Nigerian society has always prescribed certain roles according to gender. Even in 2018, it remains common to find Nigerians assigning masculine and feminine traits and duties to strangers.
Traditional Yoruba gender roles in particular dictate that women are to be submissive, care for the children, and take care of the house and their husbands. On the other hand, men are supposed to be the educated breadwinners of the family and occupy the public sphere.
Unfortunately, this pattern of thinking justifies women’s underrepresentation in several fields, particularly politics. According to London School of Economics alumna Nwamaka Ogbonna, women make up about 49 per cent of the Nigerian population but only 4 percent of lawmakers.
Our country has the lowest number of female parliamentarians in Sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 133rd in the world for female political representation. All of this begs the question: Where are the women in Nigerian politics?
The current political elite is a significant obstacle to women’s participation and involvement in politics. This elite is mostly male and works as a cartel, eliminating competition and bolstering the position of their friends and allies in order to maintain power.
As evidence from more equally divided countries such as Rwanda and South Africa shows, gender equality in politics is almost impossible to achieve until women are nominated at the party level. The mostly male elite holding power in this country is making this unlikely at least and impossible at most.
The disparity in education between men and women in this country also plays a role in gender disparity in politics. Due to the aforementioned gender roles, traditional families remain hesitant to send their girls to school. As a result, the literacy rate for women aged 15-24 years in rural Nigeria is at 45%, while 61% of rural men of the same age are literate.
Women’s pressure groups remain limited in power until more is done at the institutional level to secure political positions for Nigerian women. Political quotas for example have proven successful, creating the world’s first female majority in the Rwandan legislature in 2008. Furthermore, we must also call for an end to gendered thinking.
The people and the federal government thus can and must do more to end the exclusion of almost half of the Nigerian population from political representation. Only when a closure of the gap between the sets of figures for men and women occurs shall Nigerian politics begin to see true democracy take hold. May God Bless the people of our beloved Country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.