Political consciousness is a state of political alertness as well as a form of empowerment that adequately equips the citizenry to make politically sound judgments and informed decisions.
In a fast paced developing global village that the world has become, it is not only an aberration to be politically passive. It is also dangerous, especially for women, who fall within the vulnerability line, just as much as children, since women and children are the most affected whenever there is unrest, be it political or socio economic. Across the globe, women are waking up to their political responsibility and the need to be more involved in the act of governance within their respective countries.
In the United States of America for instances, since the inception of the President Donald Trump’s administration many more people, especially women, have taken interest in politics and are actively involved in political activities. This is, perhaps, especially so because of the series of scandals associated with President Trump’s past, his alleged attacks on women and his controversial emergence as the President of the United States of America. According to Rutgers University Center for American Women and
Politics, 251 women recently ran for seats in the United States House of Representatives. The overwhelming majority of them are running in opposition to Trumps Republican party as Democrats. Among them is first-time candidate Alexander Ocasio-Cortez who shocked the Democratic establishment in June last year by upsetting longtime Congressman Joe Crowley in the primary as well as Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar who will be the first Muslim women ever to hold a seat when they are sworn in to the House of Representative this year.
It is important to note that these women were galvanized to action as a result of their dissatisfaction with the twist of events in their society and the need to air their voices and make a change especially on issues revolving around women right, racism (white supremacy), immigration, gender equality and fairness, issues which have become so sensitive and inflamed since Trump’s emergence in the White House. Similarly, in a patriarchy society, especially in third world countries where women’s rights are being infringed on and children are seen and not heard, it is even more imperative for women to be politically conscious and dynamic. Importantly, women in Africa need to be aware of the political events around them and the political environment they found themselves. They must be willing to move pass the debilitating non active role imposed on them by society, culture and tradition and take a firmer stance in the issues that affects them. It is estimated by experts that women’s participation in Nigeria politics is poor. According to statistics, in 2013 women accounted for 8% of all National leaders and 2% of all Presidential posts. Similarly, 5 women out of the 14 persons that contested the Vice Presidential position while 14 men contested the post of President in 2015.
Essentially, being politically responsive is vital as it keeps one abreast of political happenings and constantly informed and updated on political information, education, policies, government activities, programmes and initiatives. One gets in tune with the political system and is able to ascertain to what level his\her needs as a people, group, class and gender are being met.
In spite of the affirmative action of 35% representation of women in political and non elective positions in Nigeria, the number of women in the Legislative houses is not encouraging as a result of the patriarchal dominance in our society. For instance, in the political history of Nigeria, there has been only one Female Governor, Dame Virginia Etiaba (Anambra State). Also, it was estimated that women participation in politics declined to 0.052% in 2017 from 0.097% in
2016, representing a 46.4 percent drop making the proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament 5.60% as at 2017. Interestingly, the percentage\ratio of women to men voters in Nigeria is higher, data released by INEC shows that in 2015 the total numbers of registered voters were 68,833,476 out of this figure 22,944,984 were men and 45,888,984 were women. That means women formed a significant percentage of the registered voters’ population and can take advantage of the number to influence the tide of growth and development in their domain by increasing female representation in Government. This will, not only empower women, but will also advance women’s rights and the rights of children.
Nonetheless, there are hosts of issues affecting women and children in Nigeria. These include domestic violence, sexual abuse, and gender inequality in work-place, home and society, girl-child marriage, maternal and infant mortality amongst others. Hence, there is urgent need for women in the country to be more politically active in order to change the tide of events and narrative. It is in doing this that they will promote gender equality and women empowerment in tune with the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (2030).
As the countdown to the general elections reaches a crucial stage, preparation must begin in earnest on our part as women to ensure that the most capable and reliable candidate occupies the seat of power. We need to be active participants in the decision-making process and initiatives that affects our national life and future.
Ultimately, the price to pay when unscrupulous leaders take hold of power is enormous. Obedience, they say, is better than sacrifice while prevention is better than cure. Your vote is your power, your ace card; with it you can decide who sits in the council chair within your
local political ward, or who represents your ward at the house of assembly. You can also ensure that more women get the opportunity to serve in political offices. Therefore, women should make their votes and voices count in the 2019 general elections across all levels, by getting fully involved in the electoral process. God bless Nigeria
Aruya is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja