President, ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA).Senator Stella Oduah has said that Nigeria has the lowest female representation in elective positions in West Africa.
Senator Oduah, made this known at the association’s general conference and the launch of the ECOWAS Gender and Election Strategic Framework. A framework targeted at mainstreaming gender in politics across all 15-member states of the sub-region.
Speaking at the event, Senator Oduah called attention to the dwindling number of women’s participation in politics to 7 per cent since the 2015 elections.
She said, women have only 6.1 per cent representation in State Houses of Assembly, 3.9 per cent in the House of Representatives, 7.34 per cent in the Senate and almost zero per cent in the executive arm of government.
In West Africa, Nigeria ranks even lower than Ghana which has as at 2016 has about 10.7 per cent female representation in the parliament and 27 per cent female as cabinet ministers. Togo comes up second with about 17.60 per cent women representation in its national parliament as at 2017, and 18.4 per cent in ministerial positions.
Senegal has the highest representation of women in elective positions, ranking 12th in the globe for the number of women in elective position, that 3 per cent down from its initial ranking.
To tackle the low representation of women in West Africa, Oduah called for a collective effort to ensure at least 30 per cent female representation in all levels of government in West African countries.
She said women, particularly those rural areas, in the sub-region are still hampered by socio-cultural and religious practices, inadequate financial resources, volatile political environment, political party discrimination and absence of support from relatives and the media.
She stressed that, “Laws deliberately aimed at improving the plight of women economically and politically must be promoted and passed. The laws must prohibit discrimination against women by political parties and engender their protection against political violence.”
Addressing the lack of laws encouraging women participation in politics in Nigeria, Senator Biodun Olujimi, said Nigerian female parliamentarians aims for a public hearing of the bill before the end of the 8th parliamentary session.
Olujimi, The Senate Deputy Minority Whip, and the initiator of the Gender Parity Bill, that was thrown out by the previous government said the bill has been reviewed and contentious issues for stakeholders removed to ensure the bill makes it to a public hearing.
“We have been able to meet with opinion leaders, and religious leaders to be able to expunge what they feel is unpalatable to them, and we are just waiting to have a public hearing and push on.”
However, Olujimi said the delay with the bill’s public hearing also lies with politicians’ fears that supporting fully female representation would jeopardize their votes at the upcoming 2019 elections.
“When the bill didn’t get voted into the constitution, the senate graciously agreed that whenever the bill comes up, 35 per cent will be acceded to women. We are going to hold them responsible for that,” Olujimi spiritedly asserted.
Speaking at the event, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Sigma Jagne, urged Nigeria to toe the line as Senegal which made it a law to have 50 per cent women representation in its governance.
Jagne urged Nigeria to work on a legislation towards the 2019 general elections to move up women’s representation in politics to at least 25 per cent up from its current 7 per cent representation.
“The Gender and Strategic Framework is one of the most important thing we have been working on for west African women.”
To tackle the issue of lack of financial support for women in politics, Jagne said women in big countries like Nigeria must support other women through crowdfunding, also known as ‘osusu’. “If we put together our one naira for women who want to run, it becomes a lot of money. We can do it. I believe these are the kind of approaches we are encouraging women to use,” concluded Jagne.