TABLE OF CONTENT
Women and Development
Women’s Empowerment in Nigeria: Measuring the Gap
Factors Which Contribute to Gender Disparities
This study is a contribution to the debate on the political and socio-economical empowerment of African women in the era of democratic awakening. The thrust of this study examined and analysed impediments to the political and socio-economical empowerment of the African woman in the 21st century, with emphasis on Nigeria, and how to emancipate female Nigerians from political mediocre and stagnancy through education and participation in the socio-economic and political development of the nation. It argued that whereas various factors impede the advancement of women in politics and other spheres of the society, these factors are partly contributed by female Nigerians. The study further revealed that whereas the government has a role to play in changing the subordinate status of women in government and decision-making, many actions have to be taken by women in order to break loose from political backwardness and social subordination. Issues such as contending factors to the political progress of women were examined, and thereafter the way forward proposed. The main purpose of the study is to encourage maximum support and participation of women in decision-making and the development of the nation. This article may be useful to educators, policy makers and women groups who are developing strategies for the advancement of women in developing countries.
Globally, there has been transformation about the role of women in the society. More awareness is being created with regard to incorporating gender perspectives in policy-making and the adoption of gender-inclusive approaches in the implementation of development-related goals in order to empower women(although it is arguable if the remote and often neglected parts of developing countries receive these sensitizations). The achievement of this goal is seen as the attainment of peace, justice and sustainable development.
Although controversial, gender has come to be a very crucial instrument for shaping the society; and based on this, the world’s governments adopted gender equality and women’s empowerment as the third Millennium Development Goal in 2000. The previous United Nation’s conferences such as the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, (1993), the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo (1994), the World Conference on Women, Beijing (1995), and the Security Council Resolution (2000), all focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In Africa, women are politically underrepresented, with little or no decision-making power accorded them. Nigeria stands as one of the countries in the continent lagging behind on this issue. Nothing seems to have changed for women as a result of male-dominance. Most Nigerian women still have little influence and control over economic resources in the somewhat questionable democratic republic; a situation that has wasted the potential in them and thus brought about a decline in economic development
Just like women in other patriarchal societies, the subordinate position which Nigerian women are subjected to, predisposes them to various acts of gender-based discrimination. Being a patriarchal society, male dominance is reflected in the marriage institution, political and governing institutions, religious institutions, and other public and private institutions existing in the country. Very few women in the country occupy leadership positions and participate equitably with their male counterparts in decision-making. This in part is caused by the nonchalant attitude of women, inadequate credible women’s groups, discriminatory cultures, the society, and the governing institutions.
This article focuses on the empowerment of Nigerian women, using both empirical and analytical methods. It examines the achievements and challenges in the implementation of gender equality and women’s empowerment; measures the gender gap using criteria such as: (a) Educational attainment, (b) Economic participation, (c) Political empowerment, and (d) Health and well-being. The factors which contribute to the disparities will be highlighted and strategies for advancement recommended, with a final conclusion.
GENDER EQUALITY: Gender equality has been defined by several gender experts and advocates of gender equality. However, I shall select three comprehensive ones. Gender equality is being referred to as a stage of human social development at which the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of individuals will not be determined by the fact of being born male or female, but a stage when both of them realize their full potential, (World Economic Forum, 2005:1). This does not signify that men and women are created with similar body features, but that they ought to enjoy equitable benefits.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (1999:11), defines gender equality as “the overall strategic objective for promoting the role of women and therefore, sustainable people-centered development,” and the Fourth World Conference on Women, (1995), stipulates that, “equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice, and is also a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for equality, development and peace.” A gender-equal society is a society in which both women and men, as equal members of the society, deserve to have equitable opportunities to participate in all kinds of social activities at will, enjoy equitably, political, economical and cultural benefits, and share responsibilities.
WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT: Empowering women is an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty. There is no doubt that empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families, communities and the nation. A critical aspect of gender equality is the equal participation of women and men in decision-making about societal priorities and development directions. Investment in women’s empowerment is rather, vital for securing sustainable economic growth and other development objectives.
WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT
Successful development depends on the involvement and commitment of members of the society, especially women, men, and youths. Every group, regardless of creed, class or sex, ought to have a role to play in the development of the nation. The degree of cooperation and the extent of participation of members depend upon the general level of the people’s awareness of their needs. For any society to survive, both men and women alike, have roles to play as members of the society. Men and women are created to live and work together for their betterment, and for the progress of the society. Usually, the development of any society demands the effort and commitment of every member. Put differently, every member of the society, including women and girls, have to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and habits to be able to make their contribution towards the development of the society.
Different approaches and theoretical frameworks have been used to analyse the place and conditions of women in development over the past few decades. Approaches such as ‘Women in Development’ (WID), ‘Women and Development’ (WAD), and ‘Gender and Development’ (GAD) have been repeatedly used to illustrate the role of women in development. Whereas WID approach calls for greater attention to women in development policy and practice, and emphasizes the need to integrate them into development (Hazel, Reeves and Sally Baden, 2000: 3), Gouws, Amanda (2005: 25) argues that this approach places women just as an ‘add on’ to development projects. She notes that women were only excluded from development projects, and therefore, had to be included on equal terms with men.
The discourse of WID shifted from equity to anti-poverty and efficiency in the mid- 1980s to support the WAD approach. Meanwhile, Bhavnani, Kurian and Others (2003: 5) note that integrating women into development is not the only important action to take; but to ensure that mainstreamed projects are transformed to include women’s needs and issues right from the beginning of any development project. On the other hand, the GAD approach focuses on the socially constructed basis of differences between men and women, and emphasizes the need to challenge existing gender roles and relations (Hazel and Baden, 2000: 3). This approach has become the most prominent one adopted since the late 1980s by policy planners, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, because it not only focuses on the inclusion of women in development, but also focuses on the relationships of power which generate women’s inequality – since unequal social and gender relations need to be transformed to empower women.