Wim biz annual lecture paper women and politics- is the hand that rocks the cradle asleep-


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Wim biz annual lecture paper women and politics- is the hand that rocks the cradle asleep-

  1. 1. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNOR Text of the Paper WOMEN AND POLITICS: IS THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE ASLEEP? Delivered by Her Excellency Mrs. ‘Funmi OLAYINKA Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeriaat the Annual Lecture of Women in Management and Business (WimBiz), held on Tuesday February 22, 2011, at the Muson Centre, Lagos Island, Lagos1. PROTOCOLS / SALUTATIONSDistinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocols duly observed.It is my pleasure to make a presentation to this illustrious audienceof great Nigerian women and men and nation builders. My highestregards go to the Board and Management of the Women inManagement and Business (WimBiz), an organization that I have avery high respect and admiration for.I am extremely proud of the achievements of this noble organizationthat in a short time has become a veritable voice in nationaldiscourse, concerning not only our thematic focus of WomenEmpowerment, but other pressing national issues.I am grateful for the privilege to make my contribution on such acrucial theme, at this crucial time and trust that this epochal eventshall be a sure foot forward towards achieving our objectives.2. INTRODUCTIONThe 1999 Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria guaranteesevery citizen of age, the right to participate in political activities.Section 40 of that Constitution specifically says and I quote, “Everyperson shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other1 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  2. 2. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORpersons, and in particular he (she) may form or belong to any politicalparty, trade union or any other association for the protection of his(her) interests…” By this provision, women are constitutionallyequipped to be politically active.Much more so, the rights of the Nigerian woman to fully participatein the political process, is enshrined in several other International,Regional and National Instruments. Notable amongst them is the‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)’ which stipulatesthat “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity andrights…”The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of DiscriminationAgainst Women (CEDAW), is an international treaty for all ratifyingcountries, which enjoins State parties to take all appropriatemeasures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws,regulations, customs and practices that constitute discriminationagainst women. The Nigerian Government ratified the Conventionas far back as 1985, with the obligation to pursue among otherprovisions, “Equality in Political and Public Life at National andInternational levels”The foregoing including the establishment of the Ministry ofWomen’s Affairs in 1993, among other steps taken by successiveGovernments in Nigeria, underscore the fact that the socio-politicalenvironment in Nigeria is not lacking in the requisite legislativeframework to sustain women participation in politics.Why then does it appear that the Nigerian Woman is asleep as far asactive participation in the political process is concerned?Why is it that the Nigeria Woman is exploited and marginalizeddespite the fact that we constitute about 49% of the totalpopulation? This is even more pronounced in the democratizationprocesses much like other areas of national life. Women in Nigeriaconstitute more than two - thirds of the country’s 70% adult non-literate population while they hold less than 5% of the important2 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  3. 3. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORdecision making positions. The present national assembly in Nigeriahas an appallingly low average of 0.05% of women in both houses!This paper shall discuss some of the causative factors behind thesealarming indices and proffer a way out of the quagmire.Definition of Key Words?WomanFor the purpose of this paper, we shall adopt the Oxford EnglishDictionary’s definition of the word ‘Woman’ which is ‘an adult humanfemale’.This simplistic definition however does not offer a broad perspectiveof the restrictive gender role that defines women in our largelypatriarchal society. ‘Woman’ within the context of our socio-culturalgender construct, has come to be associated with discrimination,marginalization and low representation.PoliticsPolitics according to the Longman Dictionary of ContemporaryEnglish is defined as ‘ideas and activities relating to gaining andusing power in a country’. However, the character of Politics, whichis often referred to as a game, differs from one society to another,and is a function of the underlying socio-cultural superstructure.Evolving Political Dynamics and the Role of WomenA close look at global political dynamics, point to the fact that theworld is changing fast. The ascent to power of a black man to theoffice of the President of the United States of America lendscredence to this. I had the privilege of studying in that country andobserving first-hand the thinning out of racial prejudices. I still havecause to marvel that a society can evolve drastically from denying aracial sub-set suffrage, to voting a minority from this same race asPresident! All of these within the space of a few decades.3 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  4. 4. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNOREqually significant is the fact that in this same election, a woman,Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the current Secretary of State aspired withgood effort to secure the Presidential Candidacy of the DemocraticParty. Though she didn’t succeed, she made an excellent/impressivemark.This wave of change is consistent with happenings in other parts ofthe world. Stereotypes of those who can aspire to, and attain publicoffice are rapidly changing, with the breaking down of deep seatedprejudices. Previously marginalized segments of the society such ascertain ethnic groups, women, youth e.t.c, are having greater accessto power in oftentimes unconventional ways.Today, we have female incumbent Presidents/Heads of State incountries such as Liberia, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Finland, CostaRica, India, Argentina, Lithuania, and Kyrgyzstan. This isunprecedented in the history of democratization around the world.Also of note is the enviable female representation statistics fromRwanda, a small African country with a population of less than 10million. The East African country in 2003, sneaked into history asthe nation with the highest female representation in elective offices.The Rwandan women have steadily built on a colonial legacy ofuniversal suffrage, having produced the first female parliamentarianas far back as 1965.As the true hands that rock the cradle of national development, thewomen of Rwanda seized the opportunity that the post-conflictenvironment offered, to populate the parliament and contributeassiduously to the rebuilding of the nation. Women in that countrywon 48.8 percent of seats in the lower house of Parliament in 2003!Today, we have young people leading non-violent protests in theNorth-Africa/Middle East parts of the world, and securingphenomenal concessions from the powers that be.The implications of the evolving social order, is that no segment ofthe society can be taken for granted any longer.4 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  5. 5. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORSadly, Nigerian women are not maximally exploiting this highground. Despite the favorable legislative framework, sheer power ofnumbers and wave of globalization, the abysmal statistics of femalerepresentation in the political process leaves much to be desired.3. WOMEN AND POLITICS IN NIGERIA – TIME TO AWAKE FROM SLUMBERThe involvement of women in Nigerian politics can best be describedas apathetically reactionary. We ‘rise’ in our quest for ‘affirmativeaction’ long after our male counterparts have decided on politicalstructures that seem best to them. We complain of being left outwhen we never joined in. We agitate for the crumbs off the tablewhen the sweat off our brows account for the meal that the menlord over. The best we clamor for in the internal structures ofpolitical parties is the often ill-defined women-leader position, whenwomen can lead and even found political parties. We have longjustified our indifference to politics with the notion ‘politics is a dirtygame’. Assuming then that politics is a dirty game; would mothersin this hall today please tell me, who is in the best position to cleanit up?May I stop at this juncture to ask, how many of the women herepresent registered to vote in the coming General election?Before we go ahead to proffer a way out of our collective quandary,we need to understand some of the causative societal factors thathave shaped the status quo.Nigeria as stated earlier is a largely patriarchal society. In manystates, socio-religious ethos forbid a woman from speaking publiclyto a gathering that includes men; talk less of aspiring to lead them.In our national organizations, discrimination is institutionalized.Can we imagine, that only recently was a national institution suchas the Nigerian Defence Academy permitted to admit women forcourses leading to commissioning as Officers of the Nigerian Armed5 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  6. 6. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORForces? How then would we have spoken of equality in the years ofmilitary rule when the entry point had been compromised? Thatinvariably accounts for why we never had a female MilitaryAdministrator of a state in Nigeria, in the many years the militaryheld sway. The men have thus seen leadership as a birthright ofsome sort, while we women have accepted our fate as cheerleadersin the political circus.In Nigeria today, there are only 8 women in the Senate and 36 in the360-member House of Representatives. Prior to 1976, women werenot only prevented from standing for elections in some parts of thecountry, but were not allowed to vote in Northern Nigeria.Other factors that negate the aspirations of women in the Nigeriansociety include the discriminatory educational system, restrictiveaccess to healthcare, work place discrimination, gender-baseddomestic violence e.t.c. All of these work together, to make womentoo economically vulnerable and psychologically ill-prepared for thearduous task of attaining public office.We can see then, that the battle for egalitarianism is two-fold. Wehave to fight the enemies without, but more importantly, theenemies within – socio-culturally inflicted self-doubt and apathy.The Way ForwardWhilst it is often said that women are their own worst enemy, this isnot true. Patriarchy is women’s worst enemy. To start with, womenhave to appreciate that social change is often a gradual process. Wehave to disabuse our minds from expecting quick fixes. Sustainablealterations to the social order come not by last minute feebleattempts when the die is cast, but by careful strategising and deftmanoeuvrings, with a view to forcing other stakeholder blocs to thenegotiating table. No politician or political grouping negotiates withany individual or group that has nothing to bring to the table.Secondly, women MUST to get involved. I am one of the few Nigerianwomen that have the rare privilege of attaining elective public office.6 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  7. 7. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORI and others like me are representative of a growing tribe of womenwho have challenged the societal stereotype and aspired to electiveoffice; some are yet to succeed but are nonetheless heroines fordaring to move, I salute their courage. The point here is that wemade an attempt and eschewed all limitations to get involved. Ioften hear some women complain of social malaises bitterly, yet theyrefuse to vote, talk less of stand for elective office or politicalappointment. It is time we moved this discourse beyond beautyparlour talk, where the heat from the hair dryers are of greater effectthan that of the anger within us. It is time to give vent tosuppressed agitations. It is time to get involved.In relation to the first point I made, getting involved from today doesnot mean we would see instant results. Considering the recentlyconcluded primaries across all political parties, even if all the femalecandidates win, we would not be very far from the status quo. Butwe can make a difference; not only by starting early towards futurepolitical dispensations, but also ensuring gender equality andwomen empowerment are mainstreamed in the determination ofwho we vote for.This brings me to my third point. Organisations like WimBiz have toincrease their share of voice in advocating for gender equality, untilit becomes a major subject in our collective consciousness. Womenadvocacy groups in Nigeria have done creditably and deservecommendation, we however cannot rest on our oars until everywoman is able to stand head-to-head with equal opportunity besideher male counterparts, in aspiring to any height in her chosen lifepath.Fourthly, in relation to our advocacy efforts, we have to pay morethan lip service to women empowerment. This point is of particularinterest to me, considering ‘Women Empowerment’ is one of the 8points in our administration’s development agenda in Ekiti State,Nigeria. Womenfolk have to work with other stakeholders to createprograms and policies to empower women economically and mitigateother vulnerabilities.7 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  8. 8. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORWithin our short time in office, our administration hasdemonstrated commitment to women empowerment by takingdecisive steps such as: • Engaging women advocacy groups with a view to ensuring zero- tolerance for all types of gender-based violence/discrimination in the home, workplace and society at large, • Making healthcare freely available to all pregnant women, creating a multiple-birth fund to support women burdened by the responsibility of taking care of twins, triplets e.t.c. • Stimulating girl-child education by ensuring Education is free and compulsory for all children up to secondary school level as well as the purchase of WAEC forms for all qualified candidates. • Implementing a state-wide medical mission during which a public health campaign was mainstreamed focusing on the prevention of gender-based diseases such as breast and cervical cancers, etc.It is our objective to make Ekiti State a model for other states toemulate as far as veritable women empowerment is concerned. Weare therefore not relenting in mainstreaming gender equality as weimplement our development agenda across all sectors of theeconomy, while ensuring effective trickle down to rural areas.Our plans going forward include domesticating the National Genderpolicy in our state, as well as legislation against violence.It is important for us to consider the very vital issue of fundingwomen to run for office, I want to recognise the creation of theNigerian Women’s Trust Fund in which the wife of our Governor,Chief (Mrs) Bisi Fayemi is the Chairperson. This scheme wouldassist our women in the area of funding for political, social andeconomic projects.I also want to urge members of WimBiz to use their clout andnetworks to ensure that more women become aware of their political8 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  9. 9. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORresponsibilities, and go forward to boldly pursue their politicalambitions.Ladies and gentlemen, it is our collective duty to ensure women areempowered to see life beyond the struggle to survive, to seeourselves as an integral part of society. To be given access to creditand encouraged to grow thriving businesses and be economicallyindependent, to be given access to healthcare, to be given a voiceand a platform to be heard.Lastly, we may complain of low representation in public office, butthe question then is, are we making the best of the leverage wehave? How have women holding public office fared over the years?What support structures have we created to ensure their success? Iam sure we all agree that attaining public office is one thing,performing creditably is yet another. I can confidently share thatwith you, not only from my experience in public office so far, butalso from the long tortuous months following our election in 2007,till the judicial validation of our popular mandate 3½ years later.In case you don’t know, it takes a woman holding public office 10times the amount of resilience, patience, tact, hardwork andpolitical dexterity to overcome the challenges and distractions, inachieving veritable success. That invariably, is if the woman is notjust interested in being counted among the number; a spare tyrewith no real responsibilities in the affairs of state.While we seek to better our collective fortunes, we have toconsolidate our position by maximising our foothold in the socio-political space. Women that are privileged to hold public office, haveto offer their hands in bringing up other women through mentoringand other avenues to create more space for women. They have topass on vital skills in governance, integrity, commitment and rolemodelling, negotiation, stakeholder management, diplomacy,community mobilizing, fundraising e.t.c.On the other hand, since all of us cannot possibly seek electivepositions, women outside of active politics have to support women9 | Page WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  10. 10. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORpublic office holders to succeed. This can be done through theprovision of technical support in various areas of speciality, as wellas sustaining the groundswell of support required by these womento take crucial steps without fear or favour.We have to create these linkages across political, religious andethnic divides, and fight this common cause in unison. Women haveto close ranks and avoid the competitiveness, pettiness and rancourthat have been our undoing over the years. We have to activelyeducate females of all ages about our rights and privileges in thefree society to which we belong, to see a world of possibilities andthe power we have to create the type of future we desire. We have tobuild ourselves into a formidable political bloc to be courted byother stakeholders as a maiden in her youth.4. CONCLUSIONIn concluding, we should not be so naïve to think the task aheadwould be easy. This is because addressing inequality in the socio-political space is just one of the many issues we have to contendwith.Let us not forget that as women, we bear great responsibility inbuilding the smallest but most important unit in any society – thefamily. We should not in our quest for political relevance abdicateour roles as home builders and custodians of the values of society.Ultimately, we should build bridges of partnership with otherstakeholder groups and never compromise the unity and stability ofour great nation.The burden of birthing a new Nigeria is upon us, may God Almightygive us the grace to bring forth. Amen.My fellow women, let us stop to AGONIZE and begin to ORGANIZE!!!Thank you all for listening.10 | P a g e WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  11. 11. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNORH.E. MRS. ‘FUNMI OLAYINKADEPUTY GOVERNOR OF EKITI STATE, NIGERIALAGOS, NIGERIATUESDAY FEBRUARY 22, 2011REFERENCES • Politics - the Many Barricades Against Nigerian Women by Ruth Tene Natsa published in Leadership, February 16, 2011 • Section 40, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria • Women and Children’s Rights in Nigeria published by Women Aid Collective (WACOL) • Women and Politics in Nigeria: Towards Participatory Democracy in Ogun State South - Western Nigeria.11 | P a g e WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011
  12. 12. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY GOVERNOR Oluyemi O. FAYOMI Department of Policy and Strategic Studies College of Business and Strategic Studies Covenant University • Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, UK • Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English • www.wikipedia.org • http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/228050/ameri cas_first_female_presidential.html • 100 Days of the People’s Mandate – An Account of Stewardship by the Dr. Kayode Fayemi-Led Administration of Ekiti State. • Attracting support for Female political aspirants – Report by the Directorate of Women Affairs, Ekiti State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare. • List of Political Appointees- Office of the Secretary to the Government of Ekiti State. • European Journals of Social Sciences, Volume 14, Number 4 (2010)12 | P a g e WimBiz Annual Lecture 2011 - Tues. February 22, 2011