ITALY’S FIRST FEMALE PRIME MINISTER: A WAKE-UP CALL FOR NIGERIA AND OTHER AFRICAN SOCIETIES
It is no longer news that Italy for the first time have a female Prime Minister; Giorgia Meloni, leading far-right party: The Brothers of Italy to the corridors of power. Meloni’s Brothers of Italy came top in Sunday’s general elections and her right-wing coalition since World War II, were victorious in securing a majority in both houses of parliament.
Who Is Giorgia Meloni?
Giorgia Meloni was brought up by a single mother after her father abandoned them after her birth. At 15, she joined a local youth section of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), created by supporters of the disgraced fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
In the mid-1990s, the MSI became a part of a new body called the National Alliance (AN) and then merged with a mainstream conservative group created by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In 2012, Meloni and other members of the AN left the group and co-founded Brothers of Italy, named after the opening lines of the national anthem.
In an interview with Reuters, Meloni compared her party to the US Republican Party and Britain's Conservative Party. The party gives importance to patriotism and traditional family values.
Meloni's formal entry into politics was at age 21, when she won her first local election. She was also Italy's youngest ever minister at age 31 when she was given the youth portfolio in Berlusconi's 2008 government.
The image that came to define Meloni was cemented by a speech that she made in 2019. "I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian, and you can't take that away from me," she told cheering supporters.
In another speech given in June, Meloni spoke in support of "natural families" and opposed "sexual identity and the LGBT lobby". "Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death," she said while addressing the supporters of the Spanish rightist party Vox.
"No to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders, no to mass immigration, yes to work for our people, no to major international finance," she added.
Meloni is chair of the right-wing European Conservative and Reformist group in the European Parliament, which includes her Brothers of Italy, Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice Party, Spain’s far-right Vox and the right-wing Sweden Democrats. Meloni has a daughter, born in 2016, with her TV journalist partner, and is a huge fan of “Lord of the Rings”.
In The Case of Nigeria
Nigeria has been recording low participation of women in both elective and appointive positions. This is a growing concern to many Nigerians. However, concerted efforts have been made by government and particularly non-governmental organizations to increase the level of participation of women in politics in line with the declaration made at the fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, which advocated 30% affirmative action. In Nigeria, the extant National Gender Policy (NGP) recommended 35% affirmative action instead and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35% of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively. The under representation of women in political participation gained root due to the patriarchal practice inherent in our society, much of which were obvious from pre-colonial era till date. However, the re-introduction of democratic governance has witnessed once again an increase in women political participation both in elective and appointive offices. The national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained 6.7 percent in elective and appointive positions, which is far below the Global Average of 22.5 percent, Africa Regional Average of 23.4 percent and West African Sub Regional Average of 15 percent.
Under international standards, both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities to everything worldwide, most especially to participate fully in all aspects and at all levels of political processes. Globally, women constitute over half of the world’s population and contribute in vital ways to societal development generally. In most societies, women assume some key roles, which are: mother, producer, and home-manager, and community organizer, socio-cultural and political activists. Of these many roles mentioned, the last has been engendered by women movement.
In line with global trend, Nigerian women constitute nearly half of the population of the country. But despite the major roles they play with their population, women roles in the society are yet to be given recognition. This is due to some cultural stereotypes, abuse of religion, traditional practices and patriarchal societal structures. In Nigeria the awareness about the role of women in development of a nation came up in 1980s. The International Conference on women in Beijing in 1995 enhanced the effective participation of women in politics in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, about 51 percent of women are involved in voting during elections. Despite these, women are still under represented in both elective and appointive positions. Available statistics revealed that overall political representation in government of Nigeria is less than 7 percent. This shows that Nigeria has not attained 30 percent affirmative as prescribed by the Beijing Platform of Action.
We have today the opportunity to put women and girls at the center of our planning and action and to integrate gender perspectives into global and national laws and policies; women are the epitome of courage, hope and life; to avoid discrimination of women in our political environment, agitating for more inclusion without bias and prejudice.
It is should be reiterated that there has been increased vibrant and robust agitation for inclusion and increase in the percentage of women in active politics and governance in different quarters across the globe. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” with the hashtag #break the bias; is a call for necessity and for Nigeria to follow the path of countries like Germany in many parts of Europe and Rwanda in Africa where there is increased participation of women in leadership and governance.
Lack of non-inclusion of women in governance often lead to a neglect of skilled professionals in politics as there are a number of women who are successful technocrats and policy makers. Segregating women in politics and governance does not guarantee fairness in democratic process and equitable distribution of power in politics. Hence, neglecting the female gender in active politics will only lead to gender bias as against this year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2022 and it will only attract international condemnation and outcry from the global community.
There is a need to work along the status quo and paradigm shift as a result of globalization, in a bid to address and change the narrative of male political domination and give credence to gender justice in Africa’s patriarchal society and work on policies that will increase women’s political participation and guarantee their leadership in governance; likewise to seek a power parity on the level of stability, certainty and predictability in Nigeria; Africa’s most populous country.
THE CONCERN OF AFRICAN GENDER TRACKER AND RESEARCH CENTER (AGTRC)
African Gender Tracker and Research Center, a research hub with primary aim of promoting gender equality and researching gender justice, is committed to the political, economic, and social growth and development of Africa essentially through tracking and researching gender.
We envision an Africa where all genders are represented equally in all spaces, have equal values as humans and where there is justice for all in line with the aspiration of 6 of Agenda 2063 of Africa Union and goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals in line with the planet 50/50 by 2030 of the United Nations.
Our aim, goal an agenda is simple at AGTRC; we intend to advocate for gender equality and justice, to close the widening gap between male and female and the inequality that exists in Nigeria's patriarchal society and Africa through data collection, survey, tracking and rigorous research...
By Ayo Oguntola