GENDER EQUALITY AND WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION IN THE GOVERNANCE OF OSUN STATE (2003- 2010)
1.1 Background to the Study
Women’s aspiration to fully participate in the governance of Nigeria dates back to the pre-colonial era when women contributions to the anti colonial struggle were visible and pronounced in their resistance to the draconian tax policy of the colonial administration.
As pointed out by Akinyode-Afolabi (2006:1), in spite of the significant roles of women before and after independence, the ascendancy of socio-cultural prejudices and inadequate laws had consistently militated against women’s rights, especially political rights. However, the challenge of women’s participation in the political process in Nigeria has gained additional significance, since the return of democratic rule in 1999. The renewed vibrancy and vigour of the women folks and their sympathizers in agitating for an appreciable participatory role for women in the current democratic dispensation has its roots in the many international norms and institutions designed to advance the cause of women.
This aspiration is premised on the grounds that women in Nigeria represent close to half of the population and therefore should be allowed a fair share in decision-making and governance of the country. Added to this is the widely acceptable belief that all human beings are equal and women possess same right as men to participate in governance and public life (Oluajo, 2003).
For the records, in all of Nigeria’s political history including the previous attempts at democratic rule, women were severely side-lined and neglected in terms of representation in government. Although they constitute about 50 percent of the population and 51 percent of voters in elections, women have never had more than three percent representation in national government. With military governments, women have been virtually non-existent in governance of the country (Nwankwo, 2006:19; 1996:7).
Although the Nigerian state is beginning to appreciate the importance of gender mainstreaming in national planning, affirmative action as a means of closing the gap in sectoral development remains a largely contentious issue (Agina-Ude, 2003:22). For example, among the opponents of Affirmative Action in politics and public life are those who question the basis for 30% minimum representation and call for higher or lower targets. They argued that special measure such as the affirmative action, apart from being a patronage, will lead to a lowering of standards and even jettisoning of merit in favour of subjective issue of gender equity.
Such is the level of misgivings about Affirmative Action even among its proponents that there is a preference for reservation of appointive positions over elective offices which tends to reflect the notion that certain types of affirmative action are unfair, unjust and even discriminatory especially in the light of the principle of equality before the law.
However, those favouring the choice of affirmative action for the redress of gender disparities that exist in human development and particularly in the area of politics and public decision- making are not unmindful of the ranging arguments. Instead they believe these arguments had inadvertently aided the development and growth of the concept of Affirmative Action (ibid: 23). Article four of CEDAW- (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) – which obligates states parties to introduce the necessary remedial measure prescribes affirmative policies as temporary and devoid of “separate standards”. It is however noteworthy that the arguments against gender- based affirmative action begin to fade in the light of the successes it had recorded which make it the best option so far for achieving any significant increase in women representation in governments.
For instance, it is now obvious that man (as in the male gender) has from time to time dished out unbelievable doses of injustice to the female gender all in the name of representative governance, and that women must be part of the process that dictates their well- being, welfare, the direction and content of their entire lives. Commenting on the same issue, Momodu (2006:37) has this to say;
Politics is too important for people and women in
particular to be left totally to men, who can hardly
understand women’s concerns and quest to
participate in decision- making………
In a closer reflection on gender- related issues particularly women’s political participation in Nigeria, the question need to be asked whether adequate scholarly attention has been given to the issue in respect of the successes or failures of the affirmative action in redressing the perceived gender imbalance in public decision- making structures.
The need for research in this area is particularly noteworthy given the fact that gender equality, women’s empowerment and women representation in governance seemed to have occupied a central theme in global treaties, covenants and declarations. They are now acknowledged as catalysts to people- centered development strategies and good governments that give men and women equal voices in decision- making and policy implementation, attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as other global and regional targets. To this end, this research work is directed at examining the relevance of the affirmative action in bridging the gap of gender imbalances and disparities in the governance of Osun state under the Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s administration.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The attainment of gender equality is now an issue of global concern. It is seen as a prerequisite for achieving sustainable human development, especially in the public sphere. The affirmative action is an initiative to redress the question of gender imbalance imposed by centuries of discrimination against women.
In this regard, it is of course relevant and necessary to examine the affirmative action principle much as there is still a lot of misunderstanding and controversy over its implementation. Many countries that have used the principle found it a very useful tool for creating a level playing field for female participation not only in the electoral process but also in democratic governance (WARDC Report, 2003).
Though there have been several newspapers’ reports about the gross under – representation of women in the Nigerian political scene, which is largely regarded as speculative; this study intends to localize the affirmative action in Osun state, so as to ascertain gender disparities in both elective and appointive offices under the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration, 2003-2010.
1.3 Research Questions
- What roles did the Gender Action Policy of Osun state set out to achieve since its inception?
- What is the level of awareness among key decision-makers about gender –related issues?
- Does the exclusion of women from participating in the political process create any vacuum in national development?
- What are the gender specific problems arising from political contest?
Objectives of the Study
The specific objectives of the study are to:
- examine the Gender Action Plan of Osun state between 2003 and 2010;
- determine the level of awareness among key decision makers about gender- related issues;
iii. investigate gender specific problems arising from political contest.
- Research Hypotheses
- The nature of gender action policy of Osun state tends to limit the implementation of the affirmative action.
- Women representation in the governance of Osun state is possibly determined by the level of awareness among key decision- makers about gender- related issues.
- Gender equality in the governance of Osun state requires change of attitudes, beliefs and some cultural practices.
- Theoretical Framework
The study employed a combination of historical approach and feminist models as its tools of analysis. These approaches were combined and utilized together to explain the problematique of the research.
For instance, the historical model allows the examination and analysis of present reality or recurrent political phenomenon based on the dialectics or antecedents of the past. It connects the present and past political phenomena in a way that provides insights and understanding to the complex issue of politics. According to Varma (2004), the historical approach to politics seeks to explain political phenomena by giving reference to certain facts of history. This framework of analysis is particularly relevant to the problematique of the research given the nature of the women representation in politics which cannot be reasonably assessed without situating it within the larger context of women’s continuing struggles and aspiration for greater represention in public decision-making.
Feminism, on the other hand, is the belief in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. Although largely originating in the West, feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. Feminism is a well-established ideology with certain core positions and a range of variants that move in somewhat different directions. Feminism is also an international movement that cuts across class, national, racial, ethnic, and religious barriers even though those same barriers reveal significant differences.
One subject on which feminists agree is the need to replace what they see as the system of male dominance, or patriarchy, which affects all social institutions. Clearly, feminism focuses on the position of women in society and the roles they play, but feminists argue that improving the status of women will also benefit all human beings whatever their gender. For instance, feminism is developing a critical apparatus for analyzing contemporary society that is challenging all contemporary ideologies. Feminist philosophers and political philosophers are proposing new ways of understanding the world. Feminists encourage all human beings to envision the possibility of a society free from sexism, racism, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and all the other ways in which human beings have subjugated other human beings.
As noted by Cole et.al (2007), throughout most of Western history, women were confined to the domestic sphere, while public life was reserved for men. Moreover, women had little or no access to education and were barred from most professions. In some parts of the world, such restrictions on women still continue till today.
As pointed out earlier, so many variant of feminism exist such as radical feminism, marxist or socialist feminism, liberal feminism but attention is focused on transformative feminism because of its core arguments and goal which seemed particularly relevant to subject-matter of this study.
Transformative feminists have shown how men have created a male-centered way of understanding the world that severely limits our ability to conceptualize human relations that are not hierarchical and patriarchal. The goal of these feminists is to break through those mental barriers as well as the political, economic, and cultural barriers that keep all human beings from becoming fully human. For example, Hartsock (1983:224-225) has noted that feminists have reconceptualized the notion of power. Power as dominance gives way to power as “energy and competence.” According to her, all our ways of thinking need to undergo a similar revolution.
Hence transformative feminists are arguing for a fundamental transformation of not only our political and economic lives but our social, cultural, and personal lives as well. As Megan (2007) contends;
The alternative value core of transformative feminisms in all their variety is the holistic, egalitarian, life-centered rejection of dominant androcentric, dualistic, hierarchical, profit-centered ideology and social structures.
The goal of transformative feminism, therefore, is to achieve equality while recognizing difference or specificity between the two genders, and this approximates, in a way, the central theme of this research work.
- Research Methodology
Primary and secondary data were used in this study. The entire Osun State constitutes the target population. The primary data were collected through structured interview by administering questionnaires to a selected sample of the target population. The sample was taken from selected six (6) local governments, two (2) each from the three (3) senatorial districts of the state; using random sampling technique. The selected local governments are: Osogbo, Ife Central, Ilesa East, Odo Otin, Ede South, and Irewole local governments.
A total of nine-hundred (900) questionnaires were distributed with (150) in each of selected local governments. Respondents in these local governments were purposively selected on the basis of knowledge and/or involvement with the subject matter of the study. Thus, the respondents reflected the bearers of specific and relevant information such as the political class, both serving and retired civil servants, members of the academia, and other relevant government officials. Secondary data were sourced from books, journals, internet-based materials, and other related published and unpublished materials relevant to the study. Finally, data collected were analyzed using descriptive method and content analysis.
1.8 Scope of the Study
This study examines the level of implementation of the affirmative action in Osun state under the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration. It investigates the specific problems of gender disparities and under- representation of women in both elective and appointive offices between 2003 and 2010.
1.9 Significance of the Study
The significance of this study lies principally in its efforts at advancing our knowledge in respect of the underlying issues and strategies involved in gender development and emancipation of women’s rights. It will also help in providing the requisite platform for appreciating the opportunities and challenges involved in reducing the gap of gender imbalance in public decision- making positions.
By attempting to make proposals for bridging the gap of gender inequalities, women’s dis- empowerment and under- representation in governance, it is hoped that Nigerian policy makers and others who are concerned about women’s political participation will find the output of this research useful.
1.10 Expected Contribution to Knowledge
The return of the country to democratic rule in May, 1999 had senn the all-pervading dominance of the political terrain by men. A dominance that should not really be, because of the almost equal proportion of the two genders in the population.
This study provides information on the specific issues of gender equality and women’s representation in the governance of Osun state. It is particularly relevant by exposing through a situational analysis framework, the challenges and opportunities involved in gender development especially the quest for increased female participation in governance, and by extension national planning and development.
1.11 Definition of Terms
It has been variously argued that it is somewhat difficult, if not completely impossible, to give a universally acceptable definition to numerous concepts, theories and even models that cut across the field of social sciences (Yagboyaju, 2008:26). All the same, the following will be defined in terms of their relevance and usefulness to this study.
This has to do with integrating the women’s question into the nation’s development agenda in order to ensure that women’s political and economic rights are adequately taken care of. The purpose is to bring a gender perspective into all aspects of planning policy, developing legislation and transformation activities in Nigeria (Nzomo, 1994:203; Nwankwo, 1996:1). It addresses the systematic inequalities between women and men in our society without ignoring the fundamental differences between them.
This describes women’s significant presence and participation in the high level public decision- making positions (Lawal and Ojo, 2008:331). It is now generally accepted that women constitute a key national resource, whose ideas, creative solutions and concerns for cohesiveness of the social fabric can help change the quality of life and society at large. But to do that their participation in public decision- making roles is essential (Nzomo, 1994:203). In this study, women representation as a concept connotes significant involvement of women in public decision- making positions.
Gender equality in this study just as gender parity describes the equality or sameness of all human being irrespective of sex. It describes the fact of being equal in rights, status, and privileges. It is an idea that emphasizes treating all human beings the same way; whether male or female. On the other hand, gender inequality connotes those stereotypes that tend to treat men and women as unequal. According to Lawal and Ojo (2008:335), gender disparity in politics is basically gender stereotypes and attitudes towards women. Gender stereotypes mean thinking and perception about people primarily in terms of gender group membership. These stereotypes tend to reflect men and women as belonging to opposite ends of bipolar adjectives in which men have desirable qualities while women have undesirable ones. Such category-based thinking, as pointed out by Ogwu (1996:35-42), tends to exaggerate similarities within women, thereby minimizing their individuality and also exaggerates the differences between men and women. This prevents women from being perceived as capable decision- makers in many societies or as equal participants in public governance (Udegbe, 1997:31).
This is regarded as special measure taken to redress racial or gender disparities that exist in the society. Affirmative Action, sometimes confused with discrimination, is usually a measure intended to supplement non- discrimination; it is a broad terms encompassing a host of policies that seek to support weak groups in the society (Agina- Ude, 2006:23). Such policies include dissemination of information; consciousness- raising; faith- based efforts to recruit and mobilize women for greater participation in public governance, and other deliberate actions that are used to stop discrimination.
A policy process of this kind, as noted by Ojo (2001: 27), allows rules that have the objectives of enhancing equal opportunity for individuals and the improvement in the situation of marginalized groups. In this study, preference is given to gender-based affirmative action that includes measures such as the use of quotas to ensure significant positions for women in public governance. This measure aims at increasing women’s representation especially because it addresses the under-representation of women given the fact that women constitute 50 percent of the population of most countries (WARDC Report, 2003:17).
It is a principle describing the measures to redress the imbalance imposed by centuries of discrimination against women. It is aimed at accelerating gender equality and also serves as a temporary catch- up strategy, which can result from voluntary compliance or enforced by local legislation.
This describes the situation of women in the society especially in public decision- making positions. In politics, for example, and in other sectors of public life women has been the disadvantaged group. As asserted by Nwankwo (2006:18), the number of women in high- level decision- making positions does not correspond with the reality of their population strength. It calls attention to the unequal representation of the two genders in the decision- making process.
Women empowerment in this study connotes increasing access for women to fully partake in the decision- making process especially those ones that directly affect their lives. Empowerment can be in many forms; it could be economic, financial or political empowerment. But the main issue involved has to do with removing barriers and other stumbling blocks from the path of women in their quest to be effective player in the scheme of things just as their male counterparts. Women empowerment specifically describes increasing opportunities and access for women to enable them realize their God- given potentials and assume their rightful place in the society.
1.12 Organization of the Study
The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is the introduction, which consist of the statement of the problem, research questions, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, and methodology of research. Also included in this chapter is the significance of the study, scope of the study, theoretical framework, expected contribution to knowledge, definition of major terms and synopsis of chapters.
Chapter two covers a review of relevant literature on the specific issue of gender equality and women representation in Nigeria. It also undertakes an historical examination of women political participation in Nigeria from the pre- colonial era to the electoral contest of 2003.
Chapter three locates the issue of women participation in politics within the context of the affirmative action, using the gender action plan of Osun state from 2003 to 2010. Chapter four consists of presentation and discussion of findings of the study while chapter five which is the conclusion, comprises summary and recommendations of the study, including proposals for enhancing women representation in public governance.
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