MOBILISING WOMEN FOR DEMOCRACY

Nigerian women for decades have the vision of having equal voice in every facet of our national life and being at par with male counterparts in the decision making and administration of the country. Although the women in Nigeria are becoming more and more assertive of their rights, with so many feminist movements in the country, yet having them fully in political activities remains challenging. A lot needs to be done to integrate more educated women into participatory democracy if Nigeria must move forward. Dr. Meena Vaida Malla in 2007 quoted Aristotle in 384 BC as saying that “People, by virtue of their natural propensity need to be part of political community in order to flourish as human beings. It follows that since humans are political in most basic sense, they need to acquire political skills to take part in the most complex expression to human community – which is the state”. Projecting from Aristotle’s insight, the argument would be that political socialization is required for Nigerian women because it is an essential component of being a person. The thinking of Aristotle is echoed in these influential standards of recent democratic thought which argue that a fully functioning democratic polity requires a politically literate citizenry, particularly women; and so is the sociability for male-female cooperation and coexistence on equal footing. Some ethnic cultures towards women continue to perpetuate negative and degrading stereotyping, while some societies continue to present women in genderstereotyped roles. Women are largely alienated from the political science; they are presented to be confined to household work alone, while the men are individuals with specific expertise and professional skills. Many women in the rural areas are unaware or indifferent towards gender equality or democratic participation. Even some female appointees are not passionate about women empowerment and gender equality. They only enjoy the reward of their office and help their families and friends alone. Again, some women themselves have resigned to the belief that “It is men’s world”. To them, nothing on this side of the world can put them on equal level with the men. And so, the popular saying that “what a man can do, a woman can do better”, is just a mere cliché to make the womanhood feel hyped. It is worth acknowledging the struggles of late Fumilayo Ransome Kuti, Hajiya Gambo Sawaba, Margaret Ekpo, Flora Nwapa and others, who against overwhelming odds, were true and resolute in their struggle for women’s rights and recognition. Therefore, it is vital for more of these kind of women to come out and continue the struggle in order to guarantee a gender-balanced future for the generation yet unborn. The question then is: how do we mobilize women to participate? First, given the culture of exploitation, discrimination, subordination and silence of women, political knowledge to socialize them for democratic mail, mass media and social media are useful netcitizenship is required, so as to make their voice heard in public debate. Through this, they will know what is happening in the world of politics and look upon it as a civic duty on their shoulder. They will know about the main institutions of government in Nigeria, along with having the idea of the platforms of the political parties and a sense of what the main political issues of the nation is. It is through politics and the tenets of democracy that the women can easily have voice in the public sphere and decision making. This will give meaning and structure to their vision and aspirations, and will present adequate gender perspective that will provide sufficient understanding of women. It is imperative, therefore, for women rights activists, political and social commentators, female government functionaries and other concerned bodies to begin to roll out programs that will make Nigerian women have easy access to information, ideas and resources, and support at various layers of society. This will also provide avenues for women to share their practical constraints and problems, and to find solutions. Meetings, conferences, seminars, electronic working devices that can change the women ‘s world. There is a greater need for women to be trained in ICT as this would offer them window to learning more on voting, campaigning in elections, attending public meetings, joining a political party, contesting elections and holding public or political office. Furthermore, the media should be used to mobilize women, particularly in rural areas where women with limited resources may have difficulty reaching out to their destinations. Women’s organizations, civil society and political parties should organize public sessions on the image of women. The media should see it necessary that women understand how best to leverage on the power of media platforms for social and political campaigns. In particular, journalists should, when covering political subjects, take pains not to interview exclusively men politicians but give women a chance too. To make this a reality, I propose for annual awards to media outfits that are gender sensitive as a means of encouragement and better ways of amplifying the best in women to the world.

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