The “for­got­ten” women

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

By far the sil­li­est com­ment made about Pres­i­dent Muhammed Buhari (PMB) since he as­sumed of­fice is that the gen­der im­bal­ance in min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees is a re­sult of his prob­lems in re­lat­ing with women.

In a quite ex­tra­or­di­nary de­vel­op­ment an in­di­vid­ual called Mr Gideon Sa­mani, who falsely claimed to a Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant on Po­lit­i­cal Mat­ters, said that PMB is used to deal­ing only with men and is “very shy deal­ing with the op­po­site sex”.

Even though not ev­ery silly state­ment should be taken se­ri­ously, the Spe­cial Ad­viser on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity to the Pres­i­dent Mr. Femi Adesina took it upon him­self to re­ply and de­bunk this non­sen­si­cal claim in a state­ment which called Sa­mani an im­poster.

Ac­cord­ing to Adesina the po­si­tion of Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant (Po­lit­i­cal Mat­ters) doesn’t even ex­ist at this point in time! Never the less the list of min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees and the man­ner of their screen­ing leaves a lot to be de­sired. The tele­vised con­fir­ma­tion pro­ceed­ings made the whole thing look like a point­less ex­er­cise.

It’s be­come abun­dantly clear that screen­ing nom­i­nees with no prior knowl­edge of their port­fo­lios makes no sense what­so­ever. That aside, the poor rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women is no­tice­able and has brought about a clamor for more of them to be ap­pointed as Min­is­ters of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic when­ever the cabi­net is reshuf­fled.

This case for more women is un­der­stand­able. In the last ad­min­is­tra­tion 31% of the Min­is­ters were women but dis­ap­point­ingly there are only six of them on the list of the 36 min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees. This rep­re­sents only 16% women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil (FEC). Some com­men­ta­tors mis­tak­enly put this down to PMB’s reli­gious be­liefs.

How­ever it is sheer bunkum to sug­gest that de­vout Moslems have an aver­sion to women in po­si­tions of power. The two largest Moslem na­tions in the world are In­done­sia and Pak­istan, both of which have elected women (Mew­gawati Sukanoop­u­tri and Be­nazir Bhutto) with po­lit­i­cal power at the high­est lev­els and elected them into lead­er­ship of their na­tional gov­ern­ments.

The no­tion that there are only six women in the whole coun­try qual­i­fied and ca­pa­ble of be­ing Min­is­ters is just silly. It is dis­ap­point­ing, wor­ry­ing and even an­noy­ing that fewer women are be­ing ap­pointed to po­si­tions in Na­tional pol­i­tics. Dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) promised to im­ple­ment the na­tional gen­der pol­icy which firmly com­mits to af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion and re­quires that women fill 35% of all ap­pointed po­si­tions.

De­spite this prom­ise the quite dis­turb­ing trend where the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in po­si­tions of po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is de­clin­ing con­tin­ues. The global av­er­age is 22.5% and in­creas­ing steadily. Un­for­tu­nately in Nige­ria it’s the op­po­site. In 2007 the Na­tional As­sem­bly com­prised 9% women, but in 2011 the fig­ure fell to 7%. Worse still only a measly 4% of lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cilors are women.

The rea­sons for the dearth of women in pol­i­tics range from the ridicu­lous amounts of money re­quired to run a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign to our in­her­ent prej­u­dice against women in po­si­tion of po­lit­i­cal power. The num­ber two role that women play in the do­mes­tic en­vi­ron­ment has been car­ried into the po­lit­i­cal sphere.

Al­though their role as home mak­ers should not be down­played, there is no doubt that Nige­rian women have the po­ten­tials and rights to con­trib­ute mean­ing­fully to our na­tional de­vel­op­ment by at­tain­ing the high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fices. The truth is most Nige­rian men tend to be­lieve that suc­cess­ful women are a threat to their hus­bands and so­ci­ety at large.

In­deed one fe­male as­pi­rant for the post of State Gover­nor was asked at a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion whether it was be­cause she con­trols her hus­band in the house, that she now wanted to con­trol other men out­side! Nige­rian men are tra­di­tion­ally chau­vin­is­tic and be­lieve that de­ci­sion mak­ing is their ex­clu­sive right. As far as they are con­cerned women should sim­ply await in­struc­tion on what to do!

Con­ve­niently for­get­ting the likes of Dora Akin­luyi they point to the ig­no­ble roles of so many women who have held high of­fice since 1999 as rea­son why women should be re­strained from hold­ing im­por­tant or sen­si­tive port­fo­lios. There is no deny­ing that women who were ap­pointed into po­si­tions of power merely to fill the “Be­jing Quota” did noth­ing of note to up­lift the sta­tus of women in gen­eral.

The cre­ation of the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Women and a min­is­te­rial port­fo­lio for Women’s Af­fairs was ex­pected to pro­mote women re­lated is­sues and en­hance their role in na­tional de­vel­op­ment, but th­ese rep­re­sented only a to­kenism which was never far reach­ing enough to achieve any real im­pact on gen­der equal­ity.

Over the years Nige­rian women have been in­creas­ingly rel­e­gated to the back­ground in pub­lic life and pol­i­tics. In the past they used to be mainly in­volved in agri­cul­ture, nurs­ing, and pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion but the sit­u­a­tion is grad­u­ally chang­ing.

Three male dom­i­nated pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions - the Nige­rian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (NMA), The Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) and the In­sti­tute of Char­tered Ac­coun­tants of Nige­ria (ICAN) have all elected women pres­i­dents in re­cent times.

In or­der to main­tain im­pe­tus it’s vi­tal that gen­der anal­y­sis be­comes an in­te­gral tool of eco­nomic anal­y­sis, project de­sign and project mon­i­tor­ing. On their own part, rather than ex­pect sym­pa­thy from any­one, Nige­rian women must ad­just their men­tal­ity to­wards win­ning.

They should not al­low the past frus­tra­tions of oth­ers and male prej­u­dice to dis­cour­age them. If they re­ally want to use their abil­ity and qual­i­fi­ca­tions to ful­fill their as­pi­ra­tions and am­bi­tions Nige­rian women must fight prej­u­dice, cast away timid­ity, ex­ude con­fi­dence and ex­press en­light­ened bold­ness rather than de­pend on quota sys­tems.

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