Nigeria, Democracy and Leaving the Women Behind—By Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor

Nigerian women, Image credit: takepart.com

The latest statistics by the National Bureau of statistics, NBS on women and men in Nigeria for 2018 is indeed gloomy and casts a strong shadow on the claims of gains in gender advancement and women development in Nigeria.

According to the report, women participation in all cadre of governance decision-making including at national, state assemblies and tiers of governance was record bottom-low at a mere 5.8 percent. This is despite constituting a greater proportion of the electorate.

Giving a breakdown of its statistical assessment and report, the NBS revealed that right from key positions and institutions including the Presidency, Courts (Judges), Governorships, Parliaments, Local Government Councils etc., none has recorded up to a 30 percent involvement of women, with the worst being state assemblies and local Councils which had a 5.2 percent participation rate for women and 94.8 percent for men and 9 percent participation level for women as chairpersons and 91 percent in same capacity for men for state Assemblies and Local Councils in the Country respectively for the period of 1999-2015.

As if the situation was not bad enough, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed further that in sharp contrast to the participation of women in National decision-making positions, violence and crimes against women had seen an astronomical increase pegging cases of rape for girls at 63.04, 72.13 and 69.33 in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

All the indicators that emerged from the report were bleak for women including in health and literacy levels etc, which show the pendulum weighing heavily at odds against the girl-child and women.

These figures and the reality they portray, clearly indicates that there is a national emergency situation that begs for urgent and concerted attention and action from all, including state and non-state actors.

While concerned authorities may want to live in denial towards the report, the sad reality is that it is indeed a true reflection of the state of women in Nigeria. A cursory look around will only confirm this; while the bulk of children hawking stuffs on the streets are girls, the remaining ones are roundly forced into untimely marriage and child-bearing with all the consequential toll and efforts as we see today.

In politics women are deliberately excluded through a perfectly contrived scheming and mechanisms aimed at keeping them out of the main picture. Today, no thanks to this form of practices many state Assemblies including Kogi, etc have no female member in such parliament and so even specific entities such as parliamentary committees on women are absurdly chaired and also wholly composed of men. These sorts of absurdities find expression in the nation’s polity, today.

It is gladdening though, both for Social Action Nigeria and for other well-meaning individuals and entities who have strived and continue to do so, to change this nature of narrative concerning women, that women have, against all odds made and continue to make their mark in the sphere of the country’s development. Their contributions to national development cannot indeed be quantified.

To reserve this ugly trend in gender advancement however, the nation must put its money where its mouth is, rise from the abyss of rhetoric and begin in practice, to match words with action in the areas of Governance and Decision-making, Education, Economy, Population, Health, Crime and Violence against women.

Taking the area of power-governance in the instance, key institutions in the sector such as INEC should set a gender balance parameter for political parties and should roundly reject the list of any political party whose aspirants does not cross the threshold of gender parity.

The same measure should be applied to appointive positions in the country and in so doing, placing square pegs in square holes, Nigeria may hope to begin to see genuine attainment of its developmental goals and aspirations as a country.

 

Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor is the Head, National Advocacy Centre,Social Action, Nigeria. vivian@saction.org

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