EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITIES AND WOMEN’S DISEMPOWERMENT IN
ADENIRAN, ADEBUSUYI ISAAC
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY
Africa Growth and
CDC- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
CEC - Commission of European Communities.
CEDAW- Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
GDI- Gender-related Development Index
ILO-International Labour Organization
IMF-International Monetary Fund
MDGs- Millennium Development Goals
NEP- New Economic Policy
NEEDS- New Economic Empowerment & Development Strategy
NEPAD -New Partnership for African Development
Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in
UN- United Nations
UNDP-United Nations Development Programme
UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Unlike most parts of the developing world where instances of
discriminatory disposition toward the womenfolk are steadily attenuating due to
effects of globalization, and of course, attainment of most of the MDGs’
targets, Nigeria is yet to put in place any relevant gender mainstreaming
policy. With the MDGs’ 2015 target year half gone, fixed gender ascriptions
which were rife in colonial African societies still loom considerably in
The last five centuries, viewed as the
age of modernity, have been essentially structured by varying historical
processes. Significantly, gender and racial categories emerged during this
epoch as two fundamental axes for exploiting people and stratifying societies
(Oyewumi 2004:1). Eurocentrism, being a hallmark of the ensuing modernity,
enabled the creation and imposition of Euro/American cultural hegemony
throughout the world. Consequently, male-gender privilege as an essential part
of European ethos became enshrined in the culture of modernity. In the quest of
comprehending African realities, and indeed, state of gender relations in
At the commencement of colonialism (and, of course, Christianity), rigid binaries about everything including gender perceptions were imposed on the African mind. Thereafter, the woman’s role has come to be limited to sexual and commercial labour; satisfying the sexual needs of men, working in the fields, carrying loads, tending babies and preparing food (Hammond and Jablow 1992:150).
However, the disempowering colonial ‘ideology of
domesticity’ as espoused by the practice of ‘housewification’
provided the springboard for women’s educational imbalance in parts of
In measuring up to the mean record already attained by other
developing societies in the process of facilitating educational parity,
1.1 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Over time, skewed educational
accessibility has been inhibiting women’s socio-economic empowerment in
- Conceptually, the stereotyped roles assigned to women by the colonial ‘ideology of domesticity’ which emphasizes domestic education for the womenfolk have made gender asymmetry to be sustained in the country. These prejudices have been exacerbated further by vagaries of missionary education and other male-gender privileging colonial literature (Hammond and Jablow 1992).
- The political culture that has emerged from the colonial orientation has been particularly patriarchal. It reflects gender inequalities in men and women’s roles, and levels of access to state power, resources and institutions (Mama 1997:71).
- Specific development policies targeted at women’s education and socio-economic participation have been largely ineffectual in the country. Unhealthy ‘state-controlled developmentalism’ has, indeed, helped to erode (any) independent feminist initiative ever geared toward women educational progression in our society (Tsikata 1997:381).
- Nigerian women’s access to formal education is still being constrained due to their unfair workload within the household division of labour. Consequently, the realization of the MDG3’s ‘gender equality and women empowerment’ targets is being impeded vacuously (Opaluwah 2007:5).
geo-political delineations in
It is all these incongruence outlined above that made a stringent questioning of the country’s political and institutional frameworks, as they pertain to educational accessibility imperative. These issues are thus the pre-occupation of this study.
1.2 CLARIFICATION OF CONCEPTS
Recurring terms and phrases are explained, as applied in the study below:
Education: this depicts individuals’ involvement in formal training for the purpose of acquiring basic knowledge, skills and expertise necessary for living a meaningful and impactful life. It generally aims at the development of human abilities (Schaeffer 2005:375).
Empowerment: refers broadly to the expansion of freedoms including those of choice and action to shape one’s life. It implies control over resources and decisions (Narayan 2005:4).
Eurocentrism: a conservative belief, grounded in European tradition and ethos, usually of cultural hegemony (Hammond and Jablow 1992: 150).
Gender: the social fact of being male or female. It depicts identities of masculinity and femininity in relation to patterns of human life.
Gender Inequality: this occurs when one gender is treated fairly than the other. It is the privileging of one sex; while marginalizing the other.
Housewification: a colonial system of domesticating married women who work at home, doing cooking, cleaning etc. but do not have any job outside the house (Mama 1997:70).
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
This study focuses on providing explanations to the following questions:
i. To what extent does educational discrimination impact on women’s empowerment?
ii. How appropriate are some specific strategies designed to combat women’s disempowerment?
iii. Of what significance is colonial educational policy to women’s disempowerment in our society?
iv. Could educational parity feasibly
empower women in
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The fundamental objective of the study is to determine the
impact of education on women’s socio-economic empowerment in
i. To understand the effectiveness of specific strategies targeted at women’s emancipation;
ii. To examine the implications of
colonial educational policies for women’s empowerment in
iii. To make appropriate policy recommendations.
The focal argument of this study is that unequal access to education between gender categories predisposes women to socio-economic disempowerment.
2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW
Since the advent of colonialism in Africa, women have always been exposed to varying forms of discrimination due to the simple fact of their ‘femaleness’, which ought to have been understood on the basis of its mutual usefulness (Obbo 2005:22). It is observed that most African countries have not had specific laws or policies to stem the tide of gender disparity. However, the colonial hegemonic philosophy, dependent political ideology and identifiable socio-economic exigencies are seen as factors aiding the prevailing (educational) distinctions between men and women in our society (Adeniran 2006:45).
2.1 SOCIO-CULTURAL FACTORS
Indeed, to a considerable extent, gender has been a subsidiary issue in Nigerian society. The traditional social structures have been offering limited incentives for amending the existing distribution of power between men and women. As observed by Nmadu (2000:165), the Nigerian society (pre-modern and contemporary) has been significantly dotted with peculiar cultural practices that are potently inimical to women’s emancipation, such as early/forced marriage, wife-inheritance and widowhood practices. Moreover, to Bhavani et al (2003:5) such unequal social and gender relations needs to be transformed in order to take women out of want and poverty.
As daughters self-identify as females with their mother and sisters, and sons as males with their father and brothers, gender stereotyping becomes institutionalized within the family unit (Haraway 1991:138). Also, the dominant narratives of religion in both colonial and post-colonial Nigerian society indeed privileges men at the detriment of women, even in educational accessibility. As such, our society remains entrapped in ‘history of analogy’ whereby it is either exoticised, or simply represented as part of European history (Mamdani 1996:6-11).
CEDAW articles (1979), therefore, acknowledge that whatever socio-cultural norms that deny women equal rights with men will also render women more vulnerable to physical, sexual and mental abuse.
2.2 COLONIAL FACTORS
The colonial conception of gender conspicuously
marginalized the womenfolk; while it privileged men. Since cultural imperialism
viewed Eurocentric religion, ideas and morals as innately superior to those of
the natives, the resultant changes brought about by this imperial summation
were, of course, noticeable in relations between both sexes in the continent
(Mama 1997:69). According to her, imperialism visibly enabled the imposition of
rigid binaries about everything, including gender perceptions, on our
collective consciousness; which the
Gaidzwanwa (1992) asserts that domestic education as enshrined in the ideology of ‘housewification’ which was a social engineering initiative designed to create ‘suitable’
Wives for indigenous colonial employees further disempowered women socially, and economically.
Subsequently, the colonial exclusion of women from most sectors of the formal labour market for domestic works’ engagement which were largely unrewarded has been observed as one of the most formidable factors responsible for women’s marginal significance in contemporary African societies (Mama 1997:69-70). Indeed, the exclusively male, bureaucratic apparatus did away altogether with pre-colonial system; which clearly permitted women some level of political and economic participation (Meena 1992:1).
2.3 POLITICAL FACTORS
Adherence to discriminatory gender
ascriptions persisted after the end of colonial rule in
As observed by Mama (1997:71), gender blindness has meant that until recently the differential impact of colonialism on African men and women has not been taken into consideration.
Opaluwah (2007:5) however, opines
that the coordination of gender advocacy based on indigenous patriarchal
anxieties about meaningful gender equity, external pressure and western
prescriptions has had far reaching consequences for the womenfolk. Our
unbridled openness to western influence by the political leadership has equally
worsened the dependency dilemma; with the west providing us with anything, but participative
emancipation (Ake 1996:9-10) e.g. the sapping effects of the SAP policy of 1986
on Nigerian women. Unlike the largely successful equity-driven NEP Development
Plan (1971-1990) in Malaysia which ensured gender parity in schools’ enrolment,
rhetorism has often been the bane of such programme here e.g. the New Economic Empowerment and Development
Strategy (NEEDS), projected to draw inspiration from the New Partnership
for African Development (NEPAD)’s gender parity principle-Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in
2.4 ECONOMIC FACTORS
The economic sector of our society is
one area where discrimination against women has been richly pronounced.
According to the CEC Report (2007), the role of women in employment and
economic activities is often underestimated because most of women work in the
informal sectors, usually with low productivity and incomes, poor working
conditions, with little or no social protection. It observes that the female
labour force in sub-Saharan
However, the denial of women’s
inheritance and land rights has made their economic participation considerably
constrained and by implication, their educational aspiration (Nmadu 2000: 166).
To Eade (1996), such government’s macro-economic policies like liberalization
of petroleum sector and removal of subsidies e.g. on fertilizer, have always
created distortions, in spite of strides women (rural dwellers) make in self reliance.
To this end, Ake (1996:53) believes that the contradictions between the latent
and manifest functions of public policy have often been the bane of all
emancipatory agenda in
2.5 EDUCATIONAL CONSTRAINTS AND WOMEN’S SOCIO-ECONOMIC DISEMPOWERMENT
With the 2005 MDGs’ first deadline for attainment of gender parity in primary and secondary schools’ enrolment already missed, the ability of women and girls to empower themselves economically and socially by going to school, or by engaging in productive and civic activities is still being constrained by their responsibility for everyday tasks in the household division of labour (CEC Report 2007).
However, Omolewa (2002:116) shows that this inequality has its root in the colonial system of education which was primarily geared toward meeting the manpower need of the colonial government that obviously alienated women from educational and economic opportunities. Women in Nigeria are harder-hit than men by poverty due to the non-challant emphasis placed on female education, and the prevalence of early marriage which tend to further impoverish the womenfolk, and subject them to statutory discrimination (Ojo 2002:127).
To Mamdani (1996), incidence of
poverty is more rampant among the female-gender in
On the Gender-related Development Index (GDI),
Okafor (2002:121) observes that:
…major health problems among women in the country are directly or indirectly associated with poverty and ignorance.
Furthermore, in a study of
South-Western Nigeria, Owa et al
(1992) show that with the introduction of user charges in hospitals, and
increasing economic hardship at the household level, there was a striking
sustained decline in attendances for antenatal care and hospital delivery.
Meanwhile, according to CDC Report
(2000), about 70-80% of Nigerian women are married out before age of 20 years
particularly in rural areas, with each having an average of 6.2 children at the
end of her reproductive life. This has negative implications for women
education and economic empowerment. On their part, Narayan and
Obbo (2005:22) asserts that when women acquire opportunities and space to exercise their agency, it usually has a major influence on development.
However, in a study by
2.6 EDUCATIONAL DISPARITIES AND POLITICAL DISEMPOWERMENT
Although, women empowerment is viewed
as a key component of democratic governance, nevertheless, gender inequalities
are still ingrained in the political system of many developing countries (IPU
2001). On the Gender Equity Index (2007),
In a study conducted in
The activities of various women’s advocacy groups in the country have been observed as being rhetorical and, indeed, self serving (Opaluwah 2007:5). To them, the objectives of the AU (2004) adopted Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) and the 30% Beijing Platform of Action (1995) could only be achieved by allocation of political offices to elite women, whose tenure of office might not actually benefit the majority of less-privileged; largely uneducated rural, and semi-urban women. i.e. intra-gender inequality (Nmadu 2000:166). In fact, the bureaucratic use of the concept of gender as an emphatic discourse diminishes the activism for gender justice because of the selfishness on the part of the feminine activists (Sen 1999).
2.7 GENDER, EDUCATIONAL ENROLMENT AND WOMEN’S POVERTY
The pattern of women’s poverty in
However, a majority of developing
countries is observed as having many girls discriminated against with regards
to access to school by the UNESCO Report (2007). Precisely, they comprise
about 57% of all out-of-school
children. In the Report, over 70 developing countries including
Omolewa (2002:118) claims that a
gross gender imbalance exists between boys and girls educational enrolment in
Literacy Rates for SelectedZones in
(2007) observes that with more women than ever in work, persistent gap in
status, job security, wages and education between women and men is contributing
to the “feminisation of working poverty”.
It claims that despite some progress, far too many women are still stuck in the
lowest paying jobs, often in the informal economy with insufficient legal
protection, little or no social protection, especially in sub-Saharan
Therefore, Sen (1999) suggests that adequate women’s economic participation can lead to successful enterprises as well as social benefits resulting from reductions in mortality and fertility rates.
However, the failure of SAP policies
and the HIV/AIDS epidemic have underscored the fact that gender insensitive
policies undermine development (Obbo 2005: 19). According to him, the
vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS in
To Narayan (2005), since poor women in the developing countries are normally the most motivated to move out of poverty, therefore, their exclusion from the political process will continue to worsen their precarious socio-economic and reproductive situations.
Moreover, Longwe (2002) criticized NEPAD for not addressing the major issues of gender inequality and oppression of women. In his views, NEPAD seems to re-subscribe to World Bank and IMF SAP policies in Africa which had had negative consequence on the survival and livelihood of women with many operating in the informal economy and bearing the burdens of the ‘feminisation of poverty’ and increased gender violence.
Pheko (2002: 58) therefore concludes that, NEPAD’s demand for adherence to AGOA will undoubtedly aid a persistent enslavement of poor African women to global capitalism.
3.0 THEORETICAL PLATFORM
This segment examines relevant theoretical postulations to the study’s objectives i.e. “Engels’ Marxism”, “Radical feminism” and “Power analysis” perspectives.
3.1 MARXIST PERSPECTIVE
Engels (1986) in “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” attempts an analysis of gender relations from a Marxist point of view. He observes that ‘the first class distinction which appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between men and women in the monogamous marriage, and the first class repression with that of the female by the male’. According to him, within the family structure, the man is the ‘bourgeois’, the woman ‘represents the proletariat’. He insists on the loss of freedom of the women in this process. He claims that since the unpaid domestic work of women does not
constitute ‘socially productive work’, only their entrance to the market-place and the ‘socially productive work’ would secure liberation for them i.e. gender equality.
Essentially, this assumption seems insufficient to ensure real freedom for women since most of their ‘actual work’ is yet to be appreciated. At the formal workplace, gender equality still influences patterns of reward and promotion as a result of disparities in educational qualifications, and of course, facts of femaleness e.g. envisaged unproductiveness during maternity.
3.2 RADICAL FEMINISM
Radical feminism sees liberation of women as impossible in a social order shaped by men
and founded upon patriarchy (
Characteristically, this form of feminist discourse underplayed specificities and hierarchies arising from biological and cultural determinism.
3.3 WEBERIAN ANALYSIS OF POWER
This theory explains that an individual’s ‘class situation’ is dependent upon his/her ‘market situation’, on the measure of power he/she has to influence the workings of the market in his/her favour and on the rewards his/her skill and expertise can command in a competitive market (society). In actualizing oneself, the following power resources are, thus, necessary:
i) Economic resources: that is, control over land, labour, or capital, as well as the goods and services produced therefrom;
ii) Social resources: social status or standing based on social roles or on meeting socially valued criteria;
iii) Political resources: use of resources of state institutions to enforce authority and decisions;
iv) Informational resources: this entails acquisition of knowledge by means of formal educational training;
v) Moral resources: legitimacy often accorded to decision makers, their roles or the decisions they make e.g. social approval given to non-state actors;
vi) Physical resources: ability to coerce people to compel their cooperation or compliance.
3.4 THEORETICAL JUXTAPOSITION
Unlike the Weberian Power Analysis that presented a more detailed explanation of how women’s empowerment could be attained in any given society (i.e. through availability of necessary resources for women’s utilization), Engels’ Marxism conspicuously overlooked such imperative operational specificities. For instance, despite recent rise in the number of women entering the formal labour sector i.e. the Marxist’s ‘socially productive work’, ‘feminisation of working poverty’ has simultaneously become more potent due to uneven educational qualifications (i.e. informational resources) across gender categories in Nigeria.
On the other hand, while Radical
feminism emphasizes the universality of women’s oppression, and the
impracticability of women’s (educational) empowerment, the prevailing global
situation has disproved this radicalist assertion, and indeed, further buttressed the insistence of the Weberian
Power Analysis on the situational nature of women’s emancipation e.g. in
This study is, thus, situated on the stipulations
of the Weberian Power Analysis because they offered a more succinct
analysis of the factors that enable the sustainability of a discriminatory
educational and socio-economic pattern in contemporary
Significantly, the theory believes in the social reality of women’s empowerment as being facilitated by unrestricted accessibility to societal resources, especially education, economy and politics.
4.1 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF THE STUDY
From the review of literature and theories, a conceptual framework illustrating factors that enhance educational imbalances and subsequent incidence of socio-economic disempowerment among Nigerian women is adopted.
Fig. II: CONCEPTUALIZATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITIES AND WOMEN’S DISEMPOWERMENT.
It is acknowledged here that gender equality is not only significant in itself, but is a fundamental human right and a question of social justice. It is seen as crucial for development and social empowerment, necessary for the realization of the MDGs’ targets by 2015. Of recent, as a variable of international development, gender equality serves as a major prerequisite in accessing foreign aids by the developing nations.
Meanwhile, the nature of political
However, the Eurocentric contextualization of male-gender privilege, impact of tenets of Christianity (and Islam), and more importantly, the colonial ‘ideology of domesticity’ (i.e. ‘housewification’) have all combined together to lay the foundation for women’s educational disempowerment in our society. Indeed, they serve as the pivot around which other impediments revolve. It is, therefore, opined that with a functional gender mainstreaming policy in place, all these odds would be meaningfully tackled, and Nigerian women would be better for it.
4.3 SPECIFIC FINDINGS
- Social differences between the sexes have been made to binarise our society into a needless gender antagonism, with their attendant consequences on female-gender educational enrolments;
- Building the knowledge necessary to eradicate poverty and deprivation, combat illiteracy and ensure social progress may be improbable until equal number of girls and boys are in school, as we head toward 2015 MDGs’ targets;
- Though, westernization initially facilitated the universalization of contemporary mode of gender relations, nevertheless, attributes of gender disparity are now more pronounced in developing societies like Nigeria, such as in women educational enrolments;
educational unevenness has been constraining women in
The paper anchored the attainment of liberty and development in our country on the freedom and empowerment of our women, and the best hope for peace and prosperity in our world is the enlargement of the platforms of opportunity for women.
However, to empower the womenfolk in
- The primary instrument to achieve socio-economic empowerment i.e. education mainstreaming should be used in a more effective and practical way so as to make real progress towards the attainment of the MDGs’ education for all’s goal by 2015 realizable;
- The secondary instrument i.e. specific, targeted actions such as abolition of school fees, free school uniforms, free feeding etc. should be utilized as a compliment of mainstreaming strategies;
- Imperialist male-gender privilege, biased traditional and religious myths impeding women’s education should be de-emphasised in our society;
- An empowering educational approach, incorporating women as invaluable partners for social development should be encouraged;
- Skills, capabilities and achievements should henceforth take pre-eminence over obnoxious gender stereotypes in classifying and rewarding people in our country.
4.5 CONCLUDING COMMENTS
This paper has singled out identifiable institutional and contemporary prejudices as the impetus for sustained educational, and of course, socio-economic disparities among Nigerian women, in spite of the claim of promoting gender parity and women empowerment at both national and regional levels by the respective authorities.
Unambiguously, therefore, it is opined that the eradication of ignorance, poverty and social instability in our society demands that women and men be given equal opportunities in educational and socio-economic spheres, and have equal access to, and control, over the resources of the society. As such, our society would become a more habitable entity for both sexes to co-exist, progressively.
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