Just over half of the world’s population is made up f women. Yet, they continue to be oppressed, underrepresented in government, and have fewer opportunities and rights. Women like Senator Nenadi Esther, from Southern Kaduna in Nigeria, are hugely important to drive forward change, but they remain few and far between. Not only is it rare to see a woman take on a position of minister in state government, it is even rarer for them to do this in the economic and financial field. Nenadi Esther Usman is the former finance minister from Kaduna, Nigeria, and she has been, and continues to be, a role model for women all over the world.
Usman believes that the key reason why women do not participate in politics in developing countries, is because of socio-cultural aspects. Nenadi is very aware of the fact that women continue to be subordinate of men within most African social structures. Hence, the role of the woman is stereotyped according to the patriarchy, and this is a huge barrier. Women simply do not know they can move outside of the domestic duties. And this is why women like Esther are so important, because they show another way is possible.
What Nenadi Esther Usman saw in her position as minister, is how much the policy-making process is influenced by the socio-cultural aspects. Because government is made up mainly of men, policies tend to be gender stereotyping, biased, and masculine. Nenadi is unique not just because she took on a senior position in government, but also because her focus was not on welfare, education, or health. Rather, she was at the heart of creating policies that upheld the interests of women.
Esther Usman has also worked very hard to increase women’s independence and knowledge of the political arena. Education for her, is key to empowerment and to increase participation of women in all levels of society. Nenadi Esther understands that educated women are stronger women. Education makes women independent and allows them to make their own decisions in terms of their work, and their reproductive self.
Esther Nenadi Usman has seen how educating women and ensuring they can enter employment has also helped to significantly reduce poverty rates. When women are able to participate in the development of their own society, they are also empowered to become more equal in social relationships. Furthermore, educated women have more awareness of their own health, including their reproductive health. Last but not least, educated women inspire other women to achieve the same things. This is something that is seen strongly in Esther Nenadi Usman, who not only broke out of the stereotypies by entering a high position in government, but also by marrying a man of a different faith of hers. She has shown women that another life is possible, a life in which they have equal rights and equal opportunities. Women like Usman are inspirations for thousands and, in so doing, they also encourage women to not just demand rights, but take them.