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Why quota system is crucial for women inclusion in politics

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It is common knowledge that despite the invaluable contribution of women to Nigeria’s electoral process since the return to civil rule in 1999, the system has not given them their fair share of reward and recognition that they deserve.

Nigeria’s women have historically had low participation rate in political party positions, whether elected or appointed.

More than two decades after the Beijing Declaration from the Fourth World Conference on Women, governmental and non-governmental groups have tried to boost female engagement in politics. Unfortunately, the issue of underrepresentation has remained.

In every election circle, many women submit nominations for various political offices, only a few receive the nod of their parties to run in the general election due largely to financial limitations, cultural preconceptions and socio-political marginalisation by men.

Read also: WIMBIZ advocates for more women in political position

This situation exists despite the fact that women constitute the bulk of the voting population in Nigeria in every general election.

Presently, women are often used as praise singers, campaign tools, and handlers of logistic materials during the electioneering period, but do not get the desired representation when appointment is considered after election.

The poor number of women elected into public office in the 2023 polls further confirms the trend, which has been on the downward slide since the 2011 general election.

This is despite the significant success Nigerian women have attained in the corporate sector over the decade, but they continue to lag behind in politics.

The situation has continued to be a source of concern to stakeholders and many female politicians.

“We are in a patriarchal society where women are only to be seen and not heard, unfortunately; this is still the truth about the Nigerian society,” Tope Musowo, public policy expert, said.

“Interestingly, the trend is changing in some African countries like Rwanda, Senegal and so on. Not to talk of the Scandinavian countries where the ratio of male representation and female representation in government are equal,” he further said.

Many gender experts say the situation is slowing down gender inclusion in Nigeria’s politics, especially efforts to address the violence and patriarchy women experience in political parties over the years in the Africa’s biggest economy.

In the 2023 presidential poll, only one woman, Chichi Ojei of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) was listed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a party candidate.

The result of last year’s presidential and National Assembly poll further showed the precarious state of affairs.

In the Senate, out of the 109 senators, four are female, which was a reduction from the seven in the 9th Assembly.

All female senators in the 9th Assembly lost their re-election bid, going away with rich legislative experience.

In recent times, some experts say the way forward was for the National Assembly to initiate governance gender quota backed with a legal framework, like it is practised in some countries, or there may not be an immediate solution.

They say with the current system, men would continue to dominate the Nigerian political system with no improvement for an inclusive democracy in the coming years.

“I support the quota system because it appears the system is shut against us, with the high nomination fees they are charging, monetisation of the process, it is fair to say we can’t compete,” Eno Ime, a female politician said.

“The way our politics is structured now it is increasingly becoming difficult for women to compete. I did not have money to throw around like male colleagues; so, I lost the last election. Even during the campaign, it was do-or-die. We need a fundamental shift,” she said.

Kehinde Kayode, gender studies expert, said that constant complaints without any action to encourage inclusive democracy by stakeholders and political parties was not giving the country any progress.

She noted that the situation implies that we will continue to have a setback to many important agendas that speak directly to women’s and girls’ welfare in Nigeria.

“Have we created enabling environments for women to contest for political offices, and to what extent have we improved on changing the misconception about electing women into political offices?

“If the answer to these questions remains a no, then we are indeed not ready as a country to increase women’s political representation,” Kayode said.

Chiedo Nwankwor, an expert on gender studies and identity politics in Africa, said that political parties are often the strongest obstacle women face to gaining access to political power in Nigeria.

She stated that despite considerable efforts by women to coerce party officials to give concessions to women in the selection of candidates and party structures in party politics, little progress had been made over the years.

Over the years, many female politicians have listed violence, exorbitant nomination forms and uncooperative male-dominated political parties’ executives and socio-political marginalisation as some of the reasons for their inability to participate in the electoral process.

Speaking recently, Remi Sonaiya, a professor and former presidential candidate of the KOWA Party, decried the confinement of the womenfolk to the backwater when it comes to political leadership, reducing them to mere spectators even though they possess all the competencies to occupy the highest position in the country.

She pointed out that it was time for more women to go into politics to rescue the nation, stressing that women possessed all the competences needed to lead Nigeria.

“Nigeria is at a critical situation that needs a true leader to pull her out of the situation; if SirLeaf could do it in Liberia, we have more than enough women here in Nigeria that can do the same,” she said.

Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, said that even though women are also their own greatest enemy, he would support the quota system as a way out of the low number of women in elected positions.

“What we need is a legislative framework signed into law; for example, you must give 30 or 40 percent of candidates to women in an election circle.

“For me, it is the only way out because the system is structured to favour the men and they are also in control of parties’ structures,” he said.

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