Ethiopia and Rwanda have received global praise in the last year for having two of the most “gender-balanced” cabinets worldwide. Although, these African nations have taken progressive steps, Nigeria seems to be stuck in male dominated political culture.
However, women in Nigeria are on a mission to break the glass ceiling. Almost 50 female candidates are running for state and local seats. In a country that has one of the lowest percentages of women in government, under 7%, these women are trying to bring Nigerian politics into the present.
Candidates that are running include activists, entrepreneurs, and even a fashion designer. Although these women are competing against one another for seats, they don’t see it as a competition. This group of women lean on each other for support as they aim to change the focus of Nigerian politics from seizing power to focus on more important issues within the community.
Although these women candidates may have worldwide support, finding support in Nigeria is a challenging task. In this culture, women have been described as “weak” and unable to “endure challenges”. Not only that, but the candidates are confined in their role as a wife.
One candidate was told she could not be on the same campaign poster as the governor because she was not his wife. Another candidate was interviewed by a journalist who questioned the candidate about her husband over her own political views.
It has not been an easy journey for female candidates. Some have been booed out of events, ordered to move out of the way for a man, and even ostracized by their family members. Many of these women find running for politics to be both mentally and physically draining, but the female candidates continue to march forward.
26-year-old Zainab Sulaiman Umar is one candidate who has yet to give up hope. As one of Nigeria’s youngest candidates, Umar plans on becoming the first woman to win a seat in Kano state’s house of assembly. In the future she hopes to bring primary health care centers to the community and help combat domestic violence.
Like other female candidates, she too has received backlash. In protest to her running, Umar has been attacked at a rally and her brother way almost stabbed. Although she is faced with so much negativity, Umar likes to focus on the positive. Despite any struggles, Zainab Sulaiman Umar is still confident that she will win.
With determined female candidates, like Zainab Sulaiman Umar, the political climate of Nigeria is on track to change.