Across the world, women face discrimination in leadership, political participation and governance. Despite their proven abilities to lead and effect change, women continue to be underrepresented in governance, leadership positions, private sector, public service, etc.
Despite comprising half of Nigeria’s total population, women continue to be sidelined as their population hasn’t translated to equal representation in governance and leadership processes.
For young women, the discrimination is even worse. They are not only discriminated against based on gender, they also discriminated against based on their age.
The socio-cultural, religious and the patriarchal nature of Nigeria’s political system have been pinpointed to be responsible for the continued marginalization of women in politics and governance.
Even though, according to unwomen.org, the percentage of women’s participation in parliament has nearly doubled in the past twenty years, that has only translated to a miserly 22% of women in parliament.
Nigeria has only 22 female members (representing 4.7%) in both houses in a 469-member National Assembly. In fact, the Inter-parliamentary Union Women in National Parliaments 2016 report places Nigeria on the175th spot.
Funke Baruwa, Executive Director of the Nigerian Women Trustfund says that if the discrimination against women must end, then factors that make it difficult for young women to actively participate in political processes in Nigeria must be removed.
Ms. Baruwa said this on an episode of the legislative engagement program, #YLAPWeekly, which airs on www.amplifiedradio.net.
“Women face twice the discrimination when it comes to political participation on gender and age. That needs to change”, she said.
Ms. Baruwa identified gender stereotypes, political structure, illiteracy, access to financial resources, socio-cultural attitudes and religion as well as work related rights as some of the factors that enhance women’s continued subordination in politics and governance.
“Our political structures make it impossible for women to even participate in political meetings because they are usually held at night. We set our political structure for men alone, sidelining women and Persons With Disabilities. We need to change the idea that politics is only for the men. We cannot continue to run our political structure like the Boys Club”, she said.
She also decried the violent nature of politics that makes it difficult for women to participate.
“No woman want to go into politics when she can be attacked or raped. Remove violence and money politics and women will participate”.
Ms. Baruwa agreed that it will take time for the idea of young women in governance to take root in Nigeria. She called on women to take advantage of their number to bargain for political positions. She urged them to form pressure groups and become active members of political parties.
“Our women leaders need to go beyond mobilizing and bargaining with their numbers. Women need to use their numbers to demand a seat at the table and to bargain for positions in political parties. Women should join political parties or form pressure groups and begin to use their numbers to drive home suggestions. That way, they have a seat on the table”.
She also called on young people to translate their social media activism to grassroots engagement, and to also give back to their communities through constituency engagement.