A critical appraisal of Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda and gender equality In Nigeria.
Around the world, national and international treaties and instruments now commonly recognise the right and need for gender equality. Yet Nigeria, like many African countries, appears to be lagging significantly behind many other countries and regions in realising these commitments. This paper critically appraises Nigerian national policies on gender issues, before, during, and after the ‘Transformation Agenda’ of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. It is hoped that the lessons therein can help to advocate for more ambitious and integrated action from the current administration of President Buhari.
The qualitative study is based on library and internet-based research, and uses a combination of documentary, analytical, and descriptive methodology to consider the national legal frameworks on gender issues, in the context of accepted global indicators (education, employment, and political life). After defining the central concepts and terms, the study combines feminist theoretical frameworks and empirical data to provide an in-depth comparative analysis of the ‘gender-friendliness’ of Nigeria’s recent administrations. The authors note that President Goodluck Jonathan oversaw a significant increase in women’s political empowerment and representation, achieved gradually and with the help of civil society organisations and women’s groups. Also noted are successful programs aimed at tackling youth unemployment, and supporting women entrepreneurs.
Having discussed the Transformation Agenda of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the authors then assess the ‘Change Reform’ agenda of President Buhari, some eight months after his inauguration. During the campaign, Buhari had made a number of promises regarding the guaranteeing of women’s rights and equality, yet the report notes that little progress has been forthcoming. Indeed, a detailed breakdown of election contests and results show that the gains in women’s representation made in previous administrations had failed to consolidate, instead falling back to levels last seen in 1999. A detailed gender analysis of the election data is presented, before reasons for the backsliding in women’s representation are discussed. These include Nigeria’s highly patriarchal society and the perpetuating role that families and gender stereotypes play, and the lack of political will and genuine commitment from government to back gender equality measures.
In the concluding remarks of the paper, the authors note that, despite the enactment of the National Gender Policy in 2006, the success of Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda with regard to gender equality suffered from a lack of continuity, consistency, and commitment. Given the scale of the problem of gender discrimination in Nigeria, what is needed is a holistic approach that learns from these lessons. To this end, a few recommendations are made:
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs should make greater use of their mandate to increase women’s participation and representation in politics by empowering women.
The Ministry should further focus on helping vulnerable groups to lower child mortality rates, and supporting girl-child education.
Efforts to encourage more children into school should be intensified, including free and compulsory education at primary level, and greater provision for adult education to improve literacy rates, especially among women.
There needs to be more gender training and organisational gender mainstreaming into political parties, including efforts to make the primary process a more level playing field for women.
If the transformative economic development proposed by President Jonathan is to be achieved, it will require the economic empowerment of women, as described by the post-2015 development framework. This requires the removal of structural barriers to women’s participation in the economy, and support in terms of access to childcare and healthcare.
Gender issues must be integrated into all policy and planning, using a mix of legislative change, advocacy, and community mobilisation. The crucial, cross-cutting nature of gender equality within sustainable development means it is urgent that the government invest in women as key agents of progress.