Nigerian women constitute about half of the nation’s population, and they form an important segment of the society. Their importance is reflected clearly in their role in the family, community, and nation as a whole. Gender activists have argued that the generally accepted irreplaceable role and responsibility of a woman in Nigeria is caring for her family.
Nigeria practices Democracy; a government in which everyone has a share. If democracy is the government of the people, then women who form more than half of the population in the country should participate fully in their country’s political activities.
Women have a substantial stake in democracy (UN, 2015). Democratic government needs women to be truly democratic, and women need democracy to change the systems, laws, and processes that disqualify them and impede them from attaining development in the society.
It is through democratic representation that women’s interests can be presented and their voices heard. Much of the Nigerian society’s opinion is shaped by religion and tradition, which are unfair to women and continue to relegate them to the background.
This is reflected in the way women are treated in the social and political spheres of the country. Religion and tradition adamantly hold that women are not supposed to occupy leadership positions in the society but can only play second fiddle to men.
Women are expected to conform to these societal norms. This explains why even though women make up half the total population of Nigeria, they hardly attempt to contest the country’s leadership position.
They are satisfied with operating from the position of weakness rather than strength. Any woman who attempts breaking the “rule” is termed as a non-conformist or feminist and treated with scorn even by fellow women. These factors (religion and tradition) restrict women’s participation in politics and social development.
Men have dominated Nigerian political life. When the British colonial masters introduced electoral politics in the country, a form of democracy in Nigeria, women were excluded. Nigerian women who were very active politically before the colonial masters were suddenly excluded and were not qualified to vote or be voted for.
In conclusion, I wish to establish that democracy in Nigeria generally has little or no impact on Nigerian women’s development. As such I have the following recommendations:
- Women need to struggle for political power by and for themselves. As long as women look outside of themselves to be politically empowered, they will never attain it. In a Patriarchal society like Nigeria, it is not in the nature of the powerful (men) to give power away to the powerless (women).
- Nigerian women should seek direct modes of acquiring political power through education which will enable them to be economically strong to form their own political elite to campaign and win elections.
- The Nigerian government should identify key women activists and organizations, with their capabilities and needs, to reach out to various women groups and diversify their interaction with women in different communities. This will go a long way to provide women with social services, educational services and health services. It will also help to engage women politically, socially, and economically at the grass roots.
- Women politicians should be encouraged to develop and share their own resources with other women for political empowerment as role models. They can achieve this through community information centers which should be established in every community in the grassroots. Empowering women to share their experience in the public sphere might encourage them to provide personal testimonies that other community members will relate to more easily than otherwise.
- Nigerian women must be provided with platforms at the local, state and federal levels where they can express their views, share concerns and exchange their experiences in political, social and economic issues that affect them.