On October 18, 2015, Spaces for Change’s director, Victoria Ohaeri, joined a team of all-male panelists on the “Parlour Show” on Radio Continental 102.3 FM, Lagos to discuss “Gender and Youth Representation in the Proposed Federal Cabinet” of President Muhammadu Buhari. Out of 36 ministerial nominees, only 6 are women. More tellingly, there is no single youth representation in the proposed list of ministerial nominees despite the fact that they form the critical mass of the electorate and voting population.
For two hours, the panelists x-rayed the social, economic and political barriers that limit women and youth participation in governance such as the highly monetized electioneering processes, godfatherism, unemployment, apathy and poor preparation. The huge gap in gender representation in the proposed federal cabinet rolls back the equality gains made between 2011 and 2015 when more women were influential decision-makers, and held a good number of the most powerful cabinet and corporate executive positions in Nigeria, ranging from petroleum, finance, communication technology, stock exchange, aviation, banking etc. Most progressive nations in the world have moved away from this sort of regression in gender representation, with many of them coming together to codify their denunciation of gender inequality in numerous international and regional agreements. Not only that, women’s underrepresentation in the proposed cabinet disaffirms the Affirmative Action of 35% representation for women, and more particularly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari joined world leaders to endorse in New York just last month. The 2030 Agenda underlines that “women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision-making.”
Stark as these realities are, policies and programs of government skew less attention to the huge deprivations women face throughout their lives, which cause them to lag behind socially, economically and politically.