Nigeria: A boost for women's participation in politics

In 2011, 38 million voters cast their ballots in what many called the most successful election in decades. Photo: UNDP Nigeria

For Anthonia Bashorun and millions of other Nigerian women, taking part in elective politics is not easy. Women often do not receive the support and mentoring they need to compete with their male counterparts. In turn, many voters do not fully appreciate the benefits of having a mix of men and women in government.

As a result, there is currently a low representation of women at all levels of government in Nigeria.  In the country’s general election in 2011, female candidates fared poorly, with only 32 women elected to the national parliament out of 469 members, which is barely 8% representation.  

To address this, UNDP started providing budding female politicians like Anthonia with training and support, complemented by community enlightenment campaigns. Along with over 1,000 other Nigerian women, Anthonia is now better equipped to participate in forthcoming local elections in her state.


  • The project is part of a five-year, US$80 million initiative in Nigeria to consolidate and strengthen its democracy.
  • Female candidates fared poorly in the country’s general election in 2011, with barely 8% representation
  • 2,043 female politicians and candidates were trained in how to engage in electoral processes at the national and state levels.

“I learned how to develop a political manifesto and how to sell my candidacy to political gatekeepers in my local government area,” says Anthonia, whose home state is Ekiti in the country’s south-west. “I look forward to the elections with more confidence because the training has gone a long way in preparing me.”

The Democratic Governance for Development project, implemented by UNDP in partnership with the government, has developed a pilot scheme to promote women’s inclusiveness in politics at the local government level – in preparation for the next round of local council elections. The elections, for councillors and local government chairpersons, take place at different times in each of Nigeria’s 775 local government areas.

The scheme aims to support the participation of more female candidates in elections, especially at the local level, given it is a springboard to the other levels of government.

UNDP has worked with civil society organizations in 18 local government areas in three states (Kaduna, Plateau and Ekiti) to conduct training for women interested in political careers.  UNDP partners have held 24 town hall meetings at which female candidates have presented their campaign platforms to prospective voters. At the same time, enlightenment campaigns have been rolled out at the community level to sensitize voters.

To date, the programme has trained more than 1,300 female politicians and voters in two pilot states, Plateau and Ekiti, while at the national level, just over 2,000 female politicians and candidates have received training to enable them to engage more effectively in electoral processes. 

In Ekiti State, in addition to benefiting from the training,  female politicians are now able to take full advantage of a decision by the State’s Governor to initiate an affirmative action policy which reserves 40 percent of all political appointments in the state to women.

Anthonia says further: “The program has really improved my ability to mobilize the electorate within my local government area. l believe I’m more focused and now have the ability to perform and deliver the dividends of democracy to the people in my community.”

This project is part of a five-year, US$80 million initiative in Nigeria to consolidate and strengthen its democracy. This governance project, which runs for a five year-period covering Nigeria’s 2010-2015 electoral cycle, focuses primarily on voter registration, civic education female political representation and media training.

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