A CRITICAL STUDY OF SOCIO-CULTURAL PRACTICES HINDERING WOMEN’S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
In this modern age of development, political inequality between men and women has always been an important issue of concern. This is so because of the realization that the marginalization of a segment, race or particular sex in the society has far – reaching implications on the development of that society. Nigerian society and perhaps many countries in Africa seem to have a tenacious tradition of inequality in different facets of life. With the understanding that there is a growing tradition of political inequality against women, Nigeria adopted some gender discriminatory strategies that sought to protect women from cultural practices that demeaned and made them second class citizens no matter their background or social orientation. This is to restore confidence in women and encourage them to participate in all fields of human activity for a better human and material development. But despite the adoption of quota system, affirmative action, and gender development communication campaigns, some societies in Nigeria have shown little sign of progress especially in the area of women participation in politics. The purpose of this study is to assess the effects of existing communication practice on women participation in politics in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The study also attempted to examine some socio-cultural practices that discourage women participation in politics and also suggest some communication strategies that could enhance women political participation in the area under study. This study utilized the qualitative approach to collect information from men, women and relevant persons, Institutions and Government Departments in Four Ward districts of Kajuru Local Government through Focus Group Discussions (F.G.D.) as well as in-depth interviews. The data collected were analyzed and they have shown that, communication practices that exist in the area of study do not always address the established cultural practices that have adversely discouraged or off-put women from participating in politics. It was also gathered from the study that, rather than religion and other cultural practices, the major problems of inadequate participation of women in politics are in the content and medium or pattern of communication which is patriarchal and akin to the vertical and mass media kind of communication. However, in seeking to contribute to the development of more effective communication practice in the area under study, the study recommended the Horizo- vertical pattern of Communication. This is a blend of the mass and folk media or interpersonal communication. Its strength is in its flexibility and multimedia approach. In a whole, the study helped to highlight how media culture and content might affect the participation of particularly women, in politics. Hence, the problem of inadequate participation of women in politics is a problem of culture and of how the culture is communicated in this modern age.
Background to the Study
The place of communication in enhancing a sense of belonging and social responsibility among members of a society is deeply rooted in its ability to empower people with knowledge and information that could translate to self-discovery, confidence and the will to act on issues needing action. Kothari, in S.K. Nair and S.A. White (1993:23) wraps it up:
The role of communication…has to be thought of not as a specialized concern, but as a part and parcel of the struggles for human liberation, freedom and justice, strengthening the struggles of communities and cultures of national entities that are thought to be marginalized people…
Communication, in whatever form or channel (mass media, social media or folk media) must serve an empowering or liberating purpose. It must be able to re-awaken people to the realization of societal forces or stereotypes that threaten their transformation and empowerment as a community, race, gender, class or individuals.
Concerns for the role of communication in social transformation began with UNESCO in the 1950s which was elaborated decades later by McAnany (1980), where he examined the relevance of communication to the rural third world. Similarly, Rogers (1983) in “Diffusion of Innovations” also focused on the poor majority, their communication behavior and the impact of education and information on their situations. Rogers recognizes target audience, information environment, information flow, media campaigns and exposure, as the organizational structures of communication that when carefully handled could have positive impact on majority of people.
The organizational, transformational and participatory values of communication must be employed towards conscientization of the marginalized. Paulo Freire (1970) first introduced the concept of conscientization in communication. Freire argues that, communication should be practiced not as message transmission but as emancipatory dialogue, a particular form of non-exploitative egalitarian dialogue which is carried out in an atmosphere of profound love and humility.
Nair and White (1987), when re-conceptualizing development communication suggest a holistic approach which incorporates the notion of an inter-face between communication and participation. Nair and White view participatory communication as the answer to social injustice and unequal right. Participatory communication ensures citizen empowerment and acquisition of knowledge that could enable people change their lifestyles, relationships and perceptions about their socio-cultural and socio-political environment.