AGOA- Africa Growth and Opportunity Act

AU- African Union

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

IPU-International Parliamentary Union

IMF-International Monetary Fund

MDGs- Millennium Development Goals

NEP-   New Economic Policy

NEEDS- New Economic Empowerment & Development Strategy

NEPAD -New Partnership for African Development

SDGEA- Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa

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 contemporary Nigeria. This study therefore aims at understanding the impact of such gender stereotypes on women’s educational and socio-economic empowerment. It observes unequal access to educational opportunities as the bedrock of ignorance and powerlessness associated with women’s social disempowerment in the country. These disparities are, however, attributable to some observable impediments such as colonial ‘ideology of domesticity’, and rhetoric gender mainstreaming policy, and advocacy. The study is thus, segmented into four sections i.e. the introductory aspect; review of relevant literature; the theoretical platform, and the conceptual framework and conclusion. Essentially, it adopts the methods of content and secondary analyses as its modes of inquiry, while the entire work is situated on the postulates of ‘Weberian Power Analysis’. In all, the study observes that educational equality and women’s socio-economic empowerment are necessary consequences of a well orchestrated gender mainstreaming strategy.



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 Nigeria, this global context for knowledge production has become imperative.

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 Africa (Gaidzwanwa 1992). As such, the attainment of overall human development in Nigeria is being obliterated by this unevenness in educational accessibility across gender categories (Abdullahi 2000).

In measuring up to the mean record already attained by other developing societies in the process of facilitating educational parity, Nigeria needs to jump-start an affirmative action plan focusing on transformatory educational mainstreaming. For instance, China and India, by themselves 38% of the World’s population, have considerably realized most of the objectives of the MDG2 and MDG3 targets i.e. universal basic education for all, and gender equality and women empowerment respectively (Sachs 2004:10).


1.1             STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Over time, skewed educational accessibility has been inhibiting women’s socio-economic empowerment in Nigeria.

-         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).

-         Across various geo-political delineations in Nigeria, a greater percentage of school-age girls are needlessly out-of-school, compared with the ratio applicable to boys of same age grouping. Therefore, the attainment of the MDG2’s target i.e. ‘education for all’ by 2015 is glaringly at a crossroads; having missed the initial deadline of 2005.


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.



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).



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 Nigeria?



The fundamental objective of the study is to determine the impact of education on women’s socio-economic empowerment in Nigeria. However, the specific objectives include:

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 Nigeria;

iii.      To make appropriate policy recommendations.



1.5     THESIS

The focal argument of this study is that unequal access to education between gender categories predisposes women to socio-economic disempowerment.




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).



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 Christian and Muslim religious texts effectively reinforced.

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 Nigeria. Ake (1996:6) claims that the surrogate post-independence political elite deliberately weakened women organizations hitherto involved in active agitation for liberation by enhancing the militarization of the polity, and increasing the statism of the economy.

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 Africa (2004). According to Oyekanmi (2005:159), in respect of Nigeria, the enabling laws and programmes to achieve the objectives of NEPAD are not yet in operation.




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 Africa in 2005 was about 73 million, representing 34% of those employed in the formal sector, earning only 10% of the income, while owning 1% of the assets.

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 Nigeria.




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).


In Nigeria, educational facilities are generally believed to be inadequate, and access, limited for many, especially girls and women (Uku 1992). According to the United Nations Human Development Report (2005), Nigeria was classified as a low development country in respect of equality in educational accessibility. Female Adult Literacy Rate (ages 15 and above) for the country was 59.4% as against male, 74.4%; the Combined Gross Enrolment for Primary, Secondary and Tertiary schools for female was 57% and male, 71%. Consequently, Ojo (2002:127) affirms that women are fewer than men in certain socio-economic activities. According to him, the percentages of female workers in some selected professions were as follow: architects, 2.4%, quantity surveyors, 3.5%, lawyers/jurists, 25.4%, lecturers, 11.8%, obstetricians and gynecologists, 8.4%, pediatricians, 33.3%, media practitioners, 18.3%.

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 Africa because of discrimination in educational opportunities.

On the Gender-related Development Index (GDI), Nigeria ranks a disparaging 123rd position with the Estimated Earned Income for female as low as US $614 and the male, US $1,495 (UNDP 2005).

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 Patti (2002) in their studies observe voicelessness as being pervasive among poor women, affecting every aspect of their lives.

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 Adebayo (2004), the level of educational attainment by women generally determines the extent of their socio-economic participation.



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), Nigeria is classified as one of the least equitable countries with regard to women’s political empowerment. Inaccessible educational opportunity has been a major factor in this regard. To Ake (1996:6), the tendency of utilizing state apparatus for wealth accumulation enabled the militarization of the Nigerian polity post-colonial era by the political elite. Impliedly, this has resulted in gross alienation and under-representation of women in the process of decision-making in the country. Nkebari and Nyenke (2005:424-5) argue that politically, women have been victims of pervasive sexism and a myth of male superiority. They therefore likened the position of women in Nigeria to that of the African under colonialism and conclude that only by their active participation in formal educational training would their emancipation and freedom from discrimination and deprivation be realizable. Political empowerment of women has been largely constrained by undue technism, state interference and developmentalist discourses shaping technologies of gender, rather than fostering critical  intellectual debate (Lewis 2004: 38).

In a study conducted in Rivers State by Nkebari and Nyenke in 2005, 66. 7% of women were being prevented from politics due to such barriers like early marriage, denial of inheritance and property rights and widowhood practices. Ordinarily, adequate access to information would have made this improbable.  This is glaringly in sharp contrast with the situation elsewhere. For instance, in Sweden where both sexes have equal access to schooling, women representation in the Swedish parliament was as high as 43% in 2001 (Women of the World Report 2004). However, in the Commonwealth Report 2007, only 5-member countries – Mozambique (34.8%); South Africa (32.8%); New Zealand (32.2%); Tanzania (30.4%); and Uganda (30%) – have met its 30% benchmark for women’s representation in governance with conspicuous exclusion of Nigeria (Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005-2015). At the executive level in Nigeria, the President as well as the heads of the 36 state governments are males (i.e. 0% female representation). At the legislative level, only one state (i.e. Ogun) has a female speaker out of the 36 states. Of the 109 members of the senate, just 8 i.e. 7.3% are women, while the 360-member strong house of representatives has a paltry 26 female members i.e. 7.2% - including the speaker (Oyebode 2007).Worthy of note here is the inefficiency and instability that the speaker’s headship of the relatively enlightened; male-dominated house may likely generate in the days ahead. This propensity would be worsened with her largely indefinable level of exposure to formal educational training. In views of Nkebari and Nyeke (2005: 424), women’s lack of influence over government and public policies, especially at high level managerial, executive and legislative bodies is directly linked to their low level of literacy.

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).




The pattern of women’s poverty in Nigeria has often been a consequence of unequal institutional gender-role ascriptions; accessibility to resources and institutions. According to the INSTRAW Report (2007), of more than 1 billion people living in poverty around the world, a greater percentage of them are women. Women’s poverty is a violation of their human rights to life and well-being, food, adequate housing, a safe and healthy environment, social security, employment and development.


Meanwhile, Nancy Birdsall (2007) affirms that as globalization is creating fresh opportunities for hundreds of million of people, the gap between the richest and poorest is widening, and (gender) inequality within many countries is increasing. On his part, Olurode (2003) observes that it seems with the conclusion of each phase of globalization, men and women in Africa became more unequal.

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 Nigeria are said to be at the risk of not meeting the MDG2’s target of ‘education for all’ by 2015, after missing the initial deadline of 2005.

Omolewa (2002:118) claims that a gross gender imbalance exists between boys and girls educational enrolment in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian Literacy Rates Survey (2002), the overall percentage of educated females is 41% and males, 65%. Though, the female literacy estimates for the South-west (53%) and South-east (60%) are clearly above the national average of 32%, they are considerably below the zonal estimate of 75% for men in both zones. Also, the literacy estimate of 22% for females in both North-east and North-west is far below the 40% estimate for males in both zones (See fig 1 below):

Fig 1:

Literacy Rates for SelectedZones inNigeria(1999)










          Source: Africa Atlases – Nigeria, Les Editions J.A; 2002: Page 118.




ILO Report (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 Africa (Global Employment Trends for Women Brief, 2007).

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 Nigeria shows the correlation between education and economics on one hand, and politics and economics on the other. Gender differences in economic power, property and poverty are intricately linked to the feminisation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Infection rates among young women aged between 15 and 24 years are four times higher than those of men of the same age group. It is, however, estimated that 76 percent of infected Africans are women (Obbo 2005:22).


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.





This segment examines relevant theoretical postulations to the study’s objectives i.e. “Engels’ Marxism”,Radical feminism” and “Power analysis” perspectives.



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. 



Radical feminism sees liberation of women as impossible in a social order shaped by men and founded upon patriarchy (Griffin 1978). Radical feminists insist on the universality of women’s oppression irrespective of class and culture, and see the oppression of women as the root of all other oppressions - educational, social, economic and political. They focus in particular, on the interpersonal relations through which (individual) men dominate women, demonstrating this through an analysis of the private domain of patriarchal family. Radical feminism criticized the relegation of women to a socially and biologically grounded inferiority. Furthermore, by inverting these masculinist categories and the nature/culture dichotomy, radical feminists were able to claim that it is because of their very closeness to nature and nurturing that women should be seen as embodying all that is pure and humane and caring. Women’s proximity to nature – mediated through their bodily functions – became the basis of a superior feminine essence.

Characteristically, this form of feminist discourse underplayed specificities and hierarchies arising from biological and cultural determinism.  



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.


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 Sweden, both sexes enjoy equal access to schooling, and by implication, socio-political participation. Also, in China and India, the MDG2’s target of ‘education for all’ has been realized considerably. Even in Africa, both Mozambique and South Africa have met the Commonwealth’s 30% benchmark for women’s representation in governance.

 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 Nigeria.

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.




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.




























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 leadership in Nigeria, which essentially evolved from the colonial orientation, has been largely unhelpful to the course of women’s educational empowerment. Omolewa (2002:118) notes that a gross disparity exists between schools’ enrolment of boys and girls in Nigeria due to political ineptness. Social determinants, such as cultural beliefs - wife-inheritance, early/forced marriage and widowhood practices - obtainable in most rural and semi-urban settlements, and narratives of religion have continued to impede educational accessibility by women in the country. Moreover, the denial of inheritance and property rights, dysfunctional and gender-skewed development policies have equally been constraining women from taking advantage of educational opportunities, and by implication, economic opportunities in the country.

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.



-                     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;


-                     More importantly, educational unevenness has been constraining women in Nigeria from active socio-economic and political participation, unduly.




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 Nigeria, enhanced educational opportunities are considered expedient. Consequently, the following suggestions would be relevant in the process:

-                     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.



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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