By S. A. Effah Attoe
Related Links: Female
Nigerian women have encountered a number of problems while venturing into politics.
There is large scale discrimination from the men folk, both in voting for candidates
and in allocating political offices.
More often than not, men constitute a larger percentage of the party membership
and this tends to affect women when it comes to selecting or electing candidates
for elections. Since men are usually the majority in the political party setup,
they tend to dominate the party hierarchy and are there fore at advantage in
influencing the party's internal politics.
Women usually constitute a smaller per
centage of political party membership because of
the social, cultural and religious attitudes of different
Nigerian societies which most often tend to relegate
women to the background. As a result, only very
few men, even among the educated, allow their
wives to come out and participate in politics. In
Northern Nigeria, for instance, an important factor
inhibiting women's participation is the purdah sys
tem (i.e. house seclusion of women).
Another problem facing women is lack of adequate education. Women constitute
a larger per
centage of the illiterate group in Nigeria. This could
be attributed to the fact that in most families, par
ents prefer to send their sons to school, instead of
tfieir daughters whom they fee! would eventually
get married and thus get incorporated into another
family. Thus, a larger percentage of the giris remain
uneducated and unexposed.
Lack of adequate finance is a crucial hindrance to effective female participation
in politics in Nigeria. A large portion of the Nigerian female population is
not as financially strong as their male counterparts. Family responsibilities
and childbearing also hinder women from participating effectively in partisan
political activities. During a sizeable part of their adult lives, most women
are involved not only in child bearing, but also in child rearing. TTius, much
of the time they may have wished to devote to politics is taken up by their
maternai challenges and obligations.
The future prospects of Nigerian womenin pol
itics are bright. The 1991 census figures show that
women are almost now numerically at par with men.
Moreover, some of the obstacles highlighted above
are already being removed. For example, the num
ber of educated women in Nigeria has increased
over the years. Many members of this new class
are willing and able to participate effectively In poli
tics at various levels. The number of girls admitted
into schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities
has increased phenomenally. In some states in the
eastern part of Nigeria (e.g. Abia, Imo, Enugu,
Ebonyi and Anambra), there are now more females
than males in schools.
In the northern part of
Nigeria, a quiet but significant social revolution is
now taking place among women. It may not be very
long before education reaches the corridors of the
purdahs. Even nomadic men, women and their
children (including females) are now receiving edu
cation which is invariably a source of political, eco
nomic and social power.
On the 13th of June, 1985,
the Federal Government signed and ratified the
convention on the elimination of all forms of dis
crimination against women. Subsequently, the
Federal Government began to initiate policies and
programmes aimed at improving the lives of
With the emergence of the Better Life Programme (in the era of Mrs. Maryam
Babangida as Nigeria's First Lady), the initiation of the Family Support Programme
(FSP), in the era of Mrs Mariam Abacha, the establishment of the National Commission
for Women also in Mrs, Babangida's era, later the Ministry of Women Affairs,
and the increasing positive role of Nigeria's present First Lady, Mrs. Stella
Obasanjo, one may confidently state that women organisations are now beginning
to find a rallying point for common action politically, economically and socially.