The Role of Women in Rural Development
(A Case Study Of Abiriba Local Government Area of Abia State in Nigeria)
Department of History and International studies
1.0 Background of Study
The most comprehensive perception of development is one that conceives a multi-dimensional process involving changes in structures, altitudes and institutions, as well as the acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality and eradication of absolute poverty. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (2000) a precursor of such change capable of fostering development is the ability of policy makers to induce desirable changes in the economic structure of any nation. Such polices must induce a wide range of changes in the entire social system, tuned to the diverse basic needs and desires of individuals and social groups within the system. Also, it should move away from a condition of life that is widely perceived as sub-standard as experienced in the rural areas and towards condition of life regarded as materially and spiritually better1.
Rural development, is a process of not only increasing the level of per capita income in the rural areas but also of the standard of living of the rural population, where the standard of living depends on such factors as food, nutrition level, health, education, housing, recreation and security2. On the other hand, rural development is seen in terms of the condition and percentage of the labor force in the agricultural sector, although it is argued that a program of rural development should go beyond agriculture to include the country’s total economic development in rural areas because about 70 percent of Nigeria’s labor force is employed in the agricultural sector, which is characterized by a predominance of small-scale production using mostly local inputs3.
Globally, women’s influence and contribution in the developmental process has become very significant to the extent of drawing the attention of most authorities to a point of consideration and need to create equal opportunities between women and their male counterpart. Nigerian women has a recognized place in society which makes it possible for gifted ones among them to rise to positions of political, economic and social eminence from which they led and dominated not only their fellow women but men as well. Some schools of thought believe that women all over the world have contributed immensely to the development of nations while other school of thought believe that women have contributed nothing rather than their domestic affairs such as family welfare, of which in the case of Nigeria women has contributed a lot towards to national development, hence this goes to show that the role of women in society cannot be over emphasized in the functions they perform both at the state and federal level4.
In the past women have been described as mothers of the nation, it is believed that many society hardly develop without women, generally, in Nigeria, there has been great apathy on the past of women and especially those from Abiriba community.
However, Nigeria women have involved themselves in developmental activities like politics economy and social development since the independence. Notable women activist during pre-independence like late Mrs. F. Ransome Kuti, and of recent chief Mrs. Bola Balatope, Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, Late Mrs. Kudurat Abiola, Dr. Mrs. Jokumba. Dosuma, Chief Mrs. Bosede Oslin have distinguished themselves due to the roles they played in the emancipation of Nigeria women and the society at large5.
The role of the rural women in the development of their society overtime has be a contending issue among people of various fields of study especially scholars of development. Therefore, this study examines the role of women in rural development with particular attention on Abriba Local Government Area of Abia State in Nigeria as case study.
1.1 Statement of problem
Despite significant improvements since attainment of independence in Nigeria like many nations in the developing world, extreme poverty remains widespread. The Nigerian economy began to experience recession from the early 1980 and as a result, she moved from middle level income and a developing industrial nation to become one of the poorest nations in the world (Central Bank of Nigeria, 2002-2003). Specifically, the incidence of poverty has been high and upward swinging since 1980. Data from the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) on the poverty profile of Nigeria (1999) showed that the incidence of poverty rose from 28.1 percent in 1980 to 46.3 percent in 1985 but dropped slightly to 42.7 percent in 1992 before rising to 65.6 percent in 1996.
The rural areas in most parts of Nigeria exhibit great poverty, poor health condition and ignorance as a result of varying degree of geographical, social and political isolation. In Nigeria, more than 75% of the population live and work in rural areas though the emphasis of spatial planning has for a long time been on urban areas rather than regional problems whereby the rural areas would have benefited. This has led to the relegation of the rural areas to the background in the spatial economy of the country resulting in a wide spread of rural-urban migration of able women. This problem has been compounded by unattractive opportunities of generating income from agriculture.
Women rarely have access to the resources that would make their work more productive and ease their heavy workload. Ultimately, it is not just women who are held back, but also their families, their communities and local economies. Despite their many responsibilities, women have significantly less access to the resources and services they need to increase their productivity and their income and ease their burden of household duties. Women are held back by lack of education, unequal property rights and limited control over resources. It is on this backdrop that this research will examine the role of women in rural development with particular attention to Abriba Local Government Area of Abia State.
1.2 Aim and objectives of Study
Having observed the various problem militating against women participation in the attainment of development in areas as policy making, implementation and involvement in the program and projects for development it is therefore needful to point it out here that we communities should make use of it’s human (non-power) resource available for the attainments of development.
The purpose for this study is aimed at encouraging women at the rural communities that they have to rise up to the challenge of emancipating themselves from the old views held about them in the society. the research work aimed at informing agents of government responsible for positive growth and development to give adequate support to women so that they can appreciate their roles and play it better than before.
To examine the involvement of Abiriba women in the development of the community starting from the pre-colonial period and extend to the contemporary time and to educate the men folks on the needs to accommodate the women properly in all issues relating to the society, although right from the creation of the world the women are regarded as helpmate.
1.3 Scope of the study
This study is intended to address various issues as it affect the role women play in community development using Abiriba as a case in point. All these include position of women in the decision making process of the community, the examination of the level of women participation in political social development in Abiriba in particular. The study will examine some of the obnoxious culture and tradition of the people that end anger or limit the economic contribution by women in community development.
1.4 Research methodology
This research project made use of two (2) major source which are primary and secondary sources. The primary sources used for this study are oral interviews conducted within the area covered by the research.
The secondary sources were gotten from published works among which are: text books journals internet publication.
1.5 Literature review
There is need for a review of the work and opinions of some scholars on the role of women in rural development. To this end a couple of review have been presented below;
According to C.B Nwahukwu in his book “Development and administration in New and emergent states”, he defines development as an integral process of indenting opportunities for individual social groups and territorially organized communities at small and intermediate scale and mobilizing the full rang of their capacities and resources for the common benefit in social, economic and political terms. He further argued that the specific type of development initiated by the politico-administrative elites is the most suitable one for all the other members of society and should therefore replace other existing notions of development.
However, C.B Nwachukwu saw women as a catalyst in the developments process. He argued that women occupied a very important social, economic political position in pre-colonial Nigeria. It is said that in all the main areas of economic activity agricultures, trade and manufactures, women played outstanding roles. They were major sources of labour in agricultures.
Anikpo, M.O.C. in his book titled “Foundation for Social Science Research” argued that the western type of education sets new set of social values and legal systems act as some of the reason for women, inferiority. Yet for Nigeria; at least the Federal Office of Statistical (FOS) estimated the rural women population of Nigeria to be 51.6% in 1985. The 1991 provisional census figure shows the women constitute 49.6% of Nigeria’s population. In this study area used here, women constitute of 50.48% which is very close to national figure. Two inferences can be made from the above statistics. The first is that it will be sheer planning and executive development efforts. Secondly, women are likely to be the best contributors and the most affected by the consequence development efforts in any community. Thus women constitute a critical proportion of the productive population of Nigeria. “Africa politics” by Emezi, C.E and Ndoh C.A said that women contribution to environmental development are many. The role of women in the environmental education start from home with the different vigorous domestic work chores. Children are taught, which ranges from sweeping to cleaning and washing both plates and their body. In doing so they don’t only learn to keep the environment clean. By so doing the women train their children on the basic environmental ethics ranging from body clearing to general house cleaning. They are indeed the first known environment educators.
O Moachu cited in Ndoh’s book on “African Politics” revealed that women play a decisive part when it comes to fighting poverty. In Nigeria women are exposed to considerable discrimination even though they assume a particular important key role in this country’ process of development inspite of relatives improvement, politic. This ugly situation had negative effect not only on their effective participation in development programmes but also on their development programmes but also on their capability to attain self realization and fulfillment.
Lai Oturode in “women and social changes in Nigeria” he agrees that he traditionally and historically, women occupied various positions in various societies. In ancient Rome Althens and Egypt for instance women occupied various position which were defined by the cultural norms and values of these societies rather than what they would get for them. Dr. Sophic B. Olurode agreed the traditional African societies would reserve remarkable power for women but inspite of this, they were not allowed to use their power. The issue remains that going by the functionalist approach, women are a part of the society and have certain functions that they exhibit.
According to Afigbe, A. E in his book title “Women as a factor in Development”, agreed that to the extend mankind needed all it’s physical and mental energy to achieve the much longed for transformation of their environment and social condition of existence, women regarded as units of physical energy came to be seen in new height as very important factors for success in development. He went further to argued that essentially preoccupied with the orthodox volition of domestic roles and achievement finely did not see it fit to consider that it was possible that it was the secure home and domestic happiness place which the silent women of Rome provided for their men folk that made them to venture out and perform the brave deed.
As pointed by Okojie M. I. “Women in Management”, paper presented at the new conference on contribution of women to national development; agrees that women not only work hard whether in the formal or informal sector of the economy, but it would be noted that women are good managers. Women are managers of situations whether in the home at the far. A places of worship, mosque, at work setting etc. these women manage people, challenges changes etc. and adopt to circumstance of scarcity and certainties in the economy. Yet in Nigeria today less than five (15) percents of managers in strategic sectors are women. The traits which haves often been seen in successful managers are masculinity, aggressiveness, competitiveness, firmness and justice and these qualities have been traditionally viewed as being absent among Nigeria women”.
Walter Rodney, in his book “How Europe underdeveloped African” maintains that the role of women dependent on pre-colonial Africans show that two contracting but combined tendencies. In the first place women were exploited by men through polygamous arrangements designed to capture the labour power of women. In his view exploitation was accompanied by oppression, which at most always reduces women boast of burden. He however, emphasized mother right as a means of escape for women to attaining their right. However, Rodney by his use of the independent pre-colonial African as his reference for the assessment of women’s role had understand the role of exploitation women were undergoing since independent in the society”.
Pauline D., in his book “women of tropical Africa” defined the role of women in political organization in term of their participation direct or indirect in the activities of groups of sub-group, which exercise authority. To facilitate analysis the very large number of African political system has been assigned to this category of societies in which organized stat with centralized authority and administrative machinery and in which an economy based on the profit motive has created social classed between which there is unequal contribution of wealth and differences in status on the other societies in which the political structures is more or less fused with kinship organization kinship ties being the basic of social relation according to Catherine Acholonu there can be not true development nation or environmental without the full participation of women at the grass roots. There must be full participation of women leader and administration in her book title “Matherison of Afrocentrics Alternative to feminism” conclusively the emphasis of mothers right by the various writes as a means of ameliorating and restorations of women due privileges in the society was rather insufficiently treated, this was women’s African countries, even were the case of Abiriba which is our case study was not considered in the above literature.
This work is divided into (5) five chapters. The chapter one is about the introduction of the work that is background of the study, aims and objectives of study, scope of the study, research methodology, literature review, chapterization. Chapter two (2) historical background of Abiriba people, the role of women in rural development in time perspective and chapter three (3) covers the women and community development in Abiriba during the pre-colonial and colonial era, women in the development of Abiriba during contemporary time and lastly the instrument used by the Abiriba women in actualizing their aims chapter four (4) will base on the problem militating against women in playing their roles effective and prospects for women participation in the development process of the community. Chapter five will be conclusion, recommendation and bibliography.