It is 2022 and Nigerian women are still struggling to get a stable place in politics. And no, politicians (mostly male) using female traders and rural women to advance their careers is not the same as women having a real say in the matter.
There have been conferences, jabs, talks, and more talks thrown in the way of Nigerian women calling on them to rub shoulders with the men in the political space. But everyone seems to forget that it takes more than talking and that real work has to be done.
On November 9, 2022, The deputy chief whip of the House of Representatives (aka Honourable Member of the Feminist Battalion), Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, reminded us about the rejected affirmative action bill.
The bill simply asked that the Nigerian government makes it compulsory for 35 percent of women to be involved in all governance processes. Easy stuff but it got thrown away.
It is a breath of fresh air that people like Onyejeocha, who said that women’s participation should always be a priority, are in government. However, this was not enough to save the bill.
Let’s look at what the bill means for Nigerian women.
How does the bill help Nigerian women?
The bill, which was championed by Onyejeocha, was meant to increase women’s participation in politics and general government processes, offering them higher chances of getting into government.
Women should care about the implementation of affirmative action for two simple reasons:
The political numbers for women are sad to look at
Out of all the candidates campaigning in the 2023 elections, only 8.36 percent of them are women. After the 2019 legislative elections, it was also observed that only 8 women out of 109 members were elected to the House of Senate, and 13 women out of 360 members made it to the House of Representatives.
In the two houses, fall way below the global 26.1 percent cut-off mark for global recognition of women in parliament. These numbers don’t lie.
NASS has a history of rejecting bills for women
The 35 percent affirmative action bill isn’t the only one that has been rejected.
When senator, Biodun Olujimi, presented the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill in December 2021, male lawmakers began to pick holes in the bill. It was eventually stepped down.
That was the third time Ms. Olujimi brought the bill to the Senate for consideration.
She first introduced the bill in March 2016. The bill clearly sought to give women the following:
- Equal opportunities in employment.
- Equal rights to inheritance for both genders.
- Equal rights for women in marriage and divorce
- Equal access to education, property/land ownership, and inheritance.
The bill was rejected by male lawmakers. They argued that the Nigerian Constitution was clear on the rights of citizens, including women. Olujimi reworked the bill and represented it to the Senate. This time, it scaled second reading and was referred to the Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. However, no public hearing was held.
In November 2019, the bill was reintroduced and during the second reading last December, two senators – Aliyu Wamakko and Yusuf Yusuf – argued that the word “equality” was against the socio-cultural practice of Islam.
Women around the world are killing it politically
Kenya and Rwanda are good examples of African countries where gender equality is practiced, especially in politics and governance.
In Kenya, the number of women in parliament sums up to 21.8 percent. Seven female governors were also sworn into power in August 2022.
Rwanda Chamber of Deputies became the first elected national parliament where women were the majority in 2008. The percentage of women in parliament stood at 61.25% in 2021. This is way above the current global average of 26.4%.
Rwanda has been at the top of the International Organization of Parliaments (IPU)’s monthly ranking of
women in the national parliament for years.
Dear Nigeria, remove shame and beat Rwanda. If there was ever a time to care about female participation in politics, there is no better time than now.