On the list, there are seven ministers, representing about 15 percent of the members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
These ones are lucky to be President Buhari’s ‘women’ but how about the millions of other women still struggling for a seat, even if not at the table?
This number is very low compared to 2011 when the country exceeded the 30 percent global threshold for women’s participation, with 31 percent women composition in FEC.
Nigeria was one of 189 countries that adopted the Beijing Declaration of 1995. It was this declaration that first gave legitimacy to the demands of accountability on women rights and enabled the formation of women and gender equality groups with shared aspirations.
There is also the National Gender Policy (NGP) that seeks 35 percent affirmative action for inclusive representation of women in public offices.
Despite this, Nigeria has continued to record low participation of women in elective and appointive positions.
Barriers such as religion, culture, economic disparity, patriarchy, violence in politics, nocturnal meeting schedules, stigmatisation, gender stereotypes, poor implementation and non- domestication of laws and treaties, among others, have continued to whittle down the participation of women in politics and their appointment into political and public offices.
Over the years, the number of women in parliament has continued to decline. The average representation of women in the National Assembly between 1999 and 2019 has been about 6.5 percent, the peak was in 2007, when the numbers in the Senate and House of Representatives were 8.3 and 7.0 percent respectively. This is far below the global average of 22.5 percent, Africa regional average of 23.4 percent and West African sub regional average of 15 percent.
In Africa, Nigeria ranks among countries with the lowest rates of female representation in parliament, while globally, the country ranks 186 out of 192 countries. This is according to the International Parliamentary Union.
The national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained 6.7 percent in elective and appointive positions.
On election day, women participate in high numbers but this has not translated to high numbers of women in political and public offices.
So, you see, while celebrating 50 women seems like a lot, there really isn’t much to cheer about.
We should be improving or at least maintaining the progress made in 2011, not recording a decline.
Even though many laws and policies have come into place since 1995, and institutions have been created to promote gender equality and justice, there are still gaps that must be filled.
Cultural and other barriers remain strong impediments to closing gender gaps and dealing with present day challenges that impact women.
But it’s not all gloom. There have been some achievements especially in the enactment of laws against inequality and discrimination, such as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law (VAPP), women targeted poverty eradication programmes especially in agriculture and enterprise, financial inclusion, among others.
Be that as it may, it is not time to shout eureka because it is not yet uhuru.
Impediments to women inclusion at all levels should be removed and provisions of protocols and conventions which Nigeria is signatory to should be adhered to, to encourage participation and give women more opportunities to excel in politics.
The way I see it, a good place to start is increasing the number of women in public offices and creating a level playing field for participation of women in politics.
In line with this year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge, deliberate steps to challenge all barriers to inclusion, equality and equity must be taken.
Organisations such as the UN Women have been training and mentoring female candidates and working with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure more gender-responsive electoral administration systems, encouraging political parties to adopt women-friendly internal governance policies and supporting local partners on legislative advocacy and election monitoring, as well as data-gathering and knowledge-sharing. This is one way to go.
More efforts need to be made to improve the situation of women and girls beyond rhetorics, for any meaningful progress to be made.