Government Policy to Reduce Gender Inequalities in Nigeria
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The Effectiveness of Government Policy to Reduce Gender Inequalities in Nigeria
15 years ago, the United Nations member states adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the related Development Goals (MDG’s). This declaration was a blueprint calling member states into action and more so sought to create the required political momentum towards the achievement of MDG’s. The MDG’s spurred international commitments towards stronger cooperation aimed at enabling the poorest countries in the world achieve the goals of the MDG’s by 2015 (Alehile, 2009). Of the eight MDG’s, the gender equality and women empowerment goal was viewed as the most contentious and challenging to attain given the political, social, cultural and economic status of women in third world countries (MDGs Report, 2013). The 2000 Millennium Declaration worked to commit UN member States to collaboratively work towards the promotion of women empowerment and gender equality with the sole aim of appraising economically and socially sustainable development by combating poverty, disease and hunger (MDGs Report, 2013). Nigeria being a UN member States adopted the 2000 Millennium Declaration as well as the associated MDG’s. This research paper seeks to discuss the effectiveness of government policy to reduce gender inequalities in Nigeria as postulated in the 2000 Millennium Declaration.
Overview of Nigeria
Nigeria is a West African country with rich natural resources, the largest population in Africa and a multicultural society. It is the largest African oil exporting country though it is still considered as a relatively weak economy due to a number of factors (Apter, 2005). There have been a consistent number of coups in the country since independence and as such, it has very wide income inequalities such that it is ruled by a class of social elite from a single tribe out of the 350 tribal groups (Apter, 2005). As much as the ratio between men and women is equal, women are by far more economically, socially, culturally and politically disadvantaged compared to men. This is in essence due to adherences to outdated and retrogressive traditional beliefs and practices. For instance, the country is home to more than 170 million people (Ogujiuba & Alehile, 2012). Given that the country has a relative weak economy, about 70% of the country’s populace resides in rural areas. More so, it is a well known statistic that a majority of the 70% of the population living in rural areas are women (Ogujiuba & Alehile, 2012). This is essentially due to the fact that traditional beliefs and practices have served to limit the ability of girls to access quality education, participate in income generating activities and have the right to political representation.
It is important to note that women in Nigeria are in essence responsible for the availability of a strong and sustainable labor force as much as they are discriminated upon through adherences to backward cultural ideals. More so, Nigerian women, many of whom reside in rural areas are responsible for more than 70% of the food produced in the country (Timothy & Adeoti, 2006). This is notwithstanding the fact that Nigerian women only have access to about 20% of the agricultural resources available, whether it be agriculturally productive land, credit facilities, capital or farm inputs. As such, in urban areas where formal sectors thrive, it is estimated that women account for less than 19% of formal employees and as such, most are employed as low cadre workers (Timothy & Adeoti, 2006). It is however important to point out that a few strong willed women have been able to work their way up the upper echelons of Nigeria’s patriarchal society to hold positions of power in both the private and public administration sectors.
Given the barriers that limit the social-economic development of women in Nigeria, one can only be compelled to accept that these are indeed gender specific. These gender specific barriers have only served to suppress the overall economic development of the country as much as it has the natural resources, populations and land mass size that make some developed countries envious (Adejo, 2006). These barriers have resulted in a situation where a country with so much economic potential tends to exhibit dismally low human development parameters. Prior to the adoption of the 2000 Millennium Declaration, it consistently scored low in nutrition, maternal mortality, education, health and fertility. The Declaration led the Nigerian government to look more into issues related to women empowerment and gender inequality leading to the formulation of government actions and policies aimed at creating awareness of the issue in the government (Adejuwon & Tijani, 2012).
The Nigerian Government’s Actions and Policies towards Women Empowerment and Gender Equality
The 1995 Beijing platform for action and the 2000 Outcome of the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly compelled Nigeria’s Federal government to adopt and agree to the implementation of a policy aimed at gender equality and the empowerment of women (Htun & Weldon, 2010). As such, in April 2000, the National Policy on Women was introduced and it sought to work through sectored implementation strategies. The Nigerian Federal Government consequently developed an action plan in an effort to support the implementation of the National Policy on Women.
The Nigerian Federal Government embraced the fact that promoting gender equality was indeed internationally embraced as an agenda that sought comprehensive strategies aimed at furthering economic development (Alehile, 2009). Gender equality was and is still perceived as an economic strategy through which poverty levels can be reduced among both gender groups. It was also seen as a strategy through which Nigeria could improve health standards, improve on its people’s living standards and enhance the efficiency of the country’s public investments all aimed at appraising Nigeria’s economic potential. As such, the realization of gender equality in line with the MDG’s was seen as a potent means through which the issue of human rights could be addressed, as a end to itself and more so as a pillar towards the achievement of sustainable economic, social, political and cultural development.
National Policy on Women Delivery Strategies
The Nigerian Federal Government put in place strategies aimed at enabling the attainment of set goals and objectives through the dual agenda principle. This was embraced as the best policy implementation strategy as it looked to gender equality and equity not only beneficial to women and men but also as a motivator for efficient and effective systems to a macroeconomic and microeconomic scale (Alehile, 2009). The government thus sought to comprehensively address gender issues through an initiative that cut across seven integrated strategies as shown in the table below.
|Programme reforms, partnerships and policy.||Mainstream gender issues across public and private sectors and at all national levels.|
|Value re-orientation, information and communication.||Enhanced gender knowledge, practice, and attitude. Greater male involvement and the creation of a positive gender culture.|
|Skill development and capacity building.||Industrial expertise and fitting tools and instruments towards sustainable gender responsive development.|
|Human rights and legislative protection.||Gender equity and equality in the administration of justice and the guaranteeing of human rights.|
|Financial accountability coupled with economic reforms.||Better production yields from all citizens and budget efficiency across all sectors and policy that is gender responsive.|
|Research, data and evidenced based planning.||Trustworthy gender disaggregated statistics and indicators.|
|Monitoring and evaluation.||Effective gender equity and equality tracking as well as benchmarking of improvements.|
Table 1. National Policy on Women Delivery Strategies and envisaged outcomes Sourced from (Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, 2006)
Factors Determining the Effectiveness of the Nigerian Federal Government’s National Policy on Women
Programme Reforms, Partnerships and Policy
As much as the Nigerian Federal Government has reiterated its dedication towards greater women empowerment and gender equity, the contemporary policy environment across all national sectors, the inter-sector collaborations and the programming priorities have not been forthcoming. This called for an overhaul of the structural arrangements, policy environments and ministerial program content so as to allow for greater gender concerns (Ogujiuba & Alehile, 2012). There is therefore the need for a broad based system approach towards greater gender mainstreaming championed and prioritized by the federal government. Ministries such as the one overseeing Women Affairs and Social Development ought to be completely re-evaluated to meet the demands of its enlarged mandate such that delivery mechanisms are more robust. This was done through the creation the Gender Equality Opportunities Commission and the restructuring of national center for Women Development.
Value Re-Orientation, Information and Communication
The traditional and cultural barriers that led to the social resistance to gender equality resulted from a poor understanding of how gender mainstreaming would impact on the diverse social groups as well as a failure for gender equality stakeholders to effectively communicate the underlying factors advocating for greater gender equality (Ogujiuba & Alehile, 2012). The National Policy on Women thus sought to appraise and more so engender the objective of value re-orientation as projected by the federal government by employing appropriate modes of communications that realized the desired local responsiveness. This called for a means through which knowledge levels could be improved, towards a social change with regard to gender equality via broad based communication mediums. As such, it was seen that the best means with which to realise this was through greater male involvement coupled with responsive programming towards greater gender parity.
Skill Development and Capacity Building
At the time of the adoption of the MDG’s, Nigeria was experiencing and is still currently experiencing low technical expertise levels with regard to gender issues resulting from scarcity of the desired human resource as well as insufficient skill sets (Ogujiuba & Alehile, 2012). This has led to poor outcomes with regard to gender equality initiatives thus limiting program and partner beneficiaries from optimising development oriented opportunities. This has been to the disadvantage of the entire nation.
Human Rights and Legislative Protection
The Nigerian Federal government has seen its fair share of military coups in its history and as such, it has a wanting human rights record. However, it has slowly come to embrace government as the most appropriate means of political administration. It is important to point out that women’s rights are still largely ignored as compared to those accorded to men. As such, women are much more like to have their rights infringed upon in Nigeria in different phases of their lives (Ogujiuba & Alehile, 2012). This is normally the case as much as the country is privy to numerous internationally renowned human rights treaties and instruments. The fact that its legal systems employ traditional customary laws, the Sharia law and statutory laws implies the legal status of Nigerian women is more often than not trivialized. This only serves to foster greater gender inequality and undermining women’s efforts towards full participation in opportunities that nurture national development.
Financial Accountability Coupled With Economic Reforms
Nigerian women experience significant inadequacies more so with regard to critical developmental resources such as capital, education, labour, and control over their personal lives as well as entrepreneurial skills. As such, the Nigerian financial systems and to a large extent, the public institutions have noted to be indifferent to gender concerns as is recommended in the MDG’s (Alehile, 2009). Women empowerment is critical towards sustainable economic development towards poverty eradication and as such, the Nigerian government has failed to achieve this end.
Research, Data and Evidenced Based Planning
The crucial role that research and the management of gender disaggregated information in developmental planning is undeniable. It serves as critical towards understanding the dimensions that gender transcends in various developmental agendas allowing for cross cutting engagements involving structural and institutional traditions, systems and focus (Htun & Weldon, 2010). As such, research outcomes are very important towards downplaying of retrogressive traditional values, customs and practices which are detrimental to the socioeconomic development of girls and women and by extension to boys and men. As such, towards a successful implementation of the adopted gender equality policy there is a call for greater reliance on data sourced from gender studies in the country.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The country’s gender equality and women empowerment policy is highly dependent on the use of appropriate templates, modalities and tools for monitoring and evaluation of performance reviews (Htun & Weldon, 2010).
The National Policy on Women as a gender policy was well embraced by the international community as it was seen as a step taken in the right direction (Kanayo, 2014). However, the effectiveness on the implementation of this policy framework has not been to the expectations of the international community. Women in the country are still discriminated upon in the social, economic, cultural and political circles. As such, the prevalent gender gaps in economic empowerment, education and more so in political participation have worked to the detriment of the full and successful implementation of the adopted national policy ion gender equality, equity and women empowerment (Kanayo, 2014). As such, as much as the country is still regarded as one of the most prosperous on the African continent, it still fairs rather poorly in comparison to other developing and third world countries.
The core objective of the National Gender Policy (NGP) commonly referred to as the National policy on Women was to promote for the development and sustenance of a gender sensitive and more so gender responsive culture towards all inclusive policy planning processes and greater national development. As this research paper has highlighted, the outcomes of the gender policy have been below expectations and as such the Nigerian Federal Government has not been effective in its implementation. There seems to be the lack of political inclusivity, a tripartite justice system, lack of human resources, loyalty to outdated traditional and social biases all of which have colluded to undermine the benefits of greater gender equality and women empowerment for greater economic development.
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