Women are the major depletors of the society mostly in the rural communities due to the economic and socio-political activities which they engage in. For a nation to achieve sustainable development, women plight are to be given paramount concern, because they are entitled to healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. The issue of empowerment needs to be addressed in order for women to have access to most of the derivatives that have contributed to their present state in the society.
The three pillars of sustainable development which are societal, protection, economic well-being and socio-political progress cannot be achieved without solving the present prevailing problem of gender inequality. Thus, partnership and equality between men and women are the basis of strong families and viable societies in a rapidly changing world
Women rights are part of basic human right, therefore, opportunities and access to resources, equal sharing of family responsibilities between men and women are critical to women empowerment and sustainable development.
Statement of the Problem
The cry of women in our society as a bias nature to that of men was described by Egonmwan (2002) in the following statements:
They are the poorest of the poor. Doubly oppressed by national and international injustices, and by family systems that give husbands, father and brothers the whip hand. Even where economic development genuinely benefits poor men, it does not always benefit their womenfolk and indeed, has often harmed them. Men enjoy greater privileges, women bear greater burdens. The unfair sexual distribution of power, resources and responsibilities is legitimized by ancient traditions, socialized into women owns attitude often enshrined in law, and can be enforced, wherever necessary by male violence.”
Women in our society have been facing discriminated in all facets of life from the rudimentary stage of traditional society up till date and this contribute to inequality among men and women in our society. For any nation to attain an equitable sustainable development, the issues of women discrimination and women empowerment have to be strongly dealt with through literacy because women constitute the major force of attainment of sustainability in our society due to their impact and closeness to the environment than men.
Culture and Traditions
The way in people live in society and the norms that go with their ways of life constitute the greater force of women discrimination. Women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society. Women’s rights are over access, control and management of land are crucial drivers of sustainable development. Thus better management of these resources result in increase productivity for human sustenance as well as economic growth. But women and men’s relationship to those resources are historically different. For instance, in most parts of Nigeria, matrilineal inheritance as a custom means that private control of land falls into ownership of men. Women are further disadvantaged.
An illiterate person is someone who cannot read and write or compute, or who cannot function at the level of literacy required by life in the community he or she lives. Illiteracy are more in women, than men, women are denied access to education due to many factors that emanates from cultures, economic, and even social factors.
Education constitutes the basic constraint to women empowerment and inequality among men and women. The disparity between men and women illiterate fall by half between 1970 and 1990, that is from 54% to 74% out of 880 million who are illiterate, two thirds are women and 1 out of 3 adult women cannot read or write. Mostly in the third world, countries, there are visible traces of preference for male education and anti-women education, this had led to mental under development of women population and it expresses to a double negative outcomes which are a few number of educated women and a low educational quality of women or content of women education.
However, women are not opportune in most cases to participate effectively in different areas of development (such as economic, social and political development) due to this inadequacy in them. The denial of women education slows growth due to their being denied access to information and training. However, need education for empowerment that will emphasize women’s duties and rights.
A multidimensional understanding of poverty helps us to define poverty as a human condition characterized by sustained or chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, economic, political and social rights. In agreement with the above definition, The World Bank also defines poverty as the following:
Poverty is hunger, lack of shelter, being sick and not being able to go to school, not knowing how to read, not being able to speak properly, not having a job, fear for the future, loosing a child to illness brought about by unclean water powerlessness lack of representation and freedom.
The human development report in 1995 observed. “Poverty has a women’s face”. When we look at domestic and international architecture for development, we deduce economic inequality between men and women is widening. Whilst globalization has brought some women greater economic opportunities and autonomy, it has further marginalized others. Most women in the developing countries today live below poverty line of US dollar per day. Due to poverty rate of women, they constitute a set back to sustain development spectrum. Poor women lack resources, skills, education and collective strength to break the cycle of their oppression and exploitation.
The need for empowering women for socio-economic and political development
The UN summit identified the following priority issues as a frame work for achieving women empowerment in sustainable development:
Women’s human rights and control over their lives
Woman’s access to control and management of resources and services
The impact of globalization
Finance and involvement in politics for development
Health, including reproductive and environment health
In an attempt to pursue women empowerment, governments at the international level set a number of targets which include among others;
Elimination of gender disparity in Primary and Secondary Education
Empowerment of women
Commitments of many conferences agreements such as Convention against the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women as agreed in Beijin conference.
There are many ways of empowering women for socio-economic and political progress in Nigeria and elsewhere.
Equality of participation: the gender gap between women’s participation is most visible and obvious phenomenon. In most developing countries, particularly small proportions of women are found in the legislative assembly, or in the management of public organization and the private sector. Here we are concerned with equality in terms of women’s equal participation in decision making progress. In a developing project, it would mean women being represented in process of needs assessment, problem identification, project planning, management, implementation and evaluation. Equality of participation mean involving women from the community affected by project, and involving them in the same proportion in decision making as their proportion in the community at large. Such increased representation will result in massive mobilization and increase in their contribution towards national development.
Increased in decision making level: Women’s increased participation in decision making level will lead to increased development and empowerment of women and this participation will use to achieve increased control on over the factors of production and ensure women’s equal access to resources and the distribution of benefits.
Equality of control: Equality of control means a balance of power between women and men, so that neither is in a position of dominance. This means women have power alongside with men to influence their destiny and that of their society. It is equality of control which enables women to gain improved welfare for themselves and their children. Equality of participation and control are necessary pre-requisites if we are to make progress towards women empowerment and national development.
Concretization: Concretization this context refers to the stage at which women have become aware of their right and recognize gender inequalities. This understanding enhances women’s ability to take control over their lives and to take advantage of developmental programmes targeted on women.
If we want to bring about women empowerment in the true sense, there is a crying need for the elimination of the male superiority and patriarchal mindset. Also, women need to be given equal opportunities for education and employment without any sense of discrimination. Unless there is attitudinal change in society towards women, merely arming them with legal and constitutional rights will be simply inadequate.