From time immemorial, Nigerian societies assigned gender roles across the sectors and sections of the country.
Traditional Yoruba gender rules, in particular, dictate that women be submissive and take care of the house and household. On the other hand, men are supposed to be educated family breadwinners and occupy the public sphere. Is this dogmatic inclination justifiable in third-world countries?
Unfortunately, this thought pattern plays a massive role in the underrepresentation of women in several fields, especially in politics: Nigerian women make up about 49 percent of the Nigerian population, but only 4 percent of them are lawmakers.
Nigeria has the lowest number of female parliamentarians in sub-Saharan Africa, sitting at the 133rd position in the global ranking of countries with female political representation. Such a figure begs the question; where are the women in Nigerian politics?
The political elites are a significant obstacle to women’s participation and involvement in politics. The ruling class is heavily dominated by the men, who work as a cartel, eliminating competition and bolstering the position of their friends and allies to maintain power.
Evidence from countries like Rwanda and South Africa shows that gender equality in politics is a near-impossible achievement until we nominate women at the party level. The mostly-male elite holding power in this country makes such achievement unlikely at best and impossible at worst. Unsurprisingly, the disparity in education between men and women in this country also plays a vital role in the gender disparity of politics.
Because of the aforementioned gender roles, traditional families remain hesitant to send their girls to school, especially in the Northern region.
Women’s pressure groups remain limited in power until more is done at the institutional level to secure political positions for Nigerian women. Political quotas, for example, have proven successful in creating the world’s first female president in Rwanda in 2008. Most importantly, we must call for an end to gendered thinking.
In conclusion, the people and the federal government can and must do more to end the exclusion of almost half of the Nigerian population from active political participation. We must put an end to gender disparity in politics.
The female voices must surface!
Faruq Ibrahim Olaoti is a 200-Level student of Political Science. He doubles as the Social Director of NACJ, UDUS, and Publicity Secretary at Pen Press UDUS. He can be reached through 08146986379 or firstname.lastname@example.org