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In Nigeria, the rights of women are enshrined in the constitution, and there are no formal legal barriers to women’s political participation in election processes. However, in practice, there are often formidable obstacles to women’s active participation in politics. Key among these obstacles is the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society and the dominance of the male gender in the major political parties in the country. Political parties and their systems are among the most important institutions affecting women’s political participation. In most countries, political parties determine which candidates are nominated, elected and which issues are given national prominence. Consequently, the role of women in political parties is therefore determined by their prospects in the calculus at all levels (national, state, and local). 

Although the Nigerian governments have committed to several international agreements and put in place several national policies to improve women’s political representation, reports show that little or nothing has been done to implement these measures. This is despite past efforts made by different stakeholders in the country especially the Civil Society to improve women participation through advocacies and campaigns to change the norms. Some of these efforts includes: women empowerment through training and mentoring; monitoring the conduct and fairness of elections; advocating for affirmative action, etc. The expected results from the interventions by the civil society organizations have not taken any serious effect because of the lack of political will to follow-up and follow through on the implementation of the international conventions entered into by the respective governments in Nigeria. Yet, the indicators over the years and particularly since the return of democratic rule in 1999, has shown a consistent downward trend in women representation at all levels in Nigeria. At both chambers of the 9th National Assembly, only 6.4% and 3.6% are women. Meanwhile, the 2019 figures on the population of women in Nigeria  is approximated to 99.13 million out of 200.96 million total population in Nigeria. The lack of political will to implement national and international agreement on women participation in governance/politics; the limited space or access to governance positions; cultural barriers/practices; the violent nature of politics and elections as well as the patronage political system in the country, are critical barriers limiting women participation in politics. These must be surmounted if the women-folk must take their rightful place in governance and decision making spaces in Nigeria.

One of the most effective ways to ensure women are elected to office is to ensure that political parties take seriously the affirmative action principles in the processes of emergence of party candidates during elections. In specify terms, determined efforts must be made to ‘mandate party candidate lists’, to ensure it is not only gender balanced but that a certain proportion must be made of women. This is a legal obligation in many countries even in Africa. The effectiveness of such systems, however, depends very much on the details of their implementation. For example, a requirement that candidate lists include 50 per cent women will not be effective if the women are all placed at the bottom of the lists. Women can have no realistic expectation of success in proportional systems unless they are placed high enough on the candidate lists to be elected if the party wins seats in the legislature.

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