Tuesday, 16 September 2014


“I realized I had visions inside of me that I could achieve and I was empowered to go ahead and achieve them.”  – Woman activist in a Nigeria leadership workshop


Historically, leadership has been a predominantly masculine role through the centuries that few females have obtained.[1] It is evident that women have received little or no encouragement to seek leadership positions.[2] Similarly, women are poorly represented in governance and decision-making. In Nigeria, the women fold accounts for only 6% of elective positions as of 2011. However, at the national level that percentage increased (slightly) to about 29.5% after the 2011 General Election with the recent appointment of 13 women as ministers in the 44-member cabinet of Federal Executive Council.[3] Arguably, this increment was achieved due to concerted efforts of women activists and civil societies which are being accentuated by 35% ‘Affirmative Action’ as well as the excellent performance of women in key leadership positions. However, taking a censorious look at the polity, it is evident that there is still a great need to enhance women’s participation in leadership. Succinctly, in this essay we shall consider some of the ways this can be pursued.
Empowering women through education is a key component of building women’s leadership capacity. Governments must focus on educating girls and women. Significantly, I posit that scholarship should be provided for young women. Besides, legal frameworks should be put in place to enforce enrolment of girl-child in schools, not only in the cities but also at the grassroots level.
Promoting equal access by women to land ownership and other resources, such as capital, technical assistance, technology, tools, equipment, markets, etc is needed for effective participation in position of leadership. Women are incredibly vulnerable; the loss of a husband or father often also, signals a loss of land and with it, a woman source of food security, income, bargaining power and status. Economic empowerment and poverty eradication among women is a must to enhance women’s participation in leadership.
There is a need for long term and sustained support to widen the political space for women and to prepare them for governance and decision-making positions, as a gap exists with current work in that area because many of such programmes tend to end after the election season.[4] Civil societies, NGOs, and agencies must vigorously pursue this. A good example is Kudra & Junior Kudra Leadership Programme.[5]
All existing local laws supporting gender equality and the rights of women must be implemented. International Conventions such as the 1979 Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women; the 1952 convention related to women’s political rights; the 1949 convention related to the elimination of human trafficking and prostitution; etc must be enforced in Nigeria. Besides, any existing laws in the Nigerian Constitution and labour laws not favourable to women’s rights must be revisited and reviewed to be in tune with the realities of the 21st century.
To complement the aforementioned points, synergy and partnership with  International development agencies (e.g. UNDP, UNIFEM, UNFPA, DFID, USAID, CIDA, Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), ActionAid International Nigeria, Oxfam and OSIWA), etc must be pursued aggressively; gender stereotyping must be suspended; women must also put a stop to their indifference to women-politicians; cultural and religious beliefs militating against gender equality must be neglected, entrenchment of violence-free political engineering,  optimization of the Information and Communication technologies – particularly the New Media (facebook, twitter, etc)[6] in order to enhance women’s participation in leadership.
Women must be made to realise their full potentials and allow to participate in local & national development. No doubt many women had proved their worth in governance, corporate management, etc; therefore women must be supported and given the opportunity as well as the right to be involved in decision-making and positions of leadership. In a nutshell, I will like to end this write up by quoting Frances E. W.  Harper:  “So close is the bond between man and woman that you cannot raise one without lifting the other. The world cannot move ahead without woman's sharing in the movement, and to help give a right impetus to that movement is woman's highest privilege”.

[1] Eagly, A.H. (2007). Female Leadership Advantage and Disadvantage: Resolving the Contradictions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 1-12.
[2] Growe, R. & Montgomery, P. (1999). Women and the leadership paradigm: Bridging the gender gap (Report No. EA031031). Louisiana: EDRS (ERIC, Resources in Education No. ED452614).
[3] Nkechi, Eke Nwankwo, “Who Is Doing What On Gender In Nigeria?: Northern Zones Report,Heinrich Boll Stiftung,(August 2011).
[4] Nkechi, Eke Nwankwo, “Who Is Doing What On Gender In Nigeria?: Northern Zones Report,Heinrich Boll Stiftung,( 2011).
[5] Kudra & Junior Kudra Leadership Programme equips girls and young women with livelihood skills, tools and information they need to participate at all levels of society, details @ http://kind.org/version2/interlink.php                                                                                      
[6] A good example of the effective use of new ICT in promoting gender equality was related to an Internet-based dialogue on the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, organized by the International Women’s Tribune Center in 2005. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/index.html

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