Women’s leadership amid the insurgency

Being a woman in a highly patriarchal country like Nigeria is no picnic and being a female leader comes with stigma, online bullying, insults and even threats in some cases.

Over the years, Nigerian women have faced discrimination, social and economic inequality, misogyny and gender-based violence.
Additionally, being a woman in Northern Nigeria comes with the aforementioned challenges; a diverse region with people from different groups, characterized by varying levels of development and a different cultural orientation towards the concept of women’s rights.
Over the years, Northern Nigeria has acquired a certain form of infamy in gender-unfriendly attitudes towards women, expressed through social and cultural beliefs and societal expectations about the do’s and don’ts of women. women.
In the same vein, the humanitarian conflict that has lasted for more than a decade in the North East has forced more than 1.8 million people to flee their ancestral homes.

Prior to the insurgency, the role of women in the region was mainly limited to cooking, cleaning, and laundry, among other household chores. Challenging the status quo amidst the humanitarian crisis and defying all familiar gender norms, women are occupying various leadership positions at the local level, in civil society organizations (CSOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and organizations non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as founders, CEOs and executive directors. . Influencing social change through advocacy, campaigning, activism and engaging men through responsible practices.
However, women in leadership positions are not only educated, they also include women who were forced to flee their homes and became internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

In a conversation, Fatima Suleiman, 42, a widow with eight children in Sulimanti IDP camp in Maiduguri, said she lost her husband to the Boko Haram insurgency. Although the National Emergency Management Agency and other NGOs distribute food, but only intermittently, Fatima has to earn her living by working as a cook.
In addition to women’s NGOs and displaced women taking on leadership roles, women in the civil service are not left out. In Borno, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency, two key government agencies responding to the humanitarian needs of displaced people are headed by women. These are the National Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the Borno State Agency for Sustainable Development Goals and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

However, the participation of women in the political arena in the region is quite low, and it is in this particular circle that decisions concerning society are taken. For example, in 2019, more than 20 women competed for elective positions in Borno State. Unfortunately, only one was elected to the House of Representatives (Bama, Ngala and Kalabalge) while two of them were appointed Commissioners out of 22 Commissioners by Governor Umar Zulum and the Borno State Assembly has no women among its 28 members. This goes against the Women’s Agenda for Peace and Security of 35% Women’s Affirmative Action to which Nigeria is a signatory. In a conversation, some women lamented that lack of access to funding, online bullying, violence and discriminatory norms and exclusionary policies are some of the factors that militate against women aspiring to public office. electives in Borno State.

One cited institutional mindsets as the biggest barrier and a major reason why people don’t see more women at the highest levels of appointed or elected leadership. Often women are limited in the growth and advancement of their leadership.
“There are a lot of obstacles. There is poverty. If you don’t have money, you can’t run. Another challenge is that men have dominated the space. There is also a lack of mentoring. There is no conducive environment for women by political parties as most of them hold their meetings at midnight,” she said.
Due to the fact that our society is not enlightened to elect the right people to leadership positions, there is a need for massive public awareness and sensitization in this regard.

Kabu writes from Maiduguri, Borno State.

Mara R. Wilmoth