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THE CASE FOR GREATER WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS

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Gone were the days when girl-childeducation only ends in kitchen! In the past, sending girls to school in somecountries was viewed and treated as taboo. But, when awareness began to increase,such idea is now fast becoming obsolete. Also, the dual responsibilities ofeducated women to both their husband's family and their parents family hasequally helped in changing the negative perception associated with girl-childeducation. Now that women are making great inroads in to the world of politics,and other decision making bodies, experience around the world has shown that,what a man can do, a woman can also do! At the Fourth World Conference onWomen held in Beijing in September 1995, below were some of the entiredeclarations made at the conference; “We reaffirm our commitment tothe equal rights and inherent human dignity of women and men and other purposesand principles enshrined in the charter of the

United Nations, to the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments,in particular the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminationagainst Women and the Convention on the Rights of Child, as well as theDeclaration on the Elimination of Violence against women and the Declaration onthe Rights to Development”. “We are convinced that, women's empowermentand their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres ofsociety, including participation in the decision-making process and access topower, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace”.It is this crave for equality that gave rise to the notion of “Affirmativeaction”, a term first used in the United States of America in Executive Order10925 and was subsequently signed by former President John F. Kennedy on March6, 1961. The purpose of the affirmative action was to include factors likerace, color,

religion, gender, sexual orientation and national or regionalissues in to consideration so as to benefit the underrepresented segments ofthe society in areas like employment, education, business, politics etc. Thisprinciple made the European Union Commission to approve a plan for women toconstitute 40 percent of non-executive directorships in large listed companiesin Europe by the year 2020, last year. However, like other areas ofinternational conventions and engagements which Nigeria has been playing theleading role in Africa, the most populous black nation in the world is among thefew nations that are above their peers in the continent in the area of bringingand supporting women to positions of authority. Apart from the fact thatNigeria is yet to join the League of Nations that have allowed women to bepresidents, which only Liberia and Malawi have done in Africa, Nigeria hasgiven women greater voices in appointive and elective positions. Though it

isnot yet enough, but appreciable successes have been recorded. Similarly, out of the 193 members ofthe United Nations, 16 countries are currently headed by women as eitherpresidents or prime ministers or a chancellor. A woman is also the president ofKosovo, which is yet to gain complete recognition at the UN. Among all thewomen leaders, apart from President Joyce Banda of Malawi who succeeded LatePresident Bingu Wa Mutharika who died in office as president, the rest wereduly elected. Though some where initially appointed before they were fullyelected through the ballot. At the multi-lateral level, womenhave equally gained unprecedented access and opportunity to head someorganizations! For example, the Managing Director of the International MonetaryFund, IMF, Christine Lagarde is a woman. The Chief Prosecutor of theInternational Criminal Court ICC, Fatou Bensouda is a woman. The DirectorGeneral of World Health Organization WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan is a

woman. TheUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay is a woman. TheEuropean Union Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton is a woman, and theChairperson of African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is a woman.Women are making headways indeed! Nonetheless, I must state that, forevery woman president in Argentina, there is a woman still struggling to beelected state governor in Nigeria, let alone president! When the formerPresident of Chile, who is now the United Nations Under-Secretary-General forGender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, MS. Michelle Bachelet visitedAfrica in early January this year, She applauded the efforts of women in thecontinent, and she equally called for robust and effective policies that willensure full women participation in the political and economic decision-makingbodies across boards. For more women to emerge aspresidents and prime ministers, they should learn from the success storyof the

likes of Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Halle Thorning-Schmadt ofDenmark, Julia Gillard of Australia, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner ofArgentina, Angela Merkel of Germany, Park Geunhye of South Korea, YingluckShinawatra of Thailand, Johanna Sigurdardottir of Iceland, EllenJohnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Laura Chinchila of Costa Rica, KamlaPersad-Bissessor of Trinidad and Tobago, Shiekh Hasina Wajed of Bangladesh,Dalia Grybarskaite of Lithuania, Iveta Radicova of Slovakia, Portia SimpsonMiller of Jamaica, Joyce Banda of Malawi and Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo. Womenshould also build a broad based appeal and stop relying on their femininestrength alone. This is the only way more women can be elected presidents andpriministers, especially in developing countries. Comrade Edwin Ekene Uhara is a youngNigerian activist and public affairs commentator. He is also the NationalPresident of Young Nigerians for Change!+2347065862479, +2348076134054

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Articles by Edwin Uhara