Role of women and how they were marginalised before and after independence

Role of women and how they were marginalised before and after independence

Legit.ng organised Big Naija Independence prominent student contest to celebrate Nigeria's 60th Independence. The contest was aimed at spotting young talented students passionate about journalism and writing. A total of 650 students across over 50 tertiary institutions and colleges participated in the competition.

This piece by Fagbohun Ibrahim from Obafemi Awolowo University examines how women have been marginalised over the years.

As our dear nation clocked sixty this year, one of the topics worth reviewing is the role of the female gender in the social and political affairs of our country so far, as well as what their role will look like in the nearest future.

The democratic system of governance (the government of the people by the people) adopted by the nation at the inception of independence in the year 1960 holds a lot of promises for Nigerian women as the term democracy in the real sense loathes gender discrimination. All the promises the democratic system held for the female gender started to crumble almost immediately at the point of inception, as the first federal government cabinet which was made up of 312 members consisted of no female member.

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During the pre-colonial era before independence, women were well known for the influence they exhibit in the political realm of the country as queens, aides, and leaders of their community. Some eastern communities even choose queens which are unrelated to the king to rule the women of the community, so that the community has a male leader as well as a female leader, with each of them holding similar and equal power in the community. A notable few women that made their mark in the pre-colonial era include Queen Zazzau of Zaria, Moremi of Ile-ife, and Queen Daura of the present day Katsina state.

Role of women and how they were marginalised before and after independence
Women sitting on the grass during Queen Elizabeth II tour in Nigeria, 1956. Photo credit: Carl Mydans
Source: Getty Images

Independence came with a lot of promise of gender equality, but the promises were seriously dealt with by the brutal marginalisation of women in Nigerian politics. This marginalisation in the political realms quickly extended to other sectors of the economy as young boys across the country were exposed to the British education system to prepare them to hold government offices in the future, while their female counterparts were relegated to manage household chores. Even in the religious sector, boys were trained to become reverends, priests, pastors and hold other important offices in churches and mosque while the girls were completely relegated to the background.

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With the near complete dominance of the male gender and the near exclusion of the female gender in every sector of the society, various groups started agitating for gender equality and there were various social movements in the country and around the world to give every gender equal recognition and representation in all spheres of life. In the year 1979, the United Nations general assembly adopted the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in every society.

In 1979, Nigerians welcomed back a democratic system of government after thirteen years of military governance. The 1979 regime was headed by Shehu Shagari and only one woman (Mrs. Franca Afegbua) held a senatorial post out of the 100 elected senators. In the year 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari overthrew Shehu Shagari, and Nigerian was once again ushered into a military regime.

In 1999, General Olusegun Obasanjo was democratically elected as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Out of a total of 8754 government offices available, women occupied only a total of 116, making up for only 1.32% of available government offices. This vast underrepresentation of women in Nigerian politics continued till 2003, 2007 and the 2011 general elections where women accounted for only 4%, 4.12%, and 6.68% respectively.

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Role of women and how they were marginalised before and after independence
Dr. Ngozi Iweala, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili and Chimamanda Adichie are some of the notable women who have made a great impact. Photo credit: @obyezeks, @chimamanda_adichie, @NOIweala
Source: Instagram

Despite the continuous marginalisation of women in the Nigeria political system, the few women that have been able to find their ways into the corridors of power have been able to show the world how much a woman can achieve. While others serving in their respective positions as vice, aides, special advisers, writers, journalists and so on continue to wield their feminine power to show the world how much women can influence socio-economic development. Some of the notable women to reckon with include Dr. Ngozi Iweala, Late Prof. Dora Akunyili, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, Justice Ayotunde Philips, Justice Alloma Mariam Mukthar and Chimamanda Adichie.

Going forward, groups advocating for gender inequality should be paid more attention to and every woman at the top of the political hierarchy should always lend a voice to reduce the marginalisation of women in Nigerian politics. Women have a lot to offer as they have shown the world in sectors such as sports, education, religion, and agriculture. We need to give them enough representation in politics as well and give them a chance to contribute their quota to the development of our great nation.

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It's time for women to take the front seat in Nigerian politics | Legit TV

Source: Legit

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