OrderPaperToday – In response to calls for increased female representation in politics, National Women Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kema Chikwe, has advised budding female politicians to leave their comfort zone.

For her, politics cannot be operated only on social media but particularly at grassroots level, attending physical meetings etc. because opportunities are not given but taken.

These she stated on Friday at the second edition of Women in Parliament and Policy Development (WIPPD) Webinar Series organized by OrderPaper Nigeria and WeWe Network Afrique.

She said: “To be honest with you, there are many women on ground. It is just to have the right direction. More of the educated or professional ones are on social media but it is not practical. They have not seen the need to go down to grassroots because if they go down and become part of the structure, you have to learn to generate controversies in politics, take risks and speak out.

“When you generate that controversy, the chairman of your constituency will notice. Women are very manipulative and that is one skill they have and they don’t use in politics. Get a few women behind you, they will think you have mobilized all the women in Nigeria. The truth is that you can’t operate politics from your comfort zone. You must be intentional. The person that is physically present has an advantage.

“The reason young women result to their comfort zone is because, there are so many inconveniences so if you are chatting, it is easy. You can be recognized and invited but your constituency will say I don’t know her. What I tell women is this, everywhere is a constituency. If it’s not convenient for you, to play politics in particular place, you go out of your way to another place. You have to go out, attend meetings and participate in your little way.

“We have been saying things, we have to be doing things. You go out of your way and do something. Women must be seen to be achieving something and it is the political system that helps. Until Nigeria gets to the point of recognizing, mainstreaming, respecting women, things are not going to be very good. Also until women stop saying give us opportunity, no one will give you anything”.

Chikwe who is a former Aviation Minister and Founder, Women Leadership Institute, further admonished that while pro- female legislations are important, she stressed the need for women to work in association than in isolation, which she noted further, can help get the bill on affirmative action passed.

“If there is a legislation (on 35 per cent affirmative action), it helps. But we are not going to have it unless women network, work together, not do our thing (separately). We all want to be important but when we come together and make our mark, we can all make it.

“From the 70s, we have working on it, moving from one point to another. Thinking about it, I think Nigerian women have done very well because when we started it was like looking for recognition, we got it. Then we started talking about empowerment and now mainstreaming. But as I said, networking is important because if we want to achieve legislation, the moment we get the legislation on that 35 percent and it becomes a legal issue, I think we have succeeded”, she said.

She also asked female advocacy groups to celebrate little wins regarding issues supporting and helping women.

“It doesn’t have to be women alone. I know some men are supportive. I see a lot of small NGOs but before even if you have that NGO, you must be part of the national council. I read that as a police woman you cannot get married until three years later and you have to seek permission.

“Also you cannot get pregnant but it is good news it has been defeated in the court and women groups should amplify such landmarks and victories. If we do that, we will be conscious. We are not going to wait for that legislation, it is our action. Women in Nigeria have worked so hard today that most men will say they don’t want the trouble of women.”

Highlighting more areas for budding female politicians to explore, Chikwe admonished them to have a constituency where they can operate, discard the idea of gender discrimination, quit complaints on not getting nomination or appointments because with little steps and time, they will get noticed, have a reason for joining politics and when given exposure, they should prove themselves.


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