Number of Women Lawmakers Shrinks by Nearly Half in Africa’s Biggest Democracy

The number of female lawmakers in Nigeria’s parliament will fall by nearly half when legislators are sworn-in in early June. 
With 92% of results announced from elections held Feb. 25, only 13 women have won seats in Nigeria’s 469-seat parliament, according to a list published by the country’s electoral commission. That’s down from 21 women in the current legislature, which already had the lowest female representation in Africa. The number is unlikely to change much when all the results are unveiled because men dominate the contest for the outstanding 39 seats. 
While women form 51% of the voting bloc in Africa’s biggest democracy, Nigeria has never had a female president or vice president. Women have also never won a governorship election in any of the country’s 36 states since democracy returned in 1999. 
The only woman among the 18 candidates that vied for president in this year’s election tallied 25,000 votes, out of 25 million ballots cast. 
Women hold only 4% of seats in the lower house of Parliament, placing Nigeria 182 out of 186 countries tracked by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a Geneva-based advocacy group that tallies representation. Rwanda ranks the highest globally, with 61%.
Last year, Nigerian women staged protests after lawmakers rejected five bills including a constitutional amendment that would have reserved special seats for them in both chambers of national and state assemblies.
Bullying, intimidation, and threats to their lives are some of the ways women are discouraged from participating in politics, Abosede George-Ogan, founder of Women in Leadership Advancement Network, a Nigerian non-governmental organization that advocates for female representation in politics, said by email. 
“In media interviews, male candidates are asked about the economy but when it’s female candidates they are asked about family, children and managing the home,” she said.
A Different Picture 
In contrast, female representation in corporate life has been boosted by a central bank rule that lenders’ boards comprise a minimum 30% of women. The governance codes of the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission also require firms to take gender into consideration when appointing directors.
Women occupy 24% of directorship positions among the 30 biggest companies on the Nigerian stock exchange compared with less than a fifth globally, according to a March 2021 report by KPMG. Still, they hold just 3% of chief executive positions among the top 30 firms, according to the report. 

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