A piece by this writer titled “The fate of women in a gender discriminatory society and its relative effect” dwelt solely on the issue of gender discrimination, places where women are being discriminated against and how discrimination affects women in the society. This piece further discusses the politically denied rights of women in the society. Right as posited by encyclopedia means the legal, social or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement. According to 1998 United Nations (UN) charter and The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, right and freedom will not be limited by a person, gender and all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Despite civilisation, women are still facing the denial of certain rights in the world and the denial is more prominent in Africa and one of the peculiar rights denied is political right which has its root in societal gender discrimination. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex that hinders human right and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”.
CEDAW also affirmed in 1995 that human rights are women`s rights. Human rights includes: right to education, right to work, right to social security, freedom of opinion and expression and right to democracy which states that ”everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country. In effect, it is the right of women to enjoy fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, African women still encounter denial of rights economically, culturally and politically especially. Statistics reveal that out of the 109 senators in the National Assembly, only (9) are women, while only 27 out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives are women. In the history of Nigeria, out of the three women who had the opportunity of being governors, only one of them was elected. Aisha Jummai Alhassan popularly known as ‘Mama Taraba’ who died on May 7, 2021 in Cairo, Egypt was defeated in the election re-run held on the 25th of April 2015, but tribunal removed Taraba Governor, Darius Ishaku on 7th November 2015 and declared her winner of 11th April 2015 poll but was later reversed by the Appeal and supreme courts of Nigeria. One of the remaining two women, Dame Virginia Ngozi who was the first female Governor, got there as a result of the impeachment of Governor Peter Gregory Obi who was alleged for gross misconduct on November 2, 2006 in Anambra state and this paved way for her being the Deputy Governor at the time. So far in the history of Nigeria, no woman has ever attained the post of the Vice President or President and this brings this question to mind; Has Nigerian Government fulfilled its promise by adopting the United Nations(UN) 35 percent affirmation?
In 1995,the 189 United Nations member states made the Beijing declaration for women’s political empowerment and came up with The 35 per cent Affirmative Action (AA) which has been formulated in Nigeria since 2006 by the National Gender Policy (NGP). The policy states that 35 per cent of women must be involved in all governance processes. Only few African countries have been able to Implement the policy by granting women equal rights with the men on the political terrain but the number of women across the 54 African countries elected to political party top leadership post is just 12 per cent According to the first Women Political Participation (WPP), Africa Barometer 2021, women constitute 24 per cent of the 12,113 parliamentarians in Africa, 25% in the lower houses and 20 per cent in the upper houses of parliament while Local Government which serves as a training ground for women in politics, women constitute a mere 21% of councilors in the 19 countries for which complete data could be obtained.
Now, since we practice democracy, should there not be equal representation if we are to put an end to discrimination against women in Africa? Dr. Margaret Nasha, former speaker of the parliament of Botswana says”democracy to me, means government of the people by the people and not government of the people by men. Democracy by nature should be inclusive with proportionate representation of most if not all sections of the population of a Country”. The United Nations (UN) and the Declaration of Human Rights also posit that everyone has the right to take part in the government of his /her country. Surprisingly, despite the fact that the world has moved from where it used to be to civilization, some factors which impede women`s political rights still remain unchanged. Patriarchy is a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is the head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line. In Africa, the male ones are placed far above their female counterparts due to patriarchy and women or the females are excluded from contributing to matters relating to decision making. Everyone is the product of his/her family and since people are the product of their societal cultures, this belief still stands arrogantly against women and still hampers their political rights in the society because politics is all about making decision for the people.
The stereotype is also a peculiar factor that hinders women`s political right. The female gender is believed to be weak while politics is believed to be the survival of the fittest game both physically and mentally but since few women governors have emerged and have been able to perform well within the short period they were given the chance, then it feels right to permit women to lead in the major political leadership posts in the political terrain .
In addition, marriage serves as the rope tied to a woman`s leg in order to limit her freedom. In Africa, when a woman marries, she is expected to be subservient to her husband and not expected to live her life as she pleases or chase after her dreams anymore and this is quite in contrast to what United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that ”every grown up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same right when they are married and when they are separated”.
There are many women out there who are knowledgeable, well learned and intelligent but hampered by marriage because of the restriction placed on their freedom by their husbands.
Violence during election and inaccessibility to information due to the high level of illiteracy among women also contribute to the limitation because there is little or no security during election period and due to the physical features of women, their male counterpart intimidate them during election period and many women are quite unaware of their rights.
On the whole, all these limitations still point back at the societal view of the women fold and until this view is totally erased, especially in Africa, attainment of equality between the two genders will be far from being achievable.
Empower the women, give the people equal chance without limiting any gender to a particular political post, stop intimidating women and allow them to thrive in the society.
- Damilola writes in via: firstname.lastname@example.org
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