Women Politicians in Nigeria – Grassroot Mobilisers Only?

I met the Iyalaje of the State of Osun State recently at a high powered conference on transformative leadership for women. She was the soul of the meeting in parts. She spoke more in Yoruba language and continually eulogised the governor of the state and praised his achievements at every opportunity. She spoke glowingly about how the women were mobilised in the face of ‘intimidation’ from the opposing party.

The Iyalaje spoke, and masterfully too, about her strategy of galvanising votes from the women and how the media, especially radio, were used to mobilise support for the incumbent governor, who consequently won the gubernatorial race.

Her account is not an isolated case. Women market leaders are pivotal in mobilising community people for political purposes in the different states of Nigeria. They are the politician’s prime tool in effectively reaching community people.

commnuity women leaders

At another workshop on gender reporting, a story was told of a community woman ‘kingmaker’ in western Nigeria, less popular compared to the late Chief Lamidi Adedibu but influential and powerful nevertheless. The report had it that she was the ‘go to’ person if you needed to be heard, seen or endorsed as a politician but she was yet to make a queen of any woman in politics

It is generally agreed that women are keenly involved in planning political rallies. Images of ebullience and enthusiasm displayed by these women are evident in TV broadcasts. But are women satisfied with this role? Are women politicians content with the backstage roles of planning the aso-ebi and catering at these events? Why are many women in politics stuck in backstage and supporting roles?

It is worrisome that fewer women are finding their ways into elective positions in political parties. It is time women started thinking about deeper visions, better succession strategies, mentoring and more visibility at the higher echelons of political party leaderships.

Equal Pay for Women: Consolidating the Beijing Vision

“Only 4 countries in the world have a higher proportion of women at work than men. All are in Africa: Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Burundi”.

That was a random tweet I found on my home page on Twitter. I sent a reply to the source to verify her claim and she obliged. What I discovered was stimulating as I dug deeper, taking off from her lead, Mail and Guardian Africa.

I thought Rwanda had truly performed remarkably in political empowerment with 64 women in its 100-seat lower house. In a world where 21.8% of national parliamentarians are female, Rwanda is the only country in the world with more women than men in parliament. What caught my eye was that while South Africa and Senegal made the top 10 in the global ranking, Nigeria did not.

a broadcaster at work in a studio

a broadcaster at work in a studio

Three days earlier I had posted on my fan page a report about the gender gap in the US. I went back to it and hit another statistics about gender pay gap, “Currently, there’s no country in the entire world where a woman earns as much as a man for doing the same job. And it’s going to take another 81 years for the gender gap to close”.
Just what is going on with women and men in the workforce? Why are women paid differently from men when they have the same qualifications? A colleague said to me that in the Nigerian civil service, women are given less money as transfer allowance compared to men who get enough to move a family while a woman gets an amount only for her own travel. In some universities in South Africa, women lecturers earn less than their male counterparts.
I am stunned therefore that 20 years after the Beijing Conference and with so many civil organisations, pressure groups, consistently seeking equal rights for women and the United Nations creating gender supported initiatives including the UN Women, women are still so discriminated against in the labour market.

Notable People praise Memories of Grandma

The New Look, Memories of Grandma

The New Look, Memories of Grandma

“As young Funke earns promotion from Primary Four to Five her parents decide to send her to the rural village to spend her long holidays. It proves to be a life-changing journey in magical discoveries. Funke makes the emotional transition from the cement house in Ijebu-Ode to the rustic mud and farmhouses in Ode-Omu, Gidi, Dagbolu and sundry villages of Southwestern Nigeria. Memories of Grandma is a treasure-trove interweaving farming, hunting, going to the market, telling stories and sharing songs. Every new page contains surprises, new vistas, such as finding out that Grandma’s bank happens to be a cloth, and mistaking cocoa pods for the biggest okra ever seen. Funke Treasure Durodola’s Memories of Grandma takes us deep into an enchanting world in which all things are fresh and new even in their oldness. Life throbs in this well-told story of tropical rapture, a book for all time”
– Maxim Uzoatu -Poet and Art Critic.

“How kind of Funke -Treasure Durodola to let us into the private places of her wonderful childhood, sparking our memories of how great our lives have been. She reminds us in this telling, that there was safety and wisdom at grandmother’s knee. We love the memories of food, language and sounds and smells from our family homes that assure us that we are really worthwhile and special. Treasure, lovingly gives us the contrast between the traditional and the modern as we see the generation move forward through the eyes of a little girl. I did not want the wonderful stories of grandma to end. This is an excellent book for youth and adults alike and I will thoroughly enjoy reading it with my grandchildren”.
– Princess Carroll Ayo Durodola – Author (US)


“This enchanting little book for children spoke volumes to me, read to my inner child and took me places in the heart I had forgotten about. Funke-Treasure Durolola is a master story teller, an owner of beautiful words and stories that will keep every child and adult entranced.”
– Ikhide R. Ikheloa – Literary Critic and Columnist (US).

“I keep reading ‘Memories of Grandma’ by @Funke_Treasure and I keep seeing a new TV show targeted at children but that will be enjoyed by the family; I keep hearing a new radio programme on culture/family/educational broadcasting; I keep seeing a documentary on growing up in the country side; I keep seeing a literature text for pupils in Western Nigeria (and who says it can’t be used in any other parts of Nigeria); I keep seeing a new comics magazine; I keep seeing an entire enterprise that can rise from this lovely book. And I have never been more serious…”
– Taiwo Obe – Founder, Everything Journalism Group on Linkedin (Nigeria)

“We will buy five copies to distribute to kids for review and discussion at the Kiddies segment of the Lagos Book and Art Festival, scheduled for November 15-17 (2013) at the Freedom Park in Lagos”
– Toyin Akinosho – Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), Nigeria

More about Memories of Grandma

Grandmothers symbolise different things to children. For young Funke, Grandma could never do wrong, Grandma meant travel, variety of traditional meals, entry into the wisdom of the aged, folk tales, songs and an excursion into the strange world of adults, who ‘always have a reason for everything’. Grandma was generous with folktales on demand, each merry with its own song!

Memories of Grandma is about a lived culture of the Yoruba ethnic group in Western Nigeria. It is about the author’s personal walk with her maternal grandmother and her perception of her other grand parents. It is the transfer of norms and values from a generation to another , the ideology of culture, a ‘lived’ experience. The celebration of that inter-relatedness. Grandma signified all of these and more.

The setting is Western Nigeria of the early 80’s, when most Nigerians maintained vegetable gardens close to their homes, men rode Vespar scooters and motor cycles for leisure; when Peugeot 404 was the cool car for mid-income families, when seeing a corpse on the street was rare and close to an abomination; when public schools were as good as the private ones. It was the days of Kingsway and Leventis stores and Odutola stores in Ijebu Ode. The days without traffic gridlocks, when parents returned home early enough from the office, to be involved in their children’s development and upbringing.

In the book, Funke visited Grandma on two major holidays; one was in Ode-Omu, the other was at the farm house in Dagbolu. The book also covered periods when Grandma also visited Funke and family in Ijebu Ode. In reality, it is a compression of several visits and holidays into a manageable and sequential bit using the short story format.

An illustration from Memories of Grandma

Memories of Grandma is particularly written for teenagers in this generation who are caught in the ‘crossfire’ of the old and modern styles of living and who continually struggle to define their identities in a rapidly changing world.

Funke Treasure’s first book is finally out

Funke-Treasure speaks about her debut book, Memories of Grandma.

In  a world that has increasingly swallowed the African culture in the guise of globalisation, there is a need for books  that  target a return to African cultural heritage and also kindle a cultural awakening. This is what I tackled in my debut book , Memories of Grandma, which is a child hood memoir. Here are my thoughts.

What is Memories of Grandma about?

It’s a book for young adults  or if you like, children in their teens. Adults will equally enjoy it . It’s a delightful book about my life as a young traveller, a curious child who always asked the question ‘why,’ and in the process learnt a lot. It’s about growing up living in two different locations and being the better for it. Its a book about my ‘gogos’, that’s what South Africans call grandmothers and my interactions with my grandparents generally.

What do you intend to achieve with it?

In Nigeria today, many of our youngsters believe stardom is synonymous with being born with a silverspoon or that becoming a star is akin to shunning our customs and traditions. They also think it means making a conscious disconnect between themselves and their cultural heritage. They think its cool to deny your identity as the daughter of a fisher man for example, or someone born in a village or whose parents or grandparents are farmers.My intention is to show them through this book and given my humble but visible corner in the society, that there is nothing to be ashamed of if your parents are farmers, carpenters , palmwine tappers and so on. Who you want to be and how you utilise your background to achieve what you want is what matters in life. The best stories are always the grass to grace stories so my central message is “hug your background and embrace your future”.

What benefit is Memories of Grandma to children?

For parents who will be buying the book, your child will know more about the Nigerian culture especially the Yoruba culture. Importantly, what is exciting about the book is that no matter where you come from in Nigeria, you will find interesting similarities between the Yoruba culture and yours. There are fables and songs which are quite stimulating and different from the common tortoise stories. They will widen your child’s store of indigenous fables.

Children and food are inseparable, they start experiencing their first frustrations in life at meal times.   What they like is not nutritious and what they detest is what mummy says they must eat all the time. ‘Memories of Grandma’ celebrates food and meals of everyday people and their lifestyles from the eyes of a child. And yes, your children will also know more varieties of vegetables beyond soko, tete and ugu.

Reading Memories of Grandma will make your child appreciate her grandparents more and pay attention to what they say. It will make your child long to strenghten the bond between her and her grandparents.

What is  significant about your grandparents?

Every culture in Africa gives grandparents, especially grandmothers a pride of place. In many cultures across the world they are priceless. When parents struggle to raise a child and also cope with the demands of life and living, grandmothers always come to the rescue.

For me, I met my 4 grandparents and my maternal great grandma alive and grew up at their feet. The experience shaped my world view significantly. I had the privilege of growing up with women who had strength of character and went about their lives with dignity. My paternal grandmum was fierce, fabulous and trendy. My maternal grandma was virtuous, humble, elegant and soft spoken.

I however related with my maternal grandma more because she was around often. So she influenced me more, she lived a life of peace and told me a lot of stories. I believe I took after her as a story teller because all I do as a producer, presenter and reporter is tell stories in different forms. But essentially, one can say that I am a combination of both of them. Their legacies to me are hard work, dignity, courage and giving me a space to be heard, a voice, so early in life.

Your last word?

Memories of Grandma, is the ultimate gift for your child and your favourite boys and girls.

World Radio Day – Matters Arising by Funke-Treasure Durodola

The proposition to set aside a day to celebrate radio started in 2008, the proposal for celebrating World Radio Day was however only approved by UNESCO in 2011. The commemoration of the day coincides with the birth of the UN Radio on 13th February, 1946.  The day celebrates the significance of radio as a medium of communication and raises awareness about the importance of radio. It facilitates access to information, through radio; and enhances networking among broadcasters. The commemoration is only two years old.
     This year, I shared my world as a radio broadcast journalist on the breakfast show of Metro 97.7 FM in Lagos in commemoration of the day. The theme was Gender Equity &Women Empowerment, a surprising subject matter for a medium that many people think parades more women. One is therefore wont to think that the choice of women empowerment is ill-advised this time. Being a guest on that show meant taking more than a passing interest in the theme, so I took a close look at how the UN proposes to go about gender equity and women empowerment on radio.
   The world body proposed that:
There is a need to develop gender related policies and strategies for radio.
Radio should eliminate stereotypes and promote multi-dimensional portrayal on radio.
Radio should focus on young women as producers, hosts, and reporters by building radio skills for youth radio production
Radio should promote safety of women radio journalists

Matters Arising
I personally think these sub-themes speak directly to issues surrounding representation, identity and inclusion for women in the media generally and radio in particular. Gender systems abound in different socio-cultural contexts. They determine what is expected, permitted and valued in a woman/man; boy/girl. Inequalities then arise through socialisation processes and institutionalisation of gender systems through culture, education, legislations e.t.c
  In my opinion, as a user of media and a content provider, gender inequalities truly affect participation in and access to media. It particularly limits the potential of media to become inclusive, democratic spaces for women. Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth UN World Conference on Women in 1995 therefore underscores the importance of media to the advancement of women. 
     Most women are passive listeners to radio. Only a small percentage of women listeners actively engage with content on radio. In two of the 26 radio stations in Lagos, the world’s sixth most populous city, the male-female ratio of listeners is skewed in favour of men. One has a ratio of 70% to 30%, while the other has 97% to 3%. The majority of the city’s radio stations have similar ratio. There is certainly something about the programming of these stations that excludes female listeners.  Women need to speak up on programmes and issues concerning their health, children, finances, politics and governance. This will make them transit from passive to active radio listeners. 
   What is the percentage of women interviewees on radio and what fields of endeavour do they represent? Is there a greater visibility of women in radio compared to their male counterparts? Women need to get involved in the discourses surrounding their well being on radio. If they are not, what is inhibiting them? My take is that radio content providers also need to make conscious effort to include the voices of (more) women in such programmes that border on politics, technology and governance that are traditionally reserved for men. They should cultivate the habit of gender balance in seeking expert views on matters of critical national and societal importance.
     This relates closely to the second sub-theme which addresses the issue of stereotypes and multi- dimensional portrayal of women on radio. The truth is that biases, stereotyping and unbalanced reporting from a gender perspective normalize and further entrench unequal gender power relations. They are at the root of discriminatory attitudes and practices against women.  The portrayal of women in programmes, drama and the news is ladened with cultural baggage in most societies across the world. The representation of women on radio has thus largely been a continuous re-enforcement of women as cultural objects and commodities.  Although there are increasingly women who have broken the glass ceilings in different spheres of human endeavours, they are largely portrayed in the media as beings without much intellectual abilities or as sex symbols.
    While it is true that more women work on radio as DJs, anchors, reporters, producers, editors and other allied areas such as engineering, marketing, credit control, ICT and so on, there are insufficient women in management positions in radio. It is only crowded at the bottom. In the board room where policies are created and decisions made, women are few indeed. DFID 2012 Gender in Nigeria Report 2012, states that “women occupy fewer than 30% of all posts in the public sector and only in 17% of senior positions.
    Furthermore, in terms of empowerment for instance, what career advancement opportunities are available for women who work on radio? Whereas the media including radio is an investment playground for men, women are often not sufficiently financially empowered enough to own their own media enterprises and compete favourably with men. Negligibly few women have the purchasing power to influence ‘adspend’ in the media.
    Regarding radio programming for instance, few radio programmes mainstream issues that promote the welfare and well being of women beyond health? In my thinking business news and reports are structured to cater for men. Women friendly programmes on how to invest and manage one’s investments are mostly unavailable. Perhaps such programmes will be deemed necessary when community radio stations start to operate in Nigeria.
   Mentoring and coaching is ongoing informally in most media houses, under women line managers. There is however a need for targeted and structured mentoring interventions in the media. I therefore agree absolutely with the United Nations that there is a need to build radio skills for youth radio production. This is akin to putting in place a succession plan that will enable continuity and skills transfer on radio. This is partly the basis for my Media Mentoring Initiative (MMi). Such interventions for skills transfer are necessary for women to become effective influencers through radio.
     Finally how safe are women who dare to tread in the largely dangerous terrain of investigative reporting? Recently Tobore Ovuorie, a print journalist was under fire for her investigative work on human trafficking. What I find incredulous was that by her own account, she seemed to have slept with men in the course of carrying out her report. Would it have been different if she were a man? Tobore’s case is a historical development regarding the safety of women journalists in Nigeria.
     Moving forward, I recognise that women themselves perpetuate gender inequalities by allowing themselves to be cowed by the majority of men in management. Choosing to believe the foolish maxim bandied by unimaginative women (and cruel men) that women are to be seen not heard is unprogressive. We must continually work at breaking the cycle of mediocrity, ignorance and poverty which has held our women bound, even in professional circles. 
   The UN chose a topical theme. Radio is still Africa’s choice medium, our women have to recognise it is a tool for empowerment and use it effectively.

Funke -Treasure Durodola works in the Corporate Development, Research and Strategy Department of Radio Nigeria, Lagos

Back on the Blog

I am no stranger to blogging. Some years back, I blogged about my radio programme, Nigerian Pride, which aired on the Network Service of Radio Nigeria for a couple of years. Taking time off for a higher academic degree, however, redirected my writing away from creative, and issues based discourses to academic papers and arguments. I have struggled to return to writing articles. The state of the Nigerian media has however propelled me into action.

My blog will revolve around the media world; radio, TV, the internet, films and music. It will attempt to critically analyse the texts and people I encounter. It will capture the ‘oohs! and aahs!’ of my everyday life as a media professional who traverses both the academic world of media studies, journalism and the industry. It will traverse public and private broadcasting.

It will encompass the encounter I have had with industry greats across Africa and the rest of the world. I am particularly interested in how issues of identity, language and popular culture play out in the media, these will reflect in my views as I paddle along.

With 18 years experience behind me in the media, I have a handful of stories and insights to share. I will share the wealth of knowledge, experience I have accumulated here and er…the mistakes too. My grandma says “if a child parades a rich and full wardrobe like the elderly, it cannot have as many rags as that elder”. Yes. Can the young catch up with the varied apparels that the elderly has used in the past? Experience has its place in everything.

My friends in the media across the globe will also share this space with me as guests. As Jacqueline Ogoh, a fellow broadcast journalist says, “Nigeria cannot be the Nigerian of your dream without YOU being the CITIZEN of Nigeria’s dream . . .”
Are your actions in the media promoting mediocrity or activating excellence?
Stay with me here.
Funke -Treasure Durodola works in the Corporate Development, Research and Strategy department of Radio Nigeria, Lagos Operations