Background of the Study
Generality of people in our contemporary society still believe that only men should be in position of power due to the perception held in common about gender role. Some archaic customs and traditions do not permit women to occupy political offices as a result, women face discrimination, marginalization and negligence in politics (Hillary, 2015). Gender equality in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern democratic governance. In line with this, women’s participation in politics is an important parameter of the extent of development of a country (Latif, Usman, Kataria, &Adullah, 2015).
In addition, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities to participate fully in all aspects and at all levels of political processes. However, in practice, it is often more challenging for women to access and exercise these rights as they continue to be marginalized from the political sphere due to restrictive norms and institutional barriers, discriminatory cultural practices, religious beliefs, and disproportionate access to quality education which perpetuate negative gender stereotypes about women roles in our contemporary societies (UN Women Report, 2019).
Concisely, stereotype is a special kind of assumption or set of features presumed to be shared by all members of a social class. It is strongly held but not necessarily based on much first-hand experience (McLead, 2008). It is an assumption often associated with features such as age, gender, race, occupation and membership of a group (Akinade, 2015). In light of this, gender role stereotype is the socially constructed assumption about the roles and responsibilities of men and women in a given society. This stereotype could be negative when it limits men’s or women’s capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue professional careers, and make live choices.
According to Unah (2019), it is this stereotypical gender role that gives basis for the marginalization and discrimination against women in politics as men are perceived to the experts in politics. This study is limited to gender role stereotypes (perceptions) arising from culture, religion and education as they adversely influenced women’s political participation in Nigeria. This is supported by Unah, (2019), who identified religious beliefs and practices, cultural values as well as low level of education as factors that constituted obstacles to women participation in politics.
Accordingly, culture is a way of life of a group of people – the behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that they passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next (Li &Karakowsky, 2009). In light of this, people are still adhere strictly to the archaic cultural values and beliefs that women are relegated to only domestic chores.
Emile Durkeim viewed religion as a unified system of belief and practice related to sacred things, that is, things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called church. Accordingly, women are not accorded greater opportunity to participate fully in political and socio-economic structures of the society because of some conservative religious organizations that prohibit women full participation in leadership (Anjov, 2016).
In addition, education is the transmission of cultural values, skills, attitudes, knowledge, beliefs etc. from one generation to another. It could be formal or informal. According to Eliot (1981), Whawo (1991) as cited in Ogbodo, et al (2013), education must thrive if the society is to survive, such education would equip the beneficiaries with skills, positive values and attitudes that would help them to grow and contribute meaningfully to the development of the society better than what they came to meet. In view of this, the level of education citizens acquired in any political society to a greater extent, shape their perception about ancient values and beliefs like gender role stereotype (Davies & Sylvia, 2014).
On the other hand, political participation is a voluntary act which encompasses a wide range of political activities, including voting at election, contesting for political and public offices, attending political rallies, joining political parties and many more. According to Maclosky (1968) as cited in Udokang (2015), political participation is defined as voluntary activities shared by members of a social group in the selection of their leaders, which directly or indirectly involved the formation of public policies. In light of this, a society where the both genders are accorded equal playing ground to participate in these voluntary activities tend to be more egalitarian, inclusive, democratic, and responsive (Ibrahim and Ahmed, 2012). Unfortunately, Nigeria’s experience in this regard is contrary to the expectations as the female gender, over the years, has been grossly marginalized, neglected, subjugated and discriminated against in the political sphere due to the endemic stereotypes about their role. It is against this low level of women participation in politics that the researcher decided to examine the relationship between gender role stereotypes and political participation of women in Nigeria, a case study of Uyo Local Government Area of AkwaIbom State.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
One of the major benefits of every democratic government is equal participation in decision making, but over the years, Nigeria’s experience in this regard has been contrary to the expectations as women are grossly marginalized, neglected and subjugated from decision making process due to some negative stereotypes about gender role that are prevalent in our society. Despite the constitutional measures, and other scholastic opinions on equal rights and opportunities to the both genders to participate in political activities, the reverse has still been the case in Nigeria as some archaic cultural stereotype, religion, education, socio-economic status customs and traditional beliefs are still held in common, thereby negatively shaping the level of women’s political participation.
These stereotypes about gender role have had grave consequences on the level of women participation in politics and if remedies are not provided, Nigerian democratic practice will continue to be a mirage. The researcher therefore believes that the first and foremost medium of tackling this problem is total orientation of the mind, hence prompted to examine the relationship between gender role stereotypes (culture, religion, and education) and political participation of women in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, a case study of Uyo Local Government Area of AkwaIbom State.