When Ndi Kato decided to run for office in Nigeria, she found few models for young women who wanted to be in politics.
“Women said, ‘Don’t get excited, the system will isolate you, you’re a token’,” Kato, 29, told AFP. “The future didn’t look so bright.”
But she wanted to make a difference and in February kicked off her campaign for the House of Assembly in the northern state of Kaduna.
From there, it was a constant battle against the patriarchy.
“There is this condescension to a woman’s candidacy,” she said. “They’ll tell you, ‘Oh, wow! Cute, we’re happy to see a beautiful woman but you’re not going to win’.”
On the campaign trail, Kato was often the only woman in the room and said when she did speak up she was “hepeated” – her suggestions were ignored until a man said it and was praised.
She looked on as her male counterparts across the country received generous donations from political party elders that helped them secure their candidacies.
Despite her best efforts, she didn’t make it through the party primaries.
Kato’s experience is far from an isolated case in Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer, home to more than 190 million people.
The West African giant ranks 180th out of 190 countries for women’s representation in politics, according to a 2017 UN report.
Women make up just 5.8% of the ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 36-member cabinet.
In parliament, just seven out of the 109 members of the upper chamber, the Senate, are female. In the lower House of Assembly, women hold 19 of the 360 seats.
Those numbers are not expected to change dramatically as presidential, parliamentary and state elections approach in four months’ time.
Last week, the Daily Trust newspaper said only 31…