Special Report

How Gender Bias Hinders Support For Women in Politics

By Ijeoma Opara

Women make up one of the underrepresented groups in Nigeria’s political leadership.

This has been attributed by some to a lack of interest displayed by women in political matters, whereas some attribute it to the financial implication of vying for a political office.

To improve women’s political participation in Nigeria, many parties cut down the required nomination fees for female aspirants, making them free in some cases.

In March 2022, hundreds of women gathered at the National Assembly gate in Abuja to protest the rejection of five gender equality bills which were part of a review of the 1999 constitution.

One of the rejected bills sought the implementation of affirmative action for women, which allows them to occupy 35 per cent of all appointive positions in government.

However, despite these measures to resolve the political imbalance, the gains which can be argued to be incremental is still negligible.

In the recently concluded Ekiti general elections, there was only one female, Kemi Elebute-Halle, out of sixteen candidates on the ballot.

Of 351,865 valid votes cast during the election, only 3,495 were recorded in favour of Elebute-Halle, which is less than 1 per cent of the total votes cast.

The story is the same for Osun gubernatorial election held July 16, which had no female candidates on the ballot.

A day before the election, The ICIR had carried out a survey of residents in the state who gave several reasons why the female candidate could not be governor.

Some of the residents had said they were not aware that a female candidate was contesting the elections.

“I did not know a woman was contesting the elections,” a resident, Oluwakemi Olatunji, told The ICIR.

Another resident, Alaba Ogundare, said while she knew there was a female candidate, she could not recall her name.

However, residents who were familiar with Elebute-Halle’s gubernatorial aspirations still were not willing to give their support.

Retired Army Officer Oroolu Benson said women had less strength than men and, therefore, would not get his vote during the elections.

“A woman has no power as a man. When issues come up, women will run away. Men are stronger,” he said.

Another resident, Isah Baba, said the female candidate was less experienced in political issues and, therefore, not qualified for the governorship.

“My candidate is a man. The woman is still coming up; she is just a beginner,” he said.

A trader at Ikere-Ekiti, Bukola Ogundare, said she did not think a woman could govern the state.

“I am not interested in voting for a woman because women are the enemies of themselves. I cannot vote for a woman. I do not think a woman can govern this state well. Those that have governed in the past are still struggling not to talk of women,” she said.

However, for a few others, like Esan Sunday, a resident in his 70s, gender was not a basis for leadership.

“Human beings are interdependent, and we are created before God as equals. If a woman comes in, it may be better because we are born equally but not equally talented. There are some women who can perform more excellently than men,” he said.

In an interview with The ICIR, politician and social activist Tari Oliver identified a lack of funds as a major reason why women do not compete favourably or get enough popularity and votes during elections.

“The number one issue with women in politics in Nigeria today is funding. Poverty wears the face of a woman and most women in Nigeria today are unable to play the money politics that goes on during elections in Nigeria,” she said.

She encouraged women to work harder to raise funds and raise support groups early enough ahead of elections.

“When people see you are already working hard, it is easier to rally around and support you. Women should consciously work hard ahead of elections to generate funds and gather support for their ambitions,” she said.

Oliver also noted that the implementation of the 35 per cent affirmative action for women would further improve support for female political candidates.

“If the 35 per cent affirmative action is implemented, then everyone would know that certain positions are reserved for just women.

“You know that even if it is your sister or mother or someone else, that position must be occupied by a woman. That way, people begin to get used to voting women into political positions,” she added.

Credit: ICIR

Tags : Gender BiasWomen in politics
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