The President of the Nigerian Association of Women Entrepreneurs (NAWE), Barr. Vera Ndanusa, has posited that the much talk about women in governance must go beyond tokenism as she urge politicians to begin implementation of their promises where the barrier of inequality and gender bias is broken completely especially in the 21st century.
“The country’s approach to the challenge of women’s underrepresentation in governance must go beyond mere tokenism of positions to genuine representation in which women’s voices are genuinely heard, valued and integrated into government policies and laws”, Ndanusa said while lending her voice to the recently concluded two-day international conference on women in governance organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja.
“Tokenism might satisfy diversity quotas, but the authentic inclusion of women in political leadership will change the course of Nigeria towards meaningful transformation and sustained growth,” Ndanusa continued.
According to her, women’s empowerment has five components: women’s sense of self-worth, their right to have and to determine choices, their right to have access to opportunities and resources, their right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally.
She noted that women’s empowerment is critical, given the general contribution of women to the Nigerian economy.
Delving into statistics Ndanusa said the informal sector accounted for 57.7 per cent of Nigeria’s 2022 GDP, making it a significant contributor to Nigeria’s economy. A 2021 World Bank report states that 80.4 per cent of Nigeria’s employment was in the informal sector.
“The report further shows that 82.1 per cent of women in Nigeria were in the informal sector, which makes women the single most influential force in the country, and their inclusion in governance structures is not a luxury but a necessity”.
She noted that the ‘renewed hope’ agenda of President Bola Tinubu makes an allowance for women’s empowerment, saying that the policy document recognises that if Nigeria is to reach its fullest potential, every segment of the population must be given a fair chance to make their best contribution to the well-being and advancement of the country.
The Agenda, according to her, highlights the specific need for social inclusion and political empowerment.
She said that she is confident that the President will work with the National Assembly to pass a law that promotes greater employment for women in all government offices, ministries and agencies to increase women’s participation in government to at least 35 per cent.
“The legislation, when prepared, will also mandate the federal executive to reserve a minimum number of senior positions for women and the private sector shall also be strongly encouraged to do likewise,” she said.
Ndanusa confirmed that President Tinubu has already achieved some milestones, with women constituting about 20% of the newly inaugurated cabinet.