The political disempowerment and constant poor representation of women in the National Assembly in Nigeria presents a serious concern. Though some of the obstacles militating against women in politics are gradually reducing, the number of women in decision making positions in Nigeria is very insignificant. Most critics of women participation in politics are of the opinion that government efforts and agitations to increase women participation in politics is not truly for empowerment but for liberation. Thus, this paper sets out to evaluate the level of women participation in politics and how patriarchy impedes the equitable political participation of women in Nigeria. It adopts the Marxist Feminism theory. The paper argues that unless the patriarchal institution which engenders inequality is dismantled, women will remain politically disempowered and poorly represented. Drawing basically from secondary sources, the paper observes that women are grossly underrepresented in decision making positions in Nigeria. It attributes this to patriarchal or cultural factors which assign women purely domestic roles. It recommends various measures including the adoption of policies of affirmative action and legal empowerment which emphasise how law can be used to advance interests and priorities of the marginalized in Nigerian society.
Discrimination of women in politics of Nigeria has its root in the culture of various societies in Nigeria. In Northern Nigeria, for instance, the Purdah system (i.e. house seclusion of women) inhibits women from participating in the social, educational and political life of the community. Women, in the pre-Independent era, were not to be heard directly but through their husbands. Majority of Nigerian women were peasants and house wives. In other words, the majority of women fell within the under-privileged class and so cannot be heard in the political system. They were left without a leader or a voice. After Independence, with the advent of education, new technology, Christianity, democracy and constitutional fundamental human rights, the political participation of Nigerian women has increased. In spite of the above and the recent government efforts to empower women for full participation in politics, women are still under-represented in the decision making positions in Nigeria.
The questions are: Why cannot women have full and adequate representation in the National Assembly and other Political structures in Nigeria? Why cannot distribution of seats in the National Assembly be fifty-fifty following the constitutional fundamental human right and equality of persons? Why cannot we have a woman President, women Governors, in the same proportion with men? Could it be that the Government and all the stakeholders agitating and clamouring for women empowerment to balance the equation are not sincere and as such give lip service to women empowerment? Could this lip service emanate from the continued influence of culture in the political behaviour of men towards women and women towards their follow women?
The purpose of this paper is to systematically look at women’s level of political participation, especially in the National Assembly, Government efforts to empower women, and critically assess the patriarchal institution, which is assumed to be the root cause of women disempowerment and poor participation in strategic positions in Nigerian politics.
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