An exchange earlier on twitter put me to mind of one of my pet peeves in Nigeria – governance by jingle. As usual the tweeple I was debating with chose to be combative and dismissive of ideas different than theirs. . Another pet peeve. Why do a lot of Nigerian feel they have to shoot you out of the water if you don’t whole heartedly agree with their point of view hook, line and sinker?
Could it be insecurity? An irrational fear that any disagreement is a personal attack? Or could it just be grand standing? The need to prove to the audience that you know more than everyone else? Anyway whatever the motivations of others that’s a blog post for another day. I have something to say about Governance by jingle.
I do not have anything against behavioural change programs and methods. I think they are important. Nor do I have anything against policy change or introduction. What I do have a problem with is the assumption that these are enough to solve all our problems.
I will use the National Policy on Women to illustrate what I mean.
The policy adopted by the government made very good recommendations for everything from maternal health to political participation. It even set a guideline for 35% representation of women in all elective and appointed positions. The policy expired with not a single milestone achieved.
Why? Well because there was no strategy or funding for its implementation of course. At least not from the government. Civil society did make an effort, they took the policy and used it to direct their programming and to request for grants from international development agencies but nothing came of it because they have their own program strategies and focus they are pursuing.
The policy expired without much progress especially on political representation and participation. We never even came close to 10% women’s participation.
When it expired I remember thinking why did the government bother to spend time and probably an obscene amount of money to make a policy it had no intention of implementing?
Of course the fact that they wrote and launched a policy made the news and we all hailed them but after four years all I could think was ‘why did we hail them?’ There were lots of jungles telling Nigerians in simple language set to simple music that women were an important part of the national equation and should be ‘allowed’ to participate. A lot of people went around saying ‘I’m gender sensitive now, its a good idea for women to participate’ but it didn’t translate into more women in office. I wonder why?
Let me highlight a few things I think the government could have done in addition to the jingles and dramas to enforce and implement the national women’s policy on political participation.
1. Impose sanctions on political parties that don’t have a more equitable number of women in their leadership structures at all levels.
2. Provide funding to key line ministries and civil society groups to build the capacity of women to participate and to hold public office.
3. Increase childcare facilities (and funding) for women that work or want to participate as appropriate.
4. Increase funds available to female candidates for campaigns and registration for primaries. Its unfair to ask women to raise money for campaigns like men. It exposes them to exploitation since most of the money is in male hands right now.
5. Instead of giving women ‘free’ candidate require parties to provide to pay for forms in the party or something.
I’m sure you can think of many more actions that would have made the policy come alive. Its governance by jingle.
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