INFORMATION NEEDS AND ACCESS TO RURAL WOMEN FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT IN ENUGU NORTH SENATORIAL ZONE OF ENUGU STATE

INFORMATION NEEDS AND ACCESS TO RURAL WOMEN FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT IN ENUGU NORTH SENATORIAL ZONE OF ENUGU STATE

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ABSTRACT

The study examined the information needs and access to rural women for community development in Enugu North Senatorial Zone of Enugu State. Six research questions were formulated to guide the study. The specific objectives of the study are to: ascertain the information needs of the rural women, identify sources through which the rural women access information, ascertain the contribution of information to community development, examine the problem the women have in accessing information and suggest ways to enhance women access to information for community development. A descriptive survey was used for the study. The population of the study consists of 1,809 registered rural women in Community Based Women Organizations (CBWOs) in the three selected Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the study, out of which 263 respondents were sampled. The instrument used for data collection was questionnaire complemented with Focus Group Discussion (FGD). The instrument was validated by three experts, two from the Department of Library and Information Science, one from Measurement and Evaluation all from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The research instrument was personally administered by researcher with help of research assistants to the respondents within a duration of six weeks. In the analysis of the data and information obtained through the research instrument and focus group discussion, frequency percentage and weighted mean were used for the quantitative data, while the information gathered from the FGD was qualitatively analyzed using content analysis approach. The findings indicated that women between the age of 35-44 are more in number followed by age range of 45-54, 25-34, and 65 years and above. Married women are more in number, followed by widows, single mothers and divorced. Those with Non-formal education are more than others in number followed by Primary, and Secondary School Certification holders. The women are mostly farmers, petty traders, self employed and civil servants. The women need information mainly on agriculture and health. Their major sources of information include town crier, community leaders and religious organizations. Timely and quality access to information can empower the rural women to facilitate community programmes and projects. There are obvious limitation to women access to information which include basically lack of formal education and lack of awareness on where to get useful information. Some strategies recommended include exposing the women to formal forms of education, establishing Adult Literacy Centres in the communities and establishing Community Information Centres that will help the women acquire skills and knowledge base that can empower them toward actualizing development goals.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

Women in any given society are known to be primarily involved and engage in the building of the home. Women in Nigeria are also known to be involved in agriculture and other economic activities which are foundation to the development of the family and the society. For this reason they should have access to relevant information, knowledge and resources that can assist them to contribute meaningfully to the general  development of the society. Also they are responsible for the provision of learning experiences to the children of the family and can contribute to the improvement of the family standard of living through their economic activities. Some women have through their activities contributed to the development of their society, this is practically demonstrated by women that are not only educated, but also have distinguished themselves in various professions and public positions where they have made meaningful economic contributions to the development of the society.

Obviously, this is the case of women in Africa who have made enormous contributions to the pursuit of common good and sustenance of the society. According to Ukwuoma and Njoku (2013), women in Africa have a pride of place in terms of family upkeep and contributions to various aspects of the economy. Further, they noted that African women whether educated or uneducated, rural or urban based, engaged in gainful employment and contribute directly or indirectly to the development of the society. They constitute a sizeable number of the active population in agriculture and are responsible for attending to early education of the nation’s children.

In Nigeria, women constitute 52% of the entire population and about 45% of the women live in rural areas (Gambo, 2011). The rural women economic activities mainly range from petty trading, vocational enterprises, handicraft, and farming to agro-processing. In support, Onyenechi (2011) stated that women are also involved in producing agricultural raw materials for industries. Almost all agricultural production and marketing activities including animal husbandry are performed by the women. From these economic activities by the women, income are generated which are deployed into development projects in the society.

Though, the rural women are very critical to the development of the society through their economic activities, they are generally known to be suffering from some deprivations like illiteracy, lack of access to formal education, lack of access to credit facilities, inadequate participation in decision marking process, inadequate access to employment opportunities and human right discrimination. Describing this situation, Ukachi (2001), stated that rural women are mainly illiterate group of people that can hardly read nor write and lack the necessary ability and experience required to cope with the challenges arising from the society.

Rural women in the context of this study are women who live in rural areas of Nigeria, most of whom do not have formal education but engage in economic activities that can hardly earn them and their families a decent living. According to Alosede (2012) rural women are usually illiterates and lack access to formal education. Majority of the rural women speak only the local language in their areas, though there is constant communication with one another at family level and the general community. These rural women because of their inadequate access to formal education and literacy programmes, they depend on word of mouth  and other traditional means communications that could improve their living conditions and standards.

Ukwoma and Njoku (2013) discussed the deprivation that women suffer in the society. For them, the rural women have not been generally recognized by policy makers, development planners and agricultural service deliverers in decision-making processes, even these that concern the women directly. The women find it very difficulty more than the man in gaining access to valuable resources such as land, credit and agricultural input, technology, extension training and information services that could enhance their production capacity. Information can help the rural women to make informed decisions and reduce their level of uncertainty; it can also assist them in their day-to-day activities and for economic development of the society.

Idiegbeyan-Ose and Akpoghome (2009) stated that the rural women need information on areas like fertilizer application, weed control, credit loan scheme application to farmers and other information that would reposition them in terms of improving their lives and situation. It is instructive at this point to note that for rural women to contribute meaningfully in meeting the needs of the family and general society, they need information. Baker (2011) captured it vividly by stating that the rural women can only perform their primary role in their homes and society when they have access to quality and sufficient information. This means that appropriate and quality information is an indispensible resource that can empower the women to make valuable and informed decisions about their individual and collective needs.

In an increasingly globalized and information driven world, information has become a necessity and valuable commodity to individual, organization and societies in their existence. As such information is considered as a vital resource alongside with land, labour, capital and skills, which are necessary in any human activities. People need information for their day to day activities and for development of their environment. Weiss, Crowder and Bernardi (2000) describe information as the cornerstone for successful social-economic development because it plays a key role in decision making.

According to Opeke (2004) information has received a wide spread acceptance as essential feature of production, consumption and exchange in this modern world. The world has entered an era where the source of wealth and power is increasing from information and human mental creativity as compared to physical resources. As a matter of fact information is a critical factor in the development process within any human society. Thanuskodi (2012) viewed information as an important resource that contributes towards the development of a nation. It provides the care for the development of knowledge, the basis for innovation, the resources for informed citizenry, and as a result becomes a key commodity for the progress of a society.  Ogunrombi and Amudasa (2009) supported the view that information is a source for the growth and development of an individual, organization or a nation. This stand to reason that information is a basic resource, which any persons, groups or communities can use to improve significantly their living conditions and also it is very vital to development processes.

According to Federal Republic of Nigeria official Gazzette (2009) information is defined as an organized data recorded in various forms. It is also a raw resource for knowledge. Information is therefore a vital tool for the empowerment of the individual to enable them take an informed decision or action for either self or community development purposes. Information is a raw material for development for both the urban and rural dwellers. The prosperity, progress and development of any nation depend on the nation’s ability to acquire produce and use pertinent information. Apata and Ogunrewo (2010) noted that information remains the lifeblood of any individual or group of people, it is a valuable resource required in any society. Thus acquiring and using information are critical in any human activities.

For the purpose of this study, information means knowledge acquired through a process of interaction, discussion, and other learning situation which an individual can use to perform different tasks, make informed decisions and improve on existing human conditions and material situations.

Human beings express diverse information needs in their day-to-day activities. Every person needs information for decision making; the type of information needed range from common physiological to individuated psychological information needs. Nwangwu (2009) stated that information need refers to the extent to which information is required to solve problems, as well as the degree of expressed satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the information. Reitz (2010) defined information need as a gap in a person’s knowledge that when experienced at the conscious level as a question gives rise to a search for an answer. After identification of information needs, the information user embarks on a search for information. The behavioural expressions collectively known as information seeking behaviours resemble problem solving or decision-making process where an individual identifies possible sources, differentiates and chooses a few sources, locates or makes contact with them and interacts with them in order to obtain the desired information.

Lwoga, Christine, and Patrice  (2011), noted that information needs in development context relate closely to a person’s occupation, the level of socio-economic development, and local agro-ecological conditions. Information needs of the rural poor relate especially closely to their occupations and their basic survival goals. While physiological needs give rise to basic and often shared information needs. Individual needs vary from one person to another.

Proper identification of the rural women information needs will reduce uncertainty and enable them to identify alternative solution to problems. Also adequate provision of information will also enable them to acquire more knowledge that empowers the women for wide-ranging activities geared towards meaningful development. However, it is frustrating to note that rural women most often are incapable of accessing various information resources and services, even where such needed information is available (Zaid and Popoola, 2010). Some of the factors that have been identified as constraints to access and/or utilization of information by the rural women are illiteracy, poverty, lack of infrastructural facilities and interest. Kamba (2011) mentioned some of the limitations as inadequate basic infrastructure (electricity, telecommunication, roads transportation) low literacy level, lack of suitable information services and lack of technical competencies as among the barriers to delivery of information services in the  rural areas of developing countries. Most rural areas in Africa are not electrified, thereby reducing access in most rural communities to information exchange and communications.

Obviously, communication and information infrastructure established by the government has also been concentrated in urban areas. Rural roads in Africa are often impassable during the raining season, making it difficult for timely delivery of print information resources needed for day-to-day decision making. Mahiwasane (2008), noted that timely delivery of print information services is of limited value due to the high illiteracy level.

Study by UNESCO (2010), showed that sub-Sahara Africa had 153 million people who lacked the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed in everyday life. Information usage may be limited by accessing irrelevant information and by poor information evaluation skills. Literacy levels of information seekers also limit the usage of information. For effective information usage among rural communities, it is important to investigate in detail how specific groups of rural people access and use information for meeting their daily information needs. A study by Dorsch (2000), identified lack of time, inadequate access to information sources, lack of skills, lost of information and geographical isolation as the major barriers to effective use of information. Moreover poor reception, quality of instruments used and difficult technical language limit the usefulness of audio-visual information services. In   support of this, Abraham (2009) noted that information packaged and disseminated through modern channels present difficulties in terms of capturing and understanding capabilities to the rural people and this frustrates practical usage of such information. Consequently, this obvious gap in accessing information,  cuts the rural people off from socio-economic opportunities that can empower them towards improving the living conditions and their social environments. It is plausible to say that availability of information through any source does not mean access to such information. Hence, the key to meeting the information needs of rural women is making needed information not only available but also accessible. Baker (2011) captured this viewpoint which states that for the rural women to perform their roles and responsibilities in their homes in particular and generally in the society, there is the need for them to have access to quality and sufficient information. Information is therefore important for members of any society in maintenance of productivity and self independence. Okiy (2003) stated that information is an important ingredient in development process, people in rural areas whether literate or not should have access to any kind of information, which will help them to become capable and productive in their social and political obligations. The discourse so far delineates the interface between information as resource and development. Information does not only form the foundations for development but also facilitates its process. When people get access to veritable sources of information, which relates to life needs, they became empowered to improve on their living conditions and the common good. 

Development as a concept is multi-dimensional which can be seen in different sphere of human life and existence. Kamba (2009) stated that development is a capacity defined by what a people can do with actual or potential resources, which they have to improve the quality of their living standard and social well being. This view point expands the meaning of development by relating it to human social well being and welfare.

For the purpose of this study, development is seen as  by which an indivudal process of individual and/or community improves on their standard of living and social well being through effective use of available resources both physical and human. Development in this study will be narrowed to community development given the fact that community development as a concept is implicated in the study. Community development is a structured intervention that gives the community greater control over the conditions that affect their life. Community development according to Aina (2003) is a conscious and deliberate effort aimed at helping communities recognize their needs and to assure responsibilities for solving their problems thereby increasing their capacity to participate fully in the lives of the nation. Community development here means a planned process aimed at improving the quality of life of the people and expanding their natural knowledge, skills and abilities towards shaping their future and achieving success in life’s endeavours. This stands to reason that community participation and involvement are the critical factors to successful community development programmes or project. Both human and material resources are mobilized and deployed into the process.

In this study, the women are used as the reference social group because of their of wide-ranging contributions in community development programmes, especially in the rural areas. In discussing development at the community level, the role of women has been gaining great attention; Women have been active players in the Nigeria economy, contributing a lot in agriculture, human and infrastructural  development and  For instance, Ekong (2006) asserted that women are the real engine driving the economy of this country and they hold the key to any activities geared – towards sustainable development. Women in every community have been grouping themselves in difference associations and societies where they mobilize resources and engage in activities geared towards improving their standards of living. More so, they embark on projects which are meant to meet their real needs. These associations and /or organizations have various forms, structure and programmes, which have direct relevance on development   in all ramifications.

Women organizations in every community are part of the potential resources for community projects. The women’s groups are organized in form of Community –Based Organizations (CBOS) and/or cooperative societies. These organizations form  the active agents of development in the rural areas. These women are made up of mostly low income earner and/or very few high income earners. (Omeje 2004)  sated that most of these women groups are made up of poor women who come together to help themselves  out of poverty  by collectively pursuing  economic interest, empowering their members through training in basic literacy small-scale businesses ,and  financial management.

CBWOs engaging in development projects show a process of social action whereby the women of a community organized themselves together and initiate  programmes that can handle some of their life challenges and solve their immediate problems. 

For this study, rural women living in communities in Enugu North Senatorial Zone are the focus group. Enugu North Senatorial Zone is made up of six (6) local government area which include: Igbo Etiti, Igbo-Eze North, Igbo-Eze South, Nsukka, Udenu and Uzo-Uwani. Some of the inhabitant are adherent of Christianity, Traditional Religion and Muslims. There is homogeneity in values, norms, beliefs, dialect, and cultural ceremonies in these communities. Majority of the inhabitant are traders, farmers while very few of them are civil servants.

Geographically, the senatorial zone is located at the North part of Enugu state. It shares boundary with Udi Local Government Area of Enugu state in the South. It also shared boundary with Isi-Uzo Local Government Area in the East, Ayamelum Local Government Area of Anambra State in Enugu East Local Government of Enugu State have boundaries with Enugu North Senatorial Zone in the South West and South – East respectively. Enugu North Senatorial Zone also have boundary with Benue and Kogi in the North East and North West respectively. The choice of the area Enugu North was informed based on the researcher’s interest and that the conditions of life of the women there depict people that live without the necessities of life. They have limited access to resources that can empower them to effectively improve their life worth and environment. What more these women are cut-off from the world of communication owing to non-availability of communication facilities and even where the facilities exist the women lack the knowledge and skills needed for effective usage. This makes it difficult, if not impossible for them to access the information they need, especially for development purpose.

From the foregoing discussion the researcher becomes motivated to study the information needs and access to rural women for community development in Enugu North Senatorial Zone so as to provide an empirical study on the area.

Statement of the Problem    

Information is a critical resource and functional factor in any human endeavor. For any kind of development activities, information is the key and access to quality and timely information can facilitate the pace of development plan and execution. Access to appropriate information empowers people to take right decisions and actions that can transform their lives and allows for greater sense of freedom and independence.

Women no matter their locations, situations and social-economic status have been known to engage in various human activities which have wide-ranging implications on improvement of their living standard and the development of the society. Rural women as a matter of reference play key roles in agricultural production and marketing of agricultural product, they have also been reckon with the initiation and implementation of policies and programme that have help in no small measure towards the development of the society. Giving the women’s vital roles in the society, they need information on areas like family health, food and nutrition family planning and child education, agricultural and animal husbandry and employment. Women’s information needs: personal, religious, social domestic, professional and medical are important factors in determining the quality of life they live; their level of (i) productivity and success in any human endeavours.

Access to information is vital to women empowerment to promote their ability to contribute to the development of their society. Today, it seems that part of the information required to activate community development are not accessed due to many factors such as illiteracy, poverty, poor communication network, inadequate power supply, and inability of the government to address the rural needs of the citizens as identified in the literature. Also, it was noted in literature that traditional social cultural practices limit women opportunities in education, skill, development, employment and participation in the overall development process. This situation nevertheless seem to have created a wide-ranging information gap in the live and activities of the rural women hence increasing their level of information needs.

Also, it appears that the study of this kind or related subject matter has not been carried out among the rural women in Enugu North Senatorial zone. It is against this backdrop that the study intends to investigate the information needs and access to rural women for community development.

Purpose of the Study

The general purpose of the study is to investigate the information needs and access to rural women for community development in Enugu North senatorial zone of Enugu State. 

The specific objectives are to:

1.      To ascertain the characteristics of the rural women in Enugu North Senatorial zonal of Enugu state.   

2.      Ascertain the information needs of the rural women in the area

3.       Identify the sources through which the women  access  information for community development

4.      To ascertain the contributions of information to community development.

5.      Examine the problems the rural women have in accessing  information for community development

6.      Suggest ways to enhance the rural women access to information for community development. 

Research Questions

The following research questions will guide the study

1.      What the characteristic of rural women in Enugu North senatorial zone in Enugu State?

2.      What are the information needs of the rural women in Enugu North senatorial zone in Enugu State?

3.      What are the sources available through which the rural women access information?

4.      What are the contributions of information to community development?

5.      What are the problems encountered by the rural women in accessing information for community development?

6.      What are the strategies to enhance the rural women's access to information?

Significance of the Study

The findings of the study hopefully will be of immense benefit to the rural women, organizations like Community Based Women Organization (CBWO), Community Development Unit in the Local Government Area, Academic Institutions and Scholars.

The results of the study are excepted to inform rural women about the information that can empower them to become more useful to themselves, and to maximize their resources to embark on community development programmes, it will also help identity sources from which needed information can be accessed.

For the Community Based Women Organization, the findings of this study will help the group to see the need to provide quality and timely information for the entire membership, which will impact on their means of livelihood. This study will also help in directing the group to veritable, sources of information that they can be easily access which is highly profitably towards maximizing their potentials and resources.

For community development unit, it will help them in designing programmes that will be helpful in providing relevant information to the rural women, which is critical in improving their living conditions and situations.

For academic institutions and scholars the findings will help them set up structures and chart programme that will bring vital development information packages to rural women that will be beneficial to them. This study will serve as reference materials for researchers in the field of library and information science, sociology and other related fields of learning. It will also, motivate scholars in library and information science to engage in further studies on the subject of this research or related studies.

Those in information and library unit will help them adopt strategic programmes that will be geared towards meeting the information needs of the rural women adequate.

Scope of the Study

This study focuses  the information needs and access to rural women for community development in Enugu North Senatorial zone in Enugu State. The study is limited to information needs, sources through which the women access information, contribution of information to community development, barriers to information accessibility and strategies to enhance their access to information. The study covered data collected from rural women in communities of Enugu North Senatorial zone.




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