AN INVESTIGATION INTO WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Women empowerment is all encompassing, so this work will want to narrow it to the subject of women development and the impact of skill acquisition and economic empowerment. This topic has generated so much controversy in Nigeria, and the debate centers on appropriate type of development and whether they would help stimulate women toward their development. There is much ambivalence within every society as to the proper place of women in all the vital spheres of life. However, there seems to be a consensus that the future of women development is greatly enhanced with these two variables mentioned above. This study therefore examines the role of skill acquisition and economic empowerment on women development and how women have contributed in the development of their community. This will be done by defining each of the concepts involved, showing their specific relation and reaching a conclusion on the topic.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The discriminatory practice in education which favored the male over the female was very unprogressive yet the government could not do anything to either stop or reverse it (Kema, 2003). The colonial government laid a very bad foundation for education generally and women’s education in particular. It is on record that in Nigeria, the colonial government initially did not show any interest in educational development at all. The early efforts were made by the Christian missionaries who came to evangelize to the people.
In 1986, the federal ministry of education in Nigeria created a special unit, women’s education unit. This showed that the government was beginning to respond to the urgent need for the development of women. This special right accorded to women in education suggests that apart from women benefiting from general education, there will be a measure of encouragement to them towards specialization in sciences, engineering, and technology. Another area were the federal government of Nigeria intensified effort to develop women‟s education was in the establishment of mass literacy commission. The effort of government has been complimented by the non-governmental organizations, who in several ways, especially through the offer of scholarships, and grants to secondary and higher institution female students have greatly promoted women’s education.
Women empowerment is dated back to 1970‟s and the beginning of the international women movement. Many women organizations worldwide set up credit and saving components as a way of both enabling women to increase their incomes, and coming together to address wider gender issues. The microcredit summit programme is not only out to reach women but also to empower them.
Women empowerment is not a modern concept. Women all over the world including countries in the south have been challenging and changing many gender inequalities since the beginning of history. These struggles have not been supported by many men who have not been outraged at injustice against women.
Man is by nature an independent social being and cannot develop, actualize and objectify himself through labor in isolation from others and from the social environment (Mbah, 2005). Men have to interact with others to live well and to achieve more meaningful sustainable socio-economic development. The relationship between men and women has for a long time been marked by the subordination of one group to the wimps and caprices of another. Women’s position being relegated to the background and placed in a dependency position makes it almost difficult if not impossible for them to take their own decision on issues and problems to affect them more especially on reproductive health.
Onu (1998) opined that “women are at the heart of development. They control most of the non-money economy (subsistence agriculture, bearing and raising children, doing domestic labor) and taking important part in the money economy (trading, the formal sector, wage employment)”. He further stressed that every where world, women have two jobs, around the home and outside it. This assertion implies that women have a lot in of contribution to make towards the healthy socio-economic development of every county but women are constantly denied this opportunity by the nature of our societal organizations, and the cultural set up that makes it more comfortable for men to maintain the status quo. Today, awareness has led to the recognition of the important role women can play in national development and this calls for an urgent need to address these critical areas that have hindered full recognition of women‟s talents, women’s right, women‟s development and empowerment.
CEDPA (1997:8) argued that there exist countries barriers that hinder women‟s efforts to improve the qualities of their lives. Compared to men, women have less access to crucial resources such as information, education, skill training, health (especially reproductive health and family planning), cash income and credit, all of which are necessary for survival within the current economic depression.
According to the United Nations Millennium Campaign to reduce world poverty by the year 2015, women work two-third of the world’s working hours. The overwhelming majority of the labor that sustain life-growing food, cooking , raising children, caring for the elderly, maintaining a house, hauling water is done by women, and universally this work is accorded low status and with little or no pay. The ceaseless cycle of labor rarely shows up in economic analysis of a society’s product and value.
Women earn only 10 percent of the world income. Where women work, they are limited to a set of jobs deemed suitable for women invariable low pay, low status position.
Furthermore, there are certain laws or customs that prevent women from getting loans or credit, or having the right to inheritance or to own their homes, they have no assets to leverage for economic stability and cannot invest in their own or their children‟s future.
Presently, women have more opportunities for education and stronger legal rights in many countries; they are taking leadership roles in local communities and stand at the forefront of peace movement. Perhaps the greatest change will come when women and men agree to work together for gender equality. Women’s rights are well established by international agreements, notably the international agreements on eradication of discrimination against women (CEDAW), which explicitly include women within the definition of human and hence in all international human right conventions.
In our society, community development practice is not new. Before the colonial era various communities employed communal efforts as mechanism for mobilizing community resources to effect physical improvement and functional facilities in their various localities. In the social, political and economic aspect of their lives. Through communal labor farmland were cultivated, homes steeds constructed and other needed amenities provided.
In the colonial era a new concept of community development was introduced in the area of mass mobilization for self help activities. Community development in recent times has come on top of the agenda of federal, state and local government in Nigeria .This re-awakening is justified for obvious reasons. It is common knowledge that Nigeria communities have been showing no appreciable improvement in the provisions of basic needs like food, house, medicate educational facilitates and provisions of social amenities like roads, water supply electricity e.t.c.
This situation has steadily degenerated into state of poverty diseases, filth, ignorance, unemployment for the majority of the people and their coping mechanism drastically eroded and is at the brink of collapse.
In the third National development plan (1975-1980) the country„s rural development policy was for the first time incorporated in the framework of national development. The policy stipulated that the main objectives of the rural development are to increase rural productivity and income, diversify rural economy through the provision of basic social amenities such as health centers, pipe borne water and feeder roads .Also the establishment of local government areas in 1976 by the military government down to the grassroots in order to enhance full participation of the community members. But this has not made transformatory impact; it rather seems to have aggravated the problems. Rural areas (communities) still remain in deplorable conditions.
Under the present administration, the reviewed community development policy seeks to build the enthusiasm among the various partners involved in rural development. This study focuses on women who have also been recently affirmed as principal prerequisites for a successful approach to rural development.
From the onset, women have prided themselves in participating in what is today rural development. However, in societies where the agrarian‟s mode of production dominates, roles are often directed or dictated by the society and culture. This limits the role, challenges of women to family related activities (creole and smoke 1977).
Women in Nigeria like their counterparts in other parts of developing countries ,are mostly involved in food production to feed their families. According to world Bank(1993),women in Nigeria are responsible for production of about 70 percent of the total food supply. NCEMA (1990) and FOA (1979) also showed that the contribution of women to food production was 50-60 percent in Asia and more than 30 percent in Latin America. The main activities of women in rural communities is mainly participating in agricultural production (cocoa, oil palm, rubber ,coffee).This crops serves as sources of revenue for the government . The women also are involved in agro forestry production particularly around the rural compound and farmstead.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The major problem facing the Bwari community and every other community in Nigeria is that of deprivation of women’s right to participate in their full capacity in religious, economic, political and social activities just like their male counterparts. This hinders their ability to operate in their full capacity in development project in the local government, like every other local (rural) area. The literate women in Bwari outnumber that of the illiterate but still create little ignorance among some of other women defending their rights.
Another major source of problem is the men controlling the affairs of their families, prevents or sanctions their wives from participating or partaking in some activities of women from the local government.
Some men whose wives are appointed or elected leader stopped their wives in such leadership roles thereby compounding the problems of women organization in the Bwari local government area of the F.C.T.
Another source of problem is lack of finance. This affects the organizational structure of men as a result of the fact that majority of the women are housewives who depend on their husbands. There is need for the women to finance themselves independently so as to stand a better chance to assist in their homes and also in the society. Also incompetence in management and control of women organization by their executives hinders their development and efforts. At times some women leaders seem to antagonize one another when working together towards achieving a set goal. Child bearing also affects women in participating in other activities.
The problem of community development in Nigeria is a serious concern to Nigerians and the international community. The situation has engendered political instability, dictatorial governments, lack of rule of law/social justice, and irresponsible leadership‟s e.t.c, resulting to stagnation in poverty and underdevelopment; this raises some major questions such as What are the factors responsible for the failure of community development and women empowerment in Bwari local government area of Abuja? How has the government contributed to women empowerment and community development in Bwari local government area of Abuja?