13 May 2017

West Africa: Women in Politics - Nigeria Can Emulate Burkina Faso

Photo: Javier Marmol, CIDSE
(file photo).

- Women group bitter as only 54 women submitted forms for 448 LG positions in Lagos

By Anino Aganbi

Members of a coalition, Strategies to Achieve Gender Equality for Women Coalition (STAGE), recently lent their voices to the call for more women in government at a press briefing held in Lagos.

STAGE, as they are pseudonymed, is a women's organization identifying with each other as sisters individually and collectively working to achieve gender equality in the nation's governance structures. It seeks to foster the relationships and affection, the sisterhood, unity and togetherness needed to have women from different religious, ethnic and socio-cultural backgrounds to value and appreciate each other, work together and speak with one voice.

Stating that a lot of women do not like going into politics because of hate speech against women, Dr Angela Daniel, Co-chair STAGE said such speeches were used to degrade, intimidate or incite violence against women.

"It was as a result of such hate speech that Onyeka Onwenu stepped down from running for local council chairman in Imo state. Men should be made to understand that we are not competing with them at any level in politics so they need to stop using derogatory words on women in politics just to demoralize them."

"Women in politics should be given equal rights as the men. There are a lot of issues that prevent women from running for politics, some of which are the home, culture, finances amongst other things. It was very disheartening when facts came to us at STAGE that the total number of women who submitted their forms for the local government chairmanship election in Lagos was just 53. We are using this medium to call on more women to show interest in politics because we believe that women are the only ones who can bring about true change in our nation."

"Interestingly, most other countries which have now achieved significant level of women representation in governance adopted some form of gender policy that facilitated their achievements. For instance, The Burkina Faso National Assembly adopted a law that requires a 30 percent quota for women on political party candidate lists. Women, who were largely spectators in the past, now occupy 35 percent of seats. Additionally, there is a substantial monetary incentive for parties with 30 percent of their elected representatives as women. Political parties that reach 30 percent of women elected to the National Assembly or local councils are rewarded with double the financing they would normally receive from the state. Nigeria can emulate Burkina Faso. The increase in public financing for any party reaching that standard is designed to keep parties from burying women at the bottom of their candidate lists, which makes it less likely they could actually earn a seat," she said.

Speaking further, Daniel says that STAGE considers that either the Gender Quota Law of BurkinaFaso or the Positive Action Policies for legislative office strategy or a combination of both holds the promise of new opportunities for Nigerian women, at both the national, state and local government levels, as the Coalition seriously considers Women's Representation in Governance starting from the forthcoming Local Government (LG) elections.

"We hereby appeal to the political parties and other stakeholders to effect necessary changes and policies to encourage more women to participate in the forthcoming Local Government elections in the states. The Coalition desires that all stakeholders take responsibility and make appropriate commitments towards achieving gender equality in Nigeria's democratic system starting from LG elections."

"It is now more obvious and understandable than ever, that as women increasingly become players in a world that is increasingly integrated and complex, and a critical mass of women enter the political arena, gender relations and social relations become significantly fairer and more egalitarian. Hence, to play their role properly, women everywhere must become far more involved in the affairs of their respective communities, LGs, States, and the country generally.

The lingering low representation of women in the National and States Assemblies, as well as the Local Government Councils, has been attributed to various factors including cultural, traditional and religious norms, finance, violence, and inhibiting gender roles as well as capacity and internal party democracies. If allowed to continue, the current situation of women in the National and States Assemblies, and now the LG Councils will continue to make it impossible to get women's and girls' issues on the front burner when such issues are put to vote for or against.

It is pertinent to note that in Lagos State with 56 LCDAs, which indicates a total of 448 available positions (392 Councillorship positions and 56 Local Government Chairpersons) only 54 women have submitted forms from the five political parties with elective positions in Lagos."

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