Gender equality refers to a situation where women and men have equal conditions for realising their full human rights and potentials; are able to contribute equally to national, political, economic, social and cultural development and benefit equally from the results. Furthermore, it entails that the underlying causes of discrimination are systematically identified and removed in order to give men and women equal opportunities. Equality is therefore understood to include both formal equality and substantive equality, and not merely simple equality to men.
According to the UN, “gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will nurture sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large. A record 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their constitutions as of 2014. However, another 52 had not taken this step. In many nations, gender discrimination is still woven into the fabric of legal systems and social norms. Even though SDG5 is a stand-alone goal, other SDGs can only be achieved if the needs of women receive the same attention as the needs of men. Issues unique to women and girls include traditional practices against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, such as female genital mutilation.
According to the United Nations Development Programme statistics
- Globally, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn doing the same work.
- 35% of women in the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Less than 20 percent of the world’s landholders are women.
- Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
- Two thirds of countries in the developing world have achieved gender parity in primary education.
- Only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, up from 11.3 percent in 1995.
Nigeria like other countries in the world is responding to the clarion calls made variously by the United Nations to rid societies of all forms of discriminations especially gender based discriminations.
In fact in the year 2000, Nigeria took a bold step adopting and passing into law the National Policy on women guided by the Global Instrument on the Convention of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The country indeed has tried to respond to this development from the international arena by articulating policies and programmes that seeks to reduce gender inequalities in socio economic and political spheres, however, the success of bridging the gap between men and women is far fetched. All efforts made to attain gender equality in Nigeria seems like a charade.
Politically, Nigerian women are negligible and undermined force, with little political involvement. Economically, they constitute the majority of the peasant labour force in the agricultural sector, while most of the others occupy bottom of occupational ladder and continue to be channelled into service and domestic occupations. The consequence of the unequal status between men and women is high level of economics and political powerlessness among women, powerlessness in turn retard development of any level, politically, economically and socially.
A critical analysis of the political system of Nigeria casts a huge doubt on the achievement of the sustainable development goal 5: gender equality.
In Nigeria, there are prevailing concerns such as religious and cultural bias against women participation in politics; low membership in political parties and party structure. Even the hostile political environment does not stimulate the right response in women, nor does it pique their interest; and creates imbalance in the political sphere.
Women who constitute about half of the population have been continuously sidelined in public life to the extent that they never held more than 15% of elective offices (see table for statistics of elective positions) compared to what obtained in other nations of the world, particularly in developed nations.
Prof. Olayiwola Olurode noted that Nigeria lags far behind in women political participation index on the African countries saying, “Nigerian women have about the worst representation of 5.9% in the national legislature when compared to most other African countries example Uganda (34.6%), South Africa (43.2%), Ethiopia (27.7%), Cameroon (20%), Niger (12.3%) and DR Congo (8.0%)”.
|Office||Seat Available||Women||Seat Available||Women||Seat Available||Women||Seat Available||Women||Seat Available||Women|
|House of Reps||360||12(3.3)||360||21(5.8)||360||23(6.4)||360||26(7.2)||109||19(5.3)|
|State House of Assembly||990||12(1.2)||990||38(3.8)||990||52(5.3)||990||62(6.3)|
|SHA Committees Chairpersons||829||18(2.2)||881||32(3.6)||887||52(5.9)||887|
The issue being that women in Nigeria face a lot of odds when they contest against men. For instance
i. The issue of the chauvinistic traditional system
The following are notorious facts in Nigeria
- It is an abomination for women to claim equality with men especially in decision making programme such as politics or wanting to head a man under any circumstance, it’s a taboo.
- A woman does not take a separate decision apart from her spouse.
- The idea of women in politics is a rude agenda in Nigeria and an abomination to most men. Naturally, there is stiff opposition from even educated men politicians to women.
ii. Women conception of politics
In Nigeria, there is a belief that Nigerian politics is based on high political virility, those who have all it takes to compete in the turbulent environment, and those who can match violence. It is assumed that men possess superiority, strength, competitiveness and self reliant and are preferred to tussle in political endeavour, whereas, women are considered too passive to engage in politics and governance. This consensus is also constructed by societal norms and values which through socialization has defined different gender roles according to biological differences. Their perception of politics as a dirty game and continued fright at the thought of violence has alienated them from mainstreaming politics.
iii. Funding and high cost of election
Although equality affects men but the rate at which it affects women is more pronounced in Nigeria. The cost of financing political parties and campaigns is a big obstacle to women. The minimum cost of gubernatorial election could go as high as 200 million naira and how many men can mobilize such huge amount of money for women? Which political party would nominate a woman for that post considering her very small contribution to party finance and formation?
Women are said to be amongst the poorest people in the world and a poor person can not play significant role in politics. Over 90% of women live below the poverty line in Nigeria. Those that are educated are not rich and the rich ones are uneducated or are not politically inclined. Therefore this disadvantage position cannot allow women to match naira for naira in Nigeria monetised politics. This partly explain why they are reluctant about active participation in politics.
iv. The place of the women participating in politics
Although women actively participate in the membership of political parties, the only serve as supporters for male to acquire political positions. Politics is said to be game of members yet women’s numerical strength has not impacted positively on the political life and decision making structure of the nation. Men constitute a large percentage of the party membership and this tends to affect women when it comes to selecting or electing candidates for elections. Men tend to dominate the party hierarchy and are therefore at advantage in influencing the party’s internal politics. Women usually constitute a smaller percentage of political party membership because of the social, cultural, religious attitude of different Nigerian societies.
v. The general perception of politics in Nigeria
It is generally believed that politics is a dirty vocation; one that is reserved for unrefined people who have little scruples with bending the rules and subverting due process. Female politicians are therefore seen as accomplices of vile male politicians who are bent on manipulating the popular will of the people. They are treated as deviant male politicians. Politics is time consuming and it demands great attention. Juggling their traditional ascribed roles with an interest in politics without a supportive spouse could result in needless conflict.
Female politicians are often perceived to be divorcees and marital failures. Also, violence and threats, the do-or-die nature of politics in Nigeria has had its own fair share of women who have to pay the ultimate price for venturing into politics. Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Suliat Adedeji and many others are easily recalled as helpless victims of the sanguinary predilection of Nigeria’s politics. These issues highlighted have gone along way to affect women’s participation in politics and has therefore lead to a very low level of political interest.
In order to have women, gender equality initiatives, the government needs to work towards changing the structures which produces gender inequalities in our society.
Building on the premise of the existence of a clear inexorable interconnection between women’s deprivation and some socio-economic and political factors, it therefore follow that, to address women gender equality on any front, effort must be made to address the aforementioned gender issues.
Nigeria cannot afford to continue to treat half of its population and a significant part of the productive force as inferior being. We need to give our womenfolk the full chance to participate in all sectors of society. The roles of women as house makers cannot be downplayed. Women touch anywhere, cannot be matched. To ensure and achieve gender equality in Nigeria, economic and political powerlessness of women must be addressed. But that does not seem likely, does it?