Myth or fact: Queen Amina’s story has inspiring leadership lessons for women

From generation to generation, women have proven themselves an integral and indispensable part of leadership both locally and globally.

Nigeria has produced notable women leaders in virtually all spheres of society; in politics, education, commerce, etc. From the great Queen Amina of Zazzau (modern-day Zaria) to Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Ladi Dosei Kwali, Dora Akunyili, Okonjo-Iweala etc. – a non-exhaustive list indeed.

According to historical accounts, Amina, commonly known as the warrior queen, was the first woman to become the Sarauniya (queen) in a male-dominated society. She ruled an African kingdom for 34 years in the 1500s and expanded the territory of the Hausa people of North Africa to its largest borders in history.

She left a great legacy during her reign that has been the subject of discussion for centuries. Even till date, her legacy lives on and is a subject of discussion among social media users. Even though the discussion mostly centres around whether or not the famous queen existed, there is a lesson to learn from her story on women’s’ leadership.

The originating conversation:

Queen Amina’s story points to the fact that women have a great capacity for transformational leadership.

But the big question is; how many women hold top leadership positions in our society today? It is common knowledge that women are among the most marginalised groups in society when it comes to accessing top leadership roles. And the gender gap has persisted for long.

According to 2017 United Nations (UN) report, women are under-represented in many key leadership positions, including political leadership roles in domestic politics, as well as in the educational sector. Available statistics show that out of 193 UN countries, only 11 had a woman serving as head of state while 12 had a woman as head of government (UN Women, 2017).

While the Nordic countries have come close to equal representation in parliament, with women making up 41% of their single house parliaments; other regions are still far behind, including sub-Saharan Africa with only 24% of women represented in parliament as at 2017.

Also, leadership roles in schools from primary to university levels are male-dominated; only 13% of women occupying the position of dean and 18% occupying department head or director roles. Female participation in school management committees is also low as only 30% of schools reached a benchmark of one woman attending at least two meetings, ranging from 11% in Jigawa State to 72% in Lagos State in 2016.

The above figures only represent a fraction of the low level of women representation in different spheres of society. But sadly, this reflects their representation in other sectors too, despite their contribution to nation-building and making up about 49% of Nigeria’s population.

The significant role women play in politics and nation-building cannot be overemphasized. From their contribution in the anti-colonial struggles (that led to the establishment of politically active women groups), up until Nigeria secured her independence, to the post-colonial era; women have shown great commitment to the country and have left great legacies from generation to generation. However, they are yet to reap the maximum gains from the nationalist struggles they fought with their male counterparts that resulted in Nigeria’s independence because top leadership positions in key sectors including politics are mostly reserved for the men while the women are often seen at the lower rung of the ladder.

Studies have shown that the exclusion of women in politics is a major setback for economic development because women’s groups are a strong pillar for grassroots politics and socio-economic growth. It is rather saddening that women participation in politics at the grassroots is still faced with a lot of challenges that make it difficult for them to harness available opportunities for economic development.

Women are often marginalised when it comes to occupying top leadership roles in politics and other spheres largely due to the cultural perception of women in our clime in a male-dominated society. But until gender bias is dropped to enable more women to participate in top leadership roles, we may be denying ourselves a chance for greater advancement. The Queen Amina story may be instructive in this regard.

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