National development refers to the ability of a nation to improve the lives of its citizens. Measures of improvement may be material, such as an increase in the gross domestic product, or social, such as literacy rates and availability of healthcare. Across the globe, women constitute a very significant and indispensable portion of the population. No wonder in recent time, women all the world have come to positive focus. Although a few countries, especially the developed ones, have appreciated and empowered to a large extent their women in order to play their roles and contribute their own quota to the development of their societies, many others, especially the developing countries have not appreciate fully the important roles women can play in the transformation of their countries when empowered. According to Orucha (2003: 34) the progress and development of any nation is the women in the society. Thus the women represent a tool for positive change, depending on how they are treated and the levels of opportunities given to them to actualise their potentials. The declaration of 1978 by United Nations’ Organisation as the international year of women as well as decade for women, and the Beijing declaration of 1991 are positive focus towards the emancipation of women. These declarations also show the important place of women in national development and transformation.
National development is the ability of a country or countries to improve the welfare of the people by providing social amenities, like quality education, potable water, transportation, infrastructure, medical care, creating conducive political atmosphere and participation of citizens etc.
In Nigeria, the numerical strength of the women have been considered to be of great potentials that are necessary for the evolution of a new economy and good governance that accelerates social and political development. This, it is assumed could transform the society into a better one. According to the Nigerian population census of 1999, the country’s population stands at 140 million, out of which 80.2 of them are women and girls (Gender in Nigeria Report: 2012: 45-48). Thus, over the years, scholars have emphasised on the importance of empowering women for National development. But one important ingredient for achieving this is through women education. Investing in women and girls child education as enumerated in Gender in Nigeria Report: 2012, will increase productivity in this generation and will promote sustainable growth, peace and better health for the next generation. However, statistics show that this important ingredient is missing in Nigeria. The Report (British Council, Nigeria) show that though much have been achieved in the area of primary education, the gender gap still widen in secondary and tertiary institutions. For example, as at 2008, the enrolment ratio between boys and girls was 68 to 59 (boys to girls respectively). The enrolment ratio for girls in secondary school is 22 and boys 29. All these statistics point to the fact that a lot is still required in terms of educating the women for them to participate and contribute their quota to national development.
The Role of Women in National Development in Nigeria
The role of women in national development cannot be over emphasised. Their contributions permeate all facets of the nation’s economy. Women constitute an indispensable group in the development process of any nation.
Analysts believe that Nigeria with a population of around 140 million and huge population of women has the potential to transmute from a poverty stricken nation to a vibrant economy. Women in Nigeria are crucial beyond certain customary duties and procreation efforts. They have the potential of turning an ailing economy at the family, local, state or national levels, through their inbreed economic strength, organisational skills and single minded focus to surmount obstacles posed by the environment, culture and stronger partners (the men) (Akosile,2010: 30)
The steady advancement of women in contributing to the socio economic development of the nation’s scheme of affairs have to a large extent impacted on the federal government and the federal government have responded positively in many ways. For instance, the late Maryam Babangida (First lady of Nigeria 1985 – 1998) was active in promoting gender related issues and interests during her husband’s tenure as Head of State of Nigeria. Also the subsequent creation of National Commission for Women and the Ministerial post for Women Affairs provided additional avenue for the promotion of women related issues and the enhancement of the role of women to national development by way of statutory body and ministry.
Awe (1990 9-13) sees the importance of women from their roles as peace and stability at home depends largely on the managerial abilities of women. She further stressed that the women, especially the mothers plan, organise, direct and coordinate all resources at home to the benefit of all members of the family. Effective management of the home promotes national development. But wherever this is lacking, the reverse is usually the case (Lasiele, 1999: 132).
In the agricultural sector, women have made significant contribution to food production and processing. As far back as the early 1980s, the United Nation’s report reveals that 60 – 90 percent of the agricultural labour force was women and they produce two-third of the food crops.
Olawoye (1985: 18-23) describes Nigerian women as a crucial factor of producing. To him they assume this status because they are largely responsible for the bulk production of crops, agro-based food processing, presentation of crops and distribution of yields from farm centres to urban areas.
Yet in spite of these, widespread assumption that men and not the women make the key farm management decision had prevailed. Sadly, female farmers in the country were among the voiceless, especially with respect to influencing agricultural policies. Their role in decision making process in agriculture has not been widely employed or at best, remains minimal.
Damisa and Yohanna (2007:141-145) using Zaria in Kaduna state, examine the level of participation of rural women in decision making in different areas of agriculture and studied factors influencing their participation in the decision making process in farm management they found that women’s participation in decision making was quite minimal. In each of thefarm operations less than 20 percent of the women were consulted, except in the sourcing of farm credit; where about 28 percent were consulted: about 13 percent or less of the women has their opinion considered in each of the farm operations. However, only 1.0 percent and 2.5 percent took the final decision in all of the farm operations. Women’s participation in farm management decision making process is said to increase with age, older women participating more in decision making in the different areas of agriculture than their younger age group counterparts. The high level of known and experience about improved farm practices acquired by the educated women farmers had positive influence in that regard. Wealth status of women is also another major determinant of the role of women in farm management decision making: Richer women being more involved than their poorer counterparts. A report by NAERLS (2000:23) indicates that women in Anambra state of Nigeria contribute more than the men in terms of labour input in farming and are solely responsible for household management duties. In studies elsewhere in Nigeria involving the Jukun people, Nomadic Fulani and Kulka women farmers,
Women occupy a very significant and decisive place in the social, cultural, economic and political life of Nigeria. Their importance is evident both in modern and traditional sectors, not only as housewives and mothers in society a para-eminent role, but also by their contribution to the quality of day to day life. Nigeria being predominantly an agricultural country, most of the people live in rural areas. Farming is the primary occupation that determines the rhythm of economic life. In such an environment people live modestly, dedicating themselves mostly to traditional occupation.
Women constitute an indispensable force in the quest for national development of any nation. In the developed nations, women have been able to play this important role. However, in Nigeria, women are still relegated to the background as they lack the educational, economic and political power necessary to actualize their innate potentials. The paper examines the important place of women education in the empowerment of women to enable them contribute their quota to national development. The study relied solely on secondary data and this was analysed using content analysis. The paper shows that women access to education is still low as the gender disparity in the enrolment of women into primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions is widening over the years. These problems are further compounded by the high rate of girls’ dropout and failure among women that sat for ‘O’ Level examination. The implication is that many of them lacked the required minimum numbers of credits that qualify them to enrol or get admission into the tertiary institutions.
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