UNITED NATIONS AND THE CHALLENGES OF PROMOTING GENDER EQUALITY
How is the relative status of women and men related to economic growth and development? In many parts of the world, women have few resources or rights and little opportunity to improve their lives. They are restricted in terms of education, ownership of property, monetary return for their work, financial opportunities, and opportunities to influence decision-making at the level of the family and society. Country by country, the lack of resources and opportunities open to women is strongly associated with society-wide poverty or lack of development. Charles Humana (1992), for example, reports that almost all of the countries ranked in the top quintile of wealth provide social and economic equality to women; none of those in the poorest quintile do.
This paper reviews the economic literature that touches the role of gender in the economy, with specific focus on issues and challenge that might be expected to be the most critical for overall development in Nigeria.
We define what gender equality means; present stylized facts about the current relative status of women and men; and touch on the methodological difficulties encountered in studying this topic. We then present the issues and analyses from studies concerning gender equality and the status of women in both the developed and the less developed worlds. There is wide range in women’s status across countries, just as there is a wide range of differences in the level of economic welfare. In some cases the research allows a look at how a country’s economic development over time is associated with changes in the role of her women.
Economic studies of this issue are found in the fields of labor economics, family economics, growth and development economics and political economics. The latter portion of this paper presents explanatory models, and reviews literature on factors that challenge or facilitate gender equality.
1.1 Background Of The Study
The issue of gender inequality in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general has been debated since the introduction of western formal education during the colonial period. Starting from the late 1950s and early 1960s when many African countries acquired their political independence, this date has taken a new dimension in local as well as international fora.
What role do women’s class and gender status play in national development: that question and many others were examined at recent seminar and meeting organized specially to address the issue of gender imbalance in access to polities and education in Nigeria. There were two major conferences in March, 1990. The Jointien conference on education for all, sponsored by several international organizations including the world Bank, UNESCO, etc, and the Mexico world congress on planning and management of educational development also organized by UNESCO.
In Africa, the sixth Regional conference sponsored by UNESCO, with the co-operation of the organization of Africa unity (O.A.U), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, was held in July, 1991 in Dakar. The problem of uplifting the burden of women, for national development received attention at a recent seminar on women and demographic change in Dakar, Senegal in March, 1993.
The seminar was organized by the international union for the scientific study of population (IUSSP) and brought together more than 60 experts from Africa and elsewhere , from the discussions, a consensus was reached that women’s class and gender status have been neglected by both demographers and policy makers interested in population change and that the first step toward getting women’s issues of the agenda of the population and development sector is to improve understanding on how women’s position in society varies across Africa and shapes demographic outcomes. (Emezi, C.E and Ndoh, C.A 1998:181)
1.2 Statement Of Research Problem
The research examined and analyzes the effect of United Nations and the challenges of promoting gender equality in Nigeria.
1.3 Aims And Objectives Of Research
The research is aimed at achieving the following objectives:
- To assess the factors that affects gender inequality.
- To examine the influence of United Nations and the challenges of promoting gender equality in Nigeria.
- To proffer solutions woman’s empowerment and strengthening development.
1.4 Significance/Justification Of Study
Economists have long tried to understand why some countries are poor and some rich, and why some develop and grow while others remain stagnant. As research has moved from Solow’s growth theories to endogenous growth, we are still unable to explain the huge difference in GDP per capital that exists among countries. Explanations that developed countries have greater technological
progress, a higher rate of investment and saving, better education, skill levels and infrastructure leave unanswered the question of where these differences come from (see Weil, 2005). Macroeconomics theories have influenced the World Bank and the IMF policies over the decades as these institutions attempted to help developing countries towards economic growth and development. Easterly (2001) recounts the history of attempted solutions that have repeatedly turned out to be disappointments, a situation he explains as the result of a lack of attention to the incentives that people face in their environments. The literature and its prominent authors are currently moving towards explaining the growth discrepancy between the poor and the rich nations with factors like social infrastructure (Hall and Jones, 1999), values (Guiso et al., 2002), trust (Knack and Keefer, 1997), religion (Barro, 2002;
Dollar and Gatti, 1999) or other aspects of the culture (Weil, 2005). These new explanations will increasingly require a better understanding of the roles, status and behavior of a heretofore largely ignored half of the population – women.
These new efforts sometimes involve expanding our understanding of what is meant by the concept of development itself. Most prominently, Noble-laureate Amartya Sen (1999) argues that increasing GDP by itself should not be the ultimate goal of efforts to help poor countries. Rather, what aid should hope to maximize are the freedoms associated with wealth: freedom to exchange goods and labor, freedom to make choices and influence one’s life, freedom to live longer, freedom to get an education. He suggest that restrictions on an individual’s right to own property, save, borrow, become educated, make labor contracts or to control the products of one’s own labor would qualify as disincentives to growth, while freedom to exercise these activities would be associated with economic growth. Given that roughly half of the population of any country is female, it is reasonable to postulate that a society’s failure to provide such freedoms or resources to them would be reflected in failures at the macroeconomics level as well.
Although the literature exploring such a relationship between the freedoms accorded women and development is still small, interest in this area is growing. Those in grass root development work generally acknowledge the importance of the status of women in development, believing that these restrictions on freedoms are directly counterproductive for development. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, for example, include gender issues among the top priorities. United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank have also done extensive research on gender and development.
Generally speaking, however, much of the work in economics has little theoretical interest in women’s welfare per se. Standard economic theories such as those in public choice or welfare economics do not focus on individual characteristics; the individual actor in welfare economics could equally well be a world citizen, a country national, a man or a woman. However, empirical work requires that gender be controlled for, as women’s behavior differs from that of men to such an extent that a single explanatory model is not applicable. An example of this will be seen in the empirical growth studies by Robert Barro.
Those writing in the feminist economics tradition challenge the general invisibility of gender in economic studies and urge that it be considered in order to avoid further biased results (Ferber and Nelson 2003). Emphasizing efficiency at the cost of equity, economists shy away from interpersonal utility comparisons. Yet, if the welfare of women is important, we need to identify the separate constraints on women in order to assess how lifting them affects economic choice and development.
We need to be aware of cultural issues such as gender restrictions (on both sexes), and changes in them, when analyzing the effect of gender-related issues on development. Blank and Reimers (2003) point out that the standard economic method of focusing on choices under given tastes and constraints tends to simply accept the status quo concerning cultural issues as permanent and unchanging. This raises concern given the large changes in gender roles over the past hundred years.
Psychology, sociology, and anthropology give insights on how such tastes and desires are formed.
However, the economists tend to be relatively uninformed on the results of other social sciences. Some of the newer fields in economics, such as behavioral economics, take these challenges more seriously. Another example of rising awareness of the need to consider changing social norms and culture is a recent book on economic growth by David Weil (2005), which places considerable emphasis on culture and values.
1.5 Theoretical Framework
Gender equality (and women’s empowerment) has become one of the central themes in global treaties, covenants and declarations principally due to the understanding that it is a catalyst to clear-cut development strategies which is targeted at poverty reduction, improved living standards, good governance and profitably productive investments that are critical to the creation of an enlarged capacity that provide men and women equal opportunity and unrestrained access to decision-making and policy implementation institutions and processes.
Essentially too, African countries have demonstrated some measure of concern about human development problems by initiating specific developmental goals and strategies and accepting the critical role of gender equality or parity in the developmental process. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) adopted in 1981; the Women Right Protocol of 2003; the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) adopted in 2001 are some of the initiatives that are linked with the Millennium Development Goals and at the same time, a testimony to commendable response in the African continent.
Historically, women have comparatively been subjected to marginalization, oppression and injustice both in public and private life. Although the Millennium Declaration underscored the importance of eliminating all forms and shades of discrimination, exploitation, social harassment and gender bias as well as all situations that encourage the infringement of the rights of women through government policies and decisions, traditional and customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism, a lot more commitment and a pragmatic approach that will translate into concrete actions are desirable around the globe, particularly in Africa. Parity between boys and girls in primary school enrolment has, for instance, been achieved in most regions of the world, except sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Gender disparity in tertiary education is also still tilted in favour of men in Africa and women access to paid employment that is secured in the light of income and social importance is still very low when juxtaposed with that of men in all sectors including agriculture. However, women’s access to political decision-making, especially in terms of their share of seats in the parliament has gradually and steadily increased globally.
Today, it is instructive to note that due to the realization of the gap created by the marginalization and social injustice against women and the missing link in the developmental agenda by the limited access to existing opportunities in virtually all sectors of the socio-political and economic setting, women are gradually coming into public fore. A plausible explanation for this trend and development is the thinking that one of the indicators of the progress and development of any nation is the position of women in that society (Akpoveta, 2008:191; Thompson and Hickey 2012). It therefore follows that women are seen to represent a tool for positive change, an end that depends on the level of access to the opportunity for actualizing their potentials and talents.
1.6 Research Methodology
The research adopted the secondary source of data. These include textbooks, Journals, Magazines, Academic papers, internet and other scholarly materials on the problem of study. This information was obtained from the University main library and other libraries outside the University.
1.7 Method Of Data Analysis
The mode of data analysis was qualitative which is largely descriptive and analytical. Descriptive analysis is an interpretative analysis based on data collection. As regards data analysis, a combination of simple descriptive – analytical and deductive methods was mainly employed. Inferences were drawn from writings and commentaries of other scholars. The method however was premised on the realist theory.
Data were largely sourced through secondary source including textbook, journals, magazines, academic papers, internet and other scholarly materials on the problem of study.
1.8 Scope And Limitation Of The Study
The research covered United Nations and the challenges of promoting gender equality in Nigeria. Principally, the study encountered two constraints; they include the paucity of literate and problems of data collection. The obvious dearth of scholarly wirings on the subject matter imposed certain limitations on the conduct of this study.
These impediments notwithstanding, we are able to make do with what were readily available and accessible, and we ensured optimal systematization of analyse for the interest of objectivity. Thus the work was accomplished within the best possible standards.