Across Nigeria, women are severely underrepresented at all levels of governance and face substantial social and economic barriers that hinder their active participation in politics. The situation in the Niger Delta is particularly difficult, due to highly competitive and violent aspects of politics and poor resource management by the government.
SDN’s More Women in Governance project consulted women across 24 communities in Rivers State and 12 representatives of women-led civil society organisations on their priorities to support women’s increased engagement in politics. These consultations identified four main barriers: a lack of economic means to participate in politics, negative public attitudes towards women’s and young women’s political participation, poor understanding of internal political party dynamics, and lack of support to prepare women
- Reduce the financial barriers which prevent women entering politics:
- Political parties can do this by providing free nomination forms and reducing other financial requirements for women.
- Federal and State Government can do this by providing additional support to the Ministry of Women Affairs and the Ministry of Employment Generation and Empowerment to expand their economic empowerment programmes, especially in rural areas, to enable greater financial independence of women.
- Establish and increase programmes to build women’s leadership skills and understanding of the political process:
- Federal and State Government can provide further support to the Ministry of Women Affairs to scale-up its existing programme, including in rural areas.
- Political parties should establish their own programmes to support existing female members to develop their leadership skills and understanding of the party political process.
- Introduce policies at the national and political party-level which encourage women to enter politics:
- The Rivers State House of Assembly should pass the 35% affirmative action policy in to law.
- Political parties should encourage their members to hold meetings during the day, and at locations which are convenient for all to attend.
- Authorities in government and political parties should be committed to implementing the 35% affirmative action. This will give women access to key decision-making roles, and also vie for elective positions.
- Political parties can increase public campaigns to promote positive messages about women in politics and to challenge negative stereotypes:
- Federal and State Government can support the National Orientation Agency to scale up voter education initiatives along these lines, including in rural areas.
- Civil society organisations and the media utilise their capacity and access to increase public debate on the same issues.
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