Women are greatly underrepresented in governments the world over. However, one woman, Senator Nenadi Esther Usman from Nigeria, is trying to change this. At the same time, she understands that she is still one of the few, and she hopes that, through her position as the former finance minister, she can empower other women to change the world.
Challenges for Women in Politics
According to Nenadi Usman, there are many obstacles for women in politics, but the greatest one is that women are still considered to belong in a “private” state, rather than a public one. Women, traditionally, are at home, looking after the family and the home, which is the private sphere.
There remains a significant gender inequality in the home and in the workplace, in other words. Much of that is a cultural attitude towards the position of the woman, with the majority of societies still being patriarchal. Being from Nigeria, Senator Nenadi Esther understands this, but wants to fight this as well. And becoming a minister managing the economic and financial affairs of the Nigerian government, that is precisely what she was able to do.
Senator Nenadi Esther truly is one of the few women who have stood out from the crowd. In the rare occasions that they do take on positions within government, those positions are usually in the “soft” industries like health, welfare, and education. They rarely have any executive decision-making powers, and seeing women in the domains of the military or of finance is the rarest of all. But that is exactly what Esther was able to do. Hailing from Southern Kaduna, few people expected her to reach these heights, but Esther Usman proved them all wrong.
Another obstacle women like Nenadi have to face is that their personal life comes under much greater scrutiny than their male counterparts. Men are forgiven many indiscretions, but women are not. If a woman is found to be sexually active, for instance, she is judged harshly for this and seen to be not fit for office. Nenadi herself married her partner in Kaduna and caused quite a stir by this being an interfaith marriage. However, again, she showed women that they have the same rights and the same opportunities, so long as they fight for them.
For Nenadi Esther, her own name, was a driving force behind that. “Esther” is believed to be a derivative of Ishtar, who was Queen of Persia, while being Jewish herself. Like Esther Nenadi Usman, she was in an interfaith marriage but took on a position of great power. She was, some say, the first woman in politics, and the first to show women have a place in the higher realms of government.
Unfortunately, women still have a long way to go before it can be said that there is true equality in government. However, thanks to women like Nenadi, great strides are being made. She, among other inspirational women, serves as a role model for what is possible.