In a report by the National Bureau of Statistics, women in Kwara state account for close to 50% of the state’s population, yet during the 2019 general elections, out of the 528 candidates who jostled for the 35 elective posts in the state, only 82 were women.
Thirty five candidates contested for the governorship position, only two were women and out of the fifty seven senatorial candidates, seven were females. On the House of Representatives list, eighty three candidates indicated interest to run, only ten were females and out of the three hundred and fifty three House of Assembly aspirants, women accounted for only sixty three.
The outcome of the election revealed that all of the 24 State Assembly members, six Federal House of Representative members, three Senators, the Governor and the Deputy Governor are all men.
Despite the low representation, female candidates who stepped into the race were allegedly forced out through funny tactics, one of such is Marian Adeniran, an aspirant for the state house of Assembly. While addressing journalists she claimed her mandate was stolen as she was sure she won the House of Assembly seat for Essa/Shawo/Igbodun constituency in the general election. Mrs Adeniran said it is an attempt to wage war on the female gender by some political gladiator.
In a state with a high mother and child mortality rate and illiteracy levels, the all men affair, apart from going against the 35% affirmative action as recommended by the United Nations also poses a threat to women who are concerned about the health and education of their children.
According to a 2015 report from the World Health Organization, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and child birth daily and a high percentage of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries including Nigeria. Nigeria losses 2300 children under five and 145 women of child bearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under five maternal mortality rate in the world. More alarming is the situation in Kwara state where access to care is limited, impacting on maternal and child morbidity.
Seeing that women have been completely shut out of the Kwara political system, some individuals and groups raised concern on the marginalization of women, one of such group is the “Kwara Must Change”.
On May 27 2019, the group in its first women summit to discuss the marginalization of women and proffer a way forward noted in its communique noted that since women have been denied opportunity into elective offices, thereby failing to meet the 35℅ affirmative action, demanded that women be given 50% position in appointed offices. Heeding to their demand, the state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrasak nominated nine women into his cabinet, a development lauded by Nigerians, particularly women in the state who expressed satisfaction with the appointment.
With women now occupying 57% of political positions, expectations are high about their level of performance. National Coordinator of the International Women Conference Center, Mrs Limota Gisoro Giwa urged the commissioner nominees to ” carry women along, listen to the plight of women, not to disappoint the women fold in terms of dignity, morality and performance. They should express gender mainstreaming in policy and planning and planning should be for one man, one woman.”
Ahead the 2023 general elections, women are optimistic that with the action of the state governor, more women will freely participate in the electoral process.
Reporter’s Note:( This special report on Kwara Politics is written by ANETTE JEJE)