GENDER AND POLITICS IN ENUGU STATE: A CASE STUDY OF WOMEN IN PARTICIPATION, 1999- 2016
1.1 Background of Study
One of the fundamental challenges confronting women in every political system centers on the pervasive phenomenon of political alienation and domination of women by their male counterpart. From the local to global level, women’s leadership and political participation are restricted. Women are underrepresented as voters, as well as in leading positions whether in elected offices, the civil service, the private sector or academician. This occurs despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change and their right to participate equally in democratic governance. Women face several obstacles to participating in political life. Structural barriers through discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s options to run for offices. Over the years, the debilitating condition of gender inequality and discrimination against women in political participation and representation has given rise to the agitation for empowerment to enable an increase in their levels of political participation all over the world. In this regard, empowerment implies the creation of an enabling environment where individuals can fully use their capabilities to take charge of their lives. Women empowerment therefore, means investing in women’s right with legal backing, moral and financial support to enable women function effectively. Women empowerment also involves assessment of women’s needs and designing programmes to address those needs.
The increasing agitations for gender equality have raised intense academic discourse on poor participation of women in politics all over the world (Peterson & Ruyan, 1999: 48 & Akinboye, 2004:233). Women’s low political participation is a universal phenomenon (Waylen, 1996:11; Akinboye, op.cit:233; Lewu, 2005:62 &Rai, 2005). However the imperative of women participation in democratic governance cannot be over emphasized (Amadiume, 1997:81; Bruce, 2004:113; Babatunde, 2003; Bari, 2005). Sustainable democracy relies upon the equality and complementary participation of men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society through political processes (Sodaro, 2001:247, Anifowose, 2004:205; Akiyode-Afolabi&Arogundade, 2003). However, despite widespread democratization in most countries, women record poor participation in politics and decision making process across the world (Waylen, op.cit:10; Pokam, 2006; Henderson, 2006; Pascaud-Becane, 1999; Babatunde, op.cit; Anifowose, op.cit:204 & Bari, op.cit).
In Nigeria, although women constitute half the national population, the average representation of women in national politics has hardly ever been more than 3% (Ajayi, 2007:138; IPU, 2007; Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008). The challenge of women’s participation in Nigeria’s politics became worrisome following the country’s return to democracy in 1999. With the transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian democratic administration, one had expected a substantial improvement in women’s political participation in the country. On the contrary, the percentage increase in women’s political participation were 2%, 4% and 6% and women representation in the national parliament, 6.3%, 8.8% and 7.3% in 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections respectively (Okocha, 2007; Akioyede-Afolabietal, 2003; The Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, op.cit:3 & Adu, 2008:27). It is obvious therefore, that the perception that democracy would automatically boost women’s political involvement in Nigeria has not been validated after several years of its return to civilian rule.
The foregoing indicated that alongside men’s political association in most parts of Nigeria, particularly in Igbo society, like in Enugu State, women also had their own well organized political groups which were solely managed by women leaders in various communities. For instance, in Enugu State, the Umuada at the community and village levels had appreciable political and economic influence through established associations that are well managed and solely run by them. “Their powers and influence go beyond issues that affect trade to issues of governance at the state level. Igbo women’s movement and some others in Southern Nigeria have struggled to maintain some respectable level of power and influence in their communities” (Garba, 1999:2).Women can be described as an indispensable group in the development of any nation. Women constitute a critical segment of the Nigerian population. Thus, “the population of women in the present day is estimated to over 55% of the total population of this country,” (Yahaya, 1999:132). Apart from their numerical strength, women have great potentials necessary to evolve a new economic order, to accelerate social and political development and constantly transforming the society into a better one.
Women are active in the agriculture and economic sectors of the society and have also contributed immensely to the decolonization and general development of Nigerian state. Olawoye (1985:18), describes Nigerian women “as a crucial factor of production”. According to him, women assume this status because they are largely responsible for the bulk production of crops, agro-base food processing, preservation of crops and distribution of yields from farm centers to urban areas”. Awe (1990:9), perceived the importance of women from their role as managers of home. She noted that “the peace and stability at homes depends largely on the managerial abilities of women folk. She stressed further that women, especially the mothers, plan, organize, direct and coordinated all the resources of the home both human and materials to the benefits of all the members of the family including their husbands”. Some of them occupy strategic positions in the governments where they have continued to prove their good character. For instance, “Dora Akunyili, Oby Ezekwesili of Due process fame, NdiOkereke Onyiuke, Ngozi OkonjoIwuala and Ambassador (Mrs.) Justina Eze, among others have undoubtedly distinguished themselves in their official assignments” (Okafor, 2010:9).
Notwithstanding, in Enugu State today, the issue of women empowerment and political representation have been a bone of contention. Since the advent of modern public administration in Enugu State, Cultural factors among others, have been a serious source of problems against the development of women politically and have continued to militate against the development and prominence of Enugu State women in their roles in politics. Enugu state politics and government have been dominated by men at all levels, not because there are no women fit to fill the positions but because most women think of political participation as irrelevant for them. Among the factors inhibiting women to take active part in political behaviors such as voting and contesting in elections is lack of proper enlightenment about politics and financial dependence among other factors.
It is therefore, in recognition of the above facts that gave light to the background of this study of Gender and politics participation in Enugu State between 1999 and 2016 and to seek ways on how to engender a balance in the political affairs of the state.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Historical evidences in many societies, both during the ancient and modern periods support the idea of male domination over their female folks in many spheres of human endeavor. The literature on the subjugation of women to men’s domination knows no bound with such literature covering wide range of issues, including the body, class and work, disability, the family, globalization, human rights, culture, race and racism, reproduction, science, the self, sex, work, human trafficking and sexuality. Throughout ages and virtually in all cultures, women were rarely considered equal to their male counterparts. From the home as daughter, wife, and mother, through the school, office and church as student, employee and worshiper respectively, to the public sphere of life as in business and politics, women are known to have been discriminated, marginalized and dominated through the combination of gender-based cultural norms and practices which were in favour of men.
Since 1999 when the present civilian government came into power after a long period of military regime, women politicians in Enugu state like their other counterparts in other part of the federation have continued to express dismay over the low participation and alienation of women in the politics of the state. Consequently, in 2003 a female governorship aspirant, lauretta Aniagolu joined the race for the seat of governor in Enugu state. Unfortunately she was maneuvered in the party primary of the united Nigeria people party. She later joined the national conscience party and was defeated by her fellow aspirant Chimaroke Nnamani.
Therefore, the gap of the problem is on the issue of cultural disadvantage which might have impacted negatively on the women’s participation in politics and all sphere of life.
At best, women were strategically, through several means including cultural exclusion, reduced to the second fiddle offices of ‘deputy’ and ‘vice’. This development has raised several questions which remained largely unanswered, and has equally attracted many gender-related studies and intellectual discourse on gender-related matters. Against this background, this paper attempts to address some of these questions and thus, constitutes a gap-filling or gap-bridging in the ever increasing literature on gender studies in Nigeria.
1.3 Research Questions
To be able to find out the reason why women lag behind in political participation in Enugu state, the following questions have been put down as a guide.
1. Has gender been a barrier to political participation in Enugu State
2. Has cultural factors enforced the discrimination and marginalization against women over political participation in Enugu State?
3. Has money politic hindered women participation to elective political offices in Enugu state from 1999 to 2016?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of the study include:
1. To ascertain gender as a barrier in political participation in Enugu State?
2. To identify the cultural disadvantages associated with the women absence in participation in politics with their male counter parts.
3. To identify if the income status of women which hinders them from participating in elective offices in Enugu state between 1999 to 2016.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study is designed to provide useful information and solution to the problems surrounding women participation in politics in Enugu state. It will correct all the notion and misconception that people of Enugu state have in terms of women and politics. The result of the study will make citizens of Enugu to understand that political participation is a civil obligation where both male and female have equal right and not meant for males alone.
This study will provide Nigerian women with the fundamental reliability and understanding of the women and political participation in Enugu state, thereby keeping them informed on the mechanisms suitable for the promotion of gender equality in political participation. Thus, this work will also be more beneficial to women, especially those who are aspiring for political positions. It will serve as a basis for building structures that will promote the aspirations of women on gender equality in political participation, this research work will also be beneficial to policy makers in general, thereby including more women into the decision making process.
Finally, this study will help to restore confidence in women, thereby building a sense of belonging in them to collaborate with their male counterpart in driving the economy of the state and also give reasons and hope to women for a better turn-up in political matters or issues.
1.6 Clarification of key concepts
The purpose of conceptual clarification is to clearly define terminologies to aid understanding for the purpose of this work. The following concepts will be defined for better understanding.
Gender: gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behavior, activities and attributes a particular society considers appropriate for men and women.
Gender Inequality: gender inequality refers to disparity between individuals due to gender
Women; women can be seen as an adult female person
Women’s Right: these are inalienable, integral and indivisible parts of universal human rights
Women Empowerment: this refers to the provision and availability of opportunity and services which enables women to actively participate and contribute to political, economic, social and cultural development of the nation.
Discrimination against women: discrimination is the practice of treating somebody or a particular group less fairly than the others. Discrimination of women stands as the practice of treating women less fairly than men in the society.
Politics: politics is the seizure of state power, consolidation of state power and usage of state power. It is also the art of governing especially the governing of a political entity such as a nation and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs.
Alienation: the concept of alienation is defined as the state of being withdrawn or isolated. It could be denying of someone’s right.
Culture: culture is defined as people’s way of life which includes their way of dressing, dancing, cooking, eating, greeting and speaking.
Political participation: political participation is a voluntary act which encompasses wide range of political activities, including voting at election, contesting for political and party offices, attending political rallies, joining political parties and many more.
Involvement; to engage in the interest of something.
1. Gender inequality a barrier to political participation in Enugu state 1999-2016?
2. Cultural factors enforced discrimination and marginalization against women over political participation 1999-2016?
3. Money politics hindered women participation to contest for political offices in Enugu state 1999-2016?.