The Impact of the Full Implementation of 35% Affirmative Action in Economic Sustainability of Our Growing Democracy
Democracy is a system of government that abhors gender segregation in politics; it provides equal opportunity for political participation such that no individual or social group is excluded. Onyeoziri[1989.6] conceptualizes the four domains of democracy which includes : the domain of individual and group rights and freedom of principle, the domain of popular and equal participation in collective decision, the domain of accountability of government to mass public and constituent minorities and the domain of application of equal citizenship in all spheres of life, social, economic and political.
Nigeria claims a democratic regime and thus must essentially embrace a great level of openness and enjoyment of civil and political liberties and participation among all individuals and groups of the society. Nigeria as a democratic country must ensure the implementation of free and equal opportunity for political participation that democracy avails both men and women. What is the norm in Nigeria present democracy? Women political representation in Nigeria is very low; this constitutes a growing concern to many Nigerians. Systemically, Nigerian women never enjoyed equality with men in issues of governance. Aina and Olayode[ 2012b], noted that the history of political participation in Nigeria is full of male Domination and women tokenism.
The underrepresentation of women in political participation gained root as a result of the patriarchal practice inherent in our society much of which were obvious from colonial era till date. The national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained 6.7 percent in elective and appointive positions which are far below the global average of 22.5 percent, African Regional average of 23.4 percent and West African Sub Regional average of 15 percent. In the National Assembly, women constitute 5.6 percent members of the House of Representatives and 6.5 percent of the senators. Also, with the fifteen years of uninterrupted democratic governance [1999-2015], Nigeria is yet to produce a female governor in any of the 36 states of the federation. The southeast is one of the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. The states making up the south east are: Imo, Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra and Enugu. Statistics shows the women participation in the 2015 General Election, state House of Assembly within the south east zone. In Abia state, total number of male candidates was 37, while female candidates were 7. In Anambra state, total number of male candidates was 72, while female were 22. In Ebonyi state, total number of male candidates was 21, while female candidates were 9. In Enugu state, total number of male candidates was 33, while female candidates were 25. In Imo state, total number of male candidates was 76, while female candidates were 17. Obviously, this statistics reveal a great level of women underrepresentation in elective political positions.
Late president Umaru Musa Yar’adua inaugurated the Electoral Reform Committee on the 28th of August 2007 which recommended that the chairman and deputy of the Independent National Electoral Commission should not be of the same gender, and out of the six geo-political zonal representatives, two must be women. It further recommended that the political association must maintain 20% women in membership of its governing bodies, and that the political parties should give more attention to the nomination of women and youths as candidates, ensuring that women have equal access to leadership opportunities within party organizations. These recommendations were further passed to the National Assembly for recommendation. Unfortunately, Nigeria has been unable to domesticate a legal frame work to enhance a gender inclusive electoral system. This militates against the full implementation of the 35% affirmative action which was recommended by the National Gender Policy to ensure more representation of women in the corridors of power. What would be the impact of women political inclusiveness in Nigerian economic sustainability and present Democracy?
The following are the benefits of the full implementation of the 35% affirmative action.
- Increased diversity of legislation: When more women are in public decision making, policies made at the legislation, will be those that benefit women, children and families in general. According to Winie Byanyima, when women are in parliament, they tend to promote women’s right legislation, promote children’s right and speak up for the interest of the local communities because of their close involvement in community life.
- Promote moral commitment: By embracing the affirmative action law, political organizations can have a means of making a moral commitment to the equal treatment of all gender. The moral stand of this political organizations, will help draw individuals who share a believe of women political participation, thereby ensuring a more peaceful and tolerant elections across the federation.
- Offers protection from social and cultural discrimination against women: Implementing the 35% affirmative action will protect women from social and cultural opinions that militate against women empowerment and political participation, women would be more inclined to rise to political inclusiveness.
- Bridge gender inequality gap: More women in the corridors of power equals gender inclusive governance and gender inclusive world, where women can enjoy equal political participation with their male counterparts
- Improve development: The presence of more women in the corridors of power would improve development indicators across the various economic sectors.
What’s more? Evidence shows that women leaders typically have more compassion and empathy, and a more open and inclusive negotiation styles which are more in line with modern ideas of transformative leadership. Women experience issues differently than men, this was evident in the case of climate change, where women in climate change movement led to better policy making, and spurred practical solutions like clean solar cook stoves. Women leadership would derive direct change in structural policies, including parental leave, child care and pay. The Economic Cooperation and Development noted that women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men. United States Agency for Economic Development (USAID) meanwhile says that when 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP, increases on average by 3% of which Nigeria is not excluded. USAID further added that when women have the same amount of land as men, there is over 10% increase in crop yields. No doubt it’s time to improve leadership in Nigeria and around the world, and show everyone what women can do.