Nigeria is an African country located in the Western Africa along the Gulf of Guinea. This country is known for its natural resources and wildlife services, which earn the country a great percentage of its foreign revenues. Nigeria has been experiencing many political issues since its independence, with the political challenges being internal and external. The Nigerian women form about half of the Nigerian population; hence, their contribution to the overall development of the country cannot be underrated. Although the women contribute greatly to the development of the country, their recognition has not been guaranteed as they are discriminated against in the political issues.
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The issue of gender inequality is rampant in Nigeria despite the existence of the National Gender Policy that aims at empowering women and preventing discriminatory practices against the female population. In fact, there are quite significant gaps within the education sector, economic empowerment and political participation between men and women in Nigeria. Amidst the numerous challenges hindering the women from participating actively in Nigerian politics, some steps have been taken to advocate the womens rights and grant them the opportunity to participate actively in the political development of Nigeria . The Nigerian government is in the process of implementing policies that ensure that the womens opinions in the political development are heard and respected. The commitment of the government to end gender inequality in the country is one of the main measures towards allowing the Nigerian women the right to actively participate in Nigerian politics.
Female Involvement in Politics
The rise of terror by Boko Haram and the events of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria have created a heated political discussion on the future of the Nigerian politics and the role of women in the governance and political development of the country. The marginalization of women in Nigeria has been the cause of the unstable governance and poor democracy in the Nigerian politics. Therefore, increased participation of women in the Nigerian politics may lead to the growth of stable and democratic nation. Amidst the political conflicts associated with elections and other governance issues, women can play a major role in peace negotiations to restore peace in conflicting areas . Peace negotiation is a very critical aspect of political development; thus, the participation of women in such negotiations is clear evidence that their contribution to governance and politics plays a crucial role.
Integrally, women participation matters much in the overall development of democracy in any nation. Women are very much committed towards promotion of national and local policies within a nation, especially those policies that affect the social-economic and political status of women, children and other marginalized groups in the society. Compared to men, women tend to promote a more honest government that addresses the issues affecting the community as well as dealing with poor morals in the government, such as corruption. Through the engagement of women in governance, the society tends to be balanced, with all the people being entitled to similar developmental benefits from the government . Therefore, for such nation as Nigeria to promote equality and democracy, the government should empower more women to actively participate in the politics of the country.
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The historical politics of Nigeria can be categorized in three parts: the pre-colonial politics, colonial politics and post-colonial politics. Throughout these eras of political development of Nigeria, the women made some tangible contributions towards the political development of the country. In particular, the Nigerian women contributed significantly towards the social, economic and political development of Nigeria over this period of time. There were some powerful women such as Madam Tinubu, Moreni, among others, who contributed much to the political development of Nigeria through their actions as female rulers, female warriors and cabinet members who advised the kings and other traditional rulers . In addition, the women in Nigeria were more involved in politics after independence as they were granted voting rights, which enabled them to participate in the general elections, and they also received some appointments into the ruling government.
In the modern Nigeria, women are making significant contribution to the political development of the country. President Good luck Jonathon appointed 33 percent of cabinet positions to women upon becoming the president of Nigeria in 2011. The government has showed its determination to attainment of gender equality by fully adopting the National Gender Policy that has resulted into women acquiring 35 percent of the seats in Parliament. In the current government, the level of women participation in policy making has risen since the number of the women in the government has significantly increased . This has empowered more women to contest for political positions without fear of political intimidation as it was experienced before.
Gender inequality in Nigeria has hindered women from fully participating in the countrys politics. Women around the world experience many challenges in economic, social and political perspectives, which prevents them from presenting their views and acting as equal partners in the process of democratic development. The main challenge facing the process of advocating for gender equality is the contradiction between the customary and religious laws with the federal laws . The federal law is designed to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, but the contradictions from other laws that govern the people appear to be significant. A significant number of the Nigerian population is governed by the sharia law and other customary laws that discriminate against women thus making gender inequality a critical issue in Nigeria.
The Islamic and customary laws practiced in Nigeria tend to be unfavorable to women thus preventing them from actively getting involved in the countrys politics. These laws are known for their strictness in matters pertaining freedom of movement, marriage and inheritance, more so targeting the women who are the most affected. Such provisions of the customary and religious laws in Nigeria have played a major role in hindering women participation in Nigerian politics. Gender inequality has been a contentious issue in Nigeria despite the enactment of several laws that aim at prohibiting gender discrimination . Considering the continued efforts by the government and other global women empowerment organizations, there is great hope that the issue of gender inequality in Nigeria will be eliminated and women will be allowed to actively participate in politics.
Female in Nigerian Society
Gender equality refers to a situation whereby women and men have equal background for realizing the human rights and potential abilities fully, without any discrimination. This situation is not experienced in Nigeria since the levels of gender inequality are high to an extent that makes it hard for the women to fully participate in the political development of Nigeria . The issue of gender inequality can be analyzed in different perspectives in order to fully establish the root cause, the effects and remedies available for solving the problem. The gender issue in Nigeria can be analyzed in social, economic and political perspectives in order to ensure that all the dimensions of this critical issue are addressed.
From the political perspective, Nigeria has experienced numerous concerns on the religious and cultural biasness initiated against women thus preventing them from contributing to the political development of the country. The low membership of women in the political parties and less involvement in the election is the result of the discriminatory practices experienced by women in Nigeria . The political environment in Nigeria is very hostile for women as the government is very reluctant in responding to women interests and concerns thus creating gender imbalance in the political arena. The women who represent almost half the population of Nigeria are always sidelined in political issues to the extent of holding only 15 percent of the elective offices in the Nigerian government.
From the economic perspective, women contribute greatly to the economic growth of Nigeria, but their efforts remain unrecognized in the policy making process as their opinions are being discriminated. According to the study by United Nations, women in developing countries such as Nigeria perform about 53 percent of the work that contributes to the economic growth of these countries. In Nigeria, women are discriminated through being considered unfit for engaging in meaningful investments and being financially independent. They are discriminated in job opportunities and are paid less than male colleagues even having the same qualification and experience. As a result, the economic activities for women still remain constrained as they cannot freely access the necessary resources required for production activities . To some extent, this economic discrimination has resulted to the low presence of women on elective positions since they lack enough funds to fund the expensive election campaigns.
Socially, the Nigerian women are significantly discriminated since most of the sources of discriminatory practices are supported by the customary and religious laws of the country. Women in Nigeria are considered to be second class citizens, and their opinions count less in the overall policy making of the government. Women are considered inferior, and their contribution to the government decision making process is not recognized. Most of the communities taboos in Nigeria prohibit women from taking active roles in governance as they are meant to be governed by men . Such treatment has discouraged women from engaging actively in politics as their voices are not heard and their opinions do not matter much. Despite the campaigns by both local and international women empowerment organizations to rescue the womens position in Nigeria, the women still play minor roles as they are viewed as unfit for major roles of governing the country.
The education process of females in Nigeria has always been a big challenge, especially in the northern Nigeria where girls is almost impracticable. The issue of school access, inadequate resources and general attitude towards education has been a problem in Nigeria. However, the main concern about the challenge of female education in Nigeria is the rise of extremism of Boko Haram that targets girls education by opposing the western education and relegating women strictly to the household chores . The kidnapping of 276 school girls in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram clearly shows the magnitude of risk that girls attending schools are exposed to thus challenging their education process.
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The government has responded to this issue by fully implementing the Girls Education Project that seeks to raise awareness on girl-child education by increasing the political and financial support for sensitization of policies that promote female education. The project also aims at establishing girl-child friendly principles that are linked to the community empowerment and overall change . The collaboration within the government has helped develop a curriculum that provides useful insights on the gender issues and overall women empowerment. The new administration of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari is committed to reversing this trend by ensuring that all the girls are returned to school and they are given the opportunity to receive quality education without any fear.
The situation of women health in Nigeria is not promising because maternal mortality rates still remain high despite the commitment of the government to address the issue of women health. The low level of utilization of modern contraceptive in Nigeria, the high rates of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as poor adolescent reproductive health is a clear indicator of the women health status in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has developed a healthy policy that caters for the maternal healthcare of all its citizens to ensure that women deliver safely . The government has realized the magnitude of the role played by women towards the economic development of Nigeria thus ensuring that adequate healthcare services for women are provided. The World Health Organization has initiated health programs in Nigeria that target to address the health concerns of children and women in a bid to eradicate the deaths in pregnant women and new born babies.
Considering the existence of strict customary and religious laws that undermine women in Nigeria, the issue of gender based violence is quite rampant in this country. The gender based violence affects women and young girls who are exposed to numerous types of gender violence such as rape, commercial sexual exploitation, domestic violence, among other forms of violence . Despite the numerous occurrences of gender based violence, there is insufficient data on gender violence in Nigeria due to the stigma and silence portrayed by the victims. The women and children watch initiative is responsible for protecting the vulnerable women and children from gender based violence through enhancing the welfare of the women and children in Nigeria.
The government of Nigeria is committed towards protecting the rights of the women by establishing initiatives that are meant to empower the women in the society. Through the empowerment programs, the women are entitled to know their rights as provided in the constitution. The Nigerian constitution has always been amended to curb any loopholes that expose women to the severe customary and religious laws . The health rights for women in Nigeria are granted through the development of comprehensive health policies that address all the health concerns of the people of Nigeria. Women have also been empowered to advocate for their rights by appointing them in government positions in order to provide for them a better avenue to address their issues.
Summary of the Current Problems and the Expected Results
The current state of the problems in Nigeria concerning women is alarming despite the numerous measures taken by the government to address these problems. The issue of gender inequality is still rampant in Nigeria; challenges in education for female in Nigeria are clearly evident; health issues are numerous, as well as gender violence concerns. All these problems have affected the extent of women participation in governance and politics as they are restricted by circumstances. However, the current trend of new policies provides hope for better expectations in the future. The government together with other non-governmental organizations should be fully committed towards creating a better future for generations to come. This can only be achieved through collaboration in all initiatives so that they produce the best results that are acceptable by all the people of Nigeria.
The level of women participation in the Nigeria politics is of great concern for the government since the women play a major role in the social, economic and development of any nation. The government has created numerous avenues to empower the women population in Nigeria so that their role in policy making can be felt. Through the establishment of education, health and anti-gender violence initiatives, the government of Nigeria aims to attain the dream of involving the women in political development and growth of democracy in Nigeria.