Nigeria, despite its rank as the most populated country in Africa, with a female population of 49.46 percent of its 200 million population, the political representation of women remains very poor. Although women possess equal rights as men also to vote and contest for political positions, these rights have not fostered adequate representation for women in Nigerian politics. 2022 Gender Equality and Governance Index report stated that Nigerian women are present in only 8 of 109 seats and 21 of 360 seats in the lower house of parliament and the upper house, respectively.
Report made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has it that 48 percent of registered voters — 44 million women — participated in the 2023 elections. However, the incidents that occurred during the general elections emphasises the obstacles and difficulties encountered by women aspirants, voters, and candidates. Efforts rendered to ensure the participation of the female gender in the political field are impeded by the bias of the Nigerian government against gender equality. The parliament, which has more male than female, has argued against legislation that aims at granting equal rights to females.
Marital obligations restrict active political participation.
Advancing political participation of women is majorly hindered by prevalent intimidation, cyberbullying, harassment and physical attacks on female politicians and voters. The most jailed woman politician in the history of Nigeria, Hajia Gambo Sawaba, was beaten in public, with her hair shaved off with a broken bottle. She also got sentenced to prison 16 times. Many Nigerian women, both voters and politicians, were targets of violence during the 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections in the country.
A female aspirant for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Qua’an Pan South State constituency, Plateau, Hon. Na’anyil Magdalene Dakogol, got kidnapped on the same day her party won the primaries election. According to the former women’s political leader of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Kaduna State, Sheba Kura, the active participation of females in political activities is often restricted by marital obligations as several political meetings are scheduled to hold late in the night, around 11 pm or 12 am.
They are capable of promoting transparency and fairness.
Another major obstacle hindering the achievement of gender equality in Nigerian politics is the expensive cost of campaigning. A report by the 2022 Gender Equality and Governance Index revealed that the cost of conducting a political campaign is now very high, posing a disadvantage to females. Due to economic differences, women are usually unable to access the same financial aid systems used by men. The increasing financial challenges encountered by this gender, including the increasing campaign costs, were noted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report.
According to the 2022 Gender Equality and Governance Index report, the advantages of women’s representation in politics in Nigeria cannot be underrated. It further revealed that countries like France, South Africa, Sweden, and Rwanda with high percentages of female representation employ diverse and family-friendly policy-making. Women are capable of promoting transparency, fairness, and impartiality, with improved service delivery as a priority. Also, they are mostly responsible for structural reforms that tackle inequalities and drive social and economic sustainability.
There is a need to put in place gender equality reforms.
Eliminating the impediments restricting the political participation of Nigerian women is very essential to the achievement of genuine gender equality and inclusive governance. Therefore, there is a need to put in place reforms that would encourage the promotion of gender equality legislation, provision of financial aid for potential feminine politicians, and protection of women from violence, while challenging traditional norms and customs. Creation of an enabling environment will help Nigeria enjoy the benefits of its diverse population, while building a more representative and equitable democracy.