Concerns have been raised about the number of women whom Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has recommended for Cabinet posts.
Senators on Friday were continuing their review of Buhari’s selections for a second day. Forty-three people were under consideration, but just seven, or 16 percent, were women. That’s a concern for women’s advocates like Justina Toochukwu.
“The problem is not really women not participating, it is the support,” she said. “When you indicate your interest in a particular office, how is it carried, how is it responded to? There’s no support for these offices, so it’s quite discouraging. It’s not like women don’t want to participate, but we’re continuously downplayed.”
In the last decade, Nigeria has seen a greater involvement of women in education, business and the social sector. But women hold just 7 percent of elected positions, even though they make up nearly 50 percent of the electorate. The 7 percent figure is one of the lowest in the world.
Garba Abari, director general of Nigeria’s national orientation agency, said progress was being made.
“It used to be 4, it was 6, now we have 7” percent, she said. “Perhaps the next Cabinet will be 10 or perhaps we may even get to the 30 percent affirmative action requirement, but we’re seeing some incremental progress.”
The percentage of women serving in government during Buhari’s first four-year term, which began in 2015, was higher, about 17 percent. The president was re-elected in February, and during his campaign he promised to improve the representation of women in his Cabinet.
Political observers such as Rotimi Olawale, founder of Youth Hub Africa, say the president has yet to keep that promise.
“The president is coming more from a politics angle than a policy angle and it’s evident the way that this list has come up,” he said. “You have nine former governors, two former deputy governors, a whole lot of former ministers.”
But he said there could be a solution.
“I think that women need to also negotiate more and to find ways by which they can sit at decision-making tables,” Olawale said. “And if such tables don’t exist, they have to create their own tables and invite men to sit at them. I’m hoping that in the nearest future, we’ll have a woman president.”