The United States, US Department of States exchange program, International Visitors Leadership Program Alumni Association Nigeria (IVLPAAN), has canvassed for the integration of women in the nation’s political space.
This is coming against the backdrop of limited women’s participation in Nigerian politics.
They argued that six countries in Africa have over 40 percent of their parliaments occupied by women, but in Nigeria, it is a far cry.
The group made this disclosure during a meeting at the US American Corner, Ikeja, with the theme, ‘The participation of women in Nigeria politics’, centered more on the impact of women in Nigerian politics.
In her opening remarks at the maiden edition of the meeting, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, stated that the subject of having women participate and be significantly represented at the highest levels in various spheres of social life is receiving considerable attention.
In her words: “The presence of women in leadership positions confers great benefits on organizations, institutions, and communities.
“Having more women in government in low and middle-income countries ensures that more resources will be invested in public goods, such as health services, roads, sanitation, water, and violence-reduction efforts, for the fact that women tend to invest more of their personal earnings in caring for their families’ needs.
“Currently, women are increasingly becoming the focus of development initiatives.
‘The resistance that societies around the world have manifested regarding the status of women in general and their acceptance as credible partners, especially in political leadership is worrisome.
“While advances have been made in the sphere of education and the private sector, this has not translated into parity across the board for women in many other areas, especially that of political leadership.”
Quoting the former coordinator of the African Women’s Forum and director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute, Professor Elizabeth Bradley, she said: “Look around a college classroom today and many of the faces you see will be female.”
“Globally, women now outnumber men in universities. But women’s achievements in the classroom have not translated into gains in boardrooms, c-suites, or government offices.
“In Africa, according to 2022 statistics, six countries have over 40 percent of their parliaments occupied by women, with Rwanda topping the list with 61.25 percent, and also holding the first position globally. Others are; South Africa, Namibia, Senegal, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. Eight more countries have over 30 percent of their parliamentarians as women.
“These facts make the case of Nigeria, more disconcerting, given that the country is known to harbour some of the most gifted women in Africa and, indeed, the world.
“In spite of these and many more achievements by Nigerian women, the country keeps hovering, shamefully, between five and seven percent female representation in our National Assembly.
“An observation often made is that some of the women who have occupied leadership positions have equally been embroiled in scandals, just like their male counterparts, so that people then wonder what difference women in government make, after all.
‘’Apart from the skewed nature of that observation, it is important to bear in mind that appointments by successive administrations have often been based not on considerations of merit and competence, but rather on factors like political connections, personal interests, religion, and ethnicity.
“A major challenge for the nation’s democracy would be the institutionalization of merit in public life. Competent people with proven integrity should be put in charge of the nation’s affairs.”
Sonaiya who was the only Nigerian female presidential candidate in the 2015 general elections under KOWA party, stated that many women have been scared of the political arena for long due to negative perceptions regarding politics itself as well as politicians.
“Nigeria cannot afford to have women continue to remain as mere spectators in the business of politics. We cannot develop if the situation continues.
“While we look to the government, civil society organizations, religious bodies,5 and other concerned groups to continue to engage with society to challenge our age-old customs and attitudes which tend to portray women as being unfit for positions of leadership, it is up to us women ourselves to step up and claim these spaces that are rightfully ours in our public life.
“Women should see their participation in the nations’ affairs as a duty, a responsibility which they cannot continue to shirk. Women owe it to themselves and their children to make their contribution in building societies that are stable, secure, and prosperous,” she added.
On her part, President, IVLPAAN, Adetoun Tade said that the essence of the gathering was to build momentum as women in the area of politics as well as encourage women to make the most of the blessing of being women and take their place in the governance.
According to her, “There has been so much talk about women taking their place in the political space in this country and we have seen some very courageous women who have taken the bull by the horn and dared the consequences.
“We have also seen some women and a lot of men play lip service to women empowerment in politics and other areas, but the truth is, we as women cannot rely on the men alone to give us free lunch while we just sit back. It will not work that way.
“We cannot leave the work for some few women or some few women organizations. We must rise up and do something by playing our part no matter how small.
“The desire to rise up as a formidable force is not enough without adequate preparations or preparedness for the opportunities that we seek because they will come.
“This is why we are building a network of women who can be mentored and trained in the art of politics, governance as a whole, and also in different parts like elocution, public speaking, leadership and social skills, psychology, self-confidence, mental health, proper body language, conflict resolution and lots more.”
Earlier on, the US Consulate Political Affairs Officer, Janine Lewis described Nigeria as a fabulous nation that deserves qualified leaders that will guide on gender matters.
Janines however, advised participants to put into practical use all that were discussed at the forum.
Also, Nigerian Ambassador to Jamaica, Maureen Tamuno, called on the federal government to adopt a voluntary party quota that will be gender sensitive.
“The need to expunge gender bias and stereotyping from Nigeria’s socio-political terrain.
“Women should be more partisan in politics,” she added.