In the world today, it can be notice that women form different socio-political caliber find themselves limited in their participation in political representation and leadership roles due to their under representation. As a result, the number of women representative in parliaments is small compared to their male counterpart and this implies that women are far distanced from critical decision-making processes that are necessary to the provision of proper governance. Despite different countries having diverse political systems, the political playground is uneven and therefore not conducive for the participation of women. To those women who desire to plunge into politics, most of them are faced with cultural, political, social and public environment that is frequently hostile or unfriendly.
Democracy is characterized by the notion that every citizen's preference and opinion should be put into consideration in any level of politics and government decision making process . Robert Dahl (1971, 1) confirms that, "a key characteristic of a democracy is the continued responsiveness of the government to the preferences of its citizens, considered as political equals."(1) Equal representation of women as well as their assumption of leadership roles enhances democracy. However, this is not the case due to multiplicity of factors that undermines two men's representation.
This paper highlights the reasons that provide hindrance to the representation of women in politics and leadership role as well as the solutions that can be used to address these challenges. Factors such as lack of ambition, gender, economy, legislation and colour discrimination are identified as stumbling block that inhibits the acquisition of awareness and opportunities that promote political development and participation. Indeed, understanding the challenges will therefore provide an opportunity to explore alternatives that will promote equal representation.
Obstacles to women equal participation, representation and leadership and solutions
Lack of ambition
According to Brown, early studies carried out on women found out that many women expressed no or little ambitions towards participating in political engagements unlike their male counterparts. As results women of England in 1977 express little concern in the politics on goings around them. These resulted in low participation of women and subsequently, few women were elected to be representatives in the parliament. The remarks of one female legislator explained the adverse effect of little ambition as she was quoted say she was a "housewife-benchwarmer".(2)
Despite the low ambition possessed by some women, through the process of involving women in political activities as well as in leadership roles can help raise the ambitions of women towards participating equally with their male counterparts in the political process.
Research conducted by Hawkesworth reveals that marginalization of women particularly due to colour difference in the U.S. congress has made women shy off from seeking to participate in political engagement, leave alone vie for posts in the government(3). Due to the prevalence of marginalization, many coloured women have failed to attempt to run for posts such as those of the congress person fearing lest they be discriminated in the congress due to the colour.
With the setting of structures that guide on political representation, issues concerning representation can be reviewed to weed out any forms of discrimination based on colour in order to promote the participation of women and therefore enhance the role of women in leadership and representative role.
Gender has also been identified as an obstacle that has influenced the participation of women in some areas though not in all. For instance, in Canada the predispositions towards equality is skewed and in favour of men. However, in Norway, the country ranks as the second in the world due to the number of women representative in the government. Other countries with similar scores include the U.S as well as New Zealand. In New Zealand for example, there are nearly twice the number of women in the parliament.(4)
With Reingold (2008) assertion that few women identify the delegate role in politics, either due to "passiveness, subservience, weak leadership, and indecisiveness-all gender stereotypes that haunt female politicians in particular" (5)(p. 134), there is need to educate women on how to discover and overcome gender stereotypes. This will in turn boost the participation of women in the political arena thus enhancing their chances of capturing representations roles and thereby serve as different leaders in politics. In this way the notion that women should take the back stage and serve at home will in no doubt take a thing of the past with men and women equally competing to fill offices in public function.
In some areas, the prevalence of economic challenges has affected women especially in their involvement in political process. In such countries, women have been hindered form participating and seeking representation due to economic hurdles they face. Many women who come from poor socio economic areas are tasked with meeting their basic needs as well as that for the families. However, the men my do little and thus may have time to engage in political activities. In this case, the involvement of women in political process is likely to remain low with few with few representative and women leaders as compared to men. (6)
To address the issue of economic huddles, there is need to strengthen institutions in the society that will in turn promote the life of women from poor socio economic areas by reducing prevalence of poverty as well as boosting literacy level among them. This will in turn improve the social standing of women and subsequently promote their participation in politics.
Some scholars argue that the few number of women engaged in political participation and representation can be attributed to the little number of legislation that have been passed and have value to the women in the society. The introduction of legislation that promotes the place and role of women in politics thus can serve as a hindrance o the involvement in the whole process.(7)
The increased participation in political issues should be beneficial to both men and women who can have equal contribution in areas of participation, representation and leadership roles. However, the success of making women take their stand besides men in the political arena depends on the understanding of obstacles such that are gendered bases, legislative, economic as well as discriminative in order to develop solution that include the empowerment of women, creation of more economic opportunities for women as well as making legislative changes that will seek to strengthen the place of women in the society. Indeed, this will help promote an equal participation and representation in politics, leadership and representation.