top of page

Culture and Religion; Greatest Barriers for Nigerian Women in Politics

Abuja, Nigeria. March 13th, 2018 – The International Women’s Day (IWD) is observed annually on March 8th and it is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights worldwide. The aim of the day is to achieve global gender equality and the 2018 theme #PressforProgress indicates the need to press forward for the progress of achieving gender parity in the world. In commemoration of the IWD, NOIPolls conducted a poll to assess the perception of Nigerians on leadership capabilities and political representation of women in Nigeria. The poll revealed that 91 percent of adult Nigerians acknowledged that there is a huge gap in  gender equality especially in political representation, mainly due to cultural norms and religious beliefs (29 percent). This is no surprise considering that certain historic values shaped by societies, passed on from generations  have over the years spelt out specific expectations from women in terms of attributes and behaviours such as the creation of gender specific roles . This has led to the labelling of some jobs and/or roles as ‘women’s work’ and ‘men’s work’ both in the household and in the wider community such as in workplaces, as well as in leadership, governance and politics.

Interestingly, the poll results also revealed that majority of Nigerians (85 percent) believe that women make great leaders and this assertion cuts across gender, geo-political zones and age-groups. These findings may have been influenced by visible outstanding success stories of  some past and present female leaders  in Nigeria and the world at large. For instance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (former Minister of Finance in Nigeria and currently one of the 28-member Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization – GAVI), Amina J. Mohammed (Former Minister of Environment in Nigeria and the present Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations), Mo Abudu (renowned media mogul and founder of EbonyLife TV) and Stella Adadevoh (the doctor who died putting her life on the line to save Nigerians from Ebola epidemic) amongst other great Nigerian women have made impact with their leadership qualities over the years. Given this positive perception of Nigerians on Women’s leadership capabilities, a critical issue of concern would be whether this translates into the much desired behavioural change and cultural shift which would shape a more positive narrative for gender equality in Nigeria. Nonetheless, gender equality change agents can capitalise on this positive stance as a soft landing for acceptance of change initiatives.

While these change agents are already working hard towards achieving gender equality in Nigeria and around the world, with some milestones being achieved; the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report revealed that it will take about 217 years before the global gender parity is achieved. Thus, there is need for more progressive synergised long-term strategies by stakeholders to tackle the barriers to equality, especially those centred on culture and religion. These are the key findings from the International Women’s Day Poll conducted by NOIPolls in the week commencing March 5th, 2018.

Brief Background:

International Women’s Day is held on the 8th of March of each year and it is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements and calls for gender equality. The day has been observed since the early 1900s and aims to bring together governments, women’s organizations and charities. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievement without regards to division, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. The theme for 2018 is #PressforProgress which encourages every woman, including stakeholders, to press for progress towards achieving gender equality.

In Nigeria, historical evidence had proved that women have for long been playing crucial role in the political life of the country and women have contributed in no small measure in shaping the political system of the country. However, over the years, women have been relegated to the background especially in political representation. This is largely due to the fact that Nigerian politics is highly patriarchal in nature, with men often in lead of the political affairs and women sometimes occupying insignificant postilions. Against this background, NOIPolls conducted this poll to gauge the perception of Nigerians on gender equality, especially in political representation.

Survey Findings:

The first question aimed at gauging the leadership skills of women and the findings revealed that an overwhelming majority of adult Nigerians acknowledged that women make great leaders. This affirmation cuts across gender, geo-political zones and age-groups, with each demography having over 75 percent of the respondents admitting that women make great leaders.

On gender equality in Nigeria, the poll revealed that slightly more than 9 in 10 (91 percent) adult Nigerians stated that there is gender inequality in the country especially in political representations. The North-East (97 percent) and the North-West (95 percent) zones accounted for the largest proportion of Nigerians who think there is gender inequality in the country.

On the contrary, 9 percent of the respondents nationwide believe that there is gender equality in the country and residents from the South-East zone (25 percent) had the largest proportion of Nigerians who made this assertion.

More findings from the poll revealed that majority of the respondents who think that there is gender inequality blamed cultural norms and religious beliefs (29 percent). Also, 17 percent of the respondents were of the opinion that gender inequality exists in Nigeria is because women are perceived to be weak and lack the capacity to lead amongst all other mentions.

On the other hand, respondents who think that there is gender equality were further asked to state the reason for their assertion and most respondents (37 percent) stated that there is gender equality as they notice lots of women in politics in Nigeria. 25 percent also mentioned that women have equal constitutional rightd in the country  while 16 percent of the respondents mentioned that representation should be by merit and not gender.

In conclusion, the findings from this poll have shown that there is a huge gap in gender equality in Nigeria as stated by 91 percent of the respondents across gender, geo-political zones and age groups; citing cultural norms and religious beliefs as the major obstacles.  Also, 17 percent mentioned that there is no gender equality in Nigeria because women are perceived to be weak and lack the capacity to lead, considering them as subordinate to their male counterparts. Contrarily, 9 percent of the respondents claimed that there is gender equality mainly because they perceive that a lot of women now participate in politics however, it is still a far cry from the larger proportion (91 percent) who believe that women have little or insignificant political representation in the country.

Therefore, existing forms of gender inequality in Nigeria must be addressed and this underlines the need for a deliberate, sensitive, consistent and systematic approach of gender relations which should include gender mainstreaming in all aspects of life. If the concept of democracy allows for diversity of opinion and participation of different groups in Nigeria, then, the same should not exclude women and this can be influenced by passing the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill (GEOB) by the legislative arm of the government.

Finally, the results revealed that majority of Nigerians, 85 percent, affirmed that women make great leaders. Hence, this is a clarion call on all women to wake up to their responsibility of taking the fore front position especially at participating in politics so that they will have a fair share of representation in the polity. Women should defy the general believe that they are best suited as home keepers only and start to take part in decision making.

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of March 5th 2018. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a range of plus or minus 3%. The demographic distribution of the respondents is divided into the following groups: Gender, age-group, and geo-political zones as illustrated below. The demographic distribution remains the same as 2016.

  1. Gender: The proportion of male and female respondents was almost equal with 51 percent and 49 percent respectively.

  2. Age-Group: The age-group with the highest frequency was 36-60 with 49%, followed by the 18-35 age-group with 47%. The lowest age-group represented was 60+ with 4%.

  3. Geo-Political Zones: All geo-political zones were represented in the survey. The zone with the highest representation was the North-West with 24% while the South-East zone had the lowest representation with 12%.

  4. Occupation: The majority of the respondents surveyed were self-employed traders (39%); followed by Government workers/Civil servants (22%). The lowest represented occupation in the survey were Youth Corpers and Religious Leaders/Missionaries (1%).

NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at and you can download our mobile app NOIPolls on your smartphone.


This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

Press Contact

The Editor



bottom of page