Gender Equality And Women Representation In The Governance

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Gender Equality And Women Representation In The Governance


Abstract


The centrality of gender equality, women’s empowerment and the realization of women’s rights in achieving sustainable development has been increasingly recognized in recent decades. This recognition is evident in a number of international norms and agreements, including principle 20 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,1 adopted in 1992, in its statement regarding the full participation of women being essential to achieving sustainable development. In the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,2 adopted by Member States in 1995, governments were called upon to integrate gender concerns and perspectives into policies and programmes for sustainable development. This study was undertaken to examine gender equality and women representation in the governance. The study adopted the descriptive method of data analysis. The study found that women has not been effectively represented in governance. However, they have been given more places when compared to the past. The study advocates for effective women representation and in extension creating gender equality.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

Women’s aspiration to fully participate in the governance of Nigeria dates back to the pre-colonial era when women contributions to the anti colonial struggle were visible and pronounced in their resistance to the draconian tax policy of the colonial administration.

As pointed out by Akinyode-Afolabi (2006:1), in spite of the significant roles of women before and after independence, the ascendancy of socio-cultural prejudices and inadequate laws had consistently militated against women’s rights, especially political rights. However, the challenge of women’s participation in the political process in Nigeria has gained additional significance, since the return of democratic rule in 1999. The renewed vibrancy and vigour of the women folks and their sympathizers in agitating for an appreciable participatory role for women in the current democratic dispensation has its roots in the many international norms and institutions designed to advance the cause of women.

This aspiration is premised on the grounds that women in Nigeria represent close to half of the population and therefore should be allowed a fair share in decision-making and governance of the country. Added to this is the widely acceptable belief that all human beings are equal and women possess same right as men to participate in governance and public life (Oluajo, 2003).

For the records, in all of Nigeria’s political history including the previous attempts at democratic rule, women were severely side-lined and neglected in terms of representation in government. Although they constitute about 50 percent of the population and 51 percent of voters in elections, women have never had more than three percent representation in national government. With military governments, women have been virtually non-existent in governance of the country (Nwankwo, 2006:19; 1996:7).

Although the Nigerian state is beginning to appreciate the importance of gender mainstreaming in national planning, affirmative action as a means of closing the gap in sectoral development remains a largely contentious issue (Agina-Ude, 2003:22). For example, among the opponents of Affirmative Action in politics and public life are those who question the basis for 30% minimum representation and call for higher or lower targets. They argued that special measure such as the affirmative action, apart from being a patronage, will lead to a lowering of standards and even jettisoning of merit in favour of subjective issue of gender equity.

Such is the level of misgivings about Affirmative Action even among its proponents that there is a preference for reservation of appointive positions over elective offices which tends to reflect the notion that certain types of affirmative action are unfair, unjust and even discriminatory especially in the light of the principle of equality before the law.

However, those favouring the choice of affirmative action for the redress of gender disparities that exist in human development and particularly in the area of politics and public decision- making are not unmindful of the ranging arguments. Instead they believe these arguments had inadvertently aided the development and growth of the concept of Affirmative Action (ibid: 23). Article four of CEDAW- (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) – which obligates states parties to introduce the necessary remedial measure prescribes affirmative policies as temporary and devoid of “separate standards”. It is however noteworthy that the arguments against gender- based affirmative action begin to fade in the light of the successes it had recorded which make it the best option so far for achieving any significant increase in women representation in governments.

For instance, it is now obvious that man (as in the male gender) has from time to time dished out unbelievable doses of injustice to the female gender all in the name of representative governance, and that women must be part of the process that dictates their well- being, welfare, the direction and content of their entire lives. Commenting on the same issue, Momodu (2006:37) has this to say;

Politics is too important for people and women in particular to be left totally to men, who can hardly understand women’s concerns and quest to participate in decision- making………

In a closer reflection on gender- related issues particularly women’s political participation in Nigeria, the question need to be asked whether adequate scholarly attention has been given to the issue in respect of the successes or failures of the affirmative action in redressing the perceived gender imbalance in public decision- making structures.

The need for research in this area is particularly noteworthy given the fact that gender equality, women’s empowerment and women representation in governance seemed to have occupied a central theme in global treaties, covenants and declarations. They are now acknowledged as catalysts to people- centered development strategies and good governments that give men and women equal voices in decision- making and policy implementation, attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as other global and regional targets. To this end, this research work is directed at examining the relevance of the affirmative action in bridging the gap of gender imbalances and disparities in the governance of Osun state under the Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s administration.


1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

The attainment of gender equality is now an issue of global concern. It is seen as a prerequisite for achieving sustainable human development, especially in the public sphere. The affirmative action is an initiative to redress the question of gender imbalance imposed by centuries of discrimination against women.

In this regard, it is of course relevant and necessary to examine the affirmative action principle much as there is still a lot of misunderstanding and controversy over its implementation. Many countries that have used the principle found it a very useful tool for creating a level playing field for female participation not only in the electoral process but also in democratic governance (WARDC Report, 2003).

Though there have been several newspapers’ reports about the gross under – representation of women in the Nigerian political scene, which is largely regarded as speculative; this study intends to localize the affirmative action in Osun state, so as to ascertain gender disparities in both elective and appointive offices under the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration, 2003-2010.


1.3 Research Questions

  1. What roles did the Gender Action Policy of Osun state set out to achieve since its inception?
  2. What is the level of awareness among key decision-makers about gender –related issues?
  3. Does the exclusion of women from participating in the political process create any vacuum in national development?
  4. What are the gender specific problems arising from political contest?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. Examine the Gender Action Plan of Osun state between 2003 and 2010;
  2. Determine the level of awareness among key decision makers about gender- related issues;
  3. Investigate gender specific problems arising from political contest.

1.5 Research Hypotheses

  1. The nature of gender action policy of Osun state tends to limit the implementation of the affirmative action.
  2. Women representation in the governance of Osun state is possibly determined by the level of awareness among key decision- makers about gender- related issues.
  3. Gender equality in the governance of Osun state requires change of attitudes, beliefs and some cultural practices.

1.6 Significance of the Study

The significance of this study lies principally in its efforts at advancing our knowledge in respect of the underlying issues and strategies involved in gender development and emancipation of women’s rights. It will also help in providing the requisite platform for appreciating the opportunities and challenges involved in reducing the gap of gender imbalance in public decision- making positions.

By attempting to make proposals for bridging the gap of gender inequalities, women’s dis- empowerment and under- representation in governance, it is hoped that Nigerian policy makers and others who are concerned about women’s political participation will find the output of this research useful.


1.7 Scope of the Study

This study examines the level of implementation of the affirmative action in Osun state under the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration. It investigates the specific problems of gender disparities and under- representation of women in both elective and appointive offices between 2003 and 2010.


1.8 Definition of Terms

It has been variously argued that it is somewhat difficult, if not completely impossible, to give a universally acceptable definition to numerous concepts, theories and even models that cut across the field of social sciences (Yagboyaju, 2008:26). All the same, the following will be defined in terms of their relevance and usefulness to this study.

Gender Mainstreaming

This has to do with integrating the women’s question into the nation’s development agenda in order to ensure that women’s political and economic rights are adequately taken care of. The purpose is to bring a gender perspective into all aspects of planning policy, developing legislation and transformation activities in Nigeria(Nzomo, 1994:203; Nwankwo, 1996:1). It addresses the systematic inequalities between women and men in our society without ignoring the fundamental differences between them.

Women Representation

This describes women’s significant presence and participation in the high level public decision- making positions (Lawal and Ojo, 2008:331). It is now generally accepted that women constitute a key national resource, whose ideas, creative solutions and concerns for cohesiveness of the social fabric can help change the quality of life and society at large. But to do that their participation in public decision- making roles is essential (Nzomo, 1994:203). In this study, women representation as a concept connotes significant involvement of women in public decision- making positions.

Gender Equality / Inequality

Gender equality in this study just as gender parity describes the equality or sameness of all human being irrespective of sex. It describes the fact of being equal in rights, status, and privileges. It is an idea that emphasizes treating all human beings the same way; whether male or female. On the other hand, gender inequality connotes those stereotypes that tend to treat men and women as unequal. According to Lawal and Ojo (2008:335), gender disparity in politics is basically gender stereotypes and attitudes towards women. Gender stereotypes mean thinking and perception about people primarily in terms of gender group membership. These stereotypes tend to reflect men and women as belonging to opposite ends of bipolar adjectives in which men have desirable qualities while women have undesirable ones. Such category-based thinking, as pointed out by Ogwu (1996:35-42), tends to exaggerate similarities within women, thereby minimizing their individuality and also exaggerates the differences between men and women. This prevents women from being perceived as capable decision- makers in many societies or as equal participants in public governance (Udegbe, 1997:31).

Affirmative Action

This is regarded as special measure taken to redress racial or gender disparities that exist in the society. Affirmative Action, sometimes confused with discrimination, is usually a measure intended to supplement non- discrimination; it is a broad terms encompassing a host of policies that seek to support weak groups in the society (Agina- Ude, 2006:23). Such policies include dissemination of information; consciousness- raising; faith- based efforts to recruit and mobilize women for greater participation in public governance, and other deliberate actions that are used to stop discrimination.

A policy process of this kind, as noted by Ojo (2001: 27), allows rules that have the objectives of enhancing equal opportunity for individuals and the improvement in the situation of marginalized groups. In this study, preference is given to gender-based affirmative action that includes measures such as the use of quotas to ensure significant positions for women in public governance. This measure aims at increasing women’s representation especially because it addresses the under-representation of women given the fact that women constitute 50 percent of the population of most countries (WARDC Report, 2003:17).

It is a principle describing the measures to redress the imbalance imposed by centuries of discrimination against women. It is aimed at accelerating gender equality and also serves as a temporary catch- up strategy, which can result from voluntary compliance or enforced by local legislation.

Gender imbalance

This describes the situation of women in the society especially in public decision- making positions. In politics, for example, and in other sectors of public life women has been the disadvantaged group. As asserted by Nwankwo (2006:18), the number of women in high- level decision- making positions does not correspond with the reality of their population strength. It calls attention to the unequal representation of the two genders in the decision- making process.

Women Empowerment

Women empowerment in this study connotes increasing access for women to fully partake in the decision- making process especially those ones that directly affect their lives. Empowerment can be in many forms; it could be economic, financial or political empowerment. But the main issue involved has to do with removing barriers and other stumbling blocks from the path of women in their quest to be effective player in the scheme of things just as their male counterparts. Women empowerment specifically describes increasing opportunities and access for women to enable them realize their God- given potentials and assume their rightful place in the society.


1.9 Organization of the Study

The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is the introduction, which consist of the statement of the problem, research questions, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, and methodology of research. Also included in this chapter is the significance of the study, scope of the study, definition of major terms and synopsis of chapters. Chapter two covers a review of relevant literature on the specific issue of gender equality and women representation in Nigeria. It also undertakes an historical examination of women political participation in Nigeria from the pre- colonial era to the electoral contest of 2003. Chapter three deals with the adopted study methodology. Chapter four consists of presentation and discussion of findings of the study while chapter five which is the conclusion, comprises summary and recommendations of the study.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to reiterate that the objective of this study was to examine gender equality and women representation in governance.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given.


5.2 Summary

This study was undertaken to examine gender equality and women representation in governance. The study opened with chapter one where the statement of the problem was clearly defined. The study objectives and research hypotheses were defined and formulated respectively. The study reviewed related and relevant literatures. The chapter two gave the conceptual framework, empirical and theoretical studies. The third chapter described the methodology employed by the researcher in collecting both the primary and the secondary data. The research method employed here is the descriptive survey method. The study analyzed and presented the data collected in tables and tested the hypotheses using the chi-square statistical tool. While the fifth chapter gives the study summary and conclusion.


5.3 Conclusions

In Nigeria, the number of women assuming leadership positions is on the increase, even though we are still far from the 35% stipulated for employment of women and occupation of top public offices. However, the present political will demonstrated by the Nigeria government to give more leadership positions to women is a step in the positive direction. Women over the years have proved that when given the opportunity, they can justify the saying that ‘the best man for the job is a woman.’

Nevertheless, although Nigerian women have electoral capacity to acquire power and thereby effect political change by virtue of their superior electoral strength over men, they are lacking in gender competitive consciousness, particularly in a system entrenched with patriarchal hegemonic leadership, and with male political elite unprepared to accede to gender justice. Unfortunately, the whole essence of politics is the acquisition of power. Women cannot, therefore, desire power and at the same time detest competitive politics for its vices. It can, therefore, be reasonable to submit that the fear of politics as a dirty game by women will only consolidate feminine dis-empowerment and exclusion from the political process. The womenfolk need a new political and cultural re-orientation as to the imperative of embracing and helping each other in competitive politics and reconstructing their psychological disposition. Women have failed to acknowledge the existing gender competition in the contemporary world. Ideological cold war has been replaced by “gender war”, war of sex equality and justice. The failure of women to realize this culminates in certain outcomes, which include perceiving politics as dirty, name-calling of female politicians as deviants and voting overwhelmingly for men contestants rather than women in elections. Lastly, power, realistically speaking, is central to human existence and survival.

To envisage its holders to voluntarily relinquish it on the frivolous grounds of gender equality may continue for decades, to remain a dream in the pipeline. Rather than commit such political suicide, women would gain more if they design ways of circumventing all legal, institutional, and procedural devices aimed at achieving such. The onus of seeking and actualising a better balance rests with the power seekers, in this case the women, who seek to establish power equality with men. For affirmative actions to be effective, they must begin with the political parties in all their dealings, and promoted through popular, competitive politics at all levels of national politics.


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