Women and Politics: Where are the resources?

Why connect gender equality with political finance?

Gender inequality in politics is a complex phenomenon and it is a common theme also that women wanting to run for office have less access to resources than men. Findings show that one of the weakest points for women wishing to run for elections is financing. This chapter will also explore recorded global best practice of campaign financing for women using applicable case studies to buttress the points made.

Gender equality does not mean sameness between men and women but refers to equality of rights, participation, opportunities, voices and access as well as control over resources. To measure gender equality in Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 2004 launched the African Gender Development Index (AGDI) which is a composite index. It consists of two parts which are the Gender Status Index (GSI) and the African Women’s Progress Scoreboard (AWPS).

AGDI has been embraced because it takes into cognisance African contexts such as long years of colonisation which may have affected the practice of democracy in different African countries. The AGDI places high emphasis on major African Charters and documents that have a bearing on gender relations and women’s empowerment. This is critical within the context of spots of rejection of international treaties that promote gender equality such as Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

One unique characteristic of AGDI is that as a tool, it not only measures quantitative but also qualitative data. This measurement allows for considerations to be given to the complexities and dynamisms surrounding the lives of African women.

Using the AGDI, the African Development Bank Gender Equality Index Report (2015) measured the:

  • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments;
  • Proportion of women in ministerial level; and
  • Number of justices on the Constitutional Court who are women.

Nigeria scored about 38% because between 2011 and 2015, the number of women in appointive positions was the highest ever recorded. As at November 2018, the number of women appointed and elected into positions across the 3 levels of governance is at an all-time low of about 6%.

Several factors are responsible for this low representation of women in politics and they explain the connection between gender equality and political finance. There are several factors that have influenced the low numbers of women elected into positions in Nigeria. Even though these factors have been documented in several literatures, the most interesting elucidation of these factors was captured by Mangvatt et all (2010) as internal and external factors. According to Ibeanu, there is a dialectical interaction between the external and internal factors. The internal factors are those strengths that a woman has while the external factors are the issues that she is exposed to. The most critical conclusion of this theorising is that ‘where the internal (coping) dimension is strong and the external exposure dimension is weak, women political marginalisation tends to be low’.

Throughout Election Herstories and other literature, one recurring factor is mentioned as a challenge that women aspiring for elective positions have faced- FINANCE. This applies in other countries like Kenya, where finance has been recognised as a critical barrier that women particularly face due to feminised poverty which is underscored by data on how women control fewer resources than men in most African countries. Systemic issues such as lower economic status and lack of economic independence affect women globally, effectively placing barriers for women’s participation in politics.

Research has shown that limited access to funding is an issue disproportionally faced by women. The “gender wealth gap” describes the disparity in disposable financial resources and economic independence between men and women. Research finds that not only do women earn less than men in the workplace, but they also own less of the world’s wealth. This is caused by men and women having unequal access to work and social benefits, such as paid vacation days, health and unemployment insurance, tax credits, social security and welfare. Motherhood is another cause of the gender wealth gap, as mothers are more likely to have primary caregiving responsibility, resulting in decreased opportunities for wealth accumulation. As a result, while women now earn around 78 per cent of their male counterparts’ income, they only own 36 per cent as much wealth.

This therefore means that for us to achieve gender equality which is evidenced by the number of women elected into positions, the core barrier of political financing for women’s aspirations have to be addressed in a structural and systematic manner. This was equally recognised by IKnowPolitics and it prompted a repeat of an online discussion on ‘Funding for Women Candidates’ in June 2018 after the first one was done in 2013. The discussion recognised that:

‘Women continue to be severely underrepresented in decision-making processes and bodies across the world at all levels. In fact, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) reports that only 23% of members of parliament (MPs) are women. A major contributing factor to this is the unequal access to the resources needed to successfully seek nominations or participate in electoral campaigns. It has been increasingly recognised that politics dominated by money, more often than not, is politics dominated by men.  IPU conducted a survey in 2008 of 300 MPs affirming that campaign financing was one of the biggest obstacles faced by women. This was later confirmed in research done by UN women in 2013 wherein over 80% of the respondents identified access to financing as one of the biggest barriers to enter politics’.

The costs of running for office in Nigeria is huge due to the level of poverty, high rate of illiteracy, trust deficit in politicians, size of the country, corrupt and opaque practices of political parties and the multi-ethnic nature of the country. Depending also on the level of office being contested for, these contexts could be deepened by other variables. From informing key stakeholders till the election day proper, huge sums of money is to be expended on logistics, gifts and proving loyalty. At the Women Aspirants Summit held on 31 July 2018 in preparations for the 2019 General Elections organised by the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Women Radio 91.7 FM and Women in Politics Forum female aspirants affirmed that the over three-quarters of the finances required to prosecute an election is expended on or before the primaries. This is exacerbated in situations where political parties hold delegate elections to determine the party flag bearer.

To reiterate how important political finance is to a woman’s aspirations and Nigeria’s efforts at achieving gender equality, a cursory look at the recently concluded primaries for the 2019 General Elections show that women were cheated out the same way as poor men were

                                                                                                         (To be continued)

Culled from Resource Mobilization Strategies for Women’s Effective Political Participation Institutionalizing Anti-Corruption and Accountability in Nigeria (2019)

A Publication of Nigerian Women Trust Fund