Gender equality and women empowerment are not only human rights; they are also imperative for achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Women’s political participation is central to these goals, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are among the most important institutions for promoting and nurturing such participation.

With less than twenty percent of the world’s parliamentary seats occupied by women, it is clear that NGOs need to do more—and should be assisted in those efforts—to support women’s political participation. Globally, although forty to fifty percent of political party members are women, women hold only about ten percent of the leadership positions within those parties.

While severally, emphasis is laid on women’s numerical strength translating such into the attainment of power has been very difficult as women are perceived as the supporters club, team of cheerers and the clapping wing of political parties in contrast of their male counterparts.

Ensuring women’s equal participation in the decision making structures of parties is essential for promoting gender equality within them – and, ultimately, within society as a whole.

If democracy allows for diverse opinion and participation of different groups, then it cannot thrive by excluding women, which effectively constitute half on the world’s population and half of each and every single national population. The fact that the constitution is supposed to promote the evolution of the notion of the democratic process is not in doubt, what seems debatable is whether democratic process can flourish in the current dispensation where the constitution guarantee for women participation in politics are limited. This long essay will examine the extent of women participation in Nigeria politics and the extent of marginalization of women in politics and also the role NGOs play in women political participation in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, despite the significant roles of women before and after independence in development, corresponding economic, social and political power is still wanting.

The challenge of women’s participation in the political process in Nigeria has gained additional significance, since the return of democracy. Women’s aspiration to participate in politics is premised on the following ground; that woman in Nigeria represents half of the population (74.5 million) and hence should be allowed a fair share in the decision making and governance of the country. Secondly that all human being are equal and women posses the same right as male to participate in governance and public life. (Awe B. 2006).

By virtue of section 40(11) of the constitution states the following;

Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other person and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interest: Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the power conferred by this constitution on the independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that commission does not recognize.

Section 42(2) of the same constitution states further that;

(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person be subject to any form of discrimination. This further confirms that you can go to court to seek redress, if as a woman your franchise is violated and that the constitution as a whole prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

The constitution also state: Section 77(3) provided in inter alia:

(1) Subject to the provisions of this constitution, every senatorial district of Federal constituency established in accordance with the provision of this part of this chapter shall return a member who shall be directly elected to the senate or the House of Representatives on such may be prescribed by an Act of National Assembly.

(2) Every citizen of Nigeria who has attained the age of eighteen years residing in Nigeria at the time of the registration of voters for purpose of election to a legislature house shall be entitled to be registered as a voter for that election.

From the foregoing, it appears that there is nothing in the constitution, which excludes the participation of woman in politics in Nigeria, yet when it comes to actual practice, there is extensive discrimination.

The increasing salience of women’s issues and the resurgence of women’s movements have raised popular consciousness and intense academic discourse on poor participation of women in politics. Though women’s low political participation is a universal phenomenon, the imperative of women participation in democratic governance and human development cannot be over emphasized.

Sustainable democratic government relies upon the participation of all citizens in determining through elections and political processes, who governs them. It also depends upon the equality of all citizens under the law. Women’s legal status is closely linked with their political participation and has an impact on their ability to contribute to and benefit from economic and social progress. The involvement of women in political activities underscores this correct assertion:

Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective in all levels of decision making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved (Akiyode-Afolabi & Arogundade, 2003).

The possibility for all citizens – both males and females to participate in the management of public affairs otherwise known as mass or popular participation is thus at the very heart of democracy (Sodaro, 2001:247). Putting it more succinctly, the Inter-Parliamentary Union incorporated in the Universal declaration for Democracy that:

The achievement of democracy presupposes a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society in which they work in equality and complementarily drawing mutual enrichment from their differences (Inter-parliamentary Union, 1999).

This global low women’s participation in politics has prompted the emergence of campaigns to increase women’s political presence in countries around the world. The first major international action in favor of women universally was taken by United Nations in 1946 when it set up a commission on the status of women (Peterson & Runyan, 1999:11; Akiyode-Afolabi et al, 2003). In 1975 during the International Women’s Year, the UN General Assembly launched the UN Decade for Women (1976 – 1985) with a view to creating greater global awareness on the status of women and the girl child (Akinboye, 2004:13). This concern climaxed with the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 held in Beijing, China with the theme “Equality, Development and Peace”, the aim of which was to review and appraise the achievements of the UN Decade for Women (Omotola, 2007:33). One of the major activities of the year was the World Conference on Women that took place in Mexico.

However, despite these international instruments to encourage women involvement in political activities, the world still witnesses slow progress of women participation in politics (UNDP Report, 2005). The Inter-Parliamentary Union Report of 2007 indicates that there are only twelve countries where women attained the critical mass of 30% women representation in the parliament, out of which Rwanda, Sweden, Finland, Argentina are handful of countries that have elected more than 40% women to their legislative body (IPU, 2007). The Beijing Declaration that was adopted by participating governments at the world conference on September 15, 1995 admits inter alia:

The status of women has advanced in some important respects in the past decades but that progress has been uneven, inequalities between women and men have persisted and major obstacles remain with serious consequences for the well-being of all people.

Notwithstanding, in this respect, a number of organizations (NGOs) have been established to help women organized themselves and articulate their causes. Advocacy, enlightenment, capacity building and training workshop, among others, have been put together to equip women and women organizations with information and strategies to help them actively and effectively participate in the political process as members of political parties, candidate and as voters.

The protection of women’s mandate is the mandate protection of all Nigerians. For the goal of more women in politics are not fewer men in politics, but a more equitable society for everyone. In a final analysis, protection of women mandate is the securing of democracy in Nigeria.


It has often been argued that women do not get involved in politics due to patriarchy and as a result of operating in a male dominated society, which has kept them subservient over the years in all aspects of their lives, especially in politics. Moreover, Kelly (1984, p. xx) was apt to posit that, “it is an obvious fact that throughout historical time, women have been largely excluded from making war, wealth, laws, governments, arts, and science”. This assertion shows that women increasingly lost control over production, property, politics and their own person. The above statement has aptly captured the women situation when it comes to the issue of political and national development.

Meanwhile, despite being entrenched in the Constitution of Nigeria, that every sane adult from the age of 18 years and above has the right to vote and be voted for in Nigerian politics, this has consistently not been the case, as women who constitute half of the population and contribute immensely economically and socially towards the socio–economic-development of the nation. Unfortunately their participation at all levels of decision-making in Nigeria remains very low.

This can be attributed to the daunting challenges women have to face in their quest to enter into politics. Some of these challenges range from lack of funds to organize campaign, cultural stereotypes that consider women to be better fit for the reproductive duties such as child birth and the domestic chores that support the proper growth of the family which in most cases are never quantified (Ballington, 2005).

However, with the transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian democratic administration which signaled a break from decades of military dictatorship and general usurpation of the political will of Nigerians. One would have thought that women would also be represented equally based on the Beijing Declaration. On the contrary, with the percentage increase of 2%, 4% and 6% in women political participation and 6.3%, 8.8% and 7.3% women representation in the national parliament in 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections respectively, it is obvious that the perception that democracy would automatically boost women’s political involvement has not been validated after nine years of Nigeria’s return to civilian rule (Okocha, 2007; Akioyede-Afolabi, 2003; The Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008:3 & Adu, 2008:27).

While Nigeria has not been able to produce a female elected governor, in the 1999 election, only Lagos State had a female deputy-governor out of the 36 deputy-governors in the country and the subsequent elections did not witness any significant difference as there were only 6 women in the 2007 elections, from Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Imo, Plateau and Anambra States, out of the 36 deputy-governors in the country.

The percentages of women in the States’ Houses of Assembly across the country were 1.21%, 3.84% and 5.5% in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections respectively.  At the local government level, between 2003 and 2007 however, there were only 9 women out of the 774 chairpersons in the country.

This is an indication that women still face some challenges that needed to be studied and investigated appropriately, for politics is too important for the development of any society, to be left totally to men, who rarely understands women concerns and quest to participate in decision making.


The research question for these studies is as follows.

  1. What is the nature of women political participation in Nigeria from 1999 – till date?
  2. What are factors militating against women participation in the political space?
  • How can women participation in politics be encouraged in Nigeria?
  1. What is the rationale for having more women in politics?
  2. To what extent has OXFAM helped in ensuring more women participate in politics in Nigeria?


The broad objective of the study is to examine the role of NGOs in women political participation in Nigeria. A case study of OXFAM.

The specific objectives are stated below.

  1. To examine the nature of women political participation in Nigeria from 1999 – till date.
  2. To identify and examine the factors militating against women participation in Nigeria political space and find out how these constraints effects women participation in politics.
  • To suggest mechanisms and strategies that can encourage and promote women political participation in Nigeria.
  1. To determine the rationale for more women in politics.
  2. To assess the role of OXFAM in ensuring more women participation in Nigeria politics.




The study focused primarily on women political participation in Nigeria within the period of 1999 to 2015. Also it captures the role of OXFAM in the improvement of women political participation in Nigeria.

The basis of covering this period of time, is to assess the level of women political participation and also to ascertain whether any significant improvement have been recorded in that area within that period of time.

The study will extensively examine the factors hindering women political participation in Nigeria and also show reasons why women have to be actively and fully incorporated into Nigeria political space.


The research sought to explore and ascertain into specific context the dismal participation of women in Nigeria politics, following the country’s return to democracy in 1999. And also the role of OXFAM in fostering a stronger presence of women in the Nigeria political space. This therefore makes the study both timely and significant.

It is hoped that the findings will add to the existing knowledge on the challenges confronting women in politics and decision making process.

Students, policy makers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that seek further research, literature and other learning materials on the research problem would find this study useful. It will also serve as a guide for research processes.

The research will equally be beneficial to government agencies on gender related issues such as the ministry of women affairs etc, as it will aid them in their search for gender equality.

The research will give valuable guidance to those international organizations and development agencies which provide program support to NGOs and political parties in relations to women political participation.

This study will also help to enhance the advocacy efforts of those individual activists, and organizations who strive to bring gender issues that borders around women political participation to the limelight.

In addition, it could serve as reference material for women politicians to map out strategies that would help overcome most of the challenges confronting them as politicians in Nigeria.

Finally, the suggestions and recommendations that will be proffered in this study will help improve the level of political participation of women in Nigeria.



1.7.1  WOMEN

A woman in a simple term is an adult female human being as contrasted to a man, an adult male, and a girl, a female child. The term women are used to indicate biological sex distinction, cultural role distinction or both. The term is usually used for and adult while the term girl is used for a female child or adolescent. The term women are also used at times to identify a female woman regardless of her age, as in a phrase such as women’s right. These definitions however shows that a woman is an adult female who could be rational in her thinking, decisions and action that could benefit her and the environment which she lives. These definitions proves the capabilities and the credibility of every adult woman that could make or contribute positively to her community through decision making or making policies that would enhance the development of women folk as well as the generally of mankind.


There is no overall agreement on the definition of politics. In different areas and different societies and even from political thinker to another, the nature and scope of politics have been viewed very differently. In this sense, as Wolin writers, politics is created not given.

The concepts of politics reflect the values of those who hold them. In other words the definitions of politics are the same. Laswell, sees politics as “a variation for human interaction that decides who get what, when and how”. Marx, a German philosopher (1818-1993). Politics refers to class struggle for the redistribution of resources in society.

Politics may therefore be defined as “the science concerned with the state and of the condition essential to its existence and development”. In words of Janet Paul, politics is that part of social science which heads of the foundation of state and principle of government.


Participation entails involvement of citizens in some way with making decisions in the political system.

Roberts and Edwards (1991) described ‘participation’ as a term which is usually applied to voluntary rather than coerced, activities..?

They proceeded to explain the term by saying that when ‘participation’ is used in political context is thus: “the voluntary activities for an individual in political affairs including inter alia voting; membership and activity connected with political groups such as interest groups; political movement and parties; office holding in political institutions; the exercises of political leadership informal activities such as taking part in political discussions or attendance of political events such as demonstrations that attempts to persuade the authorities or members of the public to act in particular ways in relation to political goal.  Participation therefore is the voluntary involvement of eligible citizens in the political, social and economic activities of the political system.


Non-governmental organizations are those organizations that owe their existence, ownership and control to individuals, bodies and institutions outside the government circles. They are private organizations which function primarily to provide philanthropic, non-commercial services to the population (Olorode, 1997).

Generally speaking, most NGOs had their roots in foundations or endowments, which were established for the advancement of certain studies, philosophies or ideals. That is, most NGOs were founded primarily for the purpose of preparing specific philosophies associated with their founders.