics can be traced to a lot of complex factors like poor financial backing, violence, thuggery, lack of education, burden of childbearing, religion and other factors. In conclusion, the government should device a way of re-orientating the women in order to fully participate in politics and gender debate. Also, both government and the people must find a way of eradicating money politics, thuggery, and violence and there should be awareness that political terrain is not meant for men only but involves both male and female.
Women roles and status in politics and developments are changing from the traditional pre-occupation of watching from the sidelines to a more active participation. Scholars like Susan Geiger (1997) are now revisiting earlier narratives of Nationalist struggle to explore the influence of gender as well as the dominant role played by men. Write-ups of women political participation and nationalist struggles from the eighties now tend to celebrate their neglected contributions. Politics is too important in the life of the people to be left totally in the hands of men. It may be bard for the men to understand some concerns peculiar to womanhood. Also, is the fact that democracy is a concept involving mass participation and representation. Therefore, democracy cannot be complete when massive participation of women is not evident.
In Nigeria, democratic representation should reflect the different interests including gender, race, religion, class and other identities in the proportion they exist. This implies that ideally, a truly democratic government of Nigeria should at least have 40010 of women since the last National population Census in 2006 put women at about 50010. Many reasons could be adduced for the low representation and participation of women in Nigerian politics, chief of which is the party system. Other reasons could include financial and managerial ability.
Women representation in government, development and policy making is still very low the world over despite the clamour for women’s political empowerment as championed by the United Nations and its agencies and other international agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Situations differ in various regions of the world that notwithstanding itis obvious that there is a huge gender gap between men and women representation in political leadership and governance, hence, national development.
This situation is expected to be worse in developing countries in which Nigeria is a typical example where cultural practices and prejudices weigh strongly against the woman.
We should know that no single country will achieve a hundred percent (100%) goal in fighting for women right, if there is no universal embrace of the ideals of equality between men and women. In this regard, a level playing ground should be offered to encourage women participation in politics and therefore enhance their roles in other developmental projects. A uniting platform has been offered by the United Nations adoption of thirty percent (30%) representation as the minimum proportion of women in public life. This is intended to serve the purpose of increasing women’s decision making power, changing practices and culture and ensuring that the situation improves and normalizes over time.
Leadership roles for women in Nigeria have been stalled partly due to the culture, which makes them vulnerable when they join the workforce. Job opportunities for Nigerian women are on the increase but equal opportunities are still remote. Many years ago, women could not aspire to leadership roles because they were restricted to family roles. However, Nigerian women, with their culturally disadvantaged position and deprivation, often create ways to avoid exploitation.
In Enugu State, women made an issue of their exclusion in the State Executive Council by instituting a court action against the Governor of the State, (Agbaegbu, 2000). This led to the appointment of a woman as a Commissioner. On the other band, some women folk have had the opportunities of traveling to developed countries, some have educated parents and are well educated themselves. They were thus emancipated through education and social interactions with people all over the world (Sowunmi, 2000). They are thus free from social, political and legal restrictions that limited what they could do.
Little achievement bas been recorded with regard to the involvement of women in decision-making processes of mainstream development programmes in Nigeria For example, the 30010 benchmark: recommended by the International Instrument and regulations for women in decision-making positions in the year 2000 of which Nigeria is a signatory bas not been translated to action (Ismail, 2002). It is very easy for government delegate to append their signatures to attractive resolutions, but it requires unrelenting efforts and intense pressure to ensure that governments operate such resolutions.
Leadership traits have nothing to do with gender; women can participate effectively m policy making, development and governance if given the chance. According to (Barry, 1991), the traditional and social approved roles of Nigerian women are those of child bearing, agriculture and societal culture. Traditions, norms and value kept most Nigerian women restricted to the aforementioned tradition (1983), the head of the United Nations Education in New York has observed that not only does a social perception force women to engage in such occupations, but often, women themselves think they are best suited for such tasks.
With the advent of western education through British colonialism, old values beliefs and norms started to crumble. Though, prior to the advent of western education, women have been involved in politics of their communities in one way or the other. Examples are the Iyalode of Egba Land and Moremi in Ile-Ife, The acquisition of western education by the Nigeria women was the catalyst that manifests the possibilities and contribution that the Nigerian women made to national development. Since old prejudice, habits, customs and values die hard, the few educated Nigerian women suffer many forms of discrimination economically, politically, culturally, religiously and educationally some women were restricted to professions such as Teaching and Nursing, it was believed that women are not regarded as being equal with men consequently upon which a wide gap of inequality exist in the relationship between men and women.
Judith Okpebi (1999) a feature editor of the Vanguard Newspaper bitterly remarked that women have always contributed to all areas of economic and social lives as farmer, entrepreneurs, traders, workers, home-markers and mothers. Yet they are offered second-class status, powerlessness marginalization and indignation. The remark of Okpebi may not be totally true in the present Nigeria because many Nigeria women have proved their worth in various spheres of life. There are many lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, and Commissioners among women today.
Virgina Sapiro (1984) in assessing women in politics simply concluded that the two words ‘women’ and ‘politics’ are contradictory words that have nothing to do with one another. Her assertion of cannot be generalized because no matter at what level, women have been involved in politics since the time immemorial. According to pre- colonial and post- colonial history, the Aba riot of 1929, the activities of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, those of lyalode of Egbaland, Moremi of Ile-Ife, Gambo Sawaba of the Northern Elements People Union, (NEPU), Queen Amina of Zaria gave the needed impetus for the women’s struggle in modem Nigeria. Therefore, the multiple problems women are facing like problems concerning their legal status, economics status, educational disadvantage, their position in the family, in the society, in the industry and in their professions nurture the seeds of feminist movement, gender equality and women empowerment. These movements work towards evolving a new woman, that according to Ayoade (1992), is the woman who is self-sufficient, is able to make contact to the outside world, one who hold independent views, able to earn her own living, committed to life career, and educated. That is, the new woman should be a companion and equal rather than a subordinate to a man.
The issue of gender equality and women empowerment especially after the Beijing declaration of September 1995 has greatly exposed the need to recognize the potential of women as veritable agent of social – political development of the society. The United Nation Organisation (UNO) bad earlier declared 1975 and 1985 as the decades for women during which appreciable progress is expected from women. Also 8th March every year is set aside by the United Nation organization as International Women’s day. It is a day on which women are expected to deliberate on issues that are affecting them.
In spite of the declaration, the historical trend of women’s exclusion in politics is still in existence. Notwithstanding, the fact that some women are able to make it to all various positions of governance, either through political appointments or elections like that of the deputy governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, Erelu Obada of Osun State and Mrs. Pauline Tallen of Plateau State. The overall picture does not show adequate representative vis-a-vis their numerical strength.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In Lagos State, women have not beenplaying significant roles in terms of political participation when compared to men.
The concern of this study is to relate the rate of women participation in politics to their male counterparts in the level of decision-making and why few women are involved in politics in Lagos State.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of the study are:
I. To determine the level of participation of women in politics in Lagos State
II. To identify the problems affecting the political participation of women in Lagos State
III. To examine the factors that positively influences the level of women’s participation in Lagos State.
1.4 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this study will be restricted to the political participation of women at the various State and National levels since independence. It further examined the role of women in politics both as electorates and contestants in the country.
1.5 CONTRIBUTION TO THE KNOWLEDGE
This study is expected to contribute to the body of knowledge on political participation, most especially on women participation in politics. It will constitute a veritable source of information to the women and government on what should be done to enhance effective participation of women in politics.
1.6 LIMITATIONS TO THE STUDY
One of the major problems encountered in the course of this study and which also limited its scope was in collecting information from the respondents. It was as good as chasing them up and down, this attitude of the respondents to the questionnaires ranged from hesitancy, vague or elusive answers to indifference and total refusal to complete the questionnaire by some of them. A good number of them were indeed ignorant of or could not be bothered about the academic objective of the study.
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