Uhuru Watch

Are Women’s Appointments Enough Representation for Women in Politics?

By Victoria Oladipo | Jun 5, 2023

The major issue with achieving gender equality in politics in Nigeria is that there are not enough women in politics. With Nigeria just concluding its general elections, women made up less than 10 per cent of the candidates who contested the elections. 

The number of women who eventually got into the National Assembly was just 17— less than 2 per cent of all lawmakers at the federal level, as opposed to 21 women in the preceding assembly—a decline in women’s political representation in the parliament. At the state house of assembly levels, with about 1,000+ women who contested across 28 states, only 48 were elected, less than a 1 per cent increase from the previous elections.

In 1954, women in Nigeria were granted the ability to vote and be voted for. The passing of the Nigerian Constitution Amendment Act of 1954 was a watershed moment in Nigerian history. This legislation abolished gender limits on voting and candidacy rights, allowing men and women to participate equally in the political process. 

We could argue that women have equal rights to vote and contest elections as men do, but we could also argue that the rights have not translated into enough representation for women in politics in Nigeria. Thus, some arguments could say that women could get into appointment positions to make up for the gap that we have in political representation for women.

While appointing women to political positions is a good way to start, it does not make up for the gap in the number of women in active politicking who have been denied access to power as a result of one challenge or another. Appointments come as a result of expertise in the field of the position they are being appointed to. 

Though women who get appointed are often found to transition into active politics, it is quite impossible to use that to determine their election into political offices. Women like Idiat Adebule, who was Deputy Governor of Lagos State from 2015 to 2019 and is now Senator-Elect of Lagos West Senatorial District, and Oby Ezekwesili, who was appointed Minister of Education under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and contested for the Presidency during the 2019 elections, are proof of this.

Godfatherism is entrenched in Nigeria’s political space. While party politics fuel many appointment positions, which only bring up the candidates that godfathers choose for the executive leader to appoint. Research by Mercy Ette and Patience Akpan-Obong has shown that women who have run for political positions have explained how the godfathers within political parties have coerced them into dropping their tickets during party primaries and giving those tickets to their male counterparts without due democratic processes. Some of these women are further compensated with appointments or are not compensated at all.

The cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, during his second term, only accounted for seven women out of 43 members of the cabinet, not up to 20 per cent of the entire cabinet. In any progressive country, women and minority groups are not left out of decision-making processes. If the entire percentage of women represented in executive positions is not up to 30 per cent, then there is a lag that needs to be fixed.

In an International Women's Day tweet by the governor of Lagos State, it was mentioned that Lagos State could boast of  30 per cent representation of women in governance. In the real sense, the representation comes from appointed positions because, at the time, had only three women members of its legislative house out of the 40 members of the Lagos State House. But it could boast of twelve women in its 44-member cabinet.

Kwara state governor signed a 35 per cent inclusion and gender mainstreaming bill to push further inclusion of women in 2021 in the state. So far, this has helped push the parliament from a zero-women representation in its 9th assembly to a 5-women representation in its incoming 10th assembly. Also, the governor of the state had a 56.25 per cent representation of women in its cabinet to compensate for the lack of women representation in the assembly.

In Sweden, gender mainstreaming is used to promote gender equality and combat gender-based discrimination. The government has established a framework for gender mainstreaming, which includes gender budgeting, gender analysis of policies and programmes, and gender impact assessment of legislation. 

Before the introduction of gender mainstreaming in 1994, Sweden had always had relatively high women’s representation in politics compared to other countries. But its introduction of gender mainstreaming has helped and promoted more women's inclusion in politics. 

In Rwanda, affirmative action and quota systems are being used to promote women’s representation in government. The gender quota, which was 30 per cent in 2003, is currently 50 per cent. Rwanda also has a gender monitoring office that evaluates government policies and programmes from a gender perspective. Although these policies are mainly for elective positions, they have been able to translate into appointment positions for these countries. Although Sweden has its issues concerning corporate governance and gender, it is one of the few countries that have obtained gender equality to a point.

Even though Nigeria has ratified and written legislation that will encourage more women’s participation in politics, it has failed to enact those laws. The National Policy of Women of 2006 promises 35 per cent representation of women in politics, but several years later and so many bills later, there have been no enactments of these policies to encourage participation, even at the federal level. 

While appointing women to political roles is a significant step in the right direction, it is not adequate in and of itself. Women's appointments can help boost women's visibility and engagement in political decision-making processes, but genuine representation entails more than just numbers.

It is critical to provide women with equal opportunities to run for political office and participate in the democratic process. It is critical to encourage women to run for office, to support their campaigns, and to remove any challenges or prejudices they may face. Women should be able to select their political courses rather than being constrained to predetermined ones.

Furthermore, representation should go beyond gender. Intersectionality should be considered to ensure that varied viewpoints are represented, including those of women from various racial, ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds. To meet the interests and concerns of all people, it is critical to have a diverse range of views and experiences in political decision-making.

Finally, it is critical to foster an inclusive and equal political atmosphere that recognizes women's achievements. This includes confronting and reforming discriminatory practices, promoting gender equality in policymaking, and tackling systemic barriers that prevent women from participating in politics.

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