Women And Political Discrimination In Nigeria
This work considers the need for gender equity, equal opportunities and empowerment of women in political participation in Akwa Ibom State. It explores the connection between culture, patriarchy religion, employment, decision-making, the Arts and Gender issues, and to explain the political powerlessness of women, various factors can be adduced. Why, for example, seventy (70) years old women cannot break kola-nut while a seven (7) years old boy can easily break the kola-nut. Again, if a boy and a girl, while growing up, are assigned the same roles, why should their roles differ when they are all grown up into man and woman? In this work, we will be able to see that there should be no barrier in women’s participation in politics. Women can be Presidents, Governors and Ministers. Also why obnoxious cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, rape, traditional land tenure and patterns of inheritance and maltreatment of widows should be stopped. Everyday, there is always news of girls being raped and also being withdraw from school and married off for one reason or the other. Assaults, battery and domestic violence are hindrances to women’s participation in politics in Akwa Ibom State. The relegation of women to the background and the insinuation that they are the weaker sex has a strong inferiority complex in women with the effect that those women who eventually becomes heads of State or Governors tends to show excessive zeal in attempt to prove otherwise to their critics in a bid to justify their capability and fitness to politically perform creditably. A good example was Benazir Bhutto who ruled Pakistan as Prime Minister from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996. Another good example is the newly elected President to Liberia, Ellen Johnson – Sir – Leaf on January 2006. The work evaluates the impact of government and individual organizations intervention in gender in political settings. The findings show that government intervention has adverse effect on the level of women’s participation in politics. Finally, recommendations are made on ways of improving the level of women and political discrimination in politics in Akwa Ibom State.
1.1 Background to the Study
According to the major world’s religious beliefs, all of mankind (both male and female) are God’s creation and are therefore equal before God. Ironically the reverse is the case in many countries especially in traditional societies, as the male have assumed superiority over the female.
In the world, women are indisputably a force to reckon with in the social, economic and political development of any nation. This is not just because they are directly involved in the production of larger chunk of food consumed around the world, but more because during the tender ages of a child’s development, they make the greatest impact on the child’s thought which will to a large extent, determine the child’s approach to life (Goetz, 1995).
In Akwa Ibom State, men hold a belief that women have no right to participate in politics, and also represent them (men) in public offices. Men in Akwa Ibom perceived women as second class citizens who are only to be seen and not to be heard. Women are also viewed as economic liabilities thus making them to live under great disadvantage.
This work will therefore X-ray issues, constraints, and strategies to remedy the problem of gender inequality and political discrimination against women in Akwa Ibom State.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In Akwa Ibom State, 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.
Women usually constitute a smaller percentage of political party membership because of the social, cultural and religious attitudes of the Nigerian society which most often tends 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. This study therefore seeks to identify and examine the discriminatory practices that are responsible for the low participation of women in Akwa Ibom State politics.
1.3 Study Objectives
- To ascertain and examine the socio-cultural, political and economic factors encouraging political discrimination against women.
- To suggest ways to reduce the political discrimination against women.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The recommendation from the study will help to reduce the discrimination being faced by women in politics, thereby contributing to the attainment of gender equality in the society. The study will also contribute to the existing body of literature as well as stimulate further research in the subject area.
1.5 Theoretical Framework
There are different theories and approaches in political science that could best be deployed to analyze general political discrimination against women in most countries (whether advanced or developing democracies). However, group theory is applied in this research.
According to Truman (1951) Group theory is a collection of individuals that may, on the basis of shared attitudes or interests, make claims upon other groups in society.
This theory has to do with many groups in the society either support Government or oppose them. In some groups, gender stereotype exist, that is why women are seen as inferior and men superior. Women are not allowed to head groups that are form by women such as market women organization. Some government prefer the men groups to that of female, making them (female) to feel less important in the society.
In democracy, there should be nothing like gender discrimination, but many man claims that women can not rule them because they perceived women as second class citizens who are only to be seen and not to be heard.
The higher the level of political discrimination against women, the lower their level of participation in politics.
1.7 Research Methodology
This research is qualitative in nature. The study will therefore rely solely on secondary sources of data such as newspapers, textbooks, journals and other documentary materials, as well as the internet.
1.8 Scope and Limitations of Study
In terms of scope, the researcher will largely depend on data gathered from the 1999 and 2007 General elections conducted in Akwa Ibom State. This work is so delimited due mainly to time constraint and inadequate finance.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Is the practice of treating somebody or a particular group in society less fairly than others.
Gender refers to a system of roles and relationship between women and men that are determined not biologically but by the social, political and economic context.
Democracy is about “people rule” and in a democratic policy citizens are presumed to have equal rights, opportunities and voice in the governance of the public domain.
It is connected with the state, government or public affairs. It is also connected with the different groups working in politics, especially their policies and the competition between them.
Is a situation in which people, groups, or countries are involved in the pursuit of incompatible goals or interests.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
The main objective of this work was to look at the discrimination against women in Akwa Ibom State politics from 1999-2007. Discrimination is unequal treatment of individuals or groups on the basis of some usually categorical, attribute, such as racial, ethnic, religious or social-class membership. Women in Akwa Ibom have encountered a number of problem while venturing into politics, such as intimidation from the male folk, harmful traditional practices, violence against women, barriers by electoral process (e.g. open ballot system, which put women’s and their lives at risk), cultural stereotypes/religious barriers etc. Men use these to discriminate against women from participating in politics. Also men hold the belief that women have no right to participate in politics and also represent them (men) in public offices. All of these are responsible for the low participation of Akwa Ibom women in politics.
Though some progress have been made, women’s participation in public life remains limited which in turn limits their ability to ensure that legislative and administrative decisions are made in a way that recognizes and meets their needs and those of their families. Women in Akwa Ibom State continue to be grossly under-represented in the ranks of power, policy and decision-making.
Akwa Ibom women must enter the hails of power in government bodies, political parties, labour unions and community organization, in order to make known their preference, concerns and interests. Strategies must encompass women’s practical needs and cultural values to ensure that their political participation becomes a reality.
To this end, government is enjoined to make commitments to establishing the goal of gender balance in government bodies and committees as well as in public administrative entities, and in the judiciary, including inter-alia, setting specific targets and implementing measures to substantially increase equal representation of women and men if necessary through positive action in all governmental an public administration positions.
Once men can get over their male ego-trips, they will start to see the women in a new light. Men could actually accomplish more working with women instead of against them. The future prospects of Akwa Ibom women in politics is bright and if women will be given the chance to rule this state (Akwa Ibom), there will be so much peace every where because they (women) signifies peace. The women should wake-up and say enough is enough, so that discrimination and harassment will have no place in their political life.
In the course of the study, many factors were identified as contributory factors to the large scale discrimination against women in the 1999-2007 General Elections conducted in Akwa Ibom State.
By way of recommendations, the researcher strongly believes that if the following underlying factors are dealt with properly, discrimination against women in political participation would be reduced to the bearest minimum in Akwa Ibom State in future:
- Empowering the civil society and women to participate in decision-making process.
- Implementing and monitoring poverty eradication programmes which will improve the status and situation of women.
- Organizing programmes directed at changing societal attitudes towards women.
- Enacting policies geared towards improving the lot of women.
- Organizing awareness campaigns targeted at men, traditional institutions, women cultural groups, religious group, and government policy makers etc.
- Providing micro-credit projects that favour women.
- Organizing skill acquisition and training programmes.
- Assuring women of their human right including reproductive and sexual rights and implementing “The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women”.
- Viewing women issues as gender issues, in defining gender roles and fostering partnerships between women and men.
- Ensuring gender equality and equity through equal access to decision-making levels, property, employment, training etc.
- Eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against girl/child, including female genital mutilation, early marriage, male child preference, trafficking in girl children and prostitution.
- Finally, eliminating gender based on violence and negative cultural practices, including sexual harassment, forced pregnancy, rape, domestic violence and prostitution.
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