August 9, 2020

Why women take back seat in political discussions and policy formulation – Forum

By Jane Echewedo

Nigerians from different works of life yesterday spoke stoutly for the agitations to include women in the political decision and nation-building.

The participants at a conference who argued that women have been neglected to back seat in Nigeria’s political decisions and policy formulation, submitted there are lots of factors responsible, which need to be tackled before achieving women’s sociopolitical emancipation in the country.

Speaking on Thursday at a program by the Maroon Square Discourse 2020, in an online conference tagged: “Struggle of Women in Nigeria Through History: Patriarchy, Women and Politics in Nigeria,” supported by Ross Luxemburg Foundation, a development Economist, Hauwa Mustapha, who works with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) identified lack of access to adequate quality education, productive skill and leadership training as the barriers to women’s participation in public roles and politics.

Mustapha said their gender (women) roles as wives and mothers as well as workers consume so much of their time that they are unable to sufficiently access political information and education, required to sharpen their oratory skill.

She noted: “While patriarchy as a practice has existed through many socio-economic systems, the contemporary state of women’s participation in politics needs to be understood within the context of the existing material condition and aided by class division.

“As Patriarchy takes advantage of the biological function of women to thrive using the family as an instrument, the economic exploitation within the society further subjugates and oppresses the woman in a class society; she suffers from low self-esteem, lack of confidence and meekness that keeps her away from active political participation.”

She further said the success of women in politics like that of any group cannot be achieved within a system “which creates and perpetuates the condition for the oppression and subjugation of women without overhauling and dismantling that system.”

According to her, the exclusion of women in mainstream politics and their weakness in influencing the political space is not just a reflection of the power of patriarchy in creating political apathy in women if the experience of history is considered.

To record a positive trend, Mustapha opined that the struggle for the inclusion of women in the political process must be the one “to demystify patriarchy and the struggle to demystify patriarchy is the struggle to dismantle the system that encourages exploitation and oppression of any form.”

She noted that finance and access to funds are key requirements in political democracy, especially as related to campaigns and logistics.

She argued that unfortunately, women’s experience of economic exploitation, labour discrimination and weak income base make them lack sufficient funds to compete with the men. “The notion that politics is not for women also leads to weak finance mobilisation since potential contributors assume that the woman is naturally not likely to win elections, nor would she make an impact in the political process,” she said.

Speaking also, Chijioke Uwasomba of the department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU) Ile-Ife said as part of the intricate system of checks and balances in some traditional African societies, women exercised the most effective sanctions against misrule and misbehaviour.

“Even women who step on the toes of their fellow women are not spared the harsh judgment of their fellow women. When a king becomes intolerable to his subjects, a procession of grandmothers will march naked to his palace. No ruler survives this final and dramatic repudiation by the mothers.

“Usually, the threat of this march is enough to bring erring and dictatorial rulers to heel,” he added

Uwasomba also said that his paper purports to demonstrate that patriarchy is a weak institution and does not possess the type of powers that women are imbued with.

“There are instances to show that the subtle powers that women possess have endangered arrogant men who mistake their machismo for power. The power lies with women.

“Society ought to be arranged in such a manner that balances the relationship between men and women for the greater good of all. This is the task that confronts women and men that struggle for equality and development,” he said.

Director of Maroon Square, Onyeisi Chiemeke, in his welcome address, said the group chose the edition to discuss the question of patriarchy in Nigeria and insecurity among women.

“For the past 10 years, ranging from Boko Haram, herdsmen attacks, banditry and kidnapping Nigerian women are facing difficult situations. There have been some circumstances where women took to the street naked begging to be protected from harms and we are all wondering whether the state has been effective in providing such security,” he said.

Also, Angela Odah, a representative of Ross Luxemburg Foundation congratulates Maroon Square for organizing such conference, stating that the topic is timely as she said that there can never be a sustainable growth in the country when a larger part of it is exposed to the insurgency, stressing that women and girls bear the brunt of the various unrests.