A women and youth-led/focused organisation, dedicated to inclusiveness, empowerment and social development SieDi-Hub, recently organised a competition to mark her first anniversary in which a paper presented by Onyeka Ugwueze was adjudged winner.
The competition which was for people from the age of 18 to 35, participants were asked to submit a policy position paper proposing new strategies for tackling social issues affecting women and youths in Nigeria.
At the end of the competition a paper submitted by Onyeka Ugwueze 24, a relationship manager with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) came tops.
He submitted a well researched paper on ‘Underrepresentation of Women and Youths in Governance and Policy Participation in Nigeria’.
Full excerpt of his paper is included below:
Underrepresentation of Women and Youths in Governance and Policy Participation
In Nigeria, Women and youth are significantly underrepresented in governance and policy-making. Women made up only about 6.5% of the elected representatives in the 9th National Assembly, whilst the youths made up about 5.7% of the members of the House of Representatives and 3.3% of the members of the Senate under the age of 35.
Similarly, only 381 women contested the 2023 elections out of a total of 4,223 candidates, and in 5 out of 36 states, there are no female candidates for the Senate. Identified factors include socio-cultural factors, lack of accountability and transparency, gender discrimination, and lack of political will.
Sadly, this underrepresentation negatively impacts society since it excludes persons who are directly affected by policy decisions.
Therefore, there is a need to address this issue by creating an enabling environment for women and youths to participate in politics, contest elections, gain easy access to resources, greater awareness, and incentives for their involvement.
This paper is a call to action, as it presents the topical issue of the underrepresentation of women and youth in governance and policy formation, its causes, and implications.
It revealed that the participation of women and youth in the policy process in the country has not been encouraging due to politics of self-interest which exists in the country plagued with electoral malpractices.
This paper recommends that women and youths should be encouraged to be more proactive in the governance and policy processes since their participation is a solid foundation upon which support, legitimacy, and strength of democratic institutions can be based.
Governance and policy processes form the framework through which decisions are made and policies are implemented in organisations and governments. Effective governance and policy processes are essential for ensuring that decisions are made transparently, accountably, and in the best interests of all stakeholders.
However, Nigeria, like many other countries, has historically faced challenges with the representation of women and youth in governance and policy processes. The underrepresentation of women and youths in governance and policy participation in Nigeria can be illustrated in several ways:
Political Representation: In Nigeria, women and youths are significantly underrepresented in political positions. Despite constituting more than half of the population, women only make up a small percentage of elected officials at the national and state levels. In the 2019 elections, only 7 out of 109 senators were women, and only 11 out of 360 members of the House of Representatives were women. Similarly, young people have limited representation in government, with very few young people holding elected positions at any level of government.
Policy-making: Women and youths also have limited participation in policy-making processes in Nigeria. They are often excluded from decision-making forums and are not adequately consulted when policies and programs are being developed. This means that policies and programs are often developed without taking into consideration the unique needs and perspectives of these groups.
Economic Participation: Women and youths are also underrepresented in the formal economy in Nigeria. They are more likely to work in the informal sector, which is characterised by low pay, poor working conditions, and limited access to social protections.
This limits their economic opportunities and reduces their ability to participate in decision-making processes.
Education: Although there have been some improvements in recent years, girls in Nigeria still face significant challenges in accessing education. Many are unable to complete their education due to poverty, early marriage, and other cultural practices that limit their opportunities. This limits their ability to participate fully in governance and policy-making processes.
Overall, the underrepresentation of women and youths in governance and policy participation in Nigeria is a significant challenge that needs to be addressed.
This requires targeted efforts to increase their representation in political and decision-making processes and to ensure that policies and programs take into account their unique needs and perspectives.
The National Gender Policy (NGP) in Nigeria recommends 35% affirmative action and seeks a more inclusive representation of women in both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively.
Available statistics reveal that the overall political participation in the government of Nigeria is less than 7% (Agbalajobi, 2010) and so has not attained the 35% affirmative threshold prescribed by the NGP.
However, in recent years, concerted efforts have been made to address this issue and increase the participation of these groups in decision-making processes. In terms of women’s representation, Nigeria has made some progress in recent years.
In 2019, the country held its general elections, and more women were elected to political positions than in previous years. Currently, women occupy about 7% of seats in the National Assembly, which is still low but represents an improvement from previous years. Additionally, there have been efforts to increase the number of women appointed to leadership positions in government agencies and other organisations.
Similarly, youth representation in governance and policy processes is still a major challenge in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), about 60% of the country’s population is under the age of 35, but young people are still largely underrepresented in political leadership positions. This has led to concerns about a lack of representation of young people’s interests in policy decisions that affect their lives.
To address these issues, there have been calls for more inclusive governance structures that prioritise the participation of women and youth.
This includes efforts to create more opportunities for women and youth to run for political office, as well as initiatives to increase their participation in decision-making processes at all levels. Additionally, there have been efforts to increase civic education and engagement among young people, to encourage their participation in governance and policy processes.
The underrepresentation of women and youths in governance and policy processes stems from the patriarchal practices inherent in our society, (Oloyede, 2022) much of which have continued from the pre-colonial era till date.
Voting in Nigeria started with the 1922 constitution which introduced adult male sufferance and it was not until 1954 that women in the eastern and southern regions were granted sufferance under the Lyttleton Constitution.
Following this landmark constitutional reform, three women were appointed to the House of Chiefs; and in 1979, the 1979 Constitution introduced adult sufferance allowing women of the Northern Region to vote and in the same year, the voting age was reduced to 18.
The Buhari-led administration introduced the first formal quota system by the Federal Government which directed that at least one female must be appointed as a member of the executive council in every state.
There have been six administrations since the return to civilian rule in 1999 and since then no woman or youth has occupied the seat of the president and/or vice president. Although women have been appointed in ministerial roles and offices, very few women have won elections into the National Assembly.
The issue of underrepresentation of youth in politics cannot be overemphasised. Over the years, there has been a gross record of political apathy on the side of the youths and despite the introduction of the Not Too Young to Run Bill in 2018, there has been no significant turnouts or involvement of youths in politics until the #ENDSARS incident in October 2020 which led a lot of youths to the streets seeking to end injustice and police brutality in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the underrepresentation of women and youth in governance and policy participation is caused by a combination of social, cultural, and institutional factors that create barriers to their full participation in decision-making processes. Some of the key causes include:
Stereotypes and Biases: Gender, ethnicity, religion and age stereotypes create the perception that women and young people are not qualified, capable of leadership positions, or participating in decision-making processes.
Discrimination and Exclusion: Women and young people face discrimination and exclusion from leadership positions and decision-making processes.
Lack of Access to Education and Training: Most women and young people do not have equal access to education and training opportunities, which limit their skills and knowledge, and make them less competitive for leadership positions.
Structural Barriers: Institutional and structural barriers such as political systems that favour men, lack of family friendly policies, and limited access to financial resources make it difficult for women and young people to participate in governance and policy-making.
Cultural Norms: Traditional cultural norms and practices can also limit the participation of women and young people in leadership positions and decision-making processes.
Addressing these causes requires a comprehensive and systemic approach that involves challenging social norms, promoting education and training opportunities, providing mentorship and role models, creating supportive policies and structures, and challenging discriminatory practices and biases. It is important to create more inclusive governance structures that prioritise the participation of women and youth. This can include efforts to increase access to education, create more opportunities for women and youth to run for political office, and promote policies and practices that support their participation in decision-making processes.
Additionally, it is important to challenge cultural and societal norms that limit the participation of women and youth in governance and policy processes and to promote greater awareness and understanding of the value of their contributions to these processes.
The Senate and House of Representatives 1999- 2023.
The fourth Republic presented hope for a new dawn in the struggle for more participation of women and youth in governance and politics. However, since then both elective and appointive political positions have been dominated by men. In 1999, there were only 3 women out of 109 members representing 2.8% of their members of the senate, in 2007 the number increased to 8, and in 2011 it reduced by one.
The position was also slightly similar in the house of representatives with only 12 women out of 360 members in 1999, 21 female members in 2003, 26 female members in 2011, 19 in 2015, and 11 in 2019.
The Chart above is a representation of the Nigerian National Parliament (Senate and House of Representatives) from 1999 to 2019 by gender (Satistica 2023)
The Chart above is a representation of the Nigerian Senate from 1999 to 2019 by gender (Oloyede, 2022).
The Chart above is a representation of the Nigerian Senate from 1999 to 2019 by gender (Oloyede, 2022).
The Chart above is a representation of the Nigerian Senate 2019 after the passage of the Not too Young to Run Bill. From the above, the Total <=45:26; Total >= 46:92 (Oloyede, 2022).
Efforts made towards women and youths’ participation in governance and policy process in Nigeria.
In recent years, there have been increasing efforts towards promoting women and youths’ participation in governance and policy processes in Nigeria. Among such efforts are the establishment of the Women Political Office and Nigeria Women Trust Fund, Women Lobby Group, the institution of INEC gender policy, and the national multi-stakeholders dialogue among others.
Some of the approaches employed by these efforts include:
- Affirmative Action: The Nigerian government has implemented policies such as the National Gender Policy and the National Youth Policy, which provide for affirmative action measures to increase the representation of women and youths in governance and policy-making positions.
- Quota System: Some states in Nigeria have implemented quota systems to ensure a minimum percentage of women and youths in elected and appointed positions.
- Sensitisation and Training: Various organisations and government agencies have organised sensitisation and training programs to educate women and youths on their rights and responsibilities, and equip them with the necessary skills to participate effectively in governance and policy processes. Through ElectHer’s decision to run policy, the organisation aims at advancing the inclusion of women in politics and public life.
- Mentorship and Networking: There are various mentorship and networking programs aimed at providing women and youths with opportunities to interact with experienced leaders and policymakers, learn from their experiences, and develop their leadership skills. For instance, ElectHer through her Agender35 pledged to support forward-thinking Nigerian women to run for office and win the election in 2023.
- Youth Inclusion in Political Parties: Some political parties in Nigeria have created youth wings to enable young people to actively participate in the political process and have a voice in decision-making.
- Civil Society Advocacy: Civil society organisations have been advocating for the inclusion of women and youths in governance and policy processes and holding the government accountable for implementing policies that promote their participation.
It is pertinent to note that the National Center for Women Development (NCWD) in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics is making efforts to have a compendium of evidence-based data on women and youth’s participation in governance and policy processes. The objective of the data is to provide a baseline for the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The data available will also improve evidence-based planning and programming involving women in decision-making; increase the support of key stakeholders on measures to increase the representation of women in decision making and further improve awareness of new advocacy tools among stakeholders to support the campaign for increased representation of women in decision making in Nigeria.
Challenges Affecting Women and Youth Participation in Governance and Policy Processes
- Patriarchy: Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power and dominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege, and control of the property. In patriarchal societies like Nigeria, women and youths often face significant challenges in their participation in governance and policy formation. Some of the ways patriarchy affects women and youth participation include:
- Limited Access to Education: Patriarchy often leads to limited access to education for women and youths, which hinders their ability to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for effective participation in governance and policy formation.
- Discrimination and Gender Stereotypes: Patriarchy perpetuates gender stereotypes that view women as inferior to men, leading to discrimination and marginalisation of women and youth in governance and policy-making processes.
- Lack of Representation: Patriarchy also results in a lack of representation of women and youth in decision-making positions, making it difficult for them to have a voice in policies that affect their lives.
- Cultural Barriers: Patriarchal cultural norms often prioritise male leadership and decision-making, leading to cultural barriers that limit women and youth participation in governance and policy formation.
- Limited Access to Resources: Patriarchy also limits women and youth’s access to resources such as finances, networks, and information, which are necessary for effective participation in governance and policy formation.
To address these challenges, it is important to challenge and dismantle patriarchal structures and norms that limit women and youth participation in governance and policy formation. This can be achieved through the implementation of policies that promote gender equality and the active involvement of women and youth in decision-making processes.
- Stigmatisation: Politics in Nigeria is played in the most immoral manner and perceived to be for individuals who have no regard for human rights, quick at compromising for indecent gains. Stigmatisation can have significant negative effects on women and youth participation in governance and policy formation. It refers to the social disapproval of certain behaviours, traits, or conditions that are seen as deviant from societal norms. Stigmatisation can manifest in various forms, such as social exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice, and can be directed towards individuals or groups based on their gender, age, race, religion, or other characteristics.
Some ways in which stigmatisation affects women and youth participation in governance and policy formation include:
- Limited Opportunities: Stigmatisation can limit opportunities for women and youth to participate in governance and policy formation by excluding them from decision-making processes, denying them access to resources, and restricting their ability to express their opinions and ideas.
- Lack of Confidence: Stigmatisation can also affect women and youth’s confidence in their ability to participate in governance and policy formation, leading to self-doubt and a reluctance to take on leadership roles.
- Negative Stereotyping: Stigmatisation can also reinforce negative stereotypes about women and youth, portraying them as incapable or inferior, and thus discouraging their participation in governance and policy formation.
- Social Isolation: Stigmatisation can lead to social isolation and exclusion, making it difficult for women and youth to form networks and build relationships that are necessary for effective participation in governance and policy formation.
To address stigmatisation and its effects on women and youth participation in governance and policy formation, it is important to promote awareness and understanding of the negative effects of stigmatisation. This can be achieved through education and sensitisation programs that challenge stereotypes and promote inclusion and diversity. Policies and programs that promote equal opportunities and provide support and resources to women and youth can also help to reduce stigmatisation and improve their participation in governance and policy formation.
- Financing: Competing for political positions in Nigeria requires huge financial backup, it is also the same when trying to lobby to drive change policies. Financing can have a significant impact on women and youth participation in governance and policy processes. Access to adequate funding is essential for individuals and groups to effectively participate in political processes, including governance and policy formation. Here are some ways in which financing can affect women and youth participation in governance and policy processes:
- Limited Access to Funding: Women and youth often face barriers in accessing funding for their political activities, including campaign financing and advocacy work. This is due to several factors, including discrimination, lack of networks, and limited access to resources and information.
- Financial Burden: Women and youth who do manage to access funding may face a financial burden due to the high costs associated with political activities such as campaign financing, lobbying, and advocacy work.
- Limited Resources: Limited access to funding can result in limited resources for women and youth to engage in political activities. This may hinder their ability to effectively participate in governance and policy formation.
- Unequal Playing Field: The limited access to funding for women and youth creates an unequal playing field, where those with access to financial resources have an advantage in political processes.
To address the financing challenges that affect women and youth participation in governance and policy processes, it is essential to implement policies and programs that promote equal access to funding. These may include affirmative action measures, such as setting aside a percentage of public funding for women and youth political candidates and providing financial support for political education and training. Furthermore, there should be increased transparency and accountability in the use of political funding to reduce the risk of corruption and increase public trust in political processes.
- Improving the Implementation Mechanism of Existing Policies
Justification: The Not too Young to Run Bill is a bill geared towards the inclusion of youths in Politics.
Strategy: To improve the implementation of this mechanism, the focus may be driven toward the capacity building to equip young people interested in politics with the necessary skills and knowledge required to run for office. Capacity-building programs, such as leadership training, mentorship, and coaching, can be organised for aspiring young politicians. Again, Structural barriers such as access to political financing, gender and age bias, and sociocultural norms that discourage young people from participating in politics, need to be addressed. Political parties can create a level playing field for young aspirants by ensuring that they are given equal opportunities to contest for party positions.
- Subsidising Tickets for Women Who Wish to Run for Political Positions:
Justification: Subsidising tickets for women in politics would provide financial support and incentives to encourage more women to participate in political activities, such as attending events or conferences related to politics. When this is done, it can have several potential effects. Firstly, it can increase the representation of women in politics by making it easier for them to access these events, which can lead to greater involvement in political activities and increased political influence. Secondly, it can help to address gender disparities in political participation by reducing the financial barriers that may prevent women from participating in political activities, such as travel costs or registration fees. Thirdly, subsidising tickets for women in politics can also help to raise awareness of the gender gap in politics and the need for greater representation of women in political leadership roles. Likewise, addressing cultural norms that restrict women’s participation in decision-making and advancing gender equality in communities could be done through community engagement and dialogue.
Strategy: This could be done by providing financial support for women to actively participate in politics through financing NGOs interested in the growth and development of women.
Good governance is the bedrock of development in every society. If Nigeria can get it right politically, other social needs of women and youths including underrepresentation will be met. Hence, this paper presents the following recommendations:
- Sensitisation and political education geared towards the inclusivity of women and youths in politics by political parties.
- Subsidising ticket fees and providing incentives to encourage women in politics.
- Improving the implementation of mechanisms geared towards encouraging women and youths in politics like the 35% affirmative action of the NGP and the age recommendation of the Not too Young to Run Bill.
Advocacy Asks: This paper is a call to action, as it encourages government to consider the recommendations stated above to increase women and youths’ participation in governance and policy formation.
It hopes that the government may take the following steps in encouraging women and youths’ participation in governance and policy making:
- Implement gender and age quotas: This involves setting targets for the number of women and youth who should be included in decision-making bodies such as legislative assemblies, committees, and task forces. These targets could be incorporated into legislation or policy frameworks to ensure accountability.
- Provide capacity building and training: This involves providing training and mentoring programs to women and youth to enhance their skills and knowledge in areas such as policy analysis, advocacy, and leadership. This could also include opportunities for networking and exposure to decision-making processes.
- Foster a culture of inclusivity: This involves creating an enabling environment that values and supports the participation of women and youth in decision-making processes. This could be achieved through measures such as awareness campaigns, gender-sensitive language in policy documents, and measures to prevent discrimination and harassment.
- Engage with civil society organisations: This involves partnering with organisations that represent women and youth to ensure that their perspectives are taken into account in policy formation. This could include consultative forums, public hearings, and other forms of engagement.
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