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GGAC Essay Competition: Encouraging Women to Participate in Politics

If you became the president of Nigeria, what would you do to ensure that more Nigerian girls and women become politically active and choose to run for office in your administration? What are the benefits of having more women in politics in Nigeria?

These were the questions we posed for the 2018 GGAC Essay Competition for young Nigerian girls. The competition was open to Nigerian girls between the ages of 10 and 19, who were asked to provide their answers in 2,000 words or less. All essays were evaluated on the quality of the arguments made, grammar and vocabulary, and the overall flow of the essay.

We're very excited to announce the top three winners of this year's competition. In first place is Patience Otokpa from Government Day Secondary School, Dutse-Alhaji Bwari, Abuja. In second and third place were Nneoma Mbalewe and Hadiza Abdulahi from Junior Secondary School, Wuse, respectively. Congratulations to all our winners!

Special mention also goes to Emmanuella Ochuno from Junior Secondary School, Area 11, Garki-Abuja and Ogechi Onyenwe for presenting sound arguments in favor of increasing the participation of women in politics.

Many thanks to all the girls who entered the competition. The arguments posed in the essays revealed a strong understanding of the importance of being involved in politics, the challenges women face on this front, and the practical solutions individuals and governments can adopt to encourage more women to participate in the political sphere. Excerpts from some of the winning essays can be found below.

How can active participation of women in politics be encourage?

Education: Ms. Otokpa says, "Education is the undertone to the improvement of any sector. Nevertheless, it is important that one acknowledges efforts made by the Nigerian Government when they started operating scholarship scheme for interested female candidates that do exceptionally well in science and other related subjects ... Both the federal education ministry and state governments seek to encourage parents to send their female children to school. This education can be achieved through Public Enlightenment, women empowerment, adjustment of policies to encourage women participation."

Legislation: Ms. Mbalewe says, "It all starts with people who are willing to give [women] a chance. Women are also members of the society and their inputs are meant to be welcomed. A while ago, the Nigerian Senate voted down the Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence Against Women bill. This was a legislation that aimed to give women equal rights in education, marriage, and employment. If there were more women represented or at least, men who felt that women deserved a chance, that bill would have been passed. It just takes someone or people — because there is power in numbers — to appeal to the Federal Government that the thirty-five percent Affirmative Action must be implemented."

Access: Ms. Abdulahi says, "As president, I will ensure equal access to campaign funds and financial resources for adequate funding of women candidates and equal access and distribution of party resources. I will make decisions at the level of political parties, party structures, processes and practices which would be reviewed to ensure equal and equitable women participation."

What are the benefits of having more women in politics in Nigeria?

Breaking barriers: Ms. Otokpa says, "Having women in politics leads to breaking of cultural and structural barriers. Cultural barriers already believe that a woman cannot occupy a seat of power and wield influence. This has been proven otherwise because sectors where a woman was in charge, a lot of developments were seen. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who was the Minister of Finance saved the economy from recession and empowered Nigeria's women and youth with programs evaluated by the World Bank as one of the most effective of their kind globally."

Creating more opportunities for women: Ms. Mbalewe says, "The benefits of women in politics are countless. With more women in politics, women are better represented. This will cause an increase in favorable actions and laws for women. Women in politics will encourage others to join because at last, their input is not ignored. There will be more opportunities for the girl child to be educated and empowered. Issues like sexual harassment in schools and places of work, equal pay for equal work and maternity benefits will be better addressed and tackled."

Benefiting the economy: Ms. Abdulahi says, "Decision making becomes beneficial to the entire country when it reflects the collaborative inputs from all members of the country without discrimination. It is important to have both quantity and quality in the women taking part in governance. Studies have revealed that increased women's participation has resulted in a bigger economic benefit, increased cooperation across party lines and more sustainable conflict resolution."

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