Gendered Contests: Women in Competitive Elections

The history of women’s engagement in power and government in Nigeria reveal patterns of disadvantage in gaining access to both elective and appointive positions resulting from carefully orchestrated strategies of exclusion. While the historic 2015 alternation of power from a ruling to little it did to improve women’s political representation casts aspersion on its integrity and legitimacy. The 2019 general elections set a new the increased number of women aspirants. However, increased political participation did not translate to power gains for women. In fact, the electoral gains made in 2011 have subsequently been eroded over the last two election cycles. In 2019, as is historically the case in Nigeria, it was women who lost yet again a failure to attain the minimum one-third (30%) women’s representation stipulated in several regional and global conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory. This is often the case in the absence of intentionally established structures to lower the cost of entrance, safeguards against the culture of politics as a life-and-death venture. Instead, women’s progress in gaining access to political power was yet again diminished by an ever-expanding host of structural, functional, and personal factors.

In light of this election experience, it was no surprise that only seven women were appointed ministers in August 2019; a mere 17% of appointments made. Furthermore the ministerial portfolios assigned appointive positions as part of the power subjection. This way, women can be kept out of strategic positions, and men are able to take pleasure in “giving” women things rather than dealing with women’s successful political challenge. This was one of the findings of a gendered analysis of the 2019 electoral contests, which represents the sixth consecutive general elections in Nigeria since its return to democracy in 1999. The study highlights the opportunities and challenges posed by the proliferation of new parties in the political scene. It also points to the seeming intractability of patriarchal constraints, gender bias and stereotypes; the enduring disadvantage women suffer from exclusionary practices and structures within political parties; the constraining effect of women’s lack of access to resources; the impact of patronage linkages; and the impact of electoral violence on women’s political engagement. See also How Women Fared in 2019 elections

The study titled “Gendered Contests: Women in Competitive Elections” was conducted through a tripartite partnership between the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) African Studies Program, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) Nigeria, and Premium Times Nigeria.

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