Governance in Heels


The role and contributions of women in the affairs of their nation, especially developing countries, for several years, have been neglected and relegated to the background. However, the tide is changing and the mountains are giving ground. Singapore is a good example of one of such countries where women are participating actively in the position of governance and leadership. It can be positively argued that it is not just a significant progress that has been made by women in the Singaporean politics but dominance has been ensured considering the fact that it is a developing country.

The Peak: Women in Singapore have served in lots of high positions but on the 13th of September 2017, they set a milestone in the politics of Singapore when Halima Binti Yacob became the first female president of the country. A feat she achieved without opposition. In a statement posited by Professor Tan,” this outcome should prompt more eligible women from all races to step forward and run, whether in an open or reserved election”

At the PAP (People’s Action Party) Women’s Wing 3rd Annual Conference on the 18th of April 2015, Grace Fu, the first female House leader, Community and Youth minister and full minister of a ministry, stated that “Women in Singapore have equal opportunities for education and support to pursue their career and family aspirations; they enjoy peace and security and have also contributed to all aspects of Singapore’s development.

Active participants: In 2009, Lim Hwee Hua became Singapore’s first female Cabinet minister. In January 2013, Halimah Yacob followed suit in January 2013 to become Singapore’s first female Speaker of Parliament.

One of the women that later became a strong pillar in the politics of the country even till date, Grace Fu was appointed as the Culture, Community and Youth Minister, making her the first female full minister to head a ministry. She also became the first woman to be appointed Leader of the House.

In her statement “With more women coming on board the political landscape, we hope to have a greater voice for women,” said Ms. Fu. “There are issues that women can probably relate to better, for example; when it comes to childcare issues, balancing family as well as career. Also, specific issues such as children’s education, somehow as a mother, women have a stronger voice or certain opinions that may be slightly different from the fathers.”

She also stated some undeniable challenges that female leaders face, especially in politics. According to her, being a woman in politics oftentimes unfairly attracts some challenges such as How does she look? How does she perform? I think sometimes women can’t deal with those public criticisms as well as the men. They will have to get over it, build up the resilience to criticism like that and just do their very best.

As at September 2015, there was up to 22 women in Parliament out of a total of 92 seats – making up nearly 24 percent of the House. Though this is lower than what the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by the Singapore Government in 1995, recommends. It says that women political representation should be at least 30 percent to form the ‘critical mass’ that will have a real impact on political style and content of decisions. But this 24% is certainly a sign of the good beginning of good things to come for Singaporean women.

Another emerging Amazon in Singapore, Associate Professor Paulin Straughan of the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore in addressing the role of women in politics stated “we have to be careful that we don’t come across as arguing for quota representation. Rather, it should come from skill, value-add perspective such as- Is a woman different from a man in the boardroom? Will a woman bring a different perspective into the political arena?”

Apart from policymaking, it is argued that possessing male-like attributes is key for female leaders to succeed. In the words of Yacob Halima “Whether they have attributes that are male-like is really not relevant. “If we assume that just because they possess those attributes, they will automatically be able to be better leaders, I think those are really quite simplistic.”

She added that when women are chosen for leadership positions, not just in politics but other types of leadership positions, it is important that they are chosen based on whether they can make the positive mark to the development of the countries politics and add value to the decision-making process for the general good of all.

Yacob Halima who was the first female speaker of the parliament believes she will not be the last female to attain that position. She further stated that “Willingness must be on the part of the women that are aspiring to reach greater heights in Singaporean politics to understand themselves and recognize that their voice matters. Also that their place at the table is important and that they can contribute by making policy-making more accommodating to the people


Even though it was tough being a woman in politics, Dr. Wong proved her worth, along with other pioneering women leaders like Chan Choy Siong, Dr. Dixie Tan, Yu-Foo Yee Shoon and Seet Ai Mee.

These women set the pace for other women to also strive to carve their name on the political legacies of the country.

In the Education sector, women in Singapore have defied the perception that women’s education is a waste of resources and time by producing a lot of educated ones who have attained high societal status in the country. In September 2015, the country appointed its first female chancellor in the educational sector. This was a big achievement for women in the country.

In expressing her delight, Dr. Aline Wong said her appointment as SIM University’s Chancellor came as a surprise. In an interview, she expressed happiness that yet another leadership avenue has been opened up for women. “Everywhere in the world, it is not that common yet for women to be in the leading positions in universities,” said Dr. Wong. “Over the last 50 years in Singapore, you can see we have made tremendous progress, not only in terms of educational opportunities, job opportunities but also in politics”.

Dr. Aline Wong was no stranger to the leadership role in the country. She became an active politician in 1984 and was subsequently elected Member of Parliament in four consecutive general elections.  She was also a senior minister of state before she retired in active politics in 2001.

According to her, politics in Singapore before the active role of women was sheer discrimination which was not so in some other countries of the world. She also stated that “Structural barriers have been removed for women. The society has been accepting women’s leadership roles in more and more domains.”

The economy of Singapore has equally enjoyed the contribution of women. Owing to the increase in the number of women in the Singaporean workforce as well as the good working environment, in 2005, Singapore had an influx of women from Japan who sought to work freely as women. This was as a result of the pace that was set in Singapore by their women.


It is no longer news that the advent of digitalization has brought about a rapid change in economic and socio-political activities of world nations. It is also a fact that there has been an intensive push among women to assume positions of leadership in different spheres of influence.

Shattering glass ceilings has not been an easy task; however, as women press for progress in the achievement of gender equality globally, the objective to not only have a quota system, but seize suitable leadership positions from which their voices can be heard has become paramount.

A study conducted by the World Economic Forum found women in 63 out of 142 nations had served as the head of state or government in the 50 years leading up to 2014.

As at February 2018, only a handful of women make the list of world leaders. Those women include

H.E. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany; H.E. Ana Brnabić , the Prime Minister of Serbia; H.E. Halimah Yacob, the President of Singapore; H.E. Mercedes Aráoz, the Prime Minister of Peru; H.E. Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada; H.E. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand; H.E. KatrínJakobsdóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland; H.E. Dame Sandra Mason, the Governor-General of Barbados; H.E. Viorica Dăncilă, the Prime Minister of Romania; H.E. Paula-Mae Weekes, President-Elect, Trinidad and Tobago; H.E. Kersti Kaljulaid,  President of Estonia; H.E. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; H.E. Hilda Heine, the President of Marshall Islands; Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor, Myanmar; H.E. Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan; H.E. Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the  President of Nepal; H.E. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the President of Croatia; H.E. Saara Kuugongelwa, the  Prime Minister of Namibia; H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the President of Malta; H.E. Dame Marguerite Pindling, the Governor-General of The Bahamas; H.E. Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile; H.E. Erna Solberg, the  Prime Minister of Norway; H.E. Dame Cécile La Grenade, the Governor-General of Grenada; H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė, the President of Lithuania; H.E. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

According to UN Women reports Only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 percent in 1995. As of October 2017, 11 women were serving as Head of State and 12 serving as Head of Government. Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women there won 63.8 percent of seats in the lower house.Globally, there are 38 States in which women account for less than 10 percent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, as of June 2016, including 4 chambers with no women at all.

This is a far cry from the 50% expectation of women who have constantly championed the crusade towards a better representation of women in governments.

In as much as women clamour for suitable positions, it is important to take into consideration the sad fact that a majority of the women who have held positions of power did so for less than four years. This begs the question: What quality of female leaders is being produced?

Getting positions for impact in world governments requires women to think like no ceiling exists and break through the bounds of sociocultural stereotypes. It also requires a lot of capacity building and self-development.

Just like the preparation needed for taking up a career, it is not enough to desire choice positions from which one can make a significant impact. Women should learn to train hard if they are to compete favorably in what is usually referred to as a man’s world.

Challenging oneself to be better with governance in view may involve receiving mentorship from the world’s finest leaders; learning from the best. It is true that many may not have access to mentors of their choice but that is where books and the social media come in.

Far gone are the days when people and in fact women rest on their oars and watch valuable opportunities pass them by.

How can women claim their prize?

For emerging economies, there is a lot to bedone as regards the representation of women in government. There is a need for a total overhaul of the system beginning from the grassroots to the top. Here are some of the steps towards achieving equal representation:

  • Proper education: education is the foundation upon which any action of women across developing regions can be fruitful. From childhood, confidence should be instilled into the girl-child. She should be taught the importance of morals and the tenets of leadership. She should be taught to believe in her strengths and explore them. In the same vein, attention should not be shifted from the male-child as he should be taught not to see the girl-child as a rival but the missing piece of an uncompleted task. Women should educate themselves on leadership and good governance qualities as much as possible. 
  • Create unique leadership value systems: it has been observed that people get bored and frustrated with bad and corrupt leadership systems. Women should strive to carve a niche for themselves where most or all of the vices in regular systems of government are ruled out. 
  • Public service: As much as possible, women should undertake community service activities, philanthropic and humanitarian activities where their impact and goodwill will be felt. By constantly serving people it becomes a lifestyle and as such when called to serve in a higher position it becomes an easy task.
  • Join women action groups that work: More women should be involved in action group activities where positive energy is channeled towards noble causes
  • Put sentiments aside: One of the reasons why people see women as unfit to rule is because they tend to be more emotional than logical. It is okay for women to be emotional beings but just like in the boardroom, serious state maters require more of logical reasoning.
  • Women need to believe in themselves: in recent times, a number of women groups have come up with slogans such as “sister support sister” and so on. It is very important that women join forces to support other women. Those currently in leadership positions are to provide mentorship and lead aspiring women to the top. Mothers are to encourage daughters as older women are to encourage the younger generation of women. This way, women will thrive in all spheres of influence

There is established and growing evidence that women’s leadership in political decision-making processes improves them. A new report from WomenRising2030, says male-dominated companies risk losing out on significant economic opportunities linked to sustainability and better performance.It is time to take full advantage of the opportunities before us and become in reality the women we only see in our dreams.

By: Eruke Ojuederie


By Joshua K. Ogbonna.

Politics has never been a strong point for women in particular regions or countries, but with democracy taking the center stage in most elective processes across the globe, a lot of women are coming into the picture and this was at its peak in 2017. The global movement for gender equity is meant to bring about social change leading to increased political participation by women. Legislating equality does not instantly guarantee a society’s acceptance of it. In Africa, Asia, and the Middle-east the focus of the women folk has largely been relegated to household upkeep but that narrative is being corrected by countries promulgating several women’s bill of rights and the active involvement in the political process – seeking elective positions and being voted for.

According to a Chinese proverb, “Women hold up half the sky” and that has become internationally adopted to affirm women’s equal contribution to society and the struggle for their rights to equity in health, education, economic opportunities, and political participation. The recent prosperity in East Asia has narrowed the gender gaps, women’s political participation but this has not totally reflected in the pace of economic development. Although human development is a necessary factor that results in women’s political empowerment, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Of great importance are customary practice,  healthy socioeconomic conditions, conducive political systems, and gender-friendly political cultures enable women’s political participation and leadership. These factors combine to have different effects in particular national and local contexts, creating significant variation across East Asia.

Notably, in Mongolia, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, New Caledonia, and the nonindependent territories of French Polynesia, gender quotas and reservations have significantly improved women’s political representation at national and local levels. The repressive cultures in the past in these countries have given way to the parity principle which avoids the use of quotas and reservations to limit women’s representation rather than to achieve equal representation. For gender quotas to be successfully adopted, women’s movements must be consolidated and supported by the governments of the countries, political bias must be treated properly because it is the major hindrance to proper political participation.

In a research paper presented  at the African Studies Association, at its annual meeting held in Philadelphia, PA, Aili Mari Tripp, a Professor of Political Science, Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison opined that “Gender and politics in Africa is an emerging field of study which poses many new and exciting possibilities for new scholarly agendas. There is still a lot we don’t know, including the role of traditional authorities, women in local politics, women, and decentralization, and the constraints and possibilities for women in authoritarian and semi-authoritarian/semi-democratic regimes. We need more historical work. But perhaps above all, we don’t have a good sense yet of what difference women in power make, particularly in authoritarian and hybrid regimes. We have seen increases in woman-friendly legislation in countries like Uganda being advanced by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. At the same time, the disappointing persistence of nepotism and patronage politics and corruption in a female-headed country like Liberia shows just how intransigent old habits can be. The increase of women in politics signifies that norms have changed and are changing, and it represents a step toward greater equality.  If women are not represented politically, their voices will not be heard and their interests are less likely to be advanced.

Nevertheless, women enter institutions with long histories and established ways of doing things. Although some women will challenge the status quo and will see themselves as advocates for women’s rights, many become absorbed into these same institutions and behave much like the male legislators, ministers, and presidents that came before them. It is these processes that we need to better understand.”

Africa has taken the lead, far more than Asia and Europe which use to be a stronger ground for female parliamentarian and politicians. African countries have some of the world’s highest rates of representation.The admirable reforms of president Paul Kagame in Rwanda has earned Rwanda the world’s highest ratio of women in parliament. In the 2003 election, 48 percent of parliamentary seats went to women. In the next election — 64 percent. Today Rwandan politics is cited as a model of gender inclusiveness.  In Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa, more than 40% of parliamentary seats are held by women, while in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, and Uganda over 35% of seats are occupied by women. On the other hand, Women in the U.S. Congress 2017, In 2017, 105 (78D, 27R) women hold seats in the United States Congress, comprising 19.6% of the 535 members; 21 women (21%) serve in the United States Senate, and 84 women (19.3%) serve in the United States House of Representatives.

The parliamentary patterns are evident in other areas as well. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first elected woman president in Africa in 2005, Joyce Banda was also the president of Malawi very recently and President Ameenah Gurib- Fakim of Mauritius. There have been nine female prime ministers in Africa since 1993, including Luisa Diongo in Mozambique, who served for six years. Since 1975 there have been 12 female vice presidents like Wandira Speciosa Kazibwe in Uganda, also countries like Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Gambia and Djibouti, South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Burundi have had female vice presidents. There are female speakers of the house in one-fifth of African parliaments, which is higher than the world average of 14%. Women are taking over key ministerial positions in defense, finance, and foreign affairs, which is a break from the past when women primarily held ministerial positions in the so-called ‘softer’ ministries of education, community development, sports, and youth.  Today, South Africa has had a female defense minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, while Kemi Adeosun serves as Nigeria’s finance minister succeeding Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Esther Nenadi Usman.

Women are similarly visible in regional bodies, holding 50% of the African Union parliamentary seats. Gertrude Mongella served as the first president of the Pan African Parliament and in July 2012, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma took over the leadership of the African Union Commission. Even at the local level, women make up almost 60 percent of local government positions in Lesotho and Seychelles, 43 percent of the members of local councils or municipal assemblies in Namibia, and over one-third of local government seats in Mauritania, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. More women than men vote in countries like Botswana, Cape Verde, Lesotho, South Africa and Senegal, although overall rates for men seem to be about 5% more in countries surveyed by Afrobarometer.

These patterns are evident in the judiciary as well with the advancement of women judges at all levels.  African women judges are even making it into the international arena with Fatou Bensouda from Gambia holding the post of chief prosecutor in the International Criminal Court since 2012. Interestedly, all but one of the current five African judges on the ICC are women.

These global sweeping changes must be embraced can be explained by the following interconnected features: 1) the economic stability of the concerned region; 2) the development of pro-gender equality groups, particularly the giveaway the military and most dictatorial societies to more opened administrations, along with the emergence of autonomous women’s movements that accompanied this opening; 3) pressures from global bodies like the UN agencies, regional organizations, donors and other external actors that influenced the state.

The reforms going on in Saudi Arabia are quite difficult to neglect. These reforms are in line with a wide-ranging plan announced by 32-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman to bring social and economic change to the oil-dependent kingdom, known as Vision 2030.

The promotion of gender-based rights has hit a snag in Africa and the middle East where religion and widely held traditional beliefs have dominated a lot of decision-making and policy-formulating processes. There have been accusations of female activists, clerics, and academics as dissidents funded by the Western countries.

In September, a royal decree said that women would be allowed to drive for the first time from June 2018 was pronounced. Prince Mohammed has said that “moderate Islam” was key to his plans to revolutionise the country. In a high-level business conference in Riyadh, Salman said “We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world, we will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today.”

In a cascade of barrier-breaking moments, the ban on women from stadium activities was also lifted, with Saudi Arabian women granted access to attend a rally to celebrate the 87th annual National Day of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on September 23.

Of particular concern in the upliftment of the driving ban are the several “Guardianship Laws” that have given men a total control over the female folks. Under these laws, women cannot travel abroad, work or undertake some medical procedures without the consent of their male “guardian,” often a father, a husband or even more preposterous, a son. While the implementation of these guardianship laws has been lax in recent years, little has been done to stop Saudi men from limiting the movements of their wives or daughters.

Although many Saudis are largely conservative, these new laws will basically give a boost to other expected laws. The Saudi byelaw stipulates voting(during elections) to be by “all citizens” but in the upcoming provincial elections( the first in the Kingdom’s history), the women would not be allowed to cast their ballots. It is expected that this sweeping reforms will open up other necessary frontiers.

Today in most developing countries, there is a conscious effort towards curbing child marriage. As world leaders seek workable methods to bring this practice to an end, women in government and top executive positions have a role to play in ensuring that children are safe and have a secure future.

Choosing who to marry and when to marry are parts of the fundamental rights in the life of any human being. Considering the importance of this activity(marriage), it must of necessity be done with full consciousness  ̶  with the individual fully aware of the import of such a decision. A few days ago, news making the rounds was the completion of the drafting of the bill that will put an end to child marriage in the country of Zimbabwe. Not only is it heartwarming that the outlawing of this age-long practice that has held so many countries spellbound is near extinct, but of noteworthiness is the prospective reflection of this bill on the cultural development of Africa – this keeps Africa in tandem with the world’s revered countries.

According to the Human Rights Watch, investigations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malawi, Nepal, South Sudan, Tanzania, Yemen, and Zimbabwe – countries with high incidences of child marriage, show that early marriage has a catalogue of  consequences, which are activated in a chain-like sequence – from totally terminating the girl’s ability to access several benefits, to leaving school early, undergoing the demands of pregnancy and precocious motherhood. The hazards totally underwhelm the ‘benefits’. Other impacts include marital abuses, from the minor to major ones, an increased risk of domestic violence, a reduced chance of a normal source of livelihood, the risk of HIV transmission, and most importantly, the irreparable emotional damage done to the child – as seen in a lot of these brides.

In a 2015 UNICEF report titled State of the World’s Children, the countries with the highest rates of child marriage before age 18  were:Niger* — 76 percent, Central African Republic — 68 percent, Chad* — 68 percent, Bangladesh* — 65 percent, Mali* — 55 percent, Guinea — 52 percent, South Sudan* — 52 percent, Burkina Faso — 52 percent, Malawi* — 50 percent, Mozambique — 48 percent. The report goes that “Of the 25 countries with the highest rates of child marriage, the majority are affected by conflict, fragility, or natural disasters.” It places Africa at the centre of the fight against this act that belies rights’ suppression.

Save The Children ( a not-for-profit, which focuses on the pertinence of eradicating child marriage)in collaboration with other international rights from West and Central Africa, religious and traditional leaders and civil society groups committed to a three-day summit. The group received an elevated commitment from Burkina Faso’s first lady, Sika Bella Kabore, who has pledged that her nation would end child marriage by 2025.

Statistically, the number of illegal child marriages has increased worldwide since 2015, from 11.3 million to 11.5 million. The numbers seem not to be reflective of the effort put into the campaign, but considering the countries culpable in this, and how it is highly regarded as a handed-down culture, more intensifying efforts have to be put into this worthy cause. In the same vein, 82.8 million girls aged 10 to 17 still have no protection against child marriage. The number of girls exempt from clauses which allow parents and judges to consent to marriages, increased to 96.1 million.

With the global outcry for an increase in the quality of the girl-child education, other countries and societies where this practice is upheld must of necessity, reappraise the role of the girl child in the family, and consequently review this law.

Yousafzai Malala, the 20-year-old Pakistani and youngest Nobel Laureate has been at the fore of the campaign for the girl child education – an antithesis of child marriage. On October 9, 2017, she announced to the world (on Twitter) her enrollment for a college degree. Malala has been travelling around the globe, campaigning for the rights of the girl child – a cardinal mandate of her organization – to campaign for an access to quality education for the girl child.

Today, no nation can afford to shortchange the girl child by limiting her to an early family life and an unprepared motherhood -without necessary provisions for a quality life i.e one that grants her good economic, education, self-empowering opportunities, and most importantly, the power to DETERMINE HER CHOICES. Any country that holds tight to this self-destructive practice would experience a dearth of human resources, human capital development, competitiveness, productivity, and economic development. Schemes that discourage gender-based participation in socio-economic activities must be sustained.Because in them, are ladened the silver bullet to eradicate poverty and other ravages of humanity and our collective humanness. Above all, it is time women in key positions take a stand on this matter and devise ways of appealing to the consciences of parents, traditional rulers, and stakeholders in gender-related fields. This will go a long way in changing the tide and securing the future of the girl-child.

By: Miracle Nwankwo

Just like other parts of the world, Asia is not devoid of the dramas that have to do with the participation of women in political activities and governance. Although Asia has enjoyed a high record of women in positions of power both in the past and present, the clogged wheels of incompetence (or so we are made to believe) remains a recurring challenge considering the almost abrupt displacement of some of these seemingly powerful women.

Dating back from 1960 when Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first female head of government in Sri Lanka and Indira Gandhi, who was the first female prime minister of India, Asian women have left no stone unturned in the fight for political positions Despite this fact, it is discouraging to note that the early start of women participation in politics did not particularly change the narrative as Asia’s political scene is still very much patriarchal.

It was with great displeasure that women around the world received the sad news of the impeachment of the first female president in the history of South Korea at the beginning of 2016. This like the few others before it, seems to have dampened the heightened hope of women especially those in Asia, on the progress made in the fight for equal rights for women.

The question is how can women in the political scene sustain power and execute projects and programs effectively?

Over the decades, most of Asia political women have lived on hereditary powers- being related to an already established male politician as wives, daughters, or sisters.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Gloria daughter of Diosdado Macapagal the Philippino ninth president (from 1961 to 1965), served as the fourteenth president of the Philippines for ten years (2001 to 2010). Also, Park Geun Hye the first and eleventh president of South Korea is the daughter of Park Chung Hee the third president of Korea, and lots more.

Even though there are other self-made female politicians, there is still a huge gap compared to their male counterparts.

How does this system affect the performance of women in positions of power? In my opinion, it seems to mean that such women may be limited when it comes to formulating and advocating for unique political agendas which are exclusively theirs, and will most likely champion women-related causes in their country. They may be forced to continue the legacy of their fathers, husbands, and brothers, whom they inherited power from.

It is therefore expedient that more women are giving more opportunities in the political systems, whether or not they be related to any former or existing political male leader so that they can live up to their dreams and support their nations through their emotional and patient nature that helps them to make right decisions.

Women leaders serve as a source of inspiration and role models to the younger generation. However, if they do not leave a footprint or succeed in becoming pathfinders for the younger women in the society, there will be no place for women in politics in the future generation.

It is also important to mention that in such scenarios where no woman is found in politics, more harm than good will befall the political world and future generations. This brings us back to Asia where half of the population is composed of women. If these women are not given full roles in the policy-making bodies in the region, this will become a huge threat to the economy and globalization culture of Asia.

However, it may seem as if this thought is baseless seeing that a tiny nonpareil group of highly educated women in Asia have attained high positions in governments, the majority of women are still lagging behind.

The problems faced by women in politics in many Asian countries first has to do with the lack of friendly electoral systems for the political woman. The electoral rules that are laid down in politics are very unfavorable to a woman based on her gender and natural compositions. The political woman in Asia also suffers lack of a supportive political cultural system.

There are still other unmentioned issues that women in Asian political sectors are faced with, and no solution is yet to be proffered to the problems.

It is necessary that as girls and women are given full rights to vote in elections, they should also be allowed to participate in a larger number in governance because the participation of women in governance stimulates positive change in health, community wellbeing, poverty reduction, and family welfare.

Discriminatory laws should be frowned at and abolished, also all institutional and cultural barriers that stand as limitations for the women to gain access to any aspect of life should be removed as long as it does not violate the laws of nature.

In conclusion, the whole idea of Asia having more women in governance and politics than other countries of the world is all a paradox. More participation from ordinary and self-made women is essential and will add value to the system if allowed.

The acceptance of women in political sectors is a non-negotiable step to achieving global gender equality and democratic governance.

By: Ene Ikpebe

‘Diversity and inclusion,’ a phrase that has increased in popularity over the last few years. The governments of the west, are replete with committees on matters of diversity, and consultants are being hired to create a favorable image for politicians as regards their stance on inclusion. Unfortunately, it is yet to rise to the top of the priority list for the governments of developing nations.


Interestingly, some of the most respected international organizations which developing countries interact with think that diversity and inclusion, specifically in terms of gender equality, should be of utmost concern. They believe it is a prerequisite for development.


In a 2015 interview with Nafis Sadiq, the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General, she expressed her desire to see more women in leadership positions, to have more political participation from women in general, and to hear the voices of women who are passionate about different issues. Her desires are shared by an increasing number of people worldwide, and gender equality is #5 among the Sustainable Development Goals. This goal is to be achieved in part by “ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” Still, only 22.2% of Sub-saharan Senates are made of women, maybe surprisingly higher than the 16% in Asia and 12.6% in Arab states, and only 22.8% of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016. This piece discusses the significance of women in politics, the positive impacts that should make it a development strategy, and the obstacles to achieving gender parity with regard to political participation.

To place the current fight for equality in the proper context, it is important to understand how gender equality in politics has evolved over the years. Voting is the most basic unit of political participation, but women in developing countries only got this in the past century. Most Latin American women were not allowed to vote until after the Second World War and African women had to wait until after their independence from colonialism in the 1960s and 1970s, with South African women not voting until as late as 1994. Given that these freedoms were not granted peacefully, but entailed significant amounts of struggle, we must consider reasons why it would benefit the developing world to seek the full integration of women into politics, and be proactive about realizing it.

The table below gives the percentage of women in the national parliaments of select developing nations.


Table 1: Women in National Parliaments



Percentage of Women









South Africa 2014



2014 23.8




Nigeria 2015



2016 23.8



Congo 2012






Evidently, the numbers follow no observable pattern, with Zimbabwean and Bolivian parliaments having up to 47% women while Nigeria sees a mere 16.5%. This might be interpreted as a lack of cohesive understanding regarding its importance, which is unfortunate since research literature is quick to draw a positive connection between women in politics and development. Stockemer, for instance, agrees with this notion. One might argue that the relationship exists but in the opposite direction. That is, developed countries are the ones who have more women in politics. But this is inaccurate as countries with low levels of socioeconomic development are the ones with higher levels of female political representation.  Again, this indicates the need for a proper understanding of the benefits of women in politics.


First, women produce a diversity of views and ideas with regards to public issues, thereby ensuring thorough policy analysis and holistic approach to problem-solving. Developing countries, even though friendlier to women in formal politics, should realize that the very measures that they seek to improve would be positively impacted by greater female involvement. There is evidence that women in government in developed countries tend to emphasize such issues as access to birth control and child care, equal pay for equal work, affirmative action, and policies against sexual harassment while women in developed countries are more concerned with access to childhood immunizations, clean water, primary health care services, and affordable food. Therefore, developing countries should become more aggressive in their approach to achieving gender equality in politics so that issues like maternal and child health as well as girl child education – which has been proven to be linked to more controlled populations, and better socio economic conditions – will be taken more seriously.

But just as positive impacts abound, myriad challenges stand between developing countries and full political integration of women. Some of them are deep-set issues that will take consistent work transcending political administration changes to reverse, while others are what might be called double-pronged solutions in the sense that they address gender equality issues on matters of politics as well as in other areas. There are great women who have been politically active in Nigerian history, for instance, and the restored democracy of 1999 recommended 35% women participation in the National Policy on Women adopted the next year, but the unaggressive approach to achieving this, in reality, has left a less than healthy level of women involvement in politics and government, and points to the need for a review of the obstacles to greater women participation.


Primarily, education disparities are a hindrance to women in politics. Some may disagree with this view and propose a focus on the policies regarding freedom of entry into politics as the actual culprit. And they are right, but only on the surface level. If we think about it, simply opening the political space to women will not guarantee their entry. There are more underlying issues and I believe that a more educated female population would be more prepared to take advantage of new opportunities, speak passionately about their plans for their constituents, and compete on a level playing field with their male counterparts. Furthermore, only educated women might understand just how important it is for them to express themselves politically and struggle to participate in decision-making in public affairs. It is, therefore, my view that education should be the primary avenue for encouraging women into politics. Every girl-child should be availed of the opportunity to get a quality education, and whilst doing so, be encouraged no less than her male peers to aspire to leadership, political or otherwise.


But I recognize other hindrances like work-life balance, a very practical obstacle to political participation. In a traditionally patriarchal society like Nigeria, for instance, it is not uncommon to see a situation where women are expected to only be homemakers. Homemaking, child-rearing, and other domestic duties, while all crucial roles in the society, and full-time jobs for which multiple attempts to estimate economic value have fallen short, have precluded many a politically ambitious woman from succeeding. The solution is to create an environment where women who desire to apply themselves outside the home have access to resources that allow that.

These resources include time, in the form of paid maternal and paternal leave to relieve worries about proper child-care, as well as human resources in the form of employer provided child-care at government offices. It is difficult, near impossible, to imagine a world where women will not have to section their lives into work years and mothering years, but with a reorientation of society to see the raising of the next generation as a communal responsibility, it is not beyond reach. Gender equality should not be only a western idea. It is a fundamental human right.


The statistics necessitate congratulations to developing nations. Whether intentionally or as a result of wars that have depleted some countries’ male populations, they have come to trust in the leadership of women. But the goal of parity has not been reached. The Nigerian House of Representatives is only 5.56% women and presidential campaigns are dominated by men. Nigeria and other developing countries must take decided steps to changing this. It is for our own good.