The International Women’s Day (IWD) is observed annually on March 8th and it is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights worldwide. The aim of the day is to achieve global gender equality and the 2018 theme #PressforProgress indicates the need to press forward for the progress of achieving gender parity in the world. In commemoration of the IWD, NOIPolls conducted a poll to assess the perception of Nigerians on leadership capabilities and political representation of women in Nigeria. The poll revealed that 91 percent of adult Nigerians acknowledged that there is a huge gap in gender equality, especially in political representation, mainly due to cultural norms and religious beliefs (29 percent). This is no surprise considering that certain historic values shaped by societies, passed on from generations have over the years spelled out specific expectations from women in terms of attributes and behaviors such as the creation of gender-specific roles. This has led to the labeling of some jobs and/or roles as ‘women’s work’ and ‘men’s work’ both in the household and in the wider community such as in workplaces, as well as in leadership, governance, and politics.
Interestingly, the poll results also revealed that majority of Nigerians (85 percent) believe that women make great leaders and this assertion cuts across gender, geopolitical zones, and age-groups. These findings may have been influenced by visible outstanding success stories of some past and present female leaders in Nigeria and the world at large. For instance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (former Minister of Finance in Nigeria and currently one of the 28-member Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization – GAVI), Amina J. Mohammed (Former Minister of Environment in Nigeria and the present Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations), Mo Abudu (renowned media mogul and founder of EbonyLife TV) and Stella Adadevoh (the doctor who died putting her life on the line to save Nigerians from Ebola epidemic) amongst other great Nigerian women have made impact with their leadership qualities over the years. Given this positive perception of Nigerians on Women’s leadership capabilities, a critical issue of concern would be whether this translates into the much desired behavioral change and cultural shift which would shape a more positive narrative for gender equality in Nigeria. Nonetheless, gender equality change agents can capitalize on this positive stance as a soft landing for acceptance of change initiatives.
While these change agents are already working hard towards achieving gender equality in Nigeria and around the world, with some milestones being achieved; the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report revealed that it will take about 217 years before the global gender parity is achieved. Thus, there is need for more progressive synergized long-term strategies by stakeholders to tackle the barriers to equality, especially those centered on culture and religion. These are the key findings from the International Women’s Day Poll conducted by NOIPolls in the week commencing March 5th, 2018.
On gender equality in Nigeria, the poll revealed that slightly more than 9 in 10 (91 percent) adult Nigerians stated that there is gender inequality in the country, especially in political representations. The North-East (97 percent) and the North-West (95 percent) zones accounted for the largest proportion of Nigerians who think there is gender inequality in the country.
On the contrary, 9 percent of the respondents nationwide believe that there is gender equality in the country and residents from the South-East zone (25 percent) had the largest proportion of Nigerians who made this assertion.
More findings from the poll revealed that majority of the respondents who think that there is gender inequality blamed cultural norms and religious beliefs (29 percent). Also, 17 percent of the respondents were of the opinion that gender inequality exists in Nigeria is because women are perceived to be weak and lack the capacity to lead amongst all other mentions.
On the other hand, respondents who think that there is gender equality were further asked to state the reason for their assertion and most respondents (37 percent) stated that there is gender equality as they notice lots of women in politics in Nigeria. 25 percent also mentioned that women have equal constitutional rights in the country while 16 percent of the respondents mentioned that representation should be by merit and not gender.
In conclusion, the findings from this poll have shown that there is a huge gap in gender equality in Nigeria as stated by 91 percent of the respondents across gender, geopolitical zones and age groups; citing cultural norms and religious beliefs as the major obstacles. Also, 17 percent mentioned that there is no gender equality in Nigeria because women are perceived to be weak and lack the capacity to lead, considering them as subordinate to their male counterparts. Contrarily, 9 percent of the respondents claimed that there is gender equality mainly because they perceive that a lot of women now participate in politics, however, it is still a far cry from the larger proportion (91 percent) who believe that women have little or insignificant political representation in the country.
Therefore, existing forms of gender inequality in Nigeria must be addressed and this underlines the need for a deliberate, sensitive, consistent and systematic approach of gender relations which should include gender mainstreaming in all aspects of life. If the concept of democracy allows for diversity of opinion and participation of different groups in Nigeria, then, the same should not exclude women and this can be influenced by passing the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill (GEOB) by the legislative arm of the government.
Finally, the results revealed that majority of Nigerians, 85 percent, affirmed that women make great leaders. Hence, this is a clarion call on all women to wake up to their responsibility of taking the forefront position especially at participating in politics so that they will have a fair share of representation in the polity. Women should defy the general belief that they are best suited as home keepers only and start to take part in decision making.