Today more women are taking charge and running the show in different capacities as businesswomen, captains of industries, CEOs, academics, and professionals. Yasss! Salute to all the Motherland Moguls making it happen.
For the longest time, politics all around the world has been referred to as the big boys’ game. Well, hold the door fellas because more girls wanna come in and play too.
It’s simple. There are various issues that affect us African women such as those tendered in the Nigerian Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill which failed to pass for the second reading in the Nigerian Senate.
Some of these issues include access to education, divorce rights, ownership of property. To get the laws that will favour us, we need better representation in government.
An article in the West Africa Insight declares that women are usually found at the bottom of the political chain; organizing, supporting, and acting as spectators as opposed to leading and initiating. Traditionally, the woman is relegated to the background and as such this practice has found its way into political participation.
In the ECOWAS parliament, we have only a minute number of female parliamentarians. Nigeria has one of the lowest numbers of female senators and ECOWAS parliamentarians (6.7% of parliamentarians in Nigeria are female). Despite decades of self-governance, this country has produced only two female governors in its entire history.
Does this mean that women are uninterested in politics?
Of course not. While we recognize that the participation of women in politics has been an immense struggle with several factors working against us such as financial constraints and cultural inhibitions, we must rise to the occasion. We commend the efforts of countries like Rwanda, South Africa and Namibia for taking a feminist stance in political representation. However, several African countries are still lagging behind.
We need to rewrite the story of women in Africa and it starts with every single one of us. Politics is not confined to running for office either. Some of us will rise to become the most influential persons in the government’s cabinet as ministers, commissioners, advisers and administrators.
It’s not just about women issues. If we are qualified and passionate about good governance, then we should put ourselves out there. If you have a dream to create an impact in your constituency, by all means work towards it.
Where should you begin?
For those of us who would like to make our foray into politics, these are some of the steps we need to be taking:
1. Start young
It’s not too early to plot your map and begin making steps towards your political future. Now is as good a time as any.
Take a leaf from Lindiwe Mazibuko, former parliamentary leader for the Democratic Alliance in South Africa who made history as one of the youngest parliamentarians.
She decided to veer into politics after being intrigued by her future party’s dynamics making it the focus of her final year dissertation in university.
2. Get involved with a cause
You need to be known for something. This is the time to begin to carve a niche for yourself. What social issues are you most passionate about?
There are several campaigns that you can get involved with depending on where your passions lie. Volunteer within the community.
Propelled by crises in her own life, Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi inspired and impacted the lives of women and children battling systemic abuse and poverty even before assuming public office.
She also fought to enact bills protecting women and children when she gained a seat in parliament.
3. Align with a mentor
Network with the people who can kick off your career and fund your aspirations. According to Political Parity, a platform aimed at helping women achieve their political aspirations, more women remain at the bottom tier because of lack of access to funding.
Mentors who are able to relay their experience as well as provide resources and connections play an invaluable role in an aspirant’s rise to success.
4. Develop the right skills to stay relevant
Hanna Tetteh became an indispensable member of her political party in Ghana after a worthy performance managing its communication strategy.
She has been described as an expert negotiator and it is no surprise that this skill has helped keep her at the top of the political ladder. What skills can you start to develop that will be useful when you begin building your political career?
5. Become an expert in your chosen field
As a young woman some people may already have their doubts about you so it is extremely important that you become a master in your field. Former Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonji-Iweala had a long career as an economist rising to one of the top positions in the World Bank before entering government.
Despite controversies, she was a prized asset in President Jonathan’s government due to her level of expertise.
Thulisile Madonsela became Public Protector of South Africa after receiving a 100 percent vote from parliament. She holds a BA in Law and an LLB, she was also awarded three honorary doctorates in law after an impressive record in public service.
She was involved in the drafting of South Africa’s constitution amongst other notable feats. No one can deny that she knows the law and would be an effective advocate for South Africans.
Begin to build a worthy resume by deciding what area you intend to become an authority in and by working diligently at it.
There you have it ladies, 5 steps that can help you ascend the political ladder. What moves will you be making?