THE POSITION AND EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN IN RURAL NIGERIA:
THE GENDER IMPLICATION
Omoyibo, Kingsley Ufuoma (Ph.D), University of Benin, Department of Sociology, Edo State; Egharevba, Etinosa Matthew (Ph.D), Covenant University, Department of Sociology, Ota, Ogun State and Iyanda, Olalekan Ezekiel, Demographer, National Population Commission, Edo State.
Nigeria's participation on issues that related to the position and empowerment of women has been a recurring phenomenon for the past two decades as gleaned from her involvement in national and international conferences on women development since the era of the 1995 Beijing conference. This fact clearly underscores the seriousness of the dilemma women suffer in terms of the promotion of their rights to equal participation and representation in decision making at all levels particularly in the rural society. The paper argued that the context for understanding the position and empowerment of women in rural Nigeria has its primary base on the continued entrenchment and perpetuation of traditional cultures as characteristic of the various stereotypes of women which permeate many ethnic groups in Nigeria. The paper further contend that many women have suffered varied traumatic experiences arising from this categorization which have manifested itself in gender inequality and discrimination that has far reaching implications for the empowerment of rural women in Nigeria. The paper concludes by examining the changes that women’s status had undergone in the light of current socio-economic and political development in Nigeria.
Keywords: Women, Gender, Participation, Empowerment, Rural.
The umbrella term 'status of women' obscures many variations depending on the dimension of stratification (power, prestige and property) and the institutional sphere- family, economy, politics, education, religion in which women find themselves. In the same context, great differences also exist within the population of women - by race, age, ethnic origin, traits and social class. Thus, the positioning and empowerment of women as expressive of the cultural attributes, values, mores and norms of a people varies across cultures and within any society (Mason, 1986; Brandley and Khor, 1993). Be that as it may, culture which is generally defined as the shared ideas, norms, values and beliefs of a people has both material and non-material components that shape our conduct, thinking and personality. However, in a rural setting, both the material (i.e. clothing, art, eating utensils, machines) and non-material (i.e. beliefs, values, gestures, language) aspects of culture are relatively simple compared to the more complex and varied ways of life in many urban settings. As such, changes in the materials components of culture seems much more dynamic compared to the nonmaterial components and both collectively define the common patterns of behaviour in any given society. In all, the effects of our culture generally remain imperceptible to us. Yet its significance is highly profound in that culture touches every aspect of who and what we are. It becomes the lens through which we perceive and evaluate what is going on around us (Henslin, 2002:37). It is within this framework that this paper seeks to investigate the gender question which consist of cultural traits a group considers proper for its male and females and how this social categorization has engender all forms of inequity, prejudices and intimidation against women which create gaps and obstacles that hinder their equal and full participation in leadership and decision making at all levels. This phenomenon underscore the concerns of many women’s right groups and movements which have consistently fought for the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment in decision making structures and institutions i.e. family, economy, politics, religion, law and education. The contention of these...
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