The role of technology in encouraging women’s political engagement

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In healthy democracies, citizens (including men and women) are allowed to participate in politics, including running for office, voting, and evaluating government performance. Unfortunately, the political rights of Nigerian women, who make up 49.4% of the country’s 214 million people, remain a major concern. The Nigerian constitution guarantees that every citizen, regardless of gender, color or ethnicity, has the right to stand for election and vote. However, this does not guarantee effective political representation for the majority of Nigerian women. This is partly due to the country’s structures, patriarchal culture and religious ideologies, which provide women with unequal opportunities compared to men, thereby excluding them from democratic processes.

Activists, governments and non-governmental organizations continue to pursue various strategies to help women overcome barriers to action in many countries around the world, including mobilizing support for protest and mass action, as well as educating and mobilizing women to vote. Fortunately, these efforts, combined with advances in technology and digital media, have transformed the way women participate in political activities in recent decades. Despite the potential of technology, Nigerian women face considerable barriers such as lack of education, financial limitations, inadequate internet connectivity and geographic isolation. However, the key question remains: how can technology be used to improve the quality of Nigerian democracy by increasing women’s participation?

Context of the evaluation

In Nigeria, the current National Gender Policy (NGP) proposes 35% affirmative action and more inclusive representation of women in elected and appointed political positions in the public sector. Nevertheless, the national average of women in elected and appointed positions in Nigeria was 6.7% in 2016, far behind the global average of 22.5%, the African regional average of 23.4% and the sub-regional average West African by 15% (Oluyemi, 2016). After more than two decades of uninterrupted democratic rule, Nigeria has yet to produce a female governor in any of the 36 states of the Federation (1999-2022).

Accordingly, this article offers a critical assessment of the role of technology in fostering women’s political engagement in Kontagora, Niger State.

Assessment Details

Over the course of two weeks in January 2022, door-to-door interviews were conducted with 113 women from 30 randomly selected families in Ungwan Zuru, Kawo and Tudun Wada regions in Kontagora, Niger State. This survey strategy was ideal for obtaining data in these areas when telephone sampling was not possible.

Even when access to technology did not improve, women who were educated about politics through NGOs and political parties were found to have 5-10% higher levels of political awareness than other women. . In households with young, literate women with access to technology devices and digital media, 40% of respondents said the internet gave new information about the importance of women’s political participation. I also discovered three young women who are exceptionally active in online political activism for women, however, they represent only about 2% of the total number of responses. The remaining respondents (27% of respondents) are disengaged, meaning they are not interested in any political activity, whether online or offline.

I discovered that the majority of women had little interest in equal political participation. The data also reveals that financially empowered and informed women are more likely than the rest of the female population to actively participate in politics.

Political lessons

There has been talk of online activism ahead of the 2023 general election in Nigeria, implying that technology could engage more people, especially women who have traditionally been less engaged in offline politics. However, Shedrack Muazu, team leader of Youths in Justice, Health, and Sustainable Social Inclusion (YIJHSSI), believes that the effectiveness of technology-based attempts to address political marginalization may depend on the channel used. “I think that, at this time, sending tailored text messages to encourage women to participate in politics and remind registered voters of voting dates would be a more effective engagement tool than action on Twitter or Facebook,” explains Muazu.

However, David Ali, a civil servant, believes that increasing voter accessibility is the best way to use technology to tackle the under-representation of women in politics. “I foresee that Nigeria will revolutionize the electoral system in the near future to provide all citizens with the opportunity to vote from home,” Ali said. “Rather than using a paper-based system, everyone, including women, should be able to vote using a mobile device or online voting system.” It would also result in more accurate and timely election results.

“Artificial intelligence technology will improve Nigeria’s electoral process and increase women’s political representation,” ICT expert Eze Hanson reiterates. We all know that artificial intelligence has a memory far superior to that of humans! Women will be more educated and motivated to exercise their civil rights thanks to AI. »

This article is part of Anibe Idajili’s Gidan Yanci Fellowship series, which aims to encourage women to get involved in politics.

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