By Blessing Duru

Democracy is a system of gov­ernment that abhors gender segregation in politics; it pro­vides equal opportunity for political participation such that no individ­ual or social group is excluded. Ni­geria as a democratic country must ensure the implementation of free and equal opportunity for political participation that democracy avails both men and women. Women rep­resentation at elective positions in Nigeria is very low, and this consti­tutes national concern.

The low representation of wom­en in Nigeria’s democracy stemmed from the patriarchal practice inherent in our society, much of which was ob­vious form colonial era till date. Re­search has shown that the national average of women’s representation in Nigeria is 6.7% in elective and ap­pointive positions. This is far below the global average of 22.5%, African regional average of 23.4%, and West African sub regional average of 15%. In the national Assembly, women constitute 5.6% of the Federal Home and 6.5% of the senate. Since 1999, Nigeria is yet to have a female gover­nor in any of the 36 states.

In the S/East states which include Imo, Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra,Enu­gu government statistics shows the women’s participation in the general / states House of Assembly elections are as follows: In Abia out of 45 can­didates, women were 7. In Anambra out of 94 candidates, women were 22. In Ebonyi out of the 30, women were 9. In Enugu State out of the 68, wom­en were 25. In Imo State, out of the 93 candidates, women were 17. This no doubt, depicts a low representation of women in elective political positions.

Under the administration of late Umaru Musa Yar’adua, the electoral reform committee recommended that the Chairman and deputy of the Inde­pendent National Electoral Commis­sion should not be of the same gender, and out of the six-government politi­cal zonal representatives two must be women. It further recommended that the political Association must main­tain 20% women in membership of its growing bodies, and the political par­ties should give more attention to the nomination of women and youths as candidates. These recommendations were further passed to the national Assembly. Unfortunately, Nigeria has not lived up to expectations and this militates against the full implemen­tation of the 35% affirmative action recommended by the national gender policy to ensure more women partic­ipation in politics. Evidence shows that women leaders are more trans­parent and practical.

The economic cooperation and de­velopment noted that women typical­ly invest a higher proportion of their earning in their families and commu­nities than men. United States Agen­cy for Economic Development USAID says that when 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3% of which Nigeria is inclusive. USAID also declared that when women have the same amount of land as men there is over 10% in­crease in crops yield. The United Na­tion’s women continue to support the economic and political empower­ment of women through grant making mechanism, such as funds for Gender Equality FGE provided by the United Nations women directly to women’s organisations to establish programs that increase women’s leadership and political participation and achieve gender equality. Thanks to the United Nations and organisations that make effective use of such funds to ensure women political inclusiveness in Ni­geria. As a grantee of the FGE grant AFA unites with South- East female politicians to call on all necessary stake holders to acknowledge the fact that the full implementation of 35% affirmative action is not a favour, but a requirement for Nigeria economy growth and sustainability alliances for Africa (AFA) is an Africa led in­ternational Non- Governmental Or­ganisation which focuses on human rights, peace and sustainable devel­opment with national offices in Lagos and Owerri Imo State, Nigeria. AFA aims at challenging and strengthen­ing on a sustainable basis, local, na­tional, sub regional and regional insti­tutions in Africa that are active.

Blessing Duru is the coordinator, Alli­ance for Africa.