The thinking in many quarters in the past decades is that the role of the Nigerian women starts and ends in the maternity; hence, an average Nigerian woman was socialized to believe and accept the above assertion.
This pathetic scenario has undergone visible mutation overtime and has been granted impetus by the growth of National movements and the process of de-colonization as more and more women like Hajiya Rashida Bello, Barr. Natasha H. Akpoti and the likes were exposed to civic and national responsibilities.
Over the years, experience has shown that women occupy a very significant and decisive place in the socio-economic, political and cultural existence of a nation; their importance is evident both in modern and traditional sectors, not only as housewives and mothers in the society with para-eminent roles, but also by their contributions to the quality of a nation’s livelihood.
The role of women in national development cannot be over emphasized; their contributions permeate all facets of the nation’s economy. This succinctly explains that women constitute an indispensable group in the development process of every responsible nation whose major objective is to improve the welfare of the people by providing social amenities like quality education, potable water, transportation, infrastructure, medical care, creating conducive political atmosphere and participation of citizens etc.
National development in this context could generically be refers to the ability of a nation to improve the living standard of her citizens; as measures of improvement may be material, such as an increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or social status, such as literacy rates and availability of healthcare. Across the globe, women constitute a very significant and indispensable portion of the population.
No wonder in recent time, women all over the world have come to positive focus. Although a few countries, especially the developed ones have appreciated and empowered to a large extent their women in order to play their roles and contribute their own quota to the development of their societies; many others, especially the developing countries have not appreciate fully the important roles women can play in the transformation of their countries when empowered.
Research has shown that Nigeria with a population of over 150 million that’s being constituted by women has the potential to transmute from a poverty stricken nation to a more vibrant economy. Women in Nigeria are crucial beyond certain customary duties and procreation efforts; they have the potential of turning an ailing economy at the family, local, state or national levels through their inbreed economic strength, organizational skills and single minded focus to surmount obstacles posed by the environment, culture and stronger partners.
It has been observed that the progress and development of any nation lies in the hands of the women in that nation; thus the women represent a tool for positive change, depending on how they are treated and the levels of opportunities given to them to actualize their potentials. The declaration of 1978 by the United Nations’ Organization as the International Year of Women as well as Decade for Women, and the Beijing declaration of 1991 are positive focus towards the emancipation of women. These declarations also show the important place of women in national development and transformation.
In Nigeria, the numerical strength of the women have been considered to be of great potentials that are necessary for the evolution of a new economy and good governance that accelerates social and political development. This, it is assumed could transform the society into a better one. According to the Nigerian population census of 2006, the country’s population stands at 140 million, out of which 80.2 of them are women and girls (Gender in Nigeria Report: 2012: p. 45-48). Thus, over the years, Activists have emphasized on the importance of empowering women for National development. But one important ingredient for achieving this is through women education and political involvement.
Profitably, the steady advancement of women in contributing to the socio-economic development of the nation’s scheme of affairs has to a large extent impacted on the Federal government and the Federal government has responded positively in many ways. For instance, the late Maryam Babangida (First lady of Nigeria 1985 – 1998) was active in promoting gender related issues and interests during her husband’s tenure as Head of State of Nigeria. Also the subsequent creation of National Commission for Women and the Ministerial post for Women Affairs provided additional avenue for the promotion of women related issues and the enhancement of the role of women to national development by way of statutory body and ministry.
The importance of women from their roles of peace and stability at home depends largely on the managerial abilities of women. Women, especially the mothers plan, organize, direct and coordinate all resources at home to the benefit of all members of the family. This could also be demonstrated in politics as effective management of the home promotes national development. But wherever this is lacking, the reverse is usually the case.
Appreciatively, in terms of politics and governance, there is growing recognition of the untapped capacity and talents of women and women’s leadership. Over the last two decades, research has shown that the rate of women’s representation in national parliaments globally has increased from 11.8 percent in 1998 to 17.8 percent in 2008 to 23.5 percent in 2018. Some regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa have seen dramatic increases, where in the last 20 years the number of women in parliaments has risen from 11 to 23.6 percent, and the Arab States region has seen an increase from 3.1 to 17.5 percent. However, total global representation is still well below the 30 percent benchmark often identified as the necessary level of representation to achieve a “critical mass”; a considerable minority of all legislators with significant impact, rather than a token few individuals not to mention falling short of women’s representation as half of the world’s population.
The full and equitable participation of women in public offices is essential for building and sustaining strong and vibrant democracies. The meaningful participation of women in national, local and community leadership roles has become an important focus on global development policy. Women’s political participation results in tangible gains for democracy, including greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs; increased cooperation across party and ethnic lines, and a more sustainable future.
More so, women’s participation in politics helps advance gender equality and affects both the range of policy issues that get considered and the types of solutions that are proposed. Research indicates that whether a legislator is male or female has a distinct impact on their policy priorities. There is also strong evidence that as more women are elected into offices, there is a corollary increase in policy making that emphasizes quality of life and reflects the priorities of families, women, ethnic and racial minorities.
Accordingly, in the words of the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) Chairman Madeleine Albright, women in power “can be counted on to raise issues that others overlook, to support ideas that others oppose, and to seek an end to abuses that others accept.” Further, in NDI’s 35 years of work in over 100 countries around the world, has shown that more than men, women tend to: work across party lines, highly responsive to constituent concerning help, securing lasting peace, encouraging citizens’ confidence in democracy through their own participation and prioritize health, education and other key development indicators.
This and many other evidences therefore depict the fact that women constitute an indispensable force in the quest for national development of any nation; in the developed nations, women have been able to play this important role. For this reason and many others, as Kogi state’s Local Governments election approaches, the place of Ebira women involvement in political appointments and politics of national development should not in any way be relegated to the background but should be encouraged and empowered economically, educationally, politically and culturally so as to actualize their innate potentials towards the socio-economic and political development of the state.
– Noah Ometere Josephine writes from Okene, Kogi State.