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Investigation: How Divorce Was Used As Threat To Deter Women Participation In 2023 General Election In Kano.

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Sarah John
 Women make up half of the world’s population and yet they are still largely excluded from politics and decision-making power, According to the 2021 IPU report, women in Africa are still given less motivation to participate in political activities due to several factors among which culture and religion play a top role. Sarah John in this report uncovered how women in Kano State Nigeria, how divorce was used as a threat to deter women participation in the 2023 General Election in Nigeria.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global organization of national parliaments, released its annual report on Women in Parliament report few days before the International Women’s Day on March 8, report revealed how the world is not yet on track to achieve gender equality in politics by 2030.
While this remains a global trend, in Kano state Nigeria women are bullied with threats of divorce by their husbands for participating in politics or having a contrary political opinion to theirs.
Hadiza Yunusa, 32, is a mother of two children and a lecturer at the Federal College of Education Technical Bichi, now known as the Federal University of Education, she is a grade-level II lecturer in the Department of Psychology, is a victim, and her passion in politics has been a long time dream which said has been crippled by a single threat.
“It’s so sad that we are caught up in a system that culture among other factors has crippled the voice and decision of women and we now live at the mercy of men, no doubt we are created to be submissive to our spouse, but over here in the north, no matter how learned you are, you still can hold a personal or contrary opinion at home.
“Noticing there has never been a female Assembly member in the Kano State House of Assembly in the history of Kano State, I decided to join the APC in 2019 to break this record and give women the ‘we can do it spirit’, sadly, my husband who first loves the idea came back home after some hypnotizing motivation from people and told me i will have to consider my marriage over contesting in the election, he added, if I will insist that I must contest then that will be in my parent’s house and not his house,” Yunusa said.
Dr. Zahrau Umar Honorable Commissioner, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kano state
Interestingly, there is overwhelming evidence that women’s participation in politics is beneficial to both their own communities and societies and broader peace and stability. But despite the existence of a number of international conventions and legal frameworks guaranteeing women’s political rights, we remain far from the goal of gender parity.
For Bilkisu Mohammed, the founder of Education For All Initiative, a non-government organization aimed at ensuring all girl children are enrolled in school and fighting against girl-child marriage, in narrating her experience, described Nigeria’s gender equality and women’s participation in politics as lip service.
“In an election, no one of the age of voting and be voted for is supposed to be left out, but in northern Nigeria, there has been a lot of restriction on women, one of them is men supra imposed decision on women.
“You are compelled by your husband’s decision on even who to vote. My campaign was already gathering momentum when my husband told me to stop the campaign and that I was out on tarnishing his integrity, he told me he would rather lose his marriage than lose his integrity, I was caught up in the middle and helpless at the same time, I couldn’t also afford to lose my marriage, i have three children for him,” Mohammed said.
Dr. Zahrau Umar Lecturer, Former Honorable Commissioner, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kano state, and founder Zahra Marriage Counselling Center Former Honorable Commissioner, described how women were humiliated before and during the 2023 general election.
“We received over 30 complaints from September to December, the highest number was in January 2023 we received 13 complaints in one month and they are all related issues on politics and their husband.
“The just concluded 2023 election came with alot of forces and parties took a different dimension knowing families can help pull the figure they want, so some of these parties gave empty promises to men and these men banked on the promises needed to fulfill their own part of the bargain to the party by bringing their wife or wives to agree with them.
“This woman Fauziya in their market had already submitted her PVC to the market women union when the husband came and demanded for her PVC, he realized she had given it to someone else and all he told her was to go and get the PVC or never return back home, the woman cried to our place because she could not get the PVC immediately as the husband wanted and the people she gave are not willing to give her immediately because she has taken some money from them.
“She almost lost her marriage because she took a decision contrary to her husband’s decision, you can imagine someone threatening you to leave your marriage if you fail to provide what he wants, it’s devastating and traumatizing,” Umar said.

Bilkisu Mohammed, the founder of Education For All Initiative
Nigeria has low rates of female representation in politics by global and regional standards. Although the proportions of women in elected positions increased slightly between 1999 and 2007, from an average of 2.3% across both houses of legislature to 7.8%, these small gains had stopped by 2011. As of the 2015 election, Nigeria had 20 women out of 359 in its lower house (5.6%) and 7 out of 109 in its upper house (6.4%). This put it 180th in the world (“Women in Parliaments: World Classification,” 2019). Following the 2019 elections, women make up 7.3% of the Nigerian Senate and 3.1% of the House of Representatives. No state governors are women (NWTF, 2019).
According to the 2023 IWD Report From 1999 till date, only 157 women have been elected into the 469-member National Assembly (38 senators and 119 members of the House of Representatives), compared to 2,657 men (616 senators, 2,041 reps) during the same period.
While at the states House of Assembly, the figure of women representation remain insignificant to mention, record from the Office of the Kano State Head of Civil Service has shown that in Kano State, since 1999- till date, Kano State has never produced a female Governor, Female Deputy Governor, Female Speaker of the Parliament, or Female Representative Member in the State House of Assembly from across the 32 State Assembly Seat.
The record also revealed that Kano state has never produced even a female Local Government Chairman or a counselor, but it is important to note that women an insignificant number of women are still involved at the civil service level and have risen to the position of permanent secretary in the state.
“Ibrahim Ali, Director of Administration, Office of the Kano State Head of Civil Service, explains the peculiarity of the Nigerian political system particularly in the north, and factors determining women’s participation in politics.
“In the north, women are raised with certain cultures and teachings, women are thought that even by their parents that their role is to be a housewife, they are not supposed to engage in anything, they just take care of the family and the house that’s all, this is culture playing.
“A look at the society, a typical northern society sees a woman in two ways, if she is talks too much or often raises her opinion they see her to be loose, and that in many ways comes with some stigma for both the woman and her family, while those who are reserve are seen to be people of dignity, and no man will want to marry a woman see to be loose, and for this reason you see society determining how women should act and think.
“These are some of the factors or to say reasons why women participation in politics is still low and poor,” Ali said.
Record from the Office of the Kano State Head of Civil Service shows that one of the uncontested positions against women is the position of Commissioner For Women Affairs, which has always been occupied by women.
Hadiza Yunusa. a mother of two children and a lecturer at the Federal College of Education Technical Bichi
According to the UN Women, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life, these are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts, and resources needed to become effective leaders.
This is evident in a report which captures that in northern Nigeria, low-quality education prevents girls from learning the skills they need to thrive, and families do not see value in sending girls to school if they are not learning, so they often choose to marry their daughters off instead of continuing their education. Additionally, long-held cultural beliefs fuel gender discrimination, which further limits girls’ ability to reach their full potential.
While girls grow up to become women with interest in the political space, it is imperative to also take a look at out-of-school children, report shows how Girls account for 60% of Nigeria’s 10 million out-of-school children, facing barriers such as child marriage, poverty, and discriminatory social norms. In Nigeria, 30% of girls aged 9-12 have never been to school at all.
Peep Into Effort Made Towards Female Participation In Politics In Nigeria.
Several efforts have been made to address the low representation of women in elective and appointive positions in Nigeria; among such efforts are the establishment of Women Political Empowerment Office and Nigeria Women Trust Funds, Women Lobby Group. Other efforts include the institution of an INEC gender policy, the national multi-stakeholder dialogue; the initiation of several interventions to actualize affirmative action, and the convening of the Nigeria Women Strategy Conference. National Center for Women Development in collaboration with National Bureau of Statistics are making efforts to have evidenced-based data about this issue. Presently the available data are not harmonized. The data collation covers the period 1999 – 2015 with a recent report on the 2019 and 2023 general elections.
CSO, NGO, Media  Raising the Flag for Women Participation in Kano State.
Nigerian governments have subscribed to international agreements and instituted national policies to improve women’s representation, but have done little to implement concrete measures. Nigerian civil society organizations and international funders have promoted a number of capacity-building and behavioral change programmes, although the overall levels of female representation in government have barely improved since 1999.
Ibrahim Waiya, the president of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Kano State led a collision with the media in collaboration with Aminu Magashi Foundation (AMF) to raise a campaign for Women participation in the 2023 General Election.
This campaign lasted for five months across four radio stations (Cool Fm, Freedom Radio, Wazobia Fm, and Amana Fm.
Waiya described women participation in politics across Kano as one of the worse discouraging women participation across other northern states.
“The truth is that Kano is used to set the standard for so many changes and development across the north, while people don’t pay attention to some of these simple standards, I strongly believe if women in Kano begin to participate in Politics, across some of these northern states, you will see the interest will increase for women,” he said.
Nigeria’s Political party system has done little to encourage women’s participation, with women only making up a small percentage of nominees for governors and deputies and both legislative houses in the 2023 election.
This story is part of the African Women in Media (AWiM)/Luminate Young Women in Politics Media Project.

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