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Nigeria is a developing country located in West Africa with a population of 182 million (United Nations, 2015, p. 23). According to a World Bank estimate in 2015, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product was $481.1 billion (World Bank, 2016), which included $80 billion from oil revenue alone (Oyefeso, 2015). However, 110 million Nigerians lived in poverty (Vanguard, 2015). The Market Mogul posits political corruption and high government expenditure as reasons for wealth inequality and poverty in Nigeria. A report by the Sahara Reporters in 2012 ascertained that it costs Nigerians $8.3 billion to pay the salaries of those in politics. In 2012, the federal government of Nigeria designated $7.4 billion to develop infrastructure, but only half of this was spent towards its development (Sahara Reporters cited in Oyefeso, 2015). Moreover, in 2012, Women made up half of the Nigerian population and 70 percent of the 100 million living in poverty (Fapohunda, 2012, p. 87).

 Also, women made up over 50 percent of the illiterate population compared to 38 percent of men in Nigeria as of 2007 (Fapohunda, 2012, p. 21). In the absence of current estimates, it is difficult to capture the state of poverty women experience and the level of education of women in the subsequent years. In the different industries in Nigeria, women’s representation lags behind that of men and are underrepresented in the main sectors of the economy. For instance, women accounted for 36.5 percent compared to men’s 63.5 percent in both agriculture and forestry in 2008 (Oduwole & Fadeyi, 2013, p. 109). Women’s underrepresentation is no different in politics as Nigeria ranks 178 out of a list of 193 countries of women in parliament. This ranking is because women occupy twenty seats in the Lower House from a total of three hundred and sixty seats drawn from various constituencies in the 36 states of the federal republic. In the Upper House (Senate), women occupy seven seats out of a total of one hundred and eight seats (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2016). From the above, it becomes evident that women’s representations in the Nigerian society linger behind that of men. The wider Nigerian society links women’s affairs to their competence in the domestic sphere, and this serves as a glass ceiling in their involvement in the public sector (Imhanlahimi & Eloebhose, 2006; Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997; Tuwor & Sossou, 2008, p. 367). With the advent of education as freedom from various forms of discrimination, development scholars like Sen and Nussbaum have recognized education to be a primary source of empowerment for women (Dreze & Sen, 2013, p. 109; Nussbaum, 2003, p. 332). In 2000, the federal government of Nigeria promoted the education of girls in accordance with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals as itemized in Goal 3, which aimed at promoting gender equality and empowering women through formal education and access to employment in the non-agricultural sector (Nigeria Millennium Development Goals, 2015, p. 5). Nigeria recorded success in the enrollment of girls in primary schools, where there was an increase in the ratio of girls to boys in basic education, with an end-point status of 94 percent in 2013. However, this increase was not evident in secondary and tertiary levels of formal education. Also, the end-point status of the proportion of women in wage employment was 7.7 percent. The percentage of seats held by women in the national parliament was at 5.11 percent in 2015 in contrast with Nigeria’s MDGs expected target of 35 percent. government stated that the goal to empower women was not met (ibid. p. 5). At this juncture, it is important to question if educating women is enough to lead to their empowerment in Nigeria given the glass ceiling created by patriarchy. We need to consider this in light of the fact that Sen and Nussbaum’s Capability Approach, which is the theoretical framework of this thesis, as well as the UN’s MDGs, both, value women’s education and its corresponding link with employment, better health indicators, empowerment and the upward mobility of women (Dreze & Sen, 2013, p. 108-109; Nussbaum, 2003, p. 339-340; Nigeria Millennium Development Goals, 2015, p. 6). Drawing on these views, can women’s education be powerful enough to dent patriarchy in Nigeria?

                1.2       STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM 

Women’s population of 68.3 million constitutes almost half of the entire country’s population, of 140 million (National Population Commission, 2006). This numerical strength has not been translated to equal treatment in the society. Apart from numerical strength, women have great potentials to evolve a new economic order, thereby helping in accelerating social and political development and consequently transforming the society into a better one. Olawoye (1995) describes Nigerian women as a crucial factor in production. According to her, they are largely responsible for the bulk production of crops, agro-based food processing, preservation of crops and distribution of yields from farm centres to market in both rural and urban areas. 

Nigerian women are contributing their quota to the development of the nation, but their potentials seem not to have been fully tapped due to some constraints. Disparities still exist between men and women in education, employment and income opportunities, control over assets, personal security and participation in the development process (Rahman & Naoroze, 2007). This may be as a result of lingering constraints including poor economic condition of Nigerian women, lack of adequate legislation and policies to support the rights of women, unequal access to education, limited access to land, lack of assertiveness among women etc. Level of education, income level, and men’s perception on the need for women’s participation in development have been viewed as determining factors in women’s participation in development processes. With regard to political participation, women have been grossly underrepresented. The last general election revealed a 6 percent representation of women across all levels of elected offices across the country. With regard to Enugu State, out of the 17 local government areas of the state, no woman was elected as the executive chairman and only five women are in the state house of assembly that has 24 members. This is a gross under representation of women who make up about 50 percent of Nigerian population (WACOL, 2008). Affirmative action has not been fully adopted by either governments or political parties. There is still low level of education among women.

Under-representation of Nigerian women in educational, economic and political programmes could lead to a serious set back in development and, thus, the need for women empowerment.  Many programmes have been put in place at local, state, national and international levels. These programmes and initiatives aim at widening women’s access to education, encouraging women’s full participation in cash economy and politics and reviewing laws on status of women. These initiatives are organized by both women themselves, and governmental and non-governmental organizations and include the provision of micro-credit facilities, educational programmes, skill acquisition, political participation, and related activities. These programmes are evident in Nsukka. 

Though some of these empowerment initiatives exist, the effectiveness of these initiatives in promoting the participation of Nsukka women in development processes has not been empirically examined and documented. This dearth of research has created the need for this study. This research will therefore assess the empowerment initiatives available to women in Nsukka and evaluate the role of these initiatives in promoting women’s participation in development processes and identify the factors that limit empowerment and participation of Nsukka women in development processes.   

                1.3       RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The following research questions are to guide this study: 

1.      What are the empowerment initiatives available for women in Nsukka town?

2.      In what ways have Nsukka women been empowered economically? 

3.      In what ways have Nsukka women been empowered politically? 

4.      In what ways have Nsukka women been empowered educationally?

5.      In what areas have Nsukka women participated most in the economic, political and educational development processes? 

6.      What are the factors that may militate against Nsukka women’s full empowerment and participation in development processes? 

7.      Does the educational qualification of Nsukka women influence their participation in development processes?

8.      Does the income level of Nsukka women influence their participation in development processes? 

9.      Does the employment status of Nsukka women influence their participation in development processes?

                1.4       OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY 

The general objective of this study is to assess the impact of empowerment on women’s participation in development processes in Nsukka. The specific

objectives are:

(1)                               To identify the empowerment initiatives available to women in Nsukka. 

(2)                               To ascertain the ways in which women have been empowered politically

in Nsukka 

(3)                               To assess the ways in which women have been empowered


(4)                               To ascertain the ways in which women have been empowered


(5)                               To identify the areas which Nsukka women have participated most in

economic, political and educational development processes 

(6)                               To identify the factors which may militate against full empowerment

and participation of Nsukka women in development processes.

(7)                               To determine the relationship between Nsukka women’s educational

qualification and their participation in development processes

(8)                               To determine the relationship between women’s income level and their

participation in development processes

(9)                               To ascertain the relationship between Nsukka women’s employment

status and their participation in development processes?

                1.5       SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY 

The study has both theoretical and practical significance.  Theoretically, this study will add to the body of knowledge on the levels of women’s empowerment at the local and community levels. It will throw more light on the existing literature with regard to the role of empowerment on women’s participation in developmental processes and the factors that limit women’s empowerment and participation in development processes. It will be of great help to students and researchers who may want to investigate issues relating to women. Practically, this work will produce data, which will enhance the understanding of major factors that hinder women empowerment and participation in developmental processes and the best strategies for eliminating the constraints. Based on this, governmental and non-governmental organizations would be able to mount effective policies and empowerment programmes that would be beneficial to women and the world in general. This work will also serve as a working document to women community-based organizations and other established women organizations that are interested in improving the status of women. 


Development processes: Development processes for this study include all the activities involved in the political, economic and educational activities which can lead to the upliftment and enhancement of women’s status and the society at large. These activities include voting and contesting for elections, belonging to political parties and involvement in other political activities, involvement in both formal and informal educational training, and involvement in money-yielding, production activities and other related activities.

Economic development process: This includes entrepreneurship activities, cooperative related activities, production activities and all other processes relating to money-yielding activities that lead to improvement of the well-being of women and the society.

Economic empowerment: This entails women’s access to and control over the means of making a living on sustainable and long term basis and receiving the material benefits of this access and control which leads to economic independence. It includes access to land, agricultural facilities, micro credit, cash crops, and skill and technical training.

Educational development process: This involves all formal and informal training activities, including teaching, creating awareness on the need for education, and skill acquisition that results in the enhancement of women’s status.  

Educational empowerment: Educational empowerment entails women’s opportunity to acquire literacy skills, ideas and knowledge which will help in liberating their minds and improving their socio-economic and political statuses. This is achieved through access to media, adult literacy programmes, workshops and awareness campaigns. 

Employment status: Employment status is the type of endeavours or occupation that women engage in for their livelihood. This is categorized into self-employed, civil servants, women employed in private firms and unemployed women.  

Empowerment: This is a process whereby women are provided with both material and nonmaterial assets to enable them to engage in activities that aim at reducing their powerlessness which was created by their membership of a marginalized group. These activities include income generating activities, educational activities, and political activities.  Empowerment Initiatives: Empowerment initiatives are programmes which are established by individuals, government and non-governmental organizations in communities to help in improving the status of women and the society. These programmes range from micro credit programmes,  activities initiated by women organizations, literacy programmes, women skill training, and other related programmes. 

Gender: Gender is defined as the social, economic, political and cultural attributes, perceptions, and opportunities which a society associates with being male or female. 

Gender awareness: Recognition that women and men have differences in needs and roles in society. Gender awareness enables one to identify problems arising from gender inequality and discrimination that must be addressed.

Gender discrimination: Following Aidoo, et al (2002), gender discrimination in this research means a differential treatment of individual groups based entirely on their being male or female. This difference contributes to structural inequality in the society. It has manifested in systemic and structural discrimination against women in the distribution of income, access to resources, participation in decision-making, education and power. 

Gender equality: A principle that ensures equal rights and opportunities for women, men, girls and boys in all sectors of human endeavour, politically, educationally, legally and economically.

Gender inequality: This is the denial of equal rights and opportunity for both sexes in all sectors of human endeavor, politically, educationally, legally, and economically.

Inequality: This is the denial of equal rights and opportunity based on membership of a particular sex, class, ethnic group etc.

Participation: This means being actively involved and taking part in development processes in the society. 

Political development process: This entails all activities relating to political decisionmaking, electioneering activities, organizing women for change, and other activities that are concerned with mobilization of women for enhanced status in the society.

Political empowerment: Political empowerment is the process of promoting women’s access to power and decision-making. This involves giving women the opportunity to participate in political matters like electing people and contesting for elections, belonging to political parties and women organizations, and attaining leadership in order to challenge the existing structures of inequality.  

Women: For the purpose of this study, the term women is defined as adult females from the age of 18 and above.  

Women empowerment: This is a process through which women acquire skills and

willingness to critically analyse their situation and take appropriate action to change their status in the society. It is a process of enabling women achieve control over their lives through expanded choice. It encompasses women’s access to education, landed property, political positions and involvement in money–making activities and decision-making processes. It is a function of individual initiative which is facilitated by institutional change and support.

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