• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Investing in women for political progress: Are we ready?

Investing in women for political progress: Are we ready?

Since 2021, civil society and non-governmental organisations have been advocating for the signing of gender bills into law. Three of the five bills that were proposed to increase the participation of women in governance and politics include “Special Seats for Women,” which sought to provide special seats for women in the National and State Houses of Assembly. This would ultimately help women get better representation in the legislative arm of government at the federal and state levels; “Affirmative Action for Women in Political Party Administration,” which sorts to alter the provisions of the Constitution to ensure that at least 35 percent of the members of the executive committee of a political party at all levels are women; and “Access and inclusion of at least 10 percent affirmative action in favour of women in ministerial appointments,” which sorts to ensure that every ministerial appointment had at least 10 percent female representation. The long-term effect of this bill was even greater representation of women in appointments, governance, and public offices.

Read also: Women in energy, oil and gas advocate inclusion for economic growth

Every time these bills have gotten media attention from concerned agencies and organisations, they have never seen the light of the day, as lawmakers have always been in a haste to let the bills die. Unlike the Not Too Young to Young Bill, which was later signed into law in 2018, it would seem as if there is a deep-rooted political conspiracy that is hell bent on antagonising women’s participation in politics.

Ironically, women are boldly taking the lead in the global – diplomatic and corporate spaces respectively: from Folorunsho Alakija, first female Chancellor in Africa and Vice-Chair, Famfa Oil; Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Director General, World Trade Organization; Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; and Ibukun Awoshika, first Chairperson of First Bank of Nigeria; to Dupe Olusola, Managing Director/CEO Transcorp Hotels Plc; recently appointed Dr. Adaora Umeoji as the Group CEO of Zenith Bank; Tomi Somefun, Unity Bank; Kafilat Araoye, Lotus Bank; Ireti Samuel-Ogbu, CitiBank; Miriam Olusanya, GTBank; Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Fidelity Bank; Yemisi Edun, FCMB; Halima Buba, SunTrust Bank; and Yetunde Oni, Union Bank.

In other areas of entrepreneurship, we have the following women: Tara Fela-Durotoye, founder of House of Tara; Mo Abudu, CEO, Ebonylife Group; Deola Sagoe, Deola; Olajumoke Adenowo, AD Consulting; Uche Pedro, Bella Naija; Nkem Okocha, Mamamoni; Dorothy Jeff-Nnamani, Novo Health Africa Ltd.; and hundreds of other women.

One redefining moment about these women is that they are between the age range of 40 and 60, and as far as coincidences go with the over 36 percent recent increase in women-led administration in the banking sectors, the most realistic and measurable reason can be traced to the deliberate institutional framework and processes existing in these industries, aimed at strategically uplifting, positioning, and empowering women.

 “Every time these bills have gotten media attention from concerned agencies and organisations, they have never seen the light of the day, as lawmakers have always been in a haste to let the bills die.”

It then begs to reason that if the board of trustees, shareholders, and stakeholders in corporate environments, who have the same (if not worse) socio-cultural disposition beliefs (and biases) about women being at the helm, make intentional efforts to frame succession plans that give regard to gender-reliable affirmative actions, why are political and government institutions yet to catch up with the global trend?

The most ironic part of the deep-seated challenges women face in participating in politics in Nigeria is that they have been ultimately sidelined into certain positions, even though women form one of the most critical stakeholders’ ratios in every political metric. From market women, leaders and heads of cooperative societies, heads of artisan associations, teachers unions, and other grassroot institutions in Nigeria, there is hardly an election cycle that doesn’t consider these groups as actors and stakeholders. To ignore or undermine them is to crumble one’s political ambition like a deck of cards.

Political parties often struggle to translate quotas for female representation into genuine leadership opportunities. Even with mandates to reserve 35 percent of executive positions for women during party congresses, one questions whether there’s an unconscious bias against women in leadership roles. Party elections often see women encouraged to run for positions like Women Leader or Treasurer, while key decision-making roles like National Chairman or Public Relations Officer remain dominated by men.

Read also:Women empowerment would create just, equitable society for everyone Igoni

One would then wonder why women hardly run for top positions during general elections. If political parties, which should be the hope of the electorate, and vehicles of inclusion, access, equity, and equal opportunities are found wanting, and stakeholders use their positions to frustrate intending aspirants from running through several tactics, which include expensive costs of expression of interest and nomination forms, godfather demands, and other discriminatory expectations, one can’t expect any better from the electorate.

More women are needed in politics and governance as a matter of urgency. If the corporate environment is investing in women to accelerate the country’s economic development, political institutions need to do much more. If anything, socio-economic decisions are a simple reflection of government policies, and government policies, on the other hand, are the result of political institutions and processes that have little or no regard for inclusion, diversity, and equality opportunities. Everything rises and falls on politics; everything begins and ends with politics.

 

Ifenla Oligbinde is a Nigerian lawyer, writer, inclusion advocate, and politician with over 10 years of experience in project management and community development. She was the first and only Nigeria selected for the McCain Global Leaders program in 2023, and one of 700 African Leaders for the 2023 Mandela Washington Fellowship, to study Leadership in Public Management track at the Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.