Women constitute over half of the world’s population and contribute in vital ways to societal development generally. In most societies, women assume some key roles, which are: mother, producer, home-manager, and community organizer, socio- cultural and political activists. In line with global trend, Nigerian women constitute nearly half of the population of the country. But despite the major roles they play with their population, women roles in the society are yet to be given recognition.

Politics has long been dominated by men, with women facing numerous barriers when attempting to gain representation and influence in this sphere. Despite significant progress in recent years, gender disparities persist, hindering the advancement of women in political leadership roles worldwide.

Empowering women in politics is not only a matter of achieving gender equality but also a crucial step toward promoting inclusive governance and fostering more comprehensive decision-making processes. In Nigeria, about 51 percent of women are involved in voting during elections. Despite these, women are still under represented in both elective and appointive positions.

Available statistics revealed that overall political representation in government of Nigeria is less than 7 percent. This shows that Nigeria has not attained 30 percent affirmative as prescribed by the Beijing Platform of Action.

Importance of Women's Representation In Decision-making Processes.

The importance of women's representation in decision-making processes cannot be overemphasised. Empowering women to participate actively in decision-making processes is a fundamental step towards fostering inclusive and sustainable development. By integrating diverse perspectives and experiences, decisions can better reflect the multifaceted needs of society. When women have a seat at the table, issues that directly affect them, such as healthcare, education, and reproductive rights, receive the attention they deserve. Their input can lead to more comprehensive and effective policies that address the complex challenges faced by communities.

Since the return of democracy in 1999, the Senate has been dominated by males. In 1999 there were only 3 women out of the 109 members representing 2.8 per cent of the members of the Senate. In 2007 the number increased to 8 (7.3 per cent). However, there was a decrease from 8 women members in 2007 to 7 in 2011 which is 6.4 per cent and 8 (7.3 per cent) in 2015.

Moreover, women bring unique skills and leadership qualities that complement those traditionally associated with men. Studies have shown that female leaders often demonstrate a greater emphasis on collaboration, empathy, and long-term thinking. These traits are invaluable in creating a more compassionate and empathetic approach to governance, fostering a culture of inclusivity, and promoting a more balanced and comprehensive decision-making process. In 1999, the number of women in the House of representative was 12 out of 360 members which was about 3.3 per cent but increased to 21 (5.8 per cent) in 2003. It was 26 (7.2 per cent) in 2011, in 2015 the number of women in the House of representative decrease to 19 (5.3 per cent) out of 360 members.

Furthermore, women's representation in decision-making processes serves as a powerful tool for challenging and dismantling existing gender stereotypes and biases. By actively participating in leadership roles, women can serve as role models for future generations, inspiring young girls to pursue their aspirations and break societal norms. Increased representation can help break the cycle of gender-based discrimination, fostering an environment where individuals are evaluated based on their merit and capabilities, rather than their gender.

The benefits of women's participation in decision-making processes extend beyond social and cultural realms and have significant economic implications as well. Studies suggest that greater gender diversity in leadership positions correlates with improved organizational performance and financial outcomes. Companies with diverse leadership teams have shown higher levels of innovation, creativity, and adaptability, ultimately leading to enhanced competitiveness and sustainable growth.

Barriers to Women's Participation in Politics

The barriers that impede women's political participation are multifaceted and deeply ingrained in societal structures. These obstacles range from cultural and social norms to institutional and systemic biases. Cultural perceptions often assign specific roles to women, primarily relegating them to domestic duties and traditional caregiving roles. Additionally, stereotypes portraying women as less capable leaders continue to influence public opinion, creating challenges for women seeking political office.

Institutional barriers further exacerbate the issue, including unequal access to resources, limited funding, and discriminatory policies that perpetuate gender-based disparities in the political landscape. Furthermore, the lack of support networks, mentorship opportunities, and gender-responsive training programs restrict women's ability to access and navigate political arenas effectively.

Strategies for Empowering Women in Political Leadership

To address these challenges, comprehensive strategies must be implemented at both the grassroots and policy-making levels. These strategies should encompass initiatives that promote gender mainstreaming, encourage inclusive political environments, and provide targeted support for women in political leadership positions.

  1. Gender Mainstreaming:

Integrating a gender perspective into all policy-making processes and institutional frameworks is essential to ensure that women's voices are heard and their interests are represented. Gender mainstreaming involves acknowledging and addressing the specific needs and experiences of women within political structures, creating a more equitable and inclusive political environment.

2. Creating Inclusive Political Environments:

Fostering a culture of inclusivity within political parties and governmental institutions is critical for enabling women to participate actively in decision-making processes. This entails implementing affirmative action policies, such as quotas and reserved seats for women in legislative bodies, to ensure adequate representation. Additionally, creating safe and supportive spaces for women to voice their opinions and engage in political discourse is vital for nurturing their participation in politics.

3. Providing Targeted Support:

Establishing mentorship programs, leadership training initiatives, and networking opportunities tailored to women in politics can significantly enhance their capacity to navigate political landscapes and build necessary skills. Providing financial support and resources for women running for office, including campaign funding and access to political networks, is crucial for mitigating financial barriers and levelling the playing field.

4. Promoting Inclusive Governance:

Empowering women in politics goes beyond mere representation; it is a fundamental step toward achieving inclusive governance. Women bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the decision-making table, which can lead to more holistic and comprehensive policy outcomes. Inclusive governance fosters the development of policies that cater to the needs of all members of society, promoting social cohesion, and addressing issues that affect marginalized communities.

Furthermore, inclusive governance can help combat corruption and enhance transparency, as diverse perspectives foster accountability and encourage a broader range of voices to participate in policy formulation and implementation. By promoting the active engagement of women in political processes, societies can benefit from the expertise and insights that women bring to the table, leading to more robust and sustainable governance structures.

Conclusion

The national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained 6.7 percent in elective and appointive positions, which is far below the Global Average of 22.5 percent, Africa Regional Average of 23.4 percent and West African Sub Regional Average of 15 percent. Nigeria is yet to produce a female governor in any of the 36 states of the Federation. While progress has been made in advancing gender equality in politics, the journey toward achieving full empowerment and inclusivity for women in political leadership roles is ongoing. Sustained efforts at the global, national, and local levels are necessary to dismantle the barriers that hinder women's political participation and to foster a more inclusive and representative political landscape.is a growing concern to many Nigerians.

Concerted efforts have also been made by government and non -governmental organizations to increase the level of participation of women in politics in line with the declaration made at the fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, which advocated 30% affirmative action. In Nigeria, the extant National Gender Policy (NGP) recommended 35% affirmative action instead and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35% of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively.

Empowering women in politics is not only a matter of justice but also a strategic imperative for building more resilient, equitable, and prosperous societies. By amplifying women's voices and facilitating their meaningful participation in political decision-making, we can create a future where gender equality is not only a principle but a lived reality, and where governance reflects the diverse needs and perspectives of all individuals in society.

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