- Background to the Study
The United Nations (UN) Women’s Conference in Beijing (1995:7) Report (see APPENDIX1) emphasized that women have the right to participate in decision-making of government. This is for reasons of equity, democracy and legitimacy, the empowerment of women and that the improvement of women’s social, economic and political status is essential for the achievement of transparent, accountable government and sustainable development in all areas of life. In addition, the UN Women’s Conference of (1995:7) contended that:
every human being has the right to participate in decisions that define his or her life. This right is the foundation of the ideal of equal participation in governance among women and men. This right argues that since women know their situation best, they should participate equally with men to have their perspective effectively incorporated at all levels of governance, from the private to the public spheres of their lives, from the local to the global.
Similarly, Miranda (2005), in (Beijing Platform for Action, excerpt from Mission Statement) says “equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and is also a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for equality, sustainable development and peace”. As the United States Agency for Internationl Development (USAID 2010:10) has observed “no society can develop successfully without both increasing and transforming opportunities and resources for women and men, girls, and boys so that they have equal power to shape their own lives and contribute to their communities”. Ogbaji (2010:1) corroborates this position when he states that “women all over the world suffer from and are faced with many, perculier and complex problems. Many of these problems revolve around their rights within their different societies…exacerbated by the existence of several discriminatory practices against them”. Antrobus (1991) as cited in Ogbaji (2010:2), explains that “all women’s unremunerated household work is exploited, we all have conflicts in our multiple roles… we struggle for survival and dignity, and we share our exclusion from decision-making at all levels”.
Management experts on both sides of the Atlantic have realized that the management style of women fulfills the demands of new organizations better than their male counterparts. In an international survey conducted by the Sydney-based consultancy firm DDI Asia Pacific (1994) on 1,332 employees and managers working in companies based in Australia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand, it was indicated that “women make better managers than men due to their feminine qualities and attributes that are better suited for the modern decentralized organizational structures …”. These documented observations are appropriately summarized by management guru, Handy (1994:14), when he stated that:
organizations need talented women in their core jobs, not only for reasons of social fairness, important though that is, but because many of those women will have the kinds of attitudes and attributes that the new flat flexible organizations need.for these jobs the organization wants quality people, well educated, well skilled and adaptable. They also want people who can juggle several tasks and assignments at one time, who are more interested in making things happen than in what title or office they hold, more concerned with power and influence than status. They want people who value instinct and intuition as well as analysis and rationality, who can be tough but also tender, focused but friendly, people who can cope with these necessary contradictions. They want, therefore, as many women as they can get.
As the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) Human Development (1995) Reports, “in no society do women enjoy the same opportunities as men…it is worthy of note that women shoulder the primary responsibilities for meeting basic needs of the family, yet are systematically denied the resources, information and freedom of action they need to fulfill these responsibilities” Similarly, the United Nations and the World Bank, (United Nation’s Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) as cited in (UNIFEM 1999: 12) argue that “the absence of women’s participation in decision-making fails to account for the specific needs and aspirations of women, consequently further entrenching the feminization of poverty and continuing male dominance in nominal positions of authority”.According to the editorial comment of Women’s Rights Monitor (1995:5) as cited in Ogbaji (2010:5):
the rights privileges, and opportunities governed by customary laws and statutes are lagely inaccessible to women in real terms. It is pertinent to note that the struggle for the rights of women is a positive one which recognizes the quality of women’s contribution in every aspect of the community. In pre-colonial Nigeria, many women gained socio-political and economic prominence either through achievement or as reward as they become more involed in trade. Opportunity existed for women to take leadership roles in poliitcs, religion, social and economic life.
The League of Democratic Women Publication (1999:31) as cited in Ogbaji (2010:3) notes that “women constitute the large proportion of the 68% of the population that is illiterate in Nigeria”. Fatile, et. al (2012), quoting the Nigerian Population Commission (NPC) (2011), notes that “women constitute about 56% of the total population, despite this fact, they are discriminated against in the decision-making of governance”. Afolabi, et al (2003), and Agbalajobi (2010), comment that, “while the Beijing Platform for Action seeks 30 percent share of decision-making positions for women, only 16 countries attained this objectives in the 1990’s”. Afolabi, et al (2003), and Agbalajobi (2010), further stated, “ the data compiled by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), indicates that four countries that came closest to achieving 30 percent women decision makers in 1997 were Seychelles (27 percent), South Africa (25 percent), Mozambique (25 percent), and Eritrea (21 percent), but 36 countries had less than 10 percent female representation in government.Recently,South Africa has increased women representation to 27 percent, Uganda and Rwanda have 25 percent and 28.8 percent respectively.
Similarly, as Albright, the Chairman, National Democratic Institute (NDI) (2010) observes: “every country deserves to have the best possible leader and that means that women have to be given a chance to compete if they’re never allowed to compete in decision-making of governance then the countries are really robbing themselves of a great deal of talent”. Similarly, Babatunde (2011), calling for Stronger Action to Eliminate Violence against Women says “we continue to believe that when women are healthy and educated, and can live free from violence and discrimination, they can participate fully in society and accelerate progress on all front”.
As Ogbaji (2010:2), further observes “in pre-colonial Nigeria, many women gained socio-political and economic prominence either through achievement or as reward as they became more invoved in trade. Opportunities existed for women to take leadership roles in politics, religion, social and economic life”. Awe (1992:61), cited examples of women leaders of that era like Queen Amina of Zauzzau, Idia of Benin, Moremi of Ife, Kambasa of Boni, to mention but a few, who broke out of the mold to participate in decision-making realm of their States”. Similarly, Adedotun (2010:10) has observed that, Nigeria has a rich history of such women when they asserted that:
before the advent of British colonisation, Nigerian women had access to governance and played prominent roles in decision-making in the Nigerian society. This was witnessed during the invasion of Ife and Igalaland; many women activists such as Princess Inikpi of Igalaland and Moremi of Ife sacrificed their lives to save the people from further carnage. In Hausa land, Queen Amina of Zazzau, a renowned military and political leader was reputed to have personally led her army to the battlefield and succeeded in saving her people from extermination. Queen Kambasa of the Ijo and Queen Owari of Ilesa were said to possess the same attributes. In Yorubaland, Madam Tinubu, who later became the Iyalode of Egba and Iyalode Efunsetan of Ibadan made history because they were able to assert themselves and had their voices heard. After the Second World War, Lady Oyinkan Abayomi founded the women’s party and campaigned for the expansion of opportunities for women. In 1929, Margaret Ekpo, a prominent civil rights activist, led the famous ‘Aba women riot’… fighting injustices against women. The riots were a testimony to the political vigour of women as well as women’s capacity to mobilize.
Yet in 1946, as further observed by Adedotun (2010:10) and Fatile, et. al (2012:6), Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, a crusader led Egba women Union in Abeokuta on a protest against taxation. In the recent past, prominent women leaders like Hajia Gambo Sawaba, championed the cause of the oppressed in Northern Nigeria. Iyalode Tinubu of Lagos exemplifies the rich participation of women on the economic scene”. Afolabi, et al (2003:6), comment that:
while the Beijing Platform for Action seeks 30 percent share of decision-making positions for women, only 16 countries attained this objectives in the 1990’s……further more, the data compiled by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), indicates that four countries that came closest to achieving 30 percent female decision makers in 1997 were Seychelles (27 percent), South Africa (25 percent), Mozambique (25 percent), and Eritrea (21 percent), but 36 countries had less than 10 percent female representation in government. Recently, South Africa has increased women representation to 27 percent, Uganda and Rwanda have 25 percent and 28.8 percent respectively.
As Mukhopadhyay (2005:16) observes, “most Nigerian men (and perhaps other countries in the continent) claim that no matter the level of educational attainment of women, they are still inferior to men (all men) because they are women”. Without the participation of women at all levels of decision-making of governance, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.
Taking the conceptualisation of democracy by Diamond (1989:16), into cognisance, democracy provides the equal opportunity platform for political participation and fairness in such competition…” In a similar perspective, Onyeoziri (1989), conceptualises four indicative domains of democracy which include: “the domain of individual and group rights and freedoms; the domain of popular and equal participation in collective decision; the domain of accountability of government to mass publics and constituent minorities; and the domain of the application of the principles of equal citizenship in all spheres of life- social, economic and political” (6). This concept can be diagramatically presented as follows:
The conceptual underpinnings of the definitions are freedom and equal opportunity for participation in governance that democracy avails both men and women. As Diamond (1989:16), further states:
the running theme of these definitions is that any claim to democratic state must essentially embrace a high degree of competitive choice, openness, and enjoyment of civil and political liberties and popular participation that embraces all groups of the society, one that is not segregationist or discriminatory. Democracy cannot truly deliver for all of its citizens if half of the population remains under-represented in the decision-making arena.
If democracy does not ordinarily discriminate on the grounds of race, religion or sex, then stifled opportnities experienced in the participation of women in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State in particular and Nigeria in general, suggests a level of artificiality and man-made imposition. Furthermore, Diamond (1989:16), states,
though, women often face daunting social, economic and political challenges, for democracy to deliver, women must be equal partners in democratic processes as activists, elected officials and constituents – a component part, as their contributions are crucial to building a strong and vibrant society. It is, however, believed that while the natural relationship between mother and her child may compel and confine her to sedentary activities, it is also important that such mother should contribute her quota to the development of her family and that of her society at large.
Nweke in (WIN, 1985:201) asserts that:
in Nigeria, the structure of the society, its values, traditions, and institutions all have an in-built discrimination against women. Women are regarded by everyone as weak, irrational, passive, and thus inferior. And even when educated, they are believed to share the same behavioural patterns and personality traits of their less educated sisters, simply because they are women.
Udegbe (1998:4), adds that:
societal norms and stereotypes also function as traditional ideologies that relegate women to housewife roles while promoting men as actors, providers and final authority”. In most societies men have certain roles and responsibilities while women have other roles and responsibilities. Often, the biological differences between women and men are used to explain these different roles. For example, men’s physical strength is seen as making them more suited for doing jobs such as construction work, while women’s qualities are supposed to make them more suited for jobs that involve detail and patience, like sewing.
Nadezdha (2002), notes, “men dominate the political arena; men formulate the rules of the political game; and men define the standards for evaluation”. The existence of this male-dominated model results in either women rejecting politics altogether or rejecting male-style politics. In support of the above view, Sepoe (1996) in UNIFEM (1999:33) note that:
the impediments to women’s participation in decision-making arena of governance are many and varied, ranging from personal, social and economic. At the personal level, women’s lack of confidence in the public realm has been offered as an explanation for their under-representation in decision-making of governance. The social factors such as gender roles, the pervasiveness of masculine political cultures, violence against women, the lesser social mobility of women and the fewer educational opportunities available to women impinge upon their effective participation in decision-making of goernment. At the economic level, women’s inadequate access to the financial resources inevitably contributes to the gross gender imbalance in decision-making arena of government.
As Nadezdha (2002:5), further notes:
women around the world at every socio-political level find themselves under-represented in parliament and far removed from decision-making levels. While the political playing field in each country has its own particular characteristics, one feature remains common to all: it is uneven and not conducive to women’s participation. Women who want to enter politics find that the political, public, cultural and social environments are often unfriendly or even hostile to them.
Adedotun (2010), and Umeha (2011), examining the fundamental factors that inhibit women’s participation in political leadership/ decision-making observe “the involvement of women in Nigerian politics is largely noticeable at the level of voting and latent support”, and maintains that “to a large extent, their participation has been dependent on whatever political socialization process they have undergone. These barriers could be cultural, economic, legal or political culture”. Commenting on Women and their participation in decision-making of governance, Nweke in (WIN: 1985: 201), presents the Fourth World Manifesto of 1971 thus:
Women set apart by physical differences between them and men were the first colonized group. Colonial situations are generally marked by a number of variables, such as the majority group being regarded as the minority, the colonized having no voice in the decision-making process, and their forming a cheap labour pool.
Gyimah (2008: 110) notes the World Bank (2005), reports that:
gender inequality disadvantages women throughout their lives and stifles the development prospects of their societies…illiterate and poorly educated mothers are less able to care for their children, and low education level and household responsibilities prevent women from finding productive employment and limit their participation in public decision-making.
Similarly, Malathi (1997:22) notes that:
the limited nature of female participation and representation in national decision-making institutions has important consequences for women and for the legitimacy of the institutions…where women constitute half of the population in a political system and where both women and men are legally eligible for political office, women’s participation should be equal to that of men…if this is not the case, it signifies deep flaws within the political system.
Uchem (2001: 22) has also observed that:
Gender inequality stemmed from women subordination and marginalization wearing different degrees in different parts of the world. While women marginalization has fairly reduced, their cultural subordination has persisted…there is still much resistance against the acknowledgement of women’s equality of human dignity with men in reality.
The Beijing Platform for Action decried the persistent exclusion of women from nominal positions of govevrnance and maintained that the exclusion of women in formal politics, in particular, raises a number of specific questions regarding the achievement of effective democratic transformations, and in practice, it undermines the concept of democracy, which, by its nature, assumes that the right to vote and to be voted for should be equally applied to all citizens, both women and men. Therefore, in all levels of governance, there is certainly the need for women’s effective role in decision-making of government for the democratic and constitutional assurances of equal citizenship and rights in the Nigerian Constitution to become a reality at the operational level.
- Statement of the Problem
The United Nations Women’s Conference held in Beijing in 1995 emphasized the right of women to participate in decision-making level of government for reasons of equity, democracy and legitimacy, but as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 1985 Human Development Reports, in no society do women enjoy the same opportunities as men. Similarly, International Development Research Centre (IDRC 2010) has established the fact that there is marginalization of women in political leadership in Nigeria.
The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) (1995) emphasizes that women’s equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for justice or democracy, but also a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account”. The Nigerian administrative practices over the years have not adequately conformed to the Universal declarations on the eliminations of all forms of discriminations against women.
Fatile, et. al (2012), quoting the Nigerian Population Commission (NPC) (2011) notes that “women constitute about 56% of the total population, despite this fact, they are discriminated against in the political process”. Ofong in Ogbogu (2012) observed that in Nigeria, not only do women comprise the majority in terms of population, but they also play a crucial role as housewifery as well as producers of goods and services, yet are systematically denied the resources, information and freedom of action they need to fulfill these responsibilities. In view of this, Endale (2014), observes that sustainable and all round developments of a society cannot be brought about without the full and unreserved participation of both woman and man in the development process, and such a balanced development should also call for the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and the protection against all forms of violence against women.
Women’s participation in decision-making of government is a gamout of equal rights to participate in politics as party executives, to vote as candidate, to be voted as candidate as well as participate in decision-making processes of a state. The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, drew attention to the persisting inequality between men and women in decision-making of government when it stated that “no state can claim democracy if half of its population are excluded from decision-making processes”. Following from conferences in Copenhagen, Nairobi, Vienna, Cairo and Beijing, women participation in development has become a recurrent issue as women access to decision-making of governance is now recognized as a fundamental condition for democracy and for attaining sustainable development, and as true democracy is characterized by full and equitable participation of women in both formulation and implementation of decisions in all spheres of public life.
Despite more legislation protecting women’s rights, their progress into state’s decision-making of governance has been disappointingly slow. Arguments are on the increase on the specific role women should play in the society. These divided opinions, according to Adeniyi (2003), are predominantly on “whether the role of women is in the home fronts or women can also engage in other socio-economic and political activities like their male counterparts, (p.353). It must be noted that no society can progress without an active participation of women in its overall development.
Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria was created in 1987. The first ever Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly came into existence on 20th January, 1992. In 1999 democratic governance was ensued thus marks the second Assembly of the State. From this date 1999 – 2003; through the third Assembly: 2003 – 2007; to the fourth Assembly: 2007 – 2011; and the fifth Assembly: 2011 to date, the socio-historical literature of women elected as governors in Akwa Ibom State has been silence. Despite International agreements affirming women’s human rights to participate in decision-making of governance just like men, and in spite of the clarion calls by the International Organizations such as the Beijing Conference towards women’s political empowerment; and despite the widespread movement towards democratization of women in political leadership processes, women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State has continued to be characterized by newly emerging issues and challenges that need to be addressed.
It is within this context of subsisting marginalization of women in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State that the researcher undertook this investigation. The following questions were advanced as guide in the study.
- What is the character of women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?
- What are the challenges of women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State?
- What measures could be taken to enhance women’s effective participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of the study was to assess the character of women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. The specific objectives were to:
- determine the character of women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria;
- examine the challenges of women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria; and
iii. Suggest measures that could enhance women’s effective participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The study was both theoretically and empirically significant. Its theoretical relevance lies essentially in the fact that the researcher shall give a fairly sufficient illustration of the application of the nature and character at which women have historically participated in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State and in Nigeria in general. Sound background information of the study area will be imperative to really bring to limelight the relevance and significance of the challenges of women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State and in Nigeria in general.
Thirteen years (1999 – 2013) after the transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian democratic administration, women still remain at the side-line of Nigeria’s politics, hence the need to undertake a study of factors militating against women’s involvement in the mainstream of the country’s politics. This therefore makes the study both timely and significant.
Another theoretical contribution is that the study will be adequate to support and contribute to the literature on women’s participation in decision-making of governance in Nigeria especially in the study area.
In essence, the result will help the government to know the challenges confronting women in participating in decision-making in the government of the State and the benefits of empowering women into the mainstraem of governance and map out strategies of concrete programmes aim at enhancing women’s effective participation in the government of the State.
Empirically, the result of this work will be a stepping stone to further research since no known study had focused on the reasons for low participation of women in decisicion-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, despite international agreements affirming women’s rights to participate in decision-making processes like men. The right to stand for election, to become a candidate and to get elected is based on the right to vote. The reality is, however, that women’s right to be voted for remains an issue for consideration. In Akwa Ibom State, women constitute over fifty per cent of the total population and play a vital role as procreators of posterity as well as producers of goods and services, yet they are not fully integrated into the mainstream of decision-making.This study did not only fill this gap in the study of women’s participation in decision-making of governance, but also pay special attention to the human resource management in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
Akwa Ibom State government, Civil Service Commission, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Akwa Ibom State Directorate of Women’s Affairs, Akwa Ibom State Women Society, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education, the politicians, NGO’s and Nigerian government will gain a lot from the application of the knowledge from the work in that the study will present itself a veritable data on the activities and involvement of women in development in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
More so, students of Public Administration and the policy makers will find this work a veritable tool not just for research purposes but also for what it has to say of women human resources as a vital tool for development and improvement of living standard in society.
- Scope and Limitations of the study
1.5.1 Scope of the Study
The study covered the level of women’s participation in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, from 1999 to 2013, with a view to determining women’s challenges in their effective participation in decision-making in the government and suggests measures that could enhance their effective participation in the government of the State. This period (1999-2013) is chosen because it marks the commencement of democratic governance (rule) in Nigeria after a long period of military rule, also, the first House of Assembly in Akwa Ibom State was inaugurated within this period. More so, over the years, studies had been conducted on women’s participation in state governance, but limited studies have focused on the reasons for low participation of women in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. This work was, therefore, set to fill this gap by exploring issues surrounding the participation of women in decision-making in the government of Akwa Ibom State in order to enforce women’s effective participation in decision-making in the government of the State and in Nigeria in general.
1.5.2 Limitations of the study
A study of this nature is not without limitations. First, the researcher would have loved to cover the entire Local Government Areas in the three Senatorial Districta in Akwa Ibom State, but resources available for that kind of coverage limited the study to only three (3) Local Government Areas each of the three (3) Senatorial Districts of the State. Thus generalization of this study was proper.
In addition, in obtaining data and information, the researcher was unable to reach all the potential respondents such as the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Chairman, Chairmen of the various Political Parties and Electoral Commissioner in the State for interview. However, information obtained from the interview conducted with women from the sampled population as well as material gotten from the secondary source of data from Civil Service Commission in the State, Ministerial Departments and Boards, Ministry of Education, textbooks, Journals and Magazines, and the enormous resources in the internet relating to the subject area, afforded the researcher the needed data in achieving the objectives of the study. There was also the problem of power outages and low capacity voltages that almost hampered the processing of data for the work, however, the financial contributions of the researcher’s family members enhanced the realization of this study.