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A CRITICAL STUDY OF SOCIO-CULTURAL PRACTICES HINDERING WOMEN’S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION


ABSTRACT

In this modern age of development, political inequality between men and women has always been an important issue of concern. This is so because of the realization that the marginalization of a segment, race or particular sex in the society has far – reaching implications on the development of that society. Nigerian society and perhaps many countries in Africa seem to have a tenacious tradition of inequality in different facets of life. With the understanding that there is a growing tradition of political inequality against women, Nigeria adopted some gender discriminatory strategies that sought to protect women from cultural practices that demeaned and made them second class citizens no matter their background or social orientation. This is to restore confidence in women and encourage them to participate in all fields of human activity for a better human and material development. But despite the adoption of quota system, affirmative action, and gender development communication campaigns, some societies in Nigeria have shown little sign of progress especially in the area of women participation in politics. The purpose of this study is to assess the effects of existing communication practice on women participation in politics in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The study also attempted to examine some socio-cultural practices that discourage women participation in politics and also suggest some communication strategies that could enhance women political participation in the area under study. This study utilized the qualitative approach to collect information from men, women and relevant persons, Institutions and Government Departments in Four Ward districts of Kajuru Local Government through Focus Group Discussions (F.G.D.) as well as in-depth interviews. The data collected were analyzed and they have shown that, communication practices that exist in the area of study do not always address the established cultural practices that have adversely discouraged or off-put women from participating in politics.It was also gathered from the study that, rather than religion and other cultural practices, the major problems of inadequate participation of women in politics are in the content and medium or pattern of communication which is patriarchal and akin to the vertical and mass media kind of communication. However, in seeking to contribute to the development of more effective communication practice in the area under study, the study recommended the Horizo- vertical pattern of Communication. This is a blend of the mass and folk media or interpersonal communication. Its strength is in its flexibility and multimedia approach. In a whole, the study helped to highlight how media culture and content might affect the participation of particularly women, in politics. Hence, the problem of inadequate participation of women in politics is a problem of culture and of how the culture is communicated in this modern age.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

The place of communication in enhancing a sense of belonging and social responsibility among members of a society is deeply rooted in its ability to empower people with knowledge and information that could translate to self-discovery, confidence and the will to act on issues needing action. Kothari, in S.K. Nair and S.A. White (1993:23) wraps it up:

The role of communication…has to be thought of not as a specialized concern, but as a part and parcel of the struggles for human liberation, freedom and justice, strengthening the struggles of communities and cultures of national entities that are thought to be marginalized people…

Communication, in whatever form or channel (mass media, social media or folk media) must serve an empowering or liberating purpose. It must be able to re-awaken people to the realization of societal forces or stereotypes that threaten their transformation and empowerment as a community, race, gender, class or individuals.

Concerns for the role of communication in social transformation began with UNESCO in the 1950s which was elaborated decades later by McAnany (1980), where he examined the relevance of communication to the rural third world. Similarly, Rogers (1983) in “Diffusion of Innovations” also focused on the poor majority, their communication behavior and the impact of education and information on their situations. Rogers recognizes target audience, information environment, information flow, media campaigns and exposure, as the organizational structures of communication that when carefully handled could have positive impact on majority of people.

The organizational, transformational and participatory values of communication must be employed towards conscientization of the marginalized. Paulo Freire (1970) first introduced the concept of conscientization in communication. Freire argues that, communication should be practiced not as message transmission but as emancipatory dialogue, a particular form of non-exploitative egalitarian dialogue which is carried out in an atmosphere of profound love and humility.

Nair and White (1987), when re-conceptualizing development communication suggest a holistic approach which incorporates the notion of an inter-face between communication and participation. Nair and White view participatory communication as the answer to social injustice and unequal right. Participatory communication ensures citizen empowerment and acquisition of knowledge that could enable people change their lifestyles, relationships and perceptions about their socio-cultural and socio-political environment.

The general trend in the modern world politics is towards democracy, a political system in which power is exercised by the people as a whole disability notwithstanding. This principle supports the people to exercise powers based on their elected representatives whose mandates must be subjected to periodic renewal based on the provisions of the laws of the state in accordance with democratic practice (Afolabi, 2010). Politics refers to the art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs. Politics also means “any persistent pattern of human relationships that involves, to a significant extent control, influence, power or authority” (Idahosa and Idisi, 2005). Politics is all about sharing power, distribution and exercise of power and this power is vied or sought for. The person who obtained the power has the opportunity to participate actively in the allocation of limited resources in the society. In the view of Nwabuzor and Mueller (1985) politics embraces all social intersections and dispositions which are directly or indirectly aimed at getting binding decisions about who allocates resources, when and how these are obtained in a given social system or society.

In most parts of the globe, politics refers to “polity” which is an institutionalized system by which a society distributes power, sets the society’s agenda and makes decisions (Macionis and Geber, 2005). Politics is all about power which brings considerable disagreement around the world as well as in the family. The exercise of power is the sole responsibilities of the government which directs the political affairs in the society. Power involves the ability of one person to wield influence or control the actions of another person or the ability to make things happen or done, to force people do what you want despite their dislike of carrying out the orders. In other words, political participation can be any activity which aims at changing or influencing the structure of a government, the appointment of leaders and the policies they execute. These activities can have the goal of supporting the existing structures and politics or changing them. They include “active and passive actions, collective or individual, legal or illegal, support or pressure actions, by which one or several persons try to influence the type of government that may lead a society, the way the state of that particular country is led, or specific government decisions affecting a community or their individual members” (Labani, Kaehler and De Dios Ruiz, 2008-2009: 9).

In other words, individuals or people who meet the criteria for selection need to vie or obtain this political power through electoral process or appointment before they can exercise it. Men and women who are qualified can participate in the election process; both sexes can vote and be voted for during election; unfortunately men are favoured more than their women counterparts. This is simply because men dominate the political arena, they formulate the rules of political game and they define or detect the standards for evaluation; and this male dominance results in women either rejecting male political fashion or rejecting politics altogether (Shvedova, 2005 and Parawansa, n.d).  studies have shown that women with disabilities show determination and recognize the importance of accessing leadership positions to achieve greater impact unfortunately women around the world at every socio- political level are poorly represented in parliament and are far removed from decision-making levels. Research has shown that women with disabilities are not only marginalized socio economically but also politically. They face the challenge of not only being discriminated against on the ground of being a woman but also being disabled and this greatly limits their capacity to exercise their political rights (Schur, 2003; Handicap international, 2003) )Women who want to enter politics find out that the political, cultural, public and social environment is very unfriendly or sometime hostile to them. The reason is that most African countries, Nigeria inclusive are unable to conduct credible elections and this is as a result of “long period of military rule and weak democratic processes which have led to the emergence of a political system characterized by discrimination, electoral violence, monetized politics, low political accountability, abuse and personalization of power, general apathy towards elections and low participation of critical segments of the society especially women” (Afolabi, 2010:1). Also, historical analysis of the constitutions and electoral laws and processes in Nigeria are not gender sensitive, even a critical look at the current composition of political decision makers/ policy makers in any region shows evidence that women still face numerous hindrances in participating in political arena (Shvedova, 2005).

1.2 Statement of the problem

To buttress the issue of under-representation of women in politics, Afolabi (2010) states that from available statistics/records women’s overall political representation and participation in government is less than 7% and the records of Nigeria electoral system shows that 2003 and 2007 elections witnessed unimagined increase in the number of women candidates and increased local mobilization of the majority of women, but at the end very few made it. For instance, out of 339 candidates for House of Representatives, 318 (94%) were men and 21 (6%) women; of 109 Senate, 105 (96.3%) were men while 4 (3.7%) were women and none for governor (100%) and president (100%). Again in 2007 -2011 elections out of 990 Houses of Assembly 936 (94.5%) were men and 54 (5.5%) were women; of 358 Houses of Representatives, 333

(93%) were men while 25 (7%) were women; of 109 Senate 100 (91.7%) were men and 9 (8.3%) were women; none for governor and president (United Nations Committee on Elimination of all Forms of Violence against Women, 2008).

This low participation of women in politics may be as a result of some socio-cultural, political, socio-economic, ideological and psychological factors which include: gender and cultural patterns, ideology, pre- determined social roles assigned to women, male dominance and control, limited access to education and illiteracy, poverty and unemployment, lack of confidence in other women, lack of access to information, conflicting demands on time of women candidates among others (Afolabi, 2010; Shvedva, 2005; Prarawansa and Inter-Parliamentary Union, 1999). The marginalization and low participation of women ran through all the political parties. For instance, the cultural tradition which supports patriarchy in most African societies upholds that men should be considered first in all human endeavours because women are looked at as second class citizens therefore should be under men’s control. Women are relegated to the background and are placed in subordinate positions in the family and the society at large. Men assume leadership positions in the family and take major decisions in the family even at the detriment of women; due to this subjugation, many girls and women are not educated so as not question the authority of men because women education ends in the kitchen as men usually say. Also this culture of patriarchy is a very strong determinant of male dominance over female and as a result men will sit back in the family to keep the family name and lineage growing while women will be married out. Thus men are being trained for leadership activities while women are confined to domestic activities; roles ascribed to them by culture which affect them later in life, thereby making them to lose self confident/worth and have low self- esteem in their career in adult life, politics inclusive. However, in politics, the manifestoes of the parties reveal the inclusion of gender provisions which exists only in theory and not in practice. For instance, “the articles of PDP and APGA titled ‘the character of the party’ and ‘the policy of women’ have it that the parties shall be a non tribal, non religious and non sexist democratic organizations (Afolabi, 2010:3) ; it shall promote the emancipation of women by encouraging their representation at all levels devoid of gender discrimination and shall emphasize more on the need to work in accordance with the Beijing declarations and promote gender parity and more inclusive democracy (Moghadam, 1993). But none of the parties abide by the rules guiding the parties on election matters with regard to women’s participation.

Similarly, Beijing Platform for Action calls on governments, national bodies private sector and political parties to implement measures to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision making, establish the goal of gender balance in all government bodies and committee, protecting and promotion of equal rights of women and men to engage in political activities. Yet most of these bodies ignore women when it comes to political matters or leadership positions because of the cultural belief that women are weaker sex. Equally the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) upholds the importance of women’s involvement in the political machinery of state parties and elimination of discrimination in women’s political participation through legal and temporary special measures and affirmative action (CEDAW, 2002).

Consequently, in Ekwusigo local government area, women are highly marginalized and are poorly represented in political activities. Some of the reasons are that culturally, women see politics as masculine activities; and also they are being limited by their domestic chores such as child rearing, care for the family members, poor orientation about what politics entails, illiteracy or limited education and violent political activities. As such, women prefer to vote for men candidates rather than to be voted for. Despite, all these Beijing declarations and party manifestoes, the problem of poor representation and participation of women in political activities in this area of study still persist. This problem could only be reduced through the implementation of government and parties’ policies. Implementation of polices and strategies are the most difficult challenges facing Nigeria and her citizens, and also the greatest obstacle to the pursuit of sustainable national development and peaceful co-existence. It is therefore necessary to identify the strategies for enhancing or improving women’s participation in politics in the area of study and Nigeria in general for a sustainable national development.

1.3 Objective of the study

The main objective of the study is a Critical Study Of Socio-Cultural Practices Hindering Women’s Political Participation. Specifically, the Study Sought to

  1. Find out the socio-cultural factors that hinder women’s participation in politics.
  2. Identify strategies for enhancing or improving women’s participation in politics

1.4 Significance And Justifications Of The Study

It has been observed that since before the creation of what came to be known as Nigeria today and with the attainment of independence; women were completely abandoned and lagged behind in the affairs of governance in all levels. Most gender studies tend to concentrate on men and their contributions thereby relegating women to the background. Women roles are subordinated which that of men is recognized. This research is significant because it will bring to light information obscured from public knowledge about women and politics in Kaduna State. It will also show how women played their roles effectively to support the state and the nation at large.

1.5 Research Questions

1.What are the socio-cultural factors that hinder women’s participation in politics?

  1. What are the strategies for enhancing women’s participation in politics?

1.6 Scope And Limitations Of The Study 

This is a research into the socio-cultural hindrance of women participation in Kaduna State politics between the period 1999– May, 2015. One of the reasons for dating this work 1999 – May, 2015, it coincided with the Fourth Republic which marked a turning point in women political participation. The period witnessed an increase in women’s participation in active politics. The limitations could be associated with time, resources (finance), the research was carried out at the same time attending my lectures. Also there are few materials (literatures) that were written on the topic under consideration. In addition, difficulties in conducting interviews as some informants were not ready or not willing to grant an interview

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Author: SPROJECT NG