According to the World Bank, despite Nigerian women making up 49.32% of Nigeria’s population, nearly half, their numerical strength fails to impact the nation’s political life with female representation in decision-making being abysmally low since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. Therefore, it is with great pride that I congratulate the 7 women winners of Senatorial seats and the 11 women elected into the House of Representatives, and the 4 women elected as Deputy Governors, along with women that won House of Assembly seats in their respective states.
In December 2022, I was honoured, as a Steering Council Member of the African Womens Leaders Network both in Nigeria and globally, to join the like-minded and spirited women of #AWLN, a ground-breaking movement implemented with the support of the Office of the African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security, and of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women UN Women, to promote the goals of increasing women’s political participation and leadership aligned with the ElectHER movement of advancing the inclusion of women in politics, public life and ultimately achieving 51% women representation, at the ElectHer Celebrating the Nigerian Spirit Ahead of 2023, Green Wine Green Gala, funded by the European Union, in the electoral run-up of the 2023 Nigeria elections where women made up only 8.9% of the total candidates.
Notwithstanding the increased advocacy in the last four years for gender balance and more active female participation in politics, female representation in the 2023 polls is believed to be the worst, compared to the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general election statistics. Closer to home in Kwara however, the 2011 elections returned 6 women in the state house of assembly, 4 women in the 2015 state assembly, no women in the 2019 state assembly, despite an encouraging history of woman’s representation which included 10 female local government chairpersons, 2 female senators, 3 female federal representatives, 3 female federal ministers and an ambassador during 2003 to 2019. 5 women have been elected to the Kwara state assembly in the recently concluded 2023 election, including 26-year-old Rukayat Shittu, one of the youngest candidates in Nigeria to contest and win a political seat.
It is a great pleasure to also congratulate Madame Beatrice Eyong, UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria, on receiving the International Gender Champion Special Recognition Award at the Women in Maritime and Energy Awards 2023. With over 35 years professional working experience in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, and within her role as Country Representative of UN Women Nigeria, Ms. Eyong has led a strong multi-sectoral approach to equity across private and public industries, efforts which are essential as Nigerian women continue to be underrepresented in elective offices.
Despite the challenges women face, we must continue the gust of positive energy for women’s activism and advocacy, education of women, positivity on the part of successive governments towards women empowerment, and interest of women to participate in politics.