RENEWED HOPE: How fair can Tinubu’s cabinet be to women?
By Jennifer S Kuwanta
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in on the 28th May, 2023. He is barely a week in power but has already hit the ground running and is taking action towards the actualization of a better Nigeria.
Nigerians on the other hand are hopeful, hungry, and thirsty for a positive change, believing in the administration’s slogan ‘Renewed Hope’.
Our expectations are high, hopes up; this is another chance for the president/leader of this great nation to get it right, to redeem and push the country beyond the threshold of development, to a better life for all.
Amongst the never ending list of our hopes and aspirations for a better Nigeria is the inclusivity of women in government.
Women are the bedrock of every household and society at large but for ages past have been neglected in crucial matters that affect the nation and government.
Women are the majority in every society, yet we are barely allowed to make decisions that directly affects us. For who is best to make policies and decisions that affects women if not women? just like the popular saying: ‘it is he who wears the shoes that knows where it hurts’.
Globally we are beginning to experience actions taken against unlawful discrimination against women. This has been a long fight, from franchise right, access to professional jobs, equal pay at work, holding major positions at work, and so the list keeps going.
Indeed we have seen that the fight have yielded good results, as the voices of those activists who fought the good fight has been heard.
Now women are thrashing the issue of inclusivity in government matters, we want to be able to make policies that will help the female gender, we want women holding key political positions, we want equal representation and participation.
This movement is already effective in most Western nations but less in our African countries. This might be as a result of funding and the patriarchal nature of the African society.
We are well aware of how the past Buhari administration made moves by paying attention to some issues affecting the female gender.
He tried to improve women’s participation in government by backing programs and policies such as, Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, National Gender Policy, the Government Enterprises and Empowerment Program (GEEP), the All-Progressives Congress Political Representation, and the Girl Child Education Program, amongst others.
But these moves aren’t enough to make the female voices heard or ‘to have us represented by us’. There is still a significant gender gap in political representation at both the local, state, and national government level.
Presently, the National Assembly has less than 10% of women in representation. This is utterly wrong and unfair as the population of women are more in number and as such shouldn’t be subjected to such poor proportional representation in government.
Who else can initiate policies and passionately support bills that affects the female gender such as, women in politics, or issues of early marriage, female circumcision, and provision of affordable or free sanitary pads. Who else will understand the need for the support of maternity leave and care, or issues of molestation in work places, sex for grades, abuse and rape cases. Who else if not a fellow female?
This is a major reason why bills supporting the concerns of the female gender are swept under carpet and never make it to the top, because who is voting such a bill? The 10% Women? or the 90% population of men who believe women have no place in decision making?
There is no doubt that the female gender needs equal representation in these levels of government. I’d like to quote what Nikky Onyeri wrote on The Sun Newspaper. She said,
“The Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill which is the approximates women’s equality implementation effort is still waiting to be passed by the National Assembly. Nothing will be more gratifying than having the incoming administration bring aboard more women to meet the set affirmative action. As frustrating as the effort to have women contest electoral offices and win, it will be worthwhile to have them there.
“It will ruffle no feather to provide for a mandatory quota for women in the composition of the Senate, House of Representatives, and State Houses of Assembly as well as government appointments.
“It is not as if women cannot strive for and achieve excellence, but in Nigeria, like in most other countries, especially in Africa, women have historically faced barriers and discrimination that have limited their access to opportunities and hindered their socio-economic and political advancement. In Nigeria for example women have had to face inhibiting cultural norms, patriarchal systems, limited access to resources, and gaps in political awareness.”
The United Nations recommended a minimum threshold of 30% participation of women in government, the African Union endorsed 40%. So far this threshold of participation has not been met by any African country, including Nigeria. The closest to the 40% women participation in government in Africa is achieved by Uganda and Mozambique. Both countries have about 32% inclusion. Nigeria’s benchmark of 35% participation is yet to be met notwithstanding efforts of the previous governments.
The new president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu seem like just the man we need who will work towards including women in his cabinet, because of his history in Lagos State when he was Governor.
Tinubu met the 35% affirmative action and encouraged women to go into elective positions. Another glaring example is his dear wife, Oluremi Tinubu who was a senator in Lagos State with his cheering, backing, and full support as husband and advocate.
Senator Remi recommended a 50% inclusion of women participation in government during the Omo Agege Senate constitutional review.
This reflection of his family, personal beliefs and system of work during his time as governor shows that indeed he supports and believe women can do well when given the chance. We are urging him to stand true to his words.
Onyeri also said:
“Nigeria has a chance of redeeming herself through implementation of the affirmative action by playing less in the patriarchal turf. There may be arguments against affirmative action to the extent that it has the capacity to bring about reverse discrimination, undermine merit and introduce another form of sexism. But this hardly holds true, especially if we take into consideration those countries, where it is in full practice, are in redeeming evidence.”
Tinubu during his campaign and even at his swearing in ceremony, promised to include women and of course youths in his new government.
We want to hold him by his words, we believe that indeed he will do as he has promised and even more. We urge him to remain focused and not give in to powers that will want to thwart his visions and promises for a better and reformed Nigeria.
The women are counting on you, the children are at your mercy, the youths have a renewed hope, we believe you can take us to where we ought to be. Let’s make Nigeria great again!