The percentage of women in the world occupying seats in parliament is 20%. This percentage is highest for the Nordic countries where this rate jumps to 42%. In contrast, the other regions of the world hover right at the world average. Sub-Saharan Africa has 19.8% women participation. However, when one looks at the individual states, the number declines astonishingly. Of 461 seats in the Nigerian parliament, women occupy 31. That is only 6.8% women participation in the government.
Women in parliament in individual countries of Africa is especially important for not only women’s empowerment but also to provide inspiration to young women to gain education and let them reach their highest potential. One encouraging woman in Nigeria is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is currently Nigeria’s finance minister. Okonjo-Iweala was born in Nigeria’s Delta State in 1954. She went on to Harvard University and the Massachusets Institue of Technology in 1972 to continue her higher education. Positions held by Okonjo-Iweala include Managing Director for the World Bank (October 2007-2011) and Foreign Minister of Nigeria (2006). She is a powerful figure in not only in her country and the African continent but also the world. Because Okonjo-Iweala was able to receive prominent higher education, she is able to be a part of parliament and influence politics surrounding women. The primary school enrollment for women is 60% but this percentage falls to 22% for secondary school. Without raising the percentage for women in higher education, it will be hard for women to rise in power into parliament.
Empowering women through equality in democracies is incredibly important to promote equality and decrease gender discrimination throughout the nation. Women in parliament can push for women-friendly laws such as equal rights for women. Policies for women may include maternal care, equal chance for education, gender-based discrimination, and gender-based violence. Women represent women. Because there exists much gender-based discrimination in several sectors, it is important for women to continue to rise in power as Okonjo-Iweala did to represent the women in her country.
- Busari, Stephanie, and Teo Kermeliotis. "Power Women: Africa's Ruling Ladies." African Voices. CNN, n.d. Web. <http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2012/06/world/faces.africa.politics/index.html?iid=article_sidebar>.
- "Women in Parliaments: World Classification."Women in Parliaments: World Classification. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm>.
- "Women in Parliaments: World and Regional Averages." Women in Parliaments: World and Regional Averages. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/world.htm>.
- "At a Glance: Nigeria." UNICEF. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/nigeria_statistics.html>.
By Surya Singh