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GENDER SENSITIVITY AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT IN NIGERIA
S.O. Kolawole and O.A. Fashina
Department of Business Administration and Management, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic,Owo
In all societies, men and women are integrally linked; the relations, roles, attitudes and practices are clearly differentiated in terms of societal values. Economic empowerment of women should be rigorously pursued since it will provoke greater participation of women in electioneering. Empowerment of the Nigerian women cannot therefore happen until culture is stripped of its demagogic power, that is, emancipation from African culture. The purpose of this study is to assess the influence of gender issues and trends on the involvement of women in nation building. The paper discusses women in politics, democracy and women empowerment, feminist ideology, women democratisation, culture, gender and women education. Recommendations were made to enable women participate socially, economically and politically in nation building.
A country is considered to be educationally developed if a greater percentage of the school-age female population are enrolled in schools. The female participation rates of most developing nations are low while both male and female drop out rates and female repetition rates are very high. This is due to academic achievement of female students, which is a result of or constraining institutional and societal factors (Brock and Cammish, 1991; Colclough and Lewin, 1993; and Tietjen and Prather, 1991).
Women are required to be lower, weaker, inferior and subordinate for back stage and backbench position. African culture, the Nigerian culture inclusive, endorses this position often to the detriment of the women’s survival, health and peace of mind.These further buttressed the recognition of the fact that development or progress in people’s welfare cannot be achieved where the need and contributions of half of the world’s population, that is, the women, are still continually downgraded, marginalised or completely ignored. As the country resources dwindle, it is imperative that available remaining resources are efficiently managed to benefit both present and future generations (IPG< 2003).
Weeks, Wise and Duncan (1984), Goldin (1997), O’Brien and Fassinger (1993), and Rainey and Borders (1997) reported that gender role attitudes significantly influence adolescent girl’s career orientation and career aspiration. Salami (2001) stresses that in Nigeria; there are evidences that there are significant influences of gender on the adolescents’ career choices vis-à-vis career maturity (Asimogu-Ejiogu, 1991; Onivehu, 1991; and Salami, 1997), sex-role stereotypes on vocational occupational choices and competences among adolescents and workers (Famojuro, 1986; Bojuwoye and Imoukhome, 1986; Adeyemi, 1999; and Uwe, 1999).
Some researchers have reported no sex differences in the career decision-making styles, progress vocational decisiveness of other subjects (Harren, Kass, Tinsley and Moreland, 1978; Moreland, Harren, Krimsky and Tinsley, 1979; Harren, Kass, Tinsley and Moreland, 1979). In some more recent studies, Holmes (1992), Gati, Ospow and Givon (1995), Bresnan (1988) and Farmer, Rotella, Anderson and Wardrop (1998) found that gender significantly influenced occupational sex-role stereotyping among secondary school students.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was formally established in 1994 when a women’s commission was upgraded to become a full ministry in 1993. The National Policy on women Affairs was drawn up though it was not signed by any of the governments until 1999 when President Obasanjo gave his accent (IPG, 2003). The evidence on ground is that very little has been achieved during the first decade of the ministry’s existence. Women’s subordination and its harmful consequences still affect large numbers of Nigerian women. The change, which has occurred has been incremental based on the numbers that have taken advantages of the services available for human resources development in the country – schools, hospitals and others and not because a special focus and attention emanating from the international efforts was given to women (Ibid).
In Nigeria, female participation in education is low when compared to that of their male counterparts. The situation was worse in the past when the girl-child was not to be given any form of Western education. The Nigerian of early marriage did not help the situations. However more female children are getting enrolled in schools (Fabunmi, 2004).
The purpose of this study is to assess the influence of gender issues and trends on the involvement of women in nation building.
Feminist ideologists have advocated since the early 19th Century for ways of bridging the big gaps created by societal inequality and have created in the minds of women leaders all over the world the need for women empowerment, which is primarily concerned with the issue of female inequality (Oni, 2001). Omede (1987) asserts that the feminist idea of women emancipation can be said to be a reaction to the social belief that the female biological features consist of many distinctively feminine qualities best suited for child-rearing and home making.
In contemporary times however, feminist advocates describe their ideology as those ideas, attitudes and responses that seem to indicate a conscious awareness of what it is to be a women in society (Omede, 1997); other feminist protagonists argue that in a truly equal society, women should be in a position comparable to that of men who at the present time are able to combine their occupations and other roles with those of husbands and fathers (Oni, 2001). In reality, male-female equality seems a pipe dream. Hardly can a woman combine her career and home effectively. The inability to do this is due to an oppression sustained by prejudice discrimination and male chauvinists.
The emancipation and re-entry of women into leadership class is a task women should give to themselves. This task is imperative since most human societies today have been desecrated by men, who are gradually drawing the human race back to the hobbesian state of nature characterised by violence, oppression and deprivation (Oni, 2001). However, the current demand by Nigerian women that the men folk should give them a chance to participate actively in governance is wrong because the success of this right should not depend on the good intentions of men. Rather women should build themselves into an intellectual army to awaken the consciousness of their fellow women to the task of taking up leadership position (Oni, 2001).
Culture and Gender
In the majority of the ethnic groups in Nigeria, males are accorded a higher status than females. From the family level through the community to the nation, men are expected to play the roles of the owner/custodians, the provider, the head and breadwinner, the leader. Women are required to submit to the leadership of the males and to look up to them to provide their basic needs. The bulk of Nigerians ethnic groups operate along these partrilineal lines though there are few which are partrilineal.3
Empowerment of the Nigerian women cannot therefore happen until culture stripped off its imposed demagogic power-emancipation from the African culture, must be the first step appeals to the human rights of women, education, health, would not yield much under the strangle hold of culture unless it is broken, social values, patriarchal structure and a system of sanctions, which must have virginally been useful no longer apply today (IPG, 2003).
Women Education and Development
Education is the ability to read, write, perform skills and become morally useful to the society. Illiteracy rates are higher for females and the levels of educational attainments are also lower for females in Nigeria. The situational analysis of the educational attainment is that males are more than females attain education either in primary, secondary or tertiary levels of education, which may have resulted from neglect of women’s educational needs. All these shortcomings have been recognised and some initiatives have been made to change them. However, efforts must be universal and as much as possible the schemes must address local constraints. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) was a very decisive more, which, if implemented properly, would enable Nigerians’ access to education (IPG, 2003).
Table 1: Data on Nigeria in Respect of Level of Literacy, Illiteracy and Enrolment of Pupils/Students
The above table confirms that there is disparity between male education and female education in both primary and secondary schools in Nigeria. The male Gross Enrolment Ratio is 77 while that of female is 61.
Table 2: The Statistics of Registered Students in the College of Science and Technology from 1999 – 2005
Chart I: Primary and Secondary Schools Enrolment 2002 – 2006
Chart II: Primary and Secondary Schools Enrolment Gender (%) Share 2006
Chart IIb: Secondary Schools Enrolment Gender Share 2006
From Chart IIa, male enrolment in primary education is higher than that of female, since male enrolment is 54.64%, while that of female is 45.36%. From Chart IIb above, enrolment gender share is 56.12% for male while that of female is 43.88% in the secondary school enrolment. It implies that we have more male students having access to secondary education than the female students. The Nigerian government introduced some programmes that would provide more educational opportunities for girls from primary to tertiary levels and efforts are still being made towards re-orientating the attitude of all females irrespective of age, towards schooling (Mabawonku, 2001).
Female Low Participation in Technological Education
This assertion may not be true anymore with the age of automation and revolution in computer technology, intellectual ability count more than physical energy (Amar-Kehinde, 1999); and it is through constant practice of problem solving that the higher cognitive skills needed in science and technology will develop not through physical strength. Beverly (1995) notes that the society assumes that women should be mothers, school teachers, hairdressers, secretaries, nurses, maids and social workers only; therefore, they do not need education or training in calculus, physics, chemistry, auto-mechanic or welding.
Mohammed (2001) opines that although men and women are biologically different, they are much more like each other than popular culture would often have us to believe. There is low rate of enrolment of girls compared to boys in science and technology fields in tertiary institutions.
Women and Labour Force
Women do make efforts to take advantage of opportunities within their environment. Women in the Southern part of the country, for example, take to trading in the market. Women in many Northern states tend to be confined in their homes from where they engage in productive activities. In agriculture, women are found to be more active everywhere in Nigeria. in other occupations women are increasingly taking positions in the development of the nation. What is required is for more women to participate in politics and be in positions of decision-making. Nigeria now can boast of women lawyers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, professors, engineers, architects, management consultants, civil servants although few in high positions, and the like (IPG,2003).
Women in Politics
Politics is the art and science of government and it is a global activity, and there is hardly any society in which we do not have politics in one way or the other (Oni, 2001). Women in Africa today and most especially Nigeria remain politically under-represented and economically disadvantaged. Akande (1999) asserts that Nigerian women have been marginalised in the formal political systems owing to traditional beliefs and practices, which inhibit their advancement and participation in public life. The consequences are that women involved in politics have tended to accommodate issues and policies of specific concerns to women and by extension to the majority in civil society (Oni, 2001).
The realisation and determination of the will to change things around, and the empowerment of women, or rather the seizure of power by them to determine their own orientation and the restructure their own life styles in accordance with their self determined world view (Adesanya, 2001).
Democratisation in its connotative meaning and especially when applied to women, must be seen as a multi-programmatic concept whose dimensions must include:
· Establishment of genuine equality between all sectors of the society, especially in all those matters that affect human dignity and survival. This must involve the restoration of equal rights to all those disadvantaged and marginalised.
· Building up self-confidence and the spirit of self-reliance in the peoples auto-development capabilities, in realistic appreciation that the most authentic, the most durable and self-multiplying development is self-development.
· Raising the level of cultural, social and political consciousness of the women through programmes of enlightenment that liberate than domesticate.
· Opening of access to, and acquisition and use of knowledge through programmes of enlightenment that liberate than domesticate.
Opening of access to, and acquisition and use of knowledge through universalised functional literacy for both young and old, and multi-variety of non-formal education programmes for their social, economic and political capacitation (Akinpelu, 1988).
Democracy and Women Empowerment
Democracy demands from the common man a certain level of ability and character, rational conduct and active participation in the government; the intelligent understanding of public affairs; independent judgment; tolerance and unselfish devotion to public interest and it is the excellence of individual character. Democracy encourages the intelligence, self-reliance, initiative and social sense of free men by planning the ultimate authority and trust and ensures equal consideration for all (Appadorai, 1978).
Empowerment is an act of building, developing and increasing power through cooperation, sharing responsibility and working together (Bagudo, 2000). Olorode. (1997) affirms that empowerment is the act of taking power; this term implies the effective use of that power that is political when polity is concerned. Thus, when a group, class or organisation is empowered, it either captures power or it is given power in the later instance, power or some power is conceded or ceded to that group, class or organisation. Empowerment is a loaded concept socially, psychologically, economically and politically. It does not require a redistribution of power, rather it awakens the power that should be in every person by virtue of being a responsive and responsible human being as someone who can say and do things (Oni, 2001).
Affirmative action encompassing women liberation movements, women empowerment programmes, first ladies- summits, family support programme, better-life programme could not adequately integrate females into the Nigerian politics (Ndubisi, 2005).
Women in Business and Management
The latest idea is that women would be better off if they are empowered in business and management for the promotion and acceleration of nation building. There are economic, political, social and cultural barriers that block women progress and ultimately their contributions to meaningful nation building. Gender mainstreaming requires that equality dimensions should be integrated into all policy development, implementation and evaluations. If it is accepted that gender equality is viable and a necessity for development, good, accurate and disaggregated data must be readily available for women involvement in business and management of local, state, national and international levels both as baseline and assessment of the impact in women emancipation and liberation.
There are examples of women in business and management in Nigeria such as Chioma Isiadinso – Managing Director, Espartos Consulting; Aderonke Bello – Coordinator, School Manager, Nigeria; Cecilia Ibru – Chief Executive, Oceanic Bank International Plc; Winfred Ehizele – Head, the huge Skye Bank; Prof. Ndi Okereke – Director-General, Nigeria Stock Exchange; and a host of others (Ndubisi, 2005).
Women Empowerment and Nation Building
Empowerment of women would cover such actions as enlightening or teaching other women to energise them to change the situation within the communities where they live. As they move and act as a group to initiate some changes their importance in the collective bargaining would be recognised and it would be possible for them to gain some control over other social and economic circumstances (IPG, 2003).
It should be noted that education of women has resulted in the changing patterns of more life and actualisation levels and women participation in all spheres of national life promotes women’s interest in society and consequently in nation building. It is pertinent that government on its part should always consider appointment of women and requisite qualification(s), experience and positive social disposition into position of responsibility (Oni, 2000). Hence, strategies for women empowerment could be psychological strategy, sociological strategy, educational strategy, economic strategy and political strategy (Oni, 2000).
Akinpelu (1988) opines that whatever strategy is adopted, the indigenous knowledge familiar to the groups must be adequately utilised in any democratisation policy for women. It will be hypocritical and self deceptive to expect that men and male dominated governments will willingly emancipate women from their cultural subordination, economic exploitation and political invisibility. Freire, in Adesanya (2001), pointed out that it is unnatural for a human being to initiate and pursue programmes, which later on threaten his status.
Women’s empowerment towards nation building therefore would consist of the following actions in order to make a giant stride in actualising women empowerment in Nigeria: enlightening identifiable groups of women with a common status on issues and interest; getting them to participate together in an identified social action and by sustaining their actions until they become part of the social reality of the community.
With the acquisition of knowledgeable tactics, women will be able to evolve their own definition, acquire strength of the mind and body; bow to the authority of reason instead of being modest slaves of opinion and reason is absolutely necessary to enable them perform any duty properly (Wollstonercraft, 1982).
Therefore, the recent in women’s issues in all its forms generate a terrain in which practices, forms and definitions are areas of competition and struggles but these contests are a few of a phenomenon. The present situation is a kind of revival of women activity.
Summary and Conclusion
In policy term, the major question is not the central significance of education, which internationally has received worldwide acknowledgement by who should enjoy it, and with its attendant question of how it should be organised. The answers depend mostly on physical attitudes and beliefs on concepts of justice and on ideas about the importance of the individual and the nature of women.
In the quest for women empowerment in Nigeria, some crucial and vital values such as honesty and accountability, openness and transparency, cooperation and cohesion, equity and social justice, industry and discipline, patriotism and nationalism, self-confidence and moral courage, entrepreneurial spirit, morality and education should be encouraged and promoted to ensure a full fledge women emancipation to enable them contribute meaningfully and positively to nation building.
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