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Increasing Women’s Participation in Politics in the Niger Delta

The Women in Governance project is an exciting new nine-month project by SDN, in partnership with the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund (NWTF), and funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) via the Department for Internal Development (DFID). The project is being implemented in Rivers State, Niger Delta, Nigeria, with research encompassing Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers states to understand how women engage in politics across all three states.

Challenge: Women and their priorities are under-represented in politics and leadership in Nigeria

Project aim: Increase political participation amongst women living in the Niger Delta

Project highlights:

  • Research to better understand the status of women’s engagement in politics across Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers states, to help inform future initiatives that support the representation of women and their priorities in politics by women, civil society, and government, amongst others.
  • A campaign focused around the 2019 elections to promote women’s engagement in politics and to call on politicians to make policy commitments to deliver on the priorities of women in Rivers state, including running a mentorship programme for young women and holding a consultation across Rivers state with women on their priorities for 2019 political candidates.

Impact: As a result of the activity outlined above, we hope by the end of this project, we will have a greater understanding of what further work can be done to promote women’s engagement in politics, and that politicians will have made concrete commitments to deliver on women’s priorities in Rivers state. 

Why is this project so important?

Women have remained largely invisible in the Nigerian political process. Traditional gender roles and deep-seated cultural norms foster a perception that women are not suited for leadership roles and should not assert themselves publicly. This partly accounts for why only 5.7% of elected positions in Nigeria were held by women in 2015 (Nigerian Bureau of Statistics). Although relevant in other parts of Nigeria, additional barriers to women’s engagement in politics are particularly endemic to the Niger Delta, including ‘godfathers’, militancy, cultism, corruption, and criminality. Accordingly, in Akwa-Ibom only nine women were cleared to contest the House of Assembly election, compared to 110 men; in Bayelsa the figures were nine women and 135 men; and in Rivers, 18 women and 149 men. The low representation of women in political positions is matched by a lack of political will to prioritise measures aiming to reduce these challenges, or to represent issues affecting women more than men.

This is despite the Federal Government of Nigeria’s national and international commitments. Nationally, the National Gender Policy in Nigeria stipulates a 35% minimum representation of women in political leadership. Internationally, Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, and has been a signatory to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (ACHPR) since 2003.

We believe that better representation of women in politics will lead to a more democratic, equal, responsive, and inclusive government and nation.

Icons made by Gregor Cresnar from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

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