Gender parity and barriers limiting womens participation in nation building 

By Angela Atabo

Data obtained from Statista revealed that there are approximately 105.57 million female population in Nigeria and 107.83 million male population as at 2021. This amounts to 49.47% female population and 50.53% male population in the country.

Attaining Gender parity has continued to be a challenge especially in Africa and Nigeria is no exception as the nation struggles  to achieve gender equality.


However, factors like discrimination, marginalisation, patriarchy, cultural and religious norms among others contribute to the slow pace of attaining gender equality.

Policies like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is one of the measures put in place to address some of the challenges in societies all across the world and goal five specially is aimed at promoting gender equality, ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.


Goal five also promotes ways to  end violence and exploitation of women and girls; eliminating harmful practices such as early child and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation; increasing value of unpaid care and promoting shared domestic responsibilities; ensuring full participation of women in leadership and decision-making; and ensuring access to universal reproductive rights and health.


The barriers women face in contributing their quota to national development raises its head in almost every sector. However, in Nigeria gender equality is a work in progress and it would take all hands to be on deck to achieve it.



A survey of the mining sector in the course of this report reveals that women are faced with many challenges particularly those that concerned the protection of child rights and the promotion of gender equality.


Our investigation of the number of women in the mining sector showed that in the statistics, of all the mainstream miners in Nigeria today, only 6.8 percent are women while the remaining 94 percent are men and the reason is not farfetched as the barriers that continue to limit women in the sector are yet to be addressed especially that of access to funding.
Speaking with the Founder and National President of Women in Mining Nigeria (WIMIN), Janet Adeyemi, at the end of a 2-day High Level  National Policy Dialogue themed: Mainstreaming Gender in the Solid Mineral Sector in Nigeria, she said there was need to address limiting factors to womens participation in mining in Nigeria for maximum productivity.


Adeyemi listed lack of funding, lack of access to titles, lands among others as well as women have been hamstrung by systemic indoctrination as some of the barriers women face in mining.



She went on to say that, “Women hardly have big mining companies, only a few had, yet they bear the brunt of mining activities, whether they are directly involved or indirectly and we also  identified a capacity gap among women in mining.


She called for the need for the government to empower women with loans and equipment, calls for mentorship for younger women and to promote Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as related to mining at secondary school level for girls to boost women participation in the sector.



In politics both at national and sub-national levels, the rate of womens participation is very low. Checks by the reporter into the gender ratio of the National Assembly during this report revealed that the eight Assembly was made up of just seven females out of the 109 Senators elected while only 22 females made it to the House of Representatives out of the 360 seats available, amounting to 6.4 percent and 6.1 percent respectively.


Investigation further revealed that the ninth Assembly produced only seven females out of the 109 Senators and 11 females out of the 360 House of Representatives members.


Taking a look at the 10th Assembly members just elected, only 17 women made it to the National Assembly, a result that further showed a decline in females in the parliament.


Investigation by the reporter revealed that many women who signified interest to contest in the 2023 general elections were either asked of forced to step down by their political party leaders in favour of other male candidates.


In the build up to the 2023 presidential elections, two female presidential aspirants of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) were advised by the presidential screening committee of the party to withdraw from the presidential race and vie for other positions because they were not presidential materials.



Though one of the female aspirants, Dorothy Nuhu-AkenOva, withdrew from the race, the other female aspirant, Khadija Okunnu-Lamidi, remained in the race until the primaries were she pooled 83 votes as against the winner, Adewole Adebayo, who polled 1,526 votes.


Also, in Plateau State, Amb. Chikas Kumle, an aspirant for the panshen/Kanka /Kanam (PKK), Federal Constituency was one of the nine aspirants for the position but she withdrew from the race after pressure from some top leaders of the party in her state and eventually supported the declared winner of the primaries.


These and more are examples of the plight of women in political participation in Nigeria. Most times, at sub-national level, the hierarchy of the political party hand pick the persons they want to occupy certain political positions and most of the times the selectees are always males.



Women are believed not to have to political clout, financial strength and followership to prosecute political campaigns and elections.


The UN Women Representative to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ms. Beatrice Eyong, at a one-day meeting of, He for She (a term for men who are supporting gender equality), organised by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), concurred to this when she scored Nigeria low in terms of women participation and representation in Africa.



Eyong said womens participation in politics in Nigeria is very appalling, and very unsatisfactory, and very unacceptable because if you look at the African sub region, Nigeria is one of the lowest countries as far as representation on the parliament is concerned.



As at 2022, Nigeria is just 4.1 per cent in the parliament as we speak to the national parliament, while in other countries like Rwanda it is 67 per cent, Senegal is about 57 per cent.


These are all countries with a very high level representation of women in parliament, but for Nigeria it is something that is very unacceptable.



In an interview with the  President of Women in Politics Forum (WiPF) , Ebere Ifendu, further  revealed that the  low participation of women in leadership, elective positions and governance, despite advocacies and proposal by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country was worrisome.



Ifendu said  at the closing ceremony of a training session of 100 women in Plateau state organised by WiPF ,said there was need for deliberate steps to be taken  to ensure gender equality for total development of the country because any nation that forsaken the contribution of women suffers.



In addition, the business and public sector is also not left behind  as  the Executive Director, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) , Hansatu Adegbite, lamented the low participation of women in the public service and politics adding that the private sector could not effectively contribute to nation building without the right people and women  in governance because whatever happens in the political and public space affects the private sector greatly.


She said the need for the participation and inclusion of women in political and public offices could not be overstated.


“The national average of womens political participation in Nigeria remains a mere 6.7 percent both in elective and appointive positions, far below the global average of 22.5 percent.”


“Africas regional average is 23.4 percent and the West African sub-regional average is 15 percent. Sadly, the situation continues to persist despite the strong advocacy for gender equality and inclusive development by social movements and organisations like Women in Management, Business and Public Service as well as the commitment by the Federal Government in the National Gender Policy.


She therefore, said that for Nigeria to reach her full potential, achieve meaningful, inclusive and sustainable development as well as meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal five  target of ensuring womens full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life by 2030, it is time for everyone to balance for better and wholeheartedly commit to the empowerment of women.


The barriers women face is even more prominent in the health sector than others  because  as they say “health is wealth “However this does not.come for women easily even though it is their right and the rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria is becoming alarming as study reveals that Nigeria has about 512 maternal mortalities per 100,000 births.



We took time to investigate the quality of the 248 Primary Health Care facilities in the FCT in the FCT and we discovered that there were barely enough quality equipment and drugs to cater for people. Although we tried to get the statistics of the number of women who died during childbirth in the FCT but it was not readily available.


However, some women interviewed in some communities revealed that they suffer during childbirth and even lost some due to access to facilities among others.


Women also experience Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). According to Derby Collins-Kalu a Senior Programme Officer in charge of Gender Based Violence (GBV), Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN), 17 million Nigerian women have experienced intimate or non-intimate violence and the number is alarming.


In addition, the National President Medical Womens Association of Nigeria (MWAN),Dr Adekemi Otolorin added  that women generally suffer from the same diseases as men: diabetes, hypertension, tuberculosis, malaria, among others.


However, in addition to these communicable and non-communicable diseases, women have other illnesses peculiar to them. For example, women bear the brunt of complications of pregnancy and childbirth, sometimes leading to their death.



“As you know, Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world (576 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). Thats unacceptable, especially when we know that 95 percent of those deaths are preventable. Sadly, many of these pregnancies were actually unplanned due to inequitable access to family planning services. Ignorance, lack of spousal support and misconceptions lead many of these women to have babies by chance and not by choice.


“Given the God-given role that women play in the continuation of the human race, our expectation is that they will receive special care.


“Sexual and reproductive health services for women should be free of charge or at best affordable. This is not the case in Nigeria. Sadly, up to 70% of health care expenses in Nigeria are out-of-pocket expenses.


“So many women shun modern health facilities and go in search of prayers or look for cheap options by buying drugs from patent medicine vendors who cannot diagnose but sell fake and often inappropriate medications. Granted, modern health care is expensive but the availability of health insurance is expected to cushion the effect on individual pockets.”


She said to ensure the full implementation of the Basic Health Care provision Fund so that all women of reproductive age and children under the age of five years receive free health services under the national health insurance scheme (NHIS).



In an interview with Mr Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, he said, “We kill democracy when we criminalise the participation of women in politics and nation building “he therefore called on political parties to be deliberate in supporting women candidates and also called on the Federal Government to appoint more women in leadership positions.

He encouraged the National Assembly to enact the gender bills thrown away by the legislators adding that “when all these are done Nigeria will be headed towards a gender equality society thereby achieving the SDGs.


Study reveals that women are the engine of growth and development and all the need is the requisite empowerment and opportunity.



According to UN Women, women’s economic empowerment is central to realising women’s rights and gender equality. Womens economic empowerment includes womens ability to participate equally in existing markets; their access to and control over productive resources, access to decent work, control over their own time, lives and bodies; and increased voice, agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions.


Empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are keys to achieving the SDGs.


This report is supported by Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI) and its partners  Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) as part of measures to achieve gender equality in Nigeria among others.

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