‘I Have A Burden Of Increasing Number Of Women In Bauchi Politics’
Out of 31 members of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Maryam Garba Bagel, representing Dass Constituency, is the only woman, having defeated former Deputy Speaker of the House in the April election. She told BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE that her major preoccupation is making herself a role model for future female political aspirants.
How are you coping in the state Assembly, being the only female in the 31-member state Assembly?
As funny as it sounds, yes, I am the only woman in the midst of 30 men. Six of us contested the primary election, five of them were men, but I won; the delegates wanted me and they voted for me.
I feel normal, having worked in the field before. To me, there was nothing new working among men.
Also, my colleagues are very accommodating. They see me as a colleague and I don’t suffer any personal discrimination on the basis of my gender, although it is also challenging for me to represent women properly.
This implies I have to work hard to remain relevant, because if I make any mistake, it will rub off on women; they will say it is because I am a woman.
I also have the challenge of upholding my dignity and integrity among the men.
How were you able to fund your campaign and election?
Actually, at a stage, no matter how small, you cannot do it without money, because you also need money for logistics and when you go for community meetings, you need to buy refreshment, fuel the cars of those campaigning for you, etc. This is one of the issues affecting women in politics.
In as much as some people are willing to sponsor politicians, they believe in sponsoring male candidates, because they feel they will recoup their money when the aspirants win.
Nobody wants to sponsor women, because they do not believe women can win election easily, like the men. Nobody wants to invest where he cannot reap.
But thank God, because when no one comes out to sponsor you, they will not begin to issue instructions when you win. I think women group should do more to support women aspirants, because it is not easy with women, financially. No matter how small, they must spend money.
What level of support did you get from husband and family?
The drama there is that I never discussed it with my family until I got the form, filled and returned it, though they know me for being determined and always going for what I want. So, I felt they would distract me.
My family would naturally want to discourage me if I discuss it with them. It was after submitting the form that I told them and they were shocked. My sister did not speak with me until I won the primaries. But I understand their fears.
Whatever negative comments people make on the social media about me affects them emotionally and psychologically. And that was exactly what every other families are worried about and the reason you do not see many women in politics. Every family wants to protect their women from name-calling and others.
But after winning the primary election, my family supported me fully.
How long have you been in politics?
I have never been in politics until now, although I have been a development worker for the past 15 years. I have been in community health and education, working with international non-governmental organisations.
I can tell you that those were some of the things that made me develop interest in politics, because for long, I have been working and I have seen how things were supposed to be done, how government should be ran and what the people should expect from the government.
So, I felt that with this experience, I could make a difference if I am on the other side.
How were you able to win the election?
One of the reasons was that people were desperate for change because the previous government failed them. People wanted to relax their tension by allowing change to take place.
When I was campaigning, I was surprised at the level of acceptance. People were saying that as a woman, they were sure I would not fail them. It was the failure of the former government that gave people the idea not to stick to one side, to give rooms for change to happen.
Also, because of my background in the NGO, they saw me as someone who has been contributing to community development. They saw me as somebody who can make a change.
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