...DAWN Commission to partner public service officials in the Southwest States
The alarming rate of women underrepresentation in the Nigerian polity is a major cause for concern to well-meaning individuals within and outside Nigeria. Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), in a study conducted in 2018, observed that women are underrepresented at the top echelon of governance in the country. It was observed for instance that the 8th National Assembly only has 7 women out of 109 Senators while the House of Representatives with 360 members only has 22 women. The situation is not quite different in the executive arm with only 6 female Ministers out of the 36 appointed by the President and sparse women Special Advisers and assistants.
The appalling scenario is not really different if we examine the current situation in the Southwest Region where we also have an abysmal percentage of women representation in elective public governance positions. For instance, there are not more than thirty-two women in elective positions out of hundreds that are available; two deputy governors, three Senators, two House of Representative members and eleven in the six State Houses of Assembly. Though, there are about sixteen commissioners, few Special Advisers and Permanent Secretaries/Directors-General across the six States of the Region. Unfortunately, we are not even sure we are going to have as much as we have currently in the next dispensation going by the outcomes of the recently conducted general elections.
The inability of the political class to appreciate the innate strength of women to add value to whatever endeavor they engage in is probably the major factor for marginalization of women in governance arena. It should however be noted that any country desirable of accelerated growth and development must take advantage of the huge number of women population within its territory.
The observed poor representation of women in governance space in Nigeria prompted DFID, through its funded governance programme, Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), to promote an initiative to build and support women effectiveness in public sector leadership tagged Women-in-Governance.
The Women in Governance (WIG) initiative is geared towards a balanced public service that engages diverse citizens groups made up of men and women in leadership positions and strengthening of women in positions of responsibility and leadership in government so as to become better change agents in their various organisations with direct influence on the development of quality policies, plans and strategies that will translate into quality public service delivery to citizens.
In pursuit of the Women-in-Governance’s objectives, DFID/PERL has organised two major conferences where women in public sector leadership across the Nation were hosted in Abuja in a week long conversations on leadership and mentorship. At the last conference, held in January, 2019, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) was invited to facilitate mentoring and advanced leadership skills. Two female representatives of DAWN Commission management attended the two conferences, and this has motivated them to action the concept of Active Women that is being mooted by the Commission.
The Active Women initiative was conceived by DAWN Commission prior to the launch of Women in Governance, but implementation methodology was still being worked on. However, the impact of the Women-in-Governance programme on the attendees has further energized us to fast-track our effort towards actualizing the Commission’s vision for the Active Women initiative. The initiative is about creating a platform for women to discuss issues of leadership, gender expectations and political participation. It will also be used for leadership recruitment and mentoring.
In view of this, the Commission plans to partner with the senior civil/public service officials in the Southwest States that also attended the conferences to create a platform for mentoring the young female officials as a form of succession planning for the civil service.