The Challenge Before Women Affairs Minister Pauline Tallen

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Monday, August 26, 2019 / 4.10PM /  Bukola Akinyele  for Proshare WebTV / Header Image Credit: Global

Women inclusion in governance has been a sore point in Nigeria with each successive government finding a voice of encouragement for female participation in governance yet lacking the critical will to see it through. The new Women Affairs Minister, Senator Pauline Tallen, clearly has her job cut out for her as she tries to improve women's businesses, social and political fortunes.

Available data show that the most women-inclusive government since 1999 was that of Dr Olusegun Obasanjo who had a cabinet of 27 Ministers 8 of them (or 29%) being women holding down positions in some of the most strategic ministries in the country, including Finance.


Chart1 Overview of Gender Inclusion in Federal Cabinets Since 1999



Gender Distribution

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (2003-2007)

8 out of 27  (29.6%)

Alhaji Umaru Yaradua (Late) (2008-2010)

6 out of 37 (16.2%)

Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2011)

7 out of 31 (22%)

President Muhammadu Buhari (2019)

7 out of 43 (16.2%)



Source: Federal Government ministerial gazette 2019



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Source: Federal Government ministerial gazette 2019


As Tallen assumes the office of Minister for Women Affairs, gender interest groups expect that the conditions of women in the country domestically and entrepreneurially will improve over the next four years.

 The Women Affairs Ministry has as its key objective the stimulation of action to promote civic, political, social and economic participation of women, coordinating and monitoring women's programmes; providing technical and financial support for women Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, especially the National Council of Women Societies, NCWS.


Women Empowerment

Analysts believe that women empowerment will be crucial to the success of the "Next-Level" agenda of the Buhari administration, particularly in the area of poverty eradication and entrepreneurship.

An area that analysts expect would be given top consideration is increasing financial inclusion for women, particularly as Nigeria targets an 80% inclusion for all Adults by 2020.

Tallen's Women's Affair Ministry will have to work with strategic female groups like Women In Finance Nigeria, WIFNG, Women of West Africa Entrepreneurship, WOWE amongst others to scale the integration women professionals in the process of nation0building and empowerment of women in the nation.


Girl Child Education

Figures show that Nigeria has an alarming "Out-Of-School Children" population of over 10m which is of serious concern, as it ranks amongst the highest on the globe.

The numbers capture millions of girl children who are denied access to basic education, especially in parts of Northern Nigeria.

The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs will, therefore, have to redouble its efforts at advocacy for increased "Girl-Child Education" in partnership with the National Council of Women Society, NCWS, across the 36 states of the federation.

Girl Child Education needs to be a core focus of the Women Affairs Ministry as literacy for the girl child, means the future of the nation is supported by an intelligent and adaptable workforce.

The Federal Government Girls Colleges, FGGCs across the country need to be well-equipped, while the Ministry of Women Affairs at the State levels need to work with the sub-national governments to improve the condition of female colleges.

At the just concluded G-7 summit in Biarritz, France  "Girl Child Education" was part of the agenda President Emmanuel Macron (France) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Canada) championed.


Gender Inclusion In Politics and Governance

Working with the NCWS, and Office of the First Lady of the Federation, the new minister would be expected to deepen advocacy for the implementation of the 35% affirmative action for gender inclusion in politics and governance.

This means that part of the 'Next Level Agenda' of the Women Affairs Ministry will be to ensure that the 35% gender inclusion is given priority in appointments at the Federal and State levels.

Tallen would need to lobby the National Assembly and make strong cases for women inclusion even in the private sector C-suites.

From about 6 states selected that have inaugurated cabinets across the six(6) geo-political zones only Lagos and Kaduna states came close to affirmation baseline of 35% with Lagos at 31.5% and Kaduna at 27.5%.


     Chart 2 State Cabinets by Gender (%)

State  Cabinet

Gender Inclusion


  12 out of 38-Updated  (31.5%)


  4 out of 11 (27.5%)


  2 out of  17 (8.5%)


  2 out of  15  (13.3%)

Akwa Ibom

  2 out of  21   (10.5%)


  2 out of 22    (11%)

     Source: Various State Government gazette 2019


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Source: Various State Government gazette 2019


Preventing Violence Against Women

In partnership with government, private sector and international development agencies the Ministry of Women Affairs should target reducing significantly the spate of violence against women.

This covers rape, sex trafficking, molestation at public and private offices, battery and other forms of violence against women.

The Ministry will have to work closely the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, to ensure that women in displaced camps across the country are not victims of rape and molestations.

The Women Affairs should lobby the National Assembly and State Assemblies to enact stringent laws that give zero tolerance to rape, with capital punishment enshrined in the legislation.

Also discrimination against women in the country should be a top priority for the Women Affairs Ministry to address.


Improving Maternity Health

The Women Affairs Ministry will also have to work closely with the Health Ministry to explore how cases of maternal deaths can be reduced in the country.

The Ministry should explore how it can sensitize women through adverts on tips to safe health deliveries in hospitals.

It will be important for the Ministry to pressurize the Federal Government to follow up on the plans of providing 1,000 primary health care centres with provisions for maternal health consultancy services that should be free

The Women Affairs Ministry may also need to partner with international development agencies, NGOs, and the Federal Ministry of Health, on improving maternity health in the country.

Furthermore, the Ministry will need to collaborate with the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, to deepen the health insurance penetration for women in the country.


Going Forward

Tallen has a pedigree of service as a former Deputy Governor and Senator. Analysts believe she has the intellect, political experience and grass root familiarity to raise the quality of livelihoods of Nigerian women.


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