Disclaimer: This dissertation has been written by a student and is not an example of our professional work, which you can see examples of here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this dissertation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKDiss.com.

Evaluating the Impact of Microfinance as a Tool of Gender Empowerment in Nigeria

Info: 32614 words (130 pages) Dissertation
Published: 16th Dec 2019

Reference this

Tagged: EconomicsFinanceEquality


The assumption underlying the relationships between microfinance and women’s development as a means of lifting poor people out of poverty, providing opportunity for the poor to access financial services that will lead to economic empowerment within communities and individual has generated debate among scholars. This results in doubt, if microfinance really provide the opportunities as a tool for women emancipation and as a model for development and enjoyment of human rights. The study therefore seeks to ascertain if there is a direct correlation between microcredit and economic development and direct relationship between microfinance and women empowerment and if microfinance has contributed to their standard of living.

The study sets out to achieve its objective first by examining the historical background, problem and causes of Gender Inequality in Nigeria.  This is followed by an assessment of International, Regional and National legal framework available for the enjoyment of human right and protection against gender discrimination. There is an overall assessment of impediments that deny women the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedom in Nigeria

Furthermore, the study examines the theory and practice of gender equality and how the issue could be tackle through human right and developmental studies and evaluate the strategies put in place by the Nigerian government and explore if the strategies have led to the promotion of sustainable development.

In accomplishing these goals, the study explored the theoretical practice of empowerment-microfinance nexus analysis context of feminist literature and analyse the different way of empowerment, it evaluates the impact, effectiveness and limitation in empowering women through micro-credit program.

To realise these, it tested this propositions through three selected micro-finance organisations that provide soft loans to those who ordinarily would not get them, two government assisted micro-credit organisation and one non-government organisation and evaluate if there is direct correlation between microcredit as a resourceful means of enhancing women’s economic development and enjoyment of human rights.   In the process the study examined the extent to which programmes have resulted in women’s economic, social, and political empowerment. It further extrapolates the effects of microfinance on the mitigation of poverty.

This study demonstrates that women in Nigeria are extensively engaged in economic activities. The study revealed that even though MFIs have to some extent empowered rural women economically, its full benefit is yet to be realized by these women due to its high interest rate, inflexible payment schedule, group formation etc.     It also established that micro-credit provides finance to enhance market and rural development however, there are restrictions sanctioned by customs, household obligations, and social infrastructures.  All this renders empowerment for women more difficult to achieve although it makes a practical contribution to their everyday lives. Besides, it is widely accepted among development practitioners that micro-credit schemes not only contribute to poverty reduction but also empower women. It is very difficult to find a Poverty Reduction Strategy that does not include microfinance as an element of national development.

The study concludes the discussion by identifying some of the legal measures that need to be taken into account and recommend how those measures could improve empowerment of women through sustainable development


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………………………….



1.1 BACKGROUND………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

1.2. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES ………………………………………………………………………………………………          3

1.4. STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS …………………………………………………………………………………………               7

CHAPTER TWO – ……………………………………………                                    9


2.2. ……………………………………………………………                                         9

2.3. ……………………………………                                                                    11

2.3.1 ………………………………………………………………………………….             12

2.3.2……………………………………………..                                                       16

2.4. ……………………………………………                                                          18

2.4.1. ………………………………………………………………………………                18

2.4.2.  ………………………………………………………………………………….           19

2.4.3.  …………………………………………………………………………….                  20

2.4.4. ……………………………………………………………….                    21

2.4.5………………………………………………………………………………………………. 24

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 24

CHAPTER THREE …………………………………………….                                   26

3.1. …………………………………                            26

3.2.  …………………………………………………………………………………….                        27

3.3. ……………………………………………………………………………               28

3.3.1. ……………………………………………………………………………            30

3.3.2. …………………………………………………………………………….           33

3.3.3. ………………………………………………………………………                    36

3.4. ………………………………………………………………………………………. 41

3.4.1.  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………  41

3.4.2.  ……………………………………………………………………………………………….       44

3.4.3. …………………………………………………………………………………                        46


CHAPTER FOUR – …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 49


4.2. ………………………………………………………………………………….      49

4.3. …………………………………………………………………………………….. 52

4.4. …………………………………………….. …………………………………………… 54

4.5……………………………………………………………………………………                       55



4.5.3. ……………………………………………………………………………                           61

4.5.4.  ……………………………………………………………………………………….             63

4.5.5 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………64

4.5.6…………………………………………………………………………………………..            65

4.6. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 67

CHAPTER FIVE……………………………. ………………………………………….    69

5.1……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 69



5.4…………………………………………………………………………………………………    75

5.5………………………………………………………………………………………                81

5.5.1. ……………………………………….

5.5.2.  ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 83


5.7. RECOMMENDATIONS: THE WAY FORWARD………………………………………………………………

BIBLIOGRAPHY …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1

1.4. Organisation of the study

The study is made up of seven chapters. Chapter one provides a background to the essay and explains the aims and objectives of the study. It also provides brief summaries and the structure of the thesis. Chapter two considers the theoretical underpinning of the nature of rights and the implications of a HRBA to education. In this chapter, key concepts like the meaning of ‘human rights’ and ‘HRBA’, are defined in order to understand some of the discussions on the legal framework of rights that carry through in chapter three and four. Chapter two also identifies and discusses the core principles of a HRBA which forms the yardstick for measuring the success or failures of rights based solutions.

Chapter three reviews and analyses the legal framework on the right to education. In this chapter, relevant provisions contained in key international, regional and national human rights instruments are examined. The instruments are examined in order to highlight their utility within the HRBA and to identify some of their strengths and weaknesses in a factual context.

Chapter four examines the steps that the Nigerian government and other development partners have taken towards the fulfilment of their obligation with regard to basic education for boys and girls in Nigeria. This chapter focuses on the Universal Basic Education (hereafter referred to as UBE) scheme in Nigeria, and in particular, highlights the origin of UBE and examines its objectives. It thereafter examines the challenges of the UBE program that have hitherto hindered the full implementation of free, compulsory basic education and gender equality in Nigeria. Other major initiatives in education such as the Nigeria Girls Education Initiative (NGEI) that originated from the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) with a vision for a world

Chapter five considers the potentials and limitations of HRBA to education. The significance of this is tied to the fact that both the MDGs and the EFA had as their target the year 2015 for their targets to be achieved, however this has not happened yet. Thus considering the potentials and limitations is a reminder that ‘business as usual’ approaches cannot be the norm for achieving the relevant targets that this thesis considers. The arguments in this chapter lead to the conclusion that alternative approaches are required for the post 2015 agenda on education.

Chapter six is focused on the ‘second part’ of the research question, i.e. CA as a complimentary approach to the HRBA as a way to achieve gender equality in education and compulsory basic education for girls in Nigeria. Here much consideration is given to the meaning of the CA, what it entails and some criticisms of it. Furthermore, the CA is used as a lens through which barriers to education for girls in Nigeria are assessed. It is argued that through the CA peoples’ capabilities are enhanced so that they are able to make choices that they have reason to value. In this way even the right to education for girls is enhanced.

Chapter seven which is the concluding chapter, summarizes the findings of this thesis from previous chapters. Thereafter the chapter presents the recommendations on the way forward for the achievement of free and compulsory education and gender equality in favour of girls in Nigeria, and as part of going forward with the post 2015 development agenda.

Analysis of Existing literature

Rebecca J. Cook – “Human Rights of Women” – is a collective contributions analysing the application of international human rights law specifically to women in various cultures worldwide, and relevant developmental strategies to promote equitable application of human rights law at the international, regional and domestic levels.

Their essay present a compelling mixture of reports and case studies from various regions in the world, combined with scholarly assessments of various aspects of international law affecting women. It further addresses overlapping agendas such as feminist studies on women and international human rights law affecting women.

However, it did not address how International human rights law can be applied to redress the various disadvantages and injustices experienced by women in enjoying their human rights and failure to address the unwillingness of the human rights group to understand the potential of international human rights law to vindicate women’s rights.

Susan Deller Ross – “Women’s Human Rights”- The first casebook on human rights that specifically focus on women’s human rights. It focuses on the violence and deprivation that women suffer due to religion, cultural relativism that deny them their fundamental freedoms and discriminatory laws.

However, it fails to address how human rights treaties can be used to obtain court decision on land inheritance, employment, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage and new legislation that can protect women against discrimination.

Scholar’s multifaceted interpretation of empowerment. While there is general agreement that empowerment is not an end in itself but a process derived from the famous work of Michael Foucault. However, they failed to address the concept of Kabeer three dimension; resources, agency and achievement.









Chapter One

General Introduction

The global outreach of microfinance industry in developing world has made it difficult to find a poverty reduction strategy that does not include microcredit as an element of development. Attempts to provide poor people loan failed. People without tradition form of collateral are unable to borrow money from the credit institutions. Banks only offer loans to people who can provide collateral in case they default on their loan payments. Poor people were viewed as security risk As a result people who do not qualify for loans participate in informal saving system, which have rigid requirements, limited funds and little security. They are often exploited because of their inability to other options. Lack of access to credit facilities was identified as a main obstacle to women empowerment.

The precursors of microfinance rural credit and small farmer credit had a history of dramatic policy failure, charted by the Ohio State School. At that time, it was widely acknowledged that attempts to provide poor people (at that time synonymous with small farmers) with small loans had been a disastrous policy (see Adams et al 1984 and others). It failed to get credit to poor people, did little to improve agricultural yields and had high rates of default so that viable rural finance institutions could not be established. Poor people were viewed as not being .bankable.. The high unit costs of transactions, the inability of poor people to repay loans and the political manipulation of such initiatives meant that development policy should withdraw from this domain and leave all banking to the private, for-profit sector.

Background of the study

We know that women are more economically active in Nigeria — as farmers, workers and entrepreneurs — than anywhere else in the world. They are key to the welfare of their families and the life prospects of their children. They are an important voice in the governance of their communities and their nations. Yet they face an array of barriers that prevent them from playing these roles to their full potential. These barriers to women’s full participation are fundamentally unfair. But even more, they are constraints on Nigeria’s achieving its development potential. Bridging the gender gap could yield profound and long-lasting economic returns.

Women and men in Nigeria often experience different opportunities, conditions and privileges; they earn different wages, do not have the same access to education and are not always equal before the law.

Women face an array of barriers to achieving their full potential, from restrictive cultural practices to discriminatory laws and highly segmented labour markets. Eliminating gender inequality and empowering women could raise the productive potential of one billion Africans, delivering a huge boost to the continent’s development potential.

The concept of microfinance is not new because there has always been the tradition of people saving, taking small loans from individuals and groups within the context of self-help to start business or farming ventures. The Canadian Catholic missionaries established the First credit Union in Southern part of Nigeria in 1957 .However, SUSU African oldest scheme of microfinance started in Western Nigeria in the early 19th century. Governmental policies and programmes has enhance its rapid development. The establishment of African Development Bank (ADB), provision of subsidised credit in the early 50s and the establishment of rural and community Banks in the 1970s and 1980s as well as the promulgation of PNDCL 328 in 1991 to allow the establishment of different categories of non-banking financial institutions including savings and loans companies and credit unions.

Microfinance is the provision of financial services to low-income clients or solidarity lending groups including consumers and the self-employed, who traditionally lack access to banking and related services. It therefore encompasses the provision of financial services and the management of small amount of money through a range of products and a system of intermediary functions that are targeted at low income clients. It includes loans, savings, insurance, transfer services and other financial products and services. It is thus one of the critical financial tools for the poor. Microfinance is a key strategy in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The objectives of microfinance among others are that the poor, mostly women (because of their engagement in unpaid work) need access to productive resources with financial services being a key resource. Micro finance can have significant impact on cross cutting issues such as women empowerment thereby promoting gender equality. Microfinance schemes usually lend small short term loans to very poor micro-entrepreneurs (very poor micro-entrepreneurs are women). Loan repayment is always guaranteed by group members collectively and access to future credit or loans is contingent on successful repayment. Hence peer monitoring and the prospect of subsequent larger loans act as strong incentive for repayment . According to the 2000 population and housing census 80% of the working population is found in the private informal sector. The sector is characterized by women dominance and lack of access to credit from the traditional banking institution due to the question of collateral security. Therefore the effectiveness of any microfinance scheme or programme should be assessed based on how it has been able to empower women economically, politically and socially.

Increasing evidence shows that not only is women overrepresented among the poorest people but is also more likely than men to spend their incomes on the welfare of children and dependents. Therefore poverty reduction programmes which target women are likely to be more effective. Empowering women is the second stated goals of microcredit summit campaign. There is also the evidence of significant potential for microfinance to enable women to challenge and change gender inequalities at all levels. There is now growing need to rethink the current best practices to ensure that women have equal and possibly preferential access to all types of financial services.

Many microcredit programmes have targeted one of the most vulnerable group in society-women who are in households which own little or no asset. By providing opportunity for self-employment, many studies have concluded that these programmes have significantly increased women’s security, autonomy, self-confidence and status within their households. Is this the case in Nigeria? This study would therefore find answers to various questions raised herein. It would in short find out the impact of microfinance on rural women in Nigeria

Statement of the Problem

I decided to write on the situation of women in Nigeria because of their immerse contribution to the economic and social development of the nation. Not only do women represent the major part of the poorest in the society but in addition, they are the most vulnerable Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with diverse people, religion and culture. It is the 7th largest exporter of crude oil in the world. In 2014 approximately 44.6 of Nigerians lived below the World Bank’s official poverty line $1.25 per day and the Microcredit Summit 2005 stated that Nigerian women accounted for 68.6% living on less than $1 dollar a day. The over 162.5 million population comprises more than 300 ethnic groups with different dialects.                 Of this magnitude 51% are female, and they account for 83.4 million. Therefore any discussion about the country’s future must entail them, the role they play and the barriers they face in making the future. Nigeria population comprise mainly of Christians and Muslims, while there are few others that practice African traditional religion.  The southern part of the country is predominantly Christian while the northern parts of the country are Muslims. The country culture lay emphasis on the need for a wife to submit totally to her husband in every aspect of life, including sexual intercourse.

Women are Nigeria’s hidden resource and investing in them will increase productivity and promote sustainable growth, better health and realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).As a country with a significant poor rural population, the concept of microfinance is not new in Nigeria because there has always been the tradition of people saving, taking small loans from individuals and groups within the context of self-help to start business or farming ventures. Approximately 90% of Nigerian Women lack access to formal financial services and their need for microfinance is crucial to development goals.

The “susu” which is one of the microfinance schemes started in Nigeria in the early 20th century and has developed into its current state through governmental policies and programmes. It is a key strategy in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The objectives of microfinance among others are that the poor, mostly women (because of their engagement in unpaid work) need access to productive resources with financial services being a key resource. Micro finance can have significant impact on cross cutting issues such as women empowerment thereby promoting gender equality. Microfinance schemes usually lend small short term loans to very poor micro-entrepreneurs (very poor micro-entrepreneurs are women). Loan repayment is always guaranteed by group members collectively and access to future credit or loans is contingent on successful repayment. Hence peer monitoring and the prospect of subsequent larger loans act as strong incentive for repayment. According to the 2000 population and housing census 80% of the working population is found in the private informal sector. The sector is characterized by women dominance and lack of access to credit from the traditional banking institution due to the question of collateral security. Therefore the effectiveness of any microfinance scheme or programme should be assessed based on how it has been able to empower women economically, politically and socially.

Many microcredit programmes have targeted one of the most vulnerable group in society-women who are in households which own little or no asset. By providing opportunity for self-employment, many studies have concluded that these programmes have significantly increased women’s security, autonomy, self-confidence and status within their households. Is this the case in Nigeria? This study would evaluate the impact of microfinance on rural women and find out if microfinance programs has empowered women in rural areas

Microcredit programs allow women to take a greater role in household decision making; to have greater access to financial and economic resources; to have greater social networks and more bargaining power vis-à-vis their husbands; and to have greater freedom of mobility. The famous economist Kabeer defines women’s empowerment as the process by which those who have been denied the ability to make strategic life choices acquire such ability. The main objective of microfinance scheme or programme is to provide opportunity for the poor to access financial services in order to engage in income generating activities. This as it were, would lead to economic empowerment of the poor women, all over the world form majority of the poor because they are deprived of the paid jobs.

Justification for the Study

Despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. Microfinance programmes have the potential to initiate a series of virtuous spirals of economic empowerment, increased well-being of women and their families and a wider social and political empowerment. United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) provides credit to women as a way of strengthening them economically and politically. Are these women empowered socially, politically and economically as a result of microfinance services they have benefitted? These issues raise question as to whether the financial institutions and the various interventions provided by the government to empower women in Nigeria have had any significant impact. These deserve a scientific investigation so as to assess the impact of micro financing on women empowerment in Nigeria particularly those in the rural areas.

The purpose of this study is to explore if micro-finance has been a positive engine in the empowerment of women in Nigeria. To achieve the objective of this study, three micro-credit organisation that provide soft loan to rural women will be evaluated to ascertain if there is direct correlation between microcredits as a source of women empowerment and if Microfinance programs has enhanced development. Many microfinance institutions include social goals, particularly women’s empowerment, in their mission to alleviate poverty. The problem, however, is that the majority of research studies on microfinance assume that financial success necessarily leads to women’s empowerment. In doing so, the understanding that empowerment is perceived differently according to individual experience, culture, and socio-political contexts, has been largely ignored in the microfinance literature.

The propositions that are made in this study are (1) there a direct relationship between microcredit availability and economic development; (2) there is a direct relationship between microcredit and women empowerment in Nigeria; (3) the availability of microcredit facilitates income generating activities among people and contributes to their increased standard of living; (4) that there is an association between micro financial institutions and the development of financial sustainability among Nigerian women; and (5) that micro financial institutions are directly associated with women leadership development in Nigeria.

This study demonstrate that women in Nigeria are extensively engaged in economic activities. It also established that micro-credit provides finance to enhance market and rural development however, there are restrictions sanctioned by customs, household obligations, and social infrastructures.  All this renders empowerment for women more difficult to achieve although it makes a practical contribution to their everyday lives. Besides, it is widely accepted among development practitioners that micro-credit schemes not only contribute to poverty reduction but also empower women.

Because poverty reduction is an important development concern, designing effective targeting indicators requires in-depth knowledge of the determinants of poverty and characteristics of the poor. Most recent studies on poverty in Nigeria have rightly recognized the need to focus on expenditure rather than income as a better indicator of welfare. There are two advantages of using consumption (expenditure) instead of income as a measure of welfare. For one, measuring income is more problematic than measuring consumption, especially for rural households whose income comes largely from self-employment in agriculture. Moreover, given that annual income is required for a satisfactory measure of living standards, an income-based measure requires multiple visits or the use of recall data, whereas a consumption measure can rely on consumption over the previous few weeks. Most studies have adopted a rather arbitrary and variable method of defining the poverty line on the basis of which poverty is profiled for Nigeria.

Federal Office of Statistics (FOS, 1997) all adopted ratios (one-third and two-thirds) of mean income/expenditure as a basis for defining the poverty line. The limitations of this approach in tracking welfare are now well known. For example, having a particular level of income/expenditure is not sufficient indicator of the level of welfare to define the poverty line. More important is how that amount is spent in determining the level of welfare and ability to undertake economic activity. Recognition of this fact has led to adoption of consumption-based approaches to defining the poverty line.

The present study is the first, to the author’s knowledge, to apply the food energy intake (FEI) variant of the consumption-based method in poverty analysis in Nigeria.

This approach relies on actual food consumption expenditure and the calorie content of the goods consumed. The issue of the disappearing middle class and how this explains the incidence of inequality and poverty is also examined, an issue so far neglected in the literature on Nigeria, and indeed much of sub-Saharan Africa. In this respect, the study contributes to knowledge on poverty in Nigeria.

This study will add to other literature on women empowerment through Microfinance

Chapter Two


A body of literature has endeavoured to examine the diversity of Nigeria in term of religious divide between the North and South while others have struggled to explore the gender inequality syndrome. Most of the literature pointed to the huge differences among the Nigerian population. However, it is not within the scope of the study to explore the North and South dichotomy. Most writing on Nigeria Gender inequality strategy is relatively silent on mainstream gender policies and received no attention in the government national planning preceding the UNDW of 1976-1985, also where such literature exist they often tell an insistently negative tale of deepening oppression. However, evidence indicates that Nigeria women have contributed diligently to the struggle and development effort over the years.

Theory and Practice of Gender Inequality

Gender theories were anchored on Anthropological or Psychological explanations or the functionalist perspective. These explanations highlight gender as a major measure for social division of labour; some tasks are socially defined as women’s work while others are regarded to be men’s work. It thus leads to the following generalisations that women produce children; women do the cooking and they are mothers and wives, clearing and washing; also, they take care of men and are subordinate to male authority however, they are excluded from positions of power.

The perspective of the Functionalist, emphasises that gender is biologically determined, that the differences between women and men are natural. This perspective regarded the biological difference as responsible for the differences in both the behaviour of men and women and the roles that they play in the society.

They further argued that the biological differences between men and women are the basis of the sexual division of labour in society. He argues further that biological differences such as the greater physical strength of men and the fact that women bear children leads to greater roles out of sheer practicality.

Alternatively, gender is seen as a social construct which assert the responsibilities, capabilities and expectations of men and women are not always biologically determined. The gender roles assigned to men and women are significantly defined; structurally and culturally in ways which create, reinforce, and perpetuate relationships of male dominance and female subordination. Through the process of socialization within the family, in educational institutions and other social spheres, boys and girls are conditioned to behave in certain ways and to play different roles in society. They are encouraged to conform to established cultural norms by being rewarded or punished for their behaviour. At times, the places women occupy in society are essential through claims of innate predispositions. This conditioning and stereotyping could easily have the effect of questioning the capability of girls and women to perform certain tasks. Repeated regularly, it may solidify and become difficult to uproot from the mental frames of people.

But it is not just through socialisation that inequalities are planted. Glaring gaps in policy, legal frameworks and investment opportunities make it difficult for women to perform to their full potential in social, economic and political spheres. For example, government policies and practices and subsistence farming, dominated by women, as not requiring as much support as the foreign-exchange earning and export-oriented economic activities associated with men. The lack of support leads to poor performance and sustainability.

Furthermore, there are laws that deny women access to land ownership and opportunities to invest freely. These laws function as a handicap to women’s economic capabilities and perpetuate a culture of dependence. Yet the economic independence of women is a major stage in bridging inequalities, preventing violence and fostering self-esteem and well-being. Economically independent women are more likely to assert and demand their rights whenever they are violated. They are also likely to mentor girls and function as their role models.

In order to see the inequalities clearly one would need to scan various domains of life and to question them vis-à-vis roles accorded to women. Gender inequality manifests itself in a number of spheres within the family, labour market, politico-judicial structures and in cultural-ideological productions, for example in the mass media. Values, norms, and practices enshrined in domains of social interaction may contribute to fostering inequalities, reinforce gender related power differentials or increase violence against women. For instance, the cultural practice of son preference may contribute to denial of girls’ access to education and curtail their opportunities in life. It may lead to early marriage and the onset of childbearing. In addition, perceptions that politics and economics are principally the preserve of males may lead to disparities in political, economic and social participation, decision-making and leadership. In spite of these deprivations, it is important to recognize that gender equality and women’s empowerment are an integral part of national development, peace building and conflict-resolution. They are at the centre of humanizing the world. Whereas interventions to redress these inequalities could be political and economic, others may be cultural. A closer look at the cultures of this region may show practices that have the potential of contributing in bridging the inequalities, as we shall show presently.

According to Murdock, Men with the superior physical strength can better undertake the more strenuous tasks such as mining ,lumbering, house building land clearance and house building. Woman is at no disadvantage however in higher tasks which can be performed in or near the home e.g. gathering of vegetable products, the fetching of water, the preparation of food and the manufacture, clothing and utensils.

Thus because of her biological function of child rearing and nursing; woman is tied to the home; because of her body physique she is limited to less strenuous tasks. Another famous functionalist, Talcott Parsons (1955) advanced similar arguments to account for the role of women in industrial society. He argues that in a relatively isolated nuclear family in modern industrial society, a woman performs two basic functions; the socialization of the young and the stabilization of adult personalities. He stated that: In our opinion, the fundamental explanation of the allocation of roles between the biological sexes lies in the fact that the bearing and early nursing of children establish a strong presumptive primacy of the relation of mother to the small child.




  Why there is Gender inequality in Nigeria.

From time, immemorial, Nigerian society has been a patriarchy society. Patriarchy structure has been a major feature of the traditional society. It is a structure of a set of social relations with material base which enables men to dominate women.           It is a system of social stratification and differentiation on the basis of sex, which provides material advantages to males while simultaneously placing severe constraints on the roles and activities of females. There are clearly defined sex roles, while various taboos ensure conformity with specified gender roles  . Traditionally men do not participate in domestic work including child rearing – such tasks are considered to be the exclusive domain of women. Males are classed as having the following qualities: strength, vigour, virile/powerful courage, self-confidence and the ability to meet the outside world i.e. animal and human intruders head on and deal with it effectively. These qualities were reflected in the kinds of work that men engaged in. Men were responsible for much of what was thought of as “heavy” labour. Men in short provided for their families (Bernard 1981; Aweda 1984; Carrigan et al, 1987; Stock 1995; Silberschmidt,1999 etc.). Women oversee the domestic chores. They kept houses, processed and cooked all foods. They also help in the planting and harvesting of food crops and cash crops. They were primarily responsible for the bearing and rearing of children from birth on; men were only called upon to assist when extraordinary discipline was considered necessary especially for the boys (Aweda, 1984:184).

United Nation Millennium goals and other government approach towards gender inequality and the inegalitarian structures that empowers men to dominate women are evolving within societies in Nigeria. Women are subjugated by patriarchy, cultural relativism and limited accesses to public office. Historically, inequality exists between men and women. Women have been either historically denied access to or granted unequal access to economic opportunities, power, status and privileges in society. Women experience unequal access to resources and decision making processes, with limited mobility in Nigeria. Women are under-represented in almost every sphere of social life such as politics, commerce, agriculture, industry, the military, religious and educational institutions. They were not granted equal voting rights, until recently when there is global recognition, and concern about gender discrimination (Amadi, , Alemika & Agugua; 2001).

In Nigeria, in spite of the several women’s rights outlined in the 1999 constitution, many women do not enjoy the same freedom as men, particularly in the fields of education, economic empowerment and political participation. There exist a wide range of inequality between men and women in attaining certain positions in Nigeria. The discrimination against women has permeated through the Civil Service and Military ranks where critical appointments are being reserved for only men with women neglected to the background (Alemika & Agugua, 2001). .

It was in this context that prompted the United Nations to declare 1975-1985 as “Decade for Women” to combat against global discrimination against women .This declaration was to raise global awareness on status of women and to mobilize the world community to eliminate discrimination against women so that women may attain equal economic, social, political and legal status with their male counterparts.  The convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted General Recommendation 19, in 1992. It includes violence in the prohibition of gender based discrimination: violence that is directed at a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately (is discrimination). “It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty”. Violence against women is an internationally recognized human rights violation when either a public official or private person commits the violence.

Countries participating in the CEDAW must take all the necessary measures to eliminate gender discrimination including legal sanctions, civil remedies, and preventive measures (such as public information and education campaigns and protective measures such as support services for victims). Further, the fourth World Conference on women held in Beijing, China in September 1995 adopted a platform for Action (PPA) for implementation by member countries. The platform document addressed several issues including discriminatory practices that marginalize women from vital opportunities in society (Alemika & Ogugua, 2001:2).

Harmful Cultural Practices that Impede Women’s Rights (Cultural Relativism)

Practice of Female genital mutilation in Nigeria

Circumcision is practiced in many societies in the Great Lakes region, and often serves as a rite of passage to adulthood. Female circumcision (female genital cut; female genital mutilation) can have negative health implications for women. The practice is universal in North Eastern Province of Kenya (99%) and least in Western Province (5%) (KDHS 2003). It is also related to education and is more prevalent among the uneducated. In Kenya, genital cutting is highest among the Somali, Kisii, and Maasai and lowest among Luhya and Luo. The Maasai and Kuria of Tanzania circumcise their girls. The practice of not circumcising girls, practiced by certain communities in the region, could be copied onto those communities which circumcise and this would be one way of ensuring that girls remain in school and are not married off while young. Successful uncircumcised women from circumcising communities could be presented as role models. For instance, a minister in Kenya, Hon. Linah Jebii Kilimo, has spoken against female circumcision among the Marakwet and presented herself as a role model. In addition, some Kenyan and Tanzanian communities are starting to adopt alternative rites of passage for girls. In these rites, girls are secluded and ‘circumcised’ without a cut in their genitals. They undergo life planning skills and are prepared for the future through counseling. The life planning skills relate to decision-making, adolescent development, gender roles and equality, relationships, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and planning for the future (African Youth Alliance, 2002). The positive elements of the culture are retained while the negative ones are modified or eradicated. These alternative rites of passage give girls an opportunity to continue their education and protect them from the dangers of circumcision. The cultural practice of ‘unyago’ practiced among the Digo of Tanzania is being reformulated. In ‘unyago’ girls are taught by a ‘kungwi’ how to behave when they get married; how to take care of their bodies and how to relate to men. In the contemporary ‘unyago’ they also learn how to assert their rights and to negotiate for them.

Female genital mutilation is embedded cultural practice that is common among at least 128 ethnic groups in Nigeria. It is carried out by different ethnic groups across the country, it is most commonly practised among the Yoruba, the Fulani and the Ibo tribes. Clitoridectomy, which involves the removal of the clitoris either partially or totally. Also the process where the clitoris is removed along with partial or total removal of the labia minora, known as excision  amounts to almost 90 per cent of the reported cases of Female genital mutilation in Nigeria. It is particularly common in the Eastern part of the country.  The ‘removal of the external genitalia and stitching  of the vaginal opening known as Infibulatioin is common with the desendant of the Othman dan Fodio the Fulanis from the Northern part of Nigeria.

There are various reasons for the continue practice of FGM that have and are still being used to justify its preservation. There justification differ from one group to another, depending on the beliefs and culture of the different ethnic communities.  These reasons range from those that attach cultural significance to the practice to those related to hygiene, myths and the desire to control women’s sexuality. Culture and, in particular, the desire to preserve one’s cultural identity, are the most cited reasons for the continued practice of FGM in Nigeria. The belief is that these practices protect the families against any harm and is widely supported by the elders in the rural areas

This practice facilitates the transition of a young girl into adulthood. It is only after the practice is performed that a young girl acquires new rights, obligations, and specific teaching that are deemed necessary to prepare a young girl for marriage, bearing of children and expected responsibilities as an adult member of her community. It is considered as one of the most important and respected cultural rituals in Yorubaland. It involves the initiation process where young girls are taught their culture and different traditional values. cultural justifications remain to  be one of the contributing factors for the continued practice of FGM in the Yoruba and Ibo tribe

Female genital mutilation is a perquisite for marriage in the rural areas, a woman can be considered an adult and, most importantly, be eligible for marriage only after FGM is performed and men seeking wives would usually engage with the girls’ families with the hope of securing marriage. . Women that failed to undergone FGM are prone to stigma in their communities and may not be accepted by their in-laws. They may further be prohibited from cooking. Members of the community may even refuse to associate with her

The myths that the practice prohibits promiscuity and suppresses women’s sexual desire and ensures that a woman is faithful to her husband upon marriage are widely held among communities in Nigeria.

In the early 80s Women’s rights group raised international awareness on the harmful effects of Female genital mutilation on the rights of women, an era where ‘women’s rights were beginning to be accepted as human rights’, providing a good platform to address FGM as a human rights issue. The practice was considered harmful to the health of women, also violated their fundamental human rights. Nevertheless it was still considered by the rural as  a tool of patriarchy and a symbol of women’s subordination There is international consensus that Female Genital Mutilation is a human rights violation.

Harmful widowhood Practices

Ordinarily, widowhood ought to evoke sympathy, empathy, and support from others. However, the situation of widows in Africa is disturbing due to the harrowing experiences they encounter. In addition to the common experience of loss, they have had to put up with other challenges such as deprivation, helplessness, and hopelessness brought about by harmful cultural practices. Nigeria has ratified international and regional human rights instruments such as the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)2 and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women (African Women’s Protocol), it is obligated to take appropriate steps and measures to eradicate harmful cultural practices that may violate women’s rights

Widowhood practices or burial rites are by no means peculiar to Nigeria as they are commonly practised across Africa. In different parts of Africa, various forms of rites are performed when a woman losses her husband. In many parts of Africa, a bereaved spouse is expected to undergo certain rites upon becoming a widow or widower. In some situations, the nature and forms of these rites vary depending on culture and beliefs. Widowhood rites, often by-products of institutionalised socio-cultural norms, are more or less social obligations for women. It is also a period when a widow is expected to grieve and mourn the loss of a beloved one, particularly a husband (Samuel, 2011: 185). Irrespective of whether a marriage results in children or not, widowhood practices are observed, particularly for a woman married under customary law.

Widowhood or burial rites are performed not only to mourn the dead but also to ensure that the link between the dead and the living is intact. Thus, the period of mourning is often accompanied by series of life events and activities to show respect for the soul of the departed spouse. These practices range from widow cleansing in Eastern parts of Africa, levirate marriage in Southern Africa, to shaving of the widow’s hair or other degrading treatments (Amstrong et al, 1993). Whatever form they may take widowhood practices tend to include various forms of inhuman, demeaning, and barbaric acts that may endanger the life of a woman. Some commentators have argued that widowhood practices are not only tools to perpetuate gender inequality but are also barbaric, atrocious, unethical, and a gross violation of women’s fundamental rights and freedom (Sossou, 2002; Nyanzi et al, 2009: 13).

In her award winning novel So Long a Letter, Ba (1981) vividly captures the oppressive nature of culture in a patriarchal environment. More importantly, the novel mirrors the sorrow, suffering, and humiliation widows often experience as a result of burial rites in a patriarchal African setting. The experience of Ramatoulaye (the protagonist of the novel) after the death of her husband in the novel is that of a woman suffocating under the whims of culture. Rather than receiving comfort or succour from her late husband’s family, she is faced with a cultural practice, which requires that she be married to her late husband’s brother or be thrown out of her home. This novel underscores the difficult choices a woman is forced to make upon the death of her husband in a typically patriarchal African society. Interestingly, these burial rites are often performed when a woman losses her husband and not the other way round. This tends to raise concerns about the discriminatory nature and rationale for these practices.

Generally, widowhood practices are observed to various degrees among different cultural and ethnic groups in Nigeria. The duration of the mourning period and the nature of activities to be performed may differ from one ethnic group to another. For instance, among a community in Delta area of Nigeria, ‘after an initial seven-day confinement, a subsequent thirty-day confinement for mourning in a tiny outdoor hut is mandatory for widows’ (Ewelukwa, 2002). This period is accompanied by isolation and shaving of the hair. Whereas among the Yorubas of the south-west, the duration of the burial rites, which may include wearing of dark clothes, weaving or cutting of hair, refraining from taking bath and wailing, ranges from 7 days to a year (Oyeniyi and Ayodeji, 2010).

Among the Igbos of the south-eastern part of Nigeria, a widow is subjected to various degrees of dehumanising practices or rites all in the name of customs and traditions. These may include denial of inheritance rights, shaving of hair, drinking from the water used in bathing the deceased spouse to sitting and sleeping on the floor.

In a popular documentary titled ‘Till Death do us part’ by a nongovernmental organisation Communication for Change. Three women who had undergone the humiliation and suffering associated with widowhood practices in the Eastern part of Nigeria recounted their experiences. One of the women, Nnameka Ezeonu, lamented that she was not allowed to eat or drink until her husband was buried. The women further recounted how they were forced to drink the water used to bathe their dead husbands and how they slept in the same room with their husbands’ corpses during this mourning period. In some parts of Igbo culture a widow is expected to wear black clothes during the period of mourning.

In some situations, a widow is expected to compel her married daughter to shave her head and pubic area. Worse still, a widow may be dispossessed of the property left behind by her late husband. One of the women in the documentary referred to above, recounted that she was living in a two-bedroom flat and had a car before the death of her husband, but was dispossessed of all these shortly after her husband died. This is an indication that widowhood practices may not only perpetuate gender inequality but may also deny women access to economic resources and lead to poverty. It has been noted that ‘forced eviction may arise where a woman has been compelled to leave her home due to actual or presumed acts of violence or discriminatory customary laws that deny women rights of inheritance’ (COHRE,2002).

It is believed that these practices are observed in order to determine the innocence of a woman with regard to the death of her husband. The belief is that a man could not have died of a natural cause. Therefore, it is necessary to ascertain the cause of his death (Oyeniyi and Ayodeji, 2010). Unfortunately, the wife of a deceased is often the prime suspect in this situation and will have to undergo these excruciating practices to prove her innocence.

Male Preference Syndrome

The social domain

African women have borne the brunt of cultural traditions, many of which have been described as oppressive, and which limit the advancement of women. Male dominance has been cited as a major obstacle to gender equality. Friedl (1975:7) defines male dominance as “a situation in which men have highly preferential access, although not always exclusive rights, to those activities to which the society accords the greatest values, and the exercise of which permits a measure of control over others.” It is significant that Friedl recognizes that men are favored in terms of accessing certain economically and socially significant materials and rights, such as access to land and property. These institutions and positions in communities play a role in elevating men over women. The asymmetrical relations are also highlighted by Divale and Harris (1976:521-38) who define male dominance in terms of an “institutionalized complex” consisting of “asymmetrical frequencies of sex-linked practices and beliefs…” The practices and beliefs, in this case, would instill prestige and status to the male gender and devalue the contributions and capabilities of females.

The preferential allocation of rights may also be accompanied by attitudes and beliefs about gender roles. Indeed, Sanday (1981:164) looks at male dominance from two angles. First, is the “exclusion of women from political and economic decision-making” and second, “male aggression towards women.” Sanday measures this aggression using five traits: (1) expectation that males should be tough, brave, and aggressive; (2) the presence of men’s houses or specific places where only men may congregate; (3) frequent quarrelling, fighting, or wife beating; (4) institutionalization or regular occurrence of rape; and (5) raiding other groups for wives. Sanday suggests that the presence of these  five traits in a society indicates a high degree of male aggression; while an absence of all five traits indicates that male aggression is weakly developed (1984:164). This type of dominance may be expressed in the cultural stereotype of ‘machismo’ or masculinity.

Interestingly, Sanday’s research shows that where females have economic control but no political power, 53% of women are prone to male aggression. Thus economic empowerment and political participation are important for women’s empowerment. Male aggression against women does not necessarily lead to female passivity. In some societies, it is expected that women will fight back; while in others, it is assumed that women will adopt the submissive role. But even when women are submissive, they will use their own tools of resistance to show displeasure. Sanday posits that “male dominance is significantly associated with environmental and historical conditions” and that domination of women is a response to stress. Such stress may manifest itself in endemic warfare and chronic hunger (1981:171-2). The displaced aggression looking for an outlet is injurious to women.

It is important to delineate the root causes of male dominance in order to understand gender inequality and inequity. This can only be done by understanding the cultural context in which the dominance manifests itself. Because cultures have their own organized systems which determine how members of that particular culture behave towards each other and towards their environment, they have the potential of empowering or dis-empowering men and women. Mead (1963:284) argues that in all cultures, there is the same range of basic temperamental types established on the basis of heredity. These differences provide “the clues from which culture works, selecting one temperament, or a combination of related and congruent types, as desirable.” In other words, there are certain universal tendencies which are particularized by context and history. The particular traits solidify and become key to defining communities.

Drawing on Mead’s position, Sanday suggests that “each culture must select a sex-role plan – that is, a template for the organization of sex-role expectations… sex-role plans form one kind of symbolic template. Such plans help men and women orient themselves as male and female to each other, to the world around them, and to the growing boys and girls whose behavior they must shape to a commonly accepted mold” (1981:3). In essence then, “sex-role plans are part of the system of meanings by which a people explain their successes, come to terms with their fears, enshrine their past, and stamp themselves with a sense of “people hood” (1981:163). The socio-cultural meanings shape behavior, attitudes and beliefs. Women are key in transferring these interpretations of the world because of their role of bringing up families and teaching languages to their children.

Indeed, Mead (1968:19) is of the opinion that the more men are removed from the phenomenon of human birth, the more the male imagination contributes to the “cultural superstructure of belief and practice, regarding childbearing.” In many African societies, it is women who rear children and teach them manners, respect, and social obligations. Women, when empowered could contribute significantly in reshaping gender roles and expectations. They can subvert the stereotype while fulfilling the social and cultural role of child rearing and socializing. Thus critical interventions targeted at mothers could contribute in women’s empowerment by reorganizing and restructuring gender relations. Due to the patrilineal nature of countries in the Great Lakes Region, women have found themselves denied many capabilities. They have less access to education, skills   development, economic opportunities and participation in decision-making. The Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women (1985) had reiterated the need for women to be given the opportunity to reach their full potential. The meeting affirmed

The central culture that permeates the Nigerian society is patriarchal in nature. This male-dominated culture accords women an inferior and secondary position in society. The patriarchal culture of male supremacy still remains embedded, obscured and protected within traditional institutions and structures held in abeyance and relative utmost sacredness. A major challenge to the task of executing gender- sensitive and gender-parity policies in Nigeria, therefore, is the patriarchal cultural norms, attitudes and practices, which have been accepted as the natural order of things. This culture is still in-grained in men and it is demonstrated both consciously and unconsciously, despite the general drive for a meaningful change in gender relations through policy initiatives and actions as well as sundry international conventions and accords to which Nigeria is a signatory.

Strategy to tackle Gender Inequality

Legislative Framework for Equality

International Legal framework

Sequel to the setback that the 2005 CEDAW Bill suffered in 2007 with the 5th Legislative Assembly, The FMWASD continues to hold consultations with government officials, political leaders and members of the National Assembly, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders and has not relented in her efforts at re-strategizing towards re-introducing the Bill for passage before the expiration of the current Legislative Session.

2.3 The Nigerian parliament at different levels has continued to make laws to firmly curtail all offensive practices against women. The “Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill 2010: A Bill to Incorporate, Domesticate, And Enforce selected aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the National Policy on Women and other Matters Related Therewith”, due for re-presentation to the National Assembly has been emulated by many state assemblies with emphasis on ensuring equal opportunity. Also, Related laws are being passed by different State Assemblies (See Table 2.1)

2.4 The HIV/AIDS anti-stigma bill has been passed by the legislature and was signed into law by the President as part of the celebration of the 2014 World HIV/AIDS Day.

2.5 The Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) has concluded work to mainstream gender equality and CEDAW provisions into the laws of Nigeria and the sections of different national laws requiring amendment have been articulated. The recommendations of the NLRC have been submitted to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for presentation to the National Assembly. This omnibus legislative reform, includes laws identified in the study conducted by the Women Development Centre which seeks to repeal section 55 of the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, section 55 of chapter 198 of the 1990 Labour Act of Nigeria and section 360 of the Criminal Code




Regional Framework

On the subject of the rights of women in Africa, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states in Article 17 that “Women shall have the right to live in a positive cultural context and to participate at all levels in the determination of cultural policies.” This is in addition to Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which “enshrines the principles of non-discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.” Articles 60 and 61 of the above Charter also recognize the “regional and international human rights instruments and African practices consistent with international norms on human and peoples’ rights…” Despite the declaration and recognition of these regional and international rights, women in Africa continue to face inequality and inequity in many spheres of their societies

At the continental level the transition from the Organization of Africa Union (OAU) to the African Union (AU) in July 2002 and the re-establishment of the East African Community (EAC) have paved the way for broader women’s participation and political and economic empowerment. Whereas the OAU was a gathering of political leaders of Africa, the AU is a union of Africa’s peoples. For example, the Constitutive Council establishing the AU includes institutions for peoples’ participation such as the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council. The Constitutive Act provides that the AU shall strive to promote gender equality, and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.

As a result of the advocacy work undertaken by Pan-African networks, the Durban AU Summit in 2002 recognized the contributions of African women and civil society organizations and affirmed that without the full involvement and participation of women the objectives of the AU could not be achieved (Wandia 2003:51). Gender mainstreaming at the AU will invariably yield positive results for similar action at the national levels. For example, Departments of Gender have been set up in a number of ministries in Kenya such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Gender and Social Services. In Tanzania, the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) as well as other lobby groups have ensured that gender inequalities are addressed at the national level and discriminative policies and laws repealed.


It is widely recognised that investing in the human development of women generates important multiplier effects, enabling them to become champions of human development for their families and communities. At the same time, social problems that erode women’s human capital, such as violence against women, have

African women’s active engagement in national and local institutions and in civil society helps to make governance in Africa more inclusive and responsive to the needs of society. Women are also key peacemakers in time of conflict. Yet in many African societies, women are treated as less than full citizens before the law in areas such marital property rights, inheritance, land ownership and labour. They are also held back by customary norms that keep women subordinate to men.

Some African countries have made important progress in promoting women’s contribution to political life, through quotas in parliament. Even without quotas, more women than ever are succeeding to high political office. We now need to ensure that improved representation of women translates into real influence—in government, in business and in other spheres— so that women can make their full contribution to political, economic and social life.

All African countries recognise the principle of non-discrimination in their constitutions. All but two of them have signed international conventions prohibiting discrimination against women. The Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which has 46 signatories, is a comprehensive guarantee of the rights of women to social and political equality. Laws and traditional practices are not in sync. But exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination are widespread in African constitutions and legislation. In areas such as marital property, inheritance, land ownership and labour, women are treated as less than full citizens.

There are 9 countries where a married woman cannot apply for a passport in the same way as her husband, and where a married woman does not have full freedom to choose where to live. In 35 countries, married women are obliged by law to obey their husbands. Formal laws are reinforced, or in some cases undermined, by traditional practices and cultural norms that keep women subordinate to men. Customary rules governing marriage, inheritance and property ownership are often formally exempted from non-discrimination provisions in national constitutions. As a result, women’s participation in society and the economy continues to be mediated in important ways by their husbands and fathers.

Most laws governing the economic life of African countries are gender-neutral: they presume that all parties are equally at liberty to enter into contracts, to travel and access markets, to own property and to control their own assets. In practice, this is not always true. By law or custom, often only male heads of households are able to enter into contracts. Men may also exercise sole control over household finances — even when their partners contribute equally to household earnings.

Legal reforms can boost women’s productivity fairly rapidly. Legislative reforms promoting gender equality can have a significant impact, both on women’s status within society and on their productivity. For example, in 2000 Ethiopia introduced a package of reforms to its Family Law, raising the minimum marital age for women, removing the husband’s ability to deny the wife permission to work outside the home, and requiring the consent of both spouses to manage marital property. While the reform is now applied across the country, it was first introduced in three of Ethiopia’s nine regions. A study five years later found that those three regions were well ahead in terms of women’s labour participation and level of vocational skills.

There is evidence that women’s formal legal rights influence their ability to move from self-employment into more substantial entrepreneurship. Across the world, the share

National Legislative Framework

As a former colony of Britain, Nigeria adopts the common law legal system, which places emphasis on judicial precedent. However, in practice the country derives its sources of law from legislation, customary laws, and Shari’ah. Although Islamic law and indigenous customary laws preceded the common law system, the latter by virtue of colonialism has tended to take pre-eminence over the former.

The Nigerian legal system is made up of a tripartite system of laws (Statutory, Customary and Sharia) which made it difficult to fulfill one of the basic stipulations of the Nigerian Constitution (Chapter II Section 17 Subsection 2) which requires that all citizens regardless of gender, circumstances of birth etc shall have equal rights, obligations and opportunities before the law and which states that “All citizens without discrimination on any group whatsoever, shall have the opportunity for securing adequate opportunity to secure stable employment.

The application of these three systems side by side in a diverse country with different ethnic and religious groupings has implications for women’s rights. It should be noted that Nigeria is a federation and as such each component state has powers to make laws. While some statutory provisions such as the Constitution tend to give recognition to women’s rights, customary laws and Shari’ah tend to perpetuate gender inequality. For instance, while Section 42 of the Constitution guarantees all individuals equal rights and freedoms and proscribes discrimination on grounds of sex, some cultural practices such as wife inheritance or primogeniture system seem to be inconsistent with this provision. In summing up how cultural practices perpetuate the subordinate position of women, Williams (2004) opines that the Nigerian woman is defined in terms of her role as a mother and a wife and that her worth depends on her marital status since her legal and social status are tied to her husband’s. Furthermore, some provisions of Shari’ah as applicable in most parts of the northern region of the country perpetuate the low status of women. For instance, while Sections 21 and 22 of the Child’s Rights Act of 2003 prohibit early marriage by setting the marriageable age at 18, Islamic law (Shari’ah) permits early marriage and prohibits adolescent girls from seeking contraceptive services. Child or early marriage is prevalent in the northern parts of Nigeria where girls are often married at 12 years or younger.6 When a girl is married at an early age, she is deprived the opportunity to be educated and developed mentally and physically and to earn a means of livelihood. This clearly underlines the tension that may exist between statutory law and customary or religious law in a multi-cultural society like Nigeria.

The plural legal nature of Nigeria potentially creates an avenue for confusion and uncertainty regarding the promotion and protection of women’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Bond (2010) has argued that legal pluralism can potentially undermine women’s rights to exercise free choices in matters that affect their sexual and reproductive well-being. Also, in explaining the effects of legal pluralism for women’s rights in Nigeria, Ewelukwa (2002) has noted as follows:

Fundamental contradictions inherent in the legal system – the coexistence of modern, statutory laws with traditional customary laws and practices – has created a complex and confusing legal regime under which women generally are denied adequate legal protection . . . Not surprisingly, many of the problems which are faced today in much of Africa ‘are the product of trying to piece together, in a hasty fashion, not only the different legal systems but also fundamentally different conceptions of society and the family. Iwobi (2008) has echoed this position when he observed that legal pluralism can potentially lead to the adoption of laws and practices that may be inimical to the rights of women.

Article 16: Equality in Marriage and Family

Tripartite Legal System and its Troublesome Imports

14.1 The factum of marriage confers some basic rights to the spouses such as right to consortium (right to change of name, defence to life and limb, right to cohabitation and right to sexual intercourse).

14.2 Previous reports have discussed the problems occasioned by this tripartite legal system of civil, customary and religious laws dealing with forms of marriages manifesting in age of marriage, inheritance rights, consent of parties and parental consent, divorce (civil and customary forms of divorce), widowhood practices, polygamy and health implications, female genital mutilation and its affront to right to health and sexuality as well as discrimination on grounds of sex.

14.3 The different forms of marriages celebrated in Nigeria have attracted specific attention and action as the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) has been given a special task to harmonize these laws as well as other offensive provisions stated hereunder.

• Section 55(i)(d) – Penal Code of Northern Nigeria

• Section 282 – Penal Code of Northern Nigeria

• Section 221 of the Criminal Code Act

• Section 353 of the Criminal Code Act



• Section 360 of the Criminal Code Act

• Section 6 of the Criminal Code Act on Marital Rape

• Section 1 Criminal Code Act

• Section 16(2)(c) of Matrimonial Causes Act on proof of conviction before cruelty is established

• Section 29(3) of the 1999 Constitution on Renunciation of Citizenship and the presumption that any married female child assumes the status of an adult.

• Section 26(2) of the 1999 Constitution

• Guiding principles and formulae for the Distribution of all Cadres of Posts, Federal Character Commission (Establishment etc) Decree (1996 No 34) on Indigene-ship

• Police Regulation 112

• Section 33, Cap C. 38 Criminal Code Act LFN 2004 – Criminal Liability attaching to women married under customary Law and the Act

• Non conferment of citizenship to a foreign husband of a Nigerian woman

14.4 Towards this assignment, NLRC has taken concrete steps towards the reformation of all the offensive laws which have been pencilled down for repeal or outright extraction. A draft model Customary Law and Islamic Law Marriage /Divorce Registration Law which seeks to provide for the mandatory registration of all marriages contracted within the state has been developed and placed before the National Assembly for the passage into law.

14.5 The New Evidence Act of Nigeria in its Section 14(3) stated clearly that any customary law sought to be applied but fails the test of repugnancy, compatibility and public policy test should be cast away and declared null and void and of no effect. In concrete terms, the Amended Evidence Act, 2011 has reformed some sections to be in tandem with accepted non-discriminatory benchmarks.

Legislative Framework

2.2 Sequel to the setback that the 2005 CEDAW Bill suffered in 2007 with the 5th Legislative Assembly, The FMWASD continues to hold consultations with government officials, political leaders and members of the National Assembly, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders and has not relented in her efforts at re-strategizing towards re-introducing the Bill for passage before the expiration of the current Legislative Session.

The major issue with nationality and women in Nigeria is with section 26(2) of the 1999 Constitution which stipulates who a citizen of Nigeria is and how citizenship may be acquired by marriage and naturalization. The section does not allow a Nigerian woman married to a foreigner to transmit citizenship to her spouse by reason of marriage.

2.8 The National Assembly constituted a constitution review committee to anchor the process of review of the 1999 Constitution. A National Conference was also held in 2014 and one of the assignments of the conference was to review issues relating to the peaceful co-existence of the citizens of Nigeria irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity etc. State. Memorandum on issues of concern to women, which includes the gap that this section of the law creates was submitted to these two bodies and the call for review of section 26(2) of the constitution is one of the priority issues listed.

2.3 The Nigerian parliament at different levels has continued to make laws to firmly curtail all offensive practices against women. The “Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill 2010: A Bill to Incorporate, Domesticate, And Enforce selected aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the National Policy on Women and other Matters Related Therewith”, due for re-presentation to the National Assembly has been emulated by many state assemblies with emphasis on ensuring equal opportunity. Also, Related laws are being passed by different State Assemblies (See Table 2.1)

2.4 The HIV/AIDS anti-stigma bill has been passed by the legislature and was signed into law by the President as part of the celebration of the 2014 World HIV/AIDS Day.

2.5 The Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) has concluded work to mainstream gender equality and CEDAW provisions into the laws of Nigeria and the sections of different national laws requiring amendment have been articulated. The recommendations of the NLRC have been submitted to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for presentation to the National Assembly. This omnibus legislative reform, includes laws identified in the study conducted by the Women Development Centre which seeks to repeal section 55 of the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, section 55 of chapter 198 of the 1990 Labour Act of Nigeria and section 360 of the Criminal Cod

4 The law and gender discrimination in Nigeria

Incorporating international human rights treaties into the national legal system enhances the development of human rights This also ensures that international standards are enforceable within the national legal system The same is true for the protection of the rights of women against discrimination. It is the domestic legal framework that plays an essential role in protecting the rights of women against discrimination.

As the following discussion reveals, Tanzania has put in place different legal measures to protect the rights of women against FGM. The measures include the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 and other legislation complimenting the constitutional provisions protecting the rights of women against the practice.

4.1 Constitutional protection

The inclusion of constitutional provisions protecting the rights of women is, as mentioned earlier, one of the most effective measures that can enhance the legal framework to curb the violation of human rights by the continued practice of FGM. The constitutional provisions need to be drafted in manner that promotes gender equality, and prohibits harmful traditional practices, such as FGM, which are detrimental to the health of women. If the constitution does not specifically provide for these rights, then other general provisions can, of course, be interpreted to protect the rights of women against FGM.

The Tanzanian Constitution is founded on the principles of freedom, justice, fraternity and concord.79 It strives to build a united society where every citizen has an opportunity to exercise human rights and enjoy freedom, justice, fraternity and concord. As the supreme law of the land, the Constitution is also referred to as the

‘basic law’, from which other laws are derived.80 More specifically for our purpose, the Tanzanian Constitution protects the right to equality and non-discrimination,81 one of the rights implicated by the continued practice of FGM. The right to equality, as provided for in the Constitution, ensures that every individual is treated equally in the social, political or economic spheres of life.82 The right to non-discrimination, on the other hand, protects women from all forms of discrimination. Of course, the general prohibition against discrimination alone is not enough to protect women against FGM.

The Constitution goes further by specifically providing for the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex. FGM, as established earlier, discriminates against women on the basis of sex as it is performed primarily to control women’s sexuality. The recognition of these two corollary rights by the Constitution contributes to the protection of women against FGM. In article 14, the Tanzanian Constitution protects the right to life, a right that, under certain circumstances, is threatened by the continued practice of FGM. The right to life encompasses the right to live and the right to have one’s life protected in society by the law.83

Women and Human right

Women and Human Rights Violation

Over a decade now, numerous cases of women’s rights violation such as acid baths, murder of women, rape, widow abuse, and physical assaults, have occurred in Nigeria. Unfortunately it is only extreme cases of women’s rights violation which results in death or permanent disability that earns the media attention and the police interests. Critical cases like female circumcision or genital mutilation, wife battery, marital rape, sexual harassment, verbal and emotional abuse, incest, termination of employment as a result of pregnancy, etc. are not considered problematic enough to be highlighted in the media as well to be taken seriously by the police(Salaam,2003).

More so the victims of violence, especially domestic violence and rape, hardly report to the appropriate authorities. For instance wife battery is considered a private affair between the husband and wife. Moreover, the tradition or culture and religious beliefs in Nigeria as a typical patriarchal society see the wife as a property of her husband, who has moral right to beat her as penalty for insubordination and or perceived wrong doing. In the case of rape, women consider it a social stigma if their ordeal becomes a public knowledge.

A former Minister for Women and Social Developments, Mrs. Hajo Sani at the 19th United Nations Session, in New York in 1998, captured the state of women who are victims of violence in Nigeria. She said,

“There is no record of the prevalence of violence against women especially within the home. This is because women hardly report violence to the police for fear of reprisal from both the husband and wider family. In addition, the law enforcement agents do not readily entertain complaints of domestic violence. They treat such complaint as a minor offence of ‘two people fighting’ or laugh it off as ‘husband and wife problem’…”

In the same vein, in Nigeria, laws to protect women from violence are inadequate. For example, marital rape is generally not recognized as an offence in any system of law in Nigeria, even when the wife is wounded in European Scientific Journal June 2013 edition vol.9, No.17 ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e – ISSN 1857- 7431 126

the course of forced sexual intercourse. Formal mechanisms to seek redress in cases of domestic violence or rape, through police investigation followed by a court proceeding, are often ineffective. This is particularly the case in rape cases, where police are not adequately trained to handle such cases and the burden of proof remains with the prosecution, requiring a woman to prove that she did not consent, or where a woman’s testimony, under Muslim law, is not as valid as that of a man. As a result of the foregoing, women’s right issues and situation in Nigeria is not given the seriousness it deserves by both government and individuals.

Women and the Law

Nigeria criminal law has a number of provisions relating to sexual and domestic offences that are especially relevant to women’s rights. However different laws, for instance on rape, apply to different parts of the country.

Rape is defined in a gender-specific manner, as “carnal knowledge” or sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent or under duress. Besides the restrictive nature of the definition, which does not extend to the rape of males, it must be pointed out that in practice most rape victims are unable to benefit from these provisions. The way in which a rape trial is conducted and the nature of the evidence required exposes women to indignity, making it a man’s trial but a woman’s tribulation. The law needs to be extended to cover marital rape. Currently the Penal Code specifically excludes “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife” from the definition of rape, so long as she has attained puberty.

With respect to the criminal law, it is also necessary to remove the gender disparity in punishments applicable for indecent assault. Presently, there is a dichotomy, which creates the impression that one gender is superior to the other. Sections 350 and 363 of the Criminal Code cover the same offence (unlawful and indecent assault) but provide for a lesser punishment when the victim is female (two years imprisonment) than when the victim is male (three years imprisonment).

In northern Nigeria the Penal Code specifically precludes as an offence any act which does not amount to the infliction of grievous injury and which is done by “a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife, such husband and wife being subject to any natural law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful”. The law through the Penal Code condones the widespread problem of domestic violence, by encouraging beating of wives in as much as it does not amount to grievous harm.

In case of traditional laws the wife herself is often regarded as property and she is generally not expected to entertain any expectation. In fact, under some traditional customary law systems, especially in south east European Scientific Journal June 2013 edition vol.9, No.17 ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e – ISSN 1857- 7431 127

Nigeria, she is one of the chattels to be “inherited” after the death of her husband.

Women and Religion/Culture

Generally religion is used as an instrument in defense of a class society and patriarchy. It discriminates against women. As a result of the theocratic character of the governance of the northern part of Nigeria before the advent of the British colonialists Islam has been institutionalized as a culture – the way of life – of the majority of the people of the region. Islam like most religious beliefs gives hope of fantastic heaven – the paradise – to the adherents.

Knowing well the emotional attachment of the northern Nigerian Muslims to religion and the psychological equanimity they derive from it, politicians ruling the northern Nigerian states introduced Sharia law in order to enhance their political prospects and divert attention away from their own looting and failure to improve living standards. Of course, Sharia as religious law gives central place to paternalistic interpretation to women’s appropriate roles and socio-political arrangement of the society.

Sharia law conflicts with national secular principles, especially in relation to women’s rights, on which Nigeria is formally based. It places a lot of restrictions on the rights of women. The major victims of this political Sharia are women.

We fight against discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, ethnic origin or race. In this sense, the right of Muslims to practice those aspects of Sharia, which pertains to worship, mode of dressing, naming of children and other personal or family matters must be respected.

However, religion should be a personal affair and should be separated from the state. This is even more imperative in a multi-religious society like Nigeria. The failure to adhere to this principle by successive capitalist governments in Nigeria, is one of the main reasons for the rising wave of ethnic and religious conflicts in the country, particularly since the beginning of the introduction of Sharia law by some states in year 2000. The bourgeois politicians who introduced the Sharia penal code with severe punishments such as stoning and amputation for crimes like stealing, prostitution or so-called adultery, argue that these type of law and punishments are necessary to curb the increasing wave of crime in the society. Even some sections of the working masses both within and outside the Sharia states, perturbed by the violent crimes and social decadence which pervade society, genuinely support the penal code in the belief that it is the solution to these problems.

The penal code is also informed by the belief that the harsher the punishment the lesser the crime rate. But these are erroneous views. Crimes, violence and other social vices are products of worsening mass poverty and unemployment, which are engendered by the Nigeria’s crisis-ridden neo-colonial capitalist economy. Only the abolition of the causes of endemic poverty, the provision of decent living, full employment with a living wage, free and qualitative education and medical care, plus adequate housing for all can lead to the reduction, if not eradication, of crime.

Women and culture

Customary System’ – Used as A Weapon Against Women

Another strategy which has served to keep women outside modernityunder the pretext that modernity for women is un-African, is the perpetuationof a dual system of laws which applies only to Black women. Whitecolonial women were never affected by the so-called ‘customary laws’which both White and Black men re-constituted and codified in the faceof women’s resistance to patriarchal restrictions and surveillance. Whathad been largely conventions and cultural practices became ‘legalised’and entrusted to those men who occupied surveillance statuses within thetraditional hierarchy as chiefs and head-men. They became the repositoriesof supposedly centuries old untouchable rules and regulations whichaimed mainly at regulating cheap labour for the colonial state, but mostimportantly, ensuring that Black women remained in the backward, privatizedrealities of ancient patriarchal social existence.

The re-invention of custom and conventions into ‘customary law’, which is a misnomer because if something is ‘law’ then it must apply to everyone, has become a powerful weapon against women’s demands for equal rights within their societies, and has served both the interests of Black men who feel threatened by the civic demands of Black women, and the interests of White feminists who continue to study African women within these fossilized contexts. Few question the gendered character of such a system, and several European scholars have claimed that actually these customary laws are better for African women than the modern, civil

law – because they insist, such systems provide women with a place of belonging

(Arnfred, ; Greer, ; Armstrong, ).

What are the implications of maintaining a customary system that targets mainly women and which has serious consequences for the struggles of Black women in terms of the right to integrity (both bodily and sexual) as well as protection against violation and impunity? I want to touch very briefly on some of these consequences as an indication of how exclusionary they are for Black women of all classes, but particularly women who are rural and poor.

First of all, customary practice functions through the perpetuation of rituals and systems that put Black women outside the protections and entitlements which civic spaces provide to all citizens in a modern society.  Africans fought against colonialism and racism, and African women participated in numerous ways and in large numbers in those struggles for justice and freedom to become citizens. We created the civic spaces that encompass the justice system; the economic and political structures; educational institutions and other civic resources that are the products of the collective struggles of a people in any society. The law, in general, is supposed ensure that every person in a society at least has the theoretical right to such protections and entitlements, even if in reality class and gender mediate to make this assumption often more difficult to be realized for certain groups (MacKinnon,).

In the context of Nigeria (and across the continent) the existence of ‘customary law’ only compounds the difficulties faced by Black women in particular in exercising their rights, essentially because it supersedes the civic rights which a constitution guarantees to women as citizens, putting women outside the parameters of the law, and therefore applying a different standard to Black women as Africans and as citizens of their societies. The Nigerian Constitution states clearly that ‘African’ custom and tradition shall supersede any rights and entitlements that women may have been granted by the Constitution, as long as those rights and entitlements threaten the hegemony of custom and tradition (Zigomo). It is the most ludicrous but most fiercely guarded section of the constitution, and although Zimbabwean women have fought it for years, they have not been able to change it yet because the

Male judges (in collusion with the sharia judges) have used it effectively to block any attempts to break down the barriers these customs and conventions put between Black women and their civic rights.

These are the laws which make it acceptable for men to continue violating women in the home even though it has become a crime to do so, because often women find themselves outside the justice delivery systems which are constructed as ‘anti-family’ and ‘anti-custom’; conventions which facilitate the use of girls as compensation when men kill each other or one family commits a wrong to another, and the police and other legal practitioners do not seem to know how to eradicate the practice, claiming that it is ‘cultural’ and ‘significant to the identity of the Shona as a people’; practices which allow for widowhood rites which construct women as witches; a evil and dangerous; as women in need of cleansing because they are polluted and must be made clean through humiliating practices which destroy the woman’s self-esteem and mark her as a ‘husband killer’.

In many African communities such women, when they are older, are banished to isolated villages where they live as pariahs, inscribed with the status of exiles in their own societies, simply because the husband died; these are practices which make it possible for fathers to sexually violate and rape their daughters under the claim that they are preparing them for marriage and increasingly, because women and girls fall outside the civic protectionsof their societies, they are vulnerable to rape for purposes of ‘curing and also to ritual murder. The list of violations is seemingly endless and it is linked to the existence of so-called customary laws which exist specifically to ensure male cultural and sexual privilege; making it possible for males to behave with impunity towards women and girls, often without redress for those who are affected by such behaviour.

This for me is one of the greatest challenges we face as feminists and as Africans. We have to find ways of removing this impediment to women’s dignity and rights; an impediment which presents itself in the garb of culture and which has become institutionalized as ‘an authentic cultural system which is appropriate to African women’. Worst of all, it is defended by certain anthropologists and ‘feminists’ like (Greer ) who claim that there are some good things in it and African women should not throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. Well, my position is that that is total hogwash. Such people do not have to live under these so-called ‘appropriate’ customs and if they did they would change them as they did when such backwardness prevailed in Europe. Why is it culturally appropriate for African women to be treated as less than human; for inhuman and barbaric patriarchal practices to be perpetuated because it applies to Black women? If white women love these customs so much, why don’t they re-invent them in their European societies and enjoy them there instead of bothering us with their nonsense about ‘preserving our authentic cultures’.

Most African women, given the choice, would opt for a modern, dignified life, with education for themselves and their children, with tap water and a school in close proximity; with choices on what contraceptives to use and how many children to have; with electricity and a safe, aesthetically pleasing home to live in, and with the right to be an autonomous individuals who can relate to other humans through systems and choices which fulfil them as persons and as part of their communities.

It is a vicious myth to claim that African women like ‘belonging’ to backward spaces, where their worlds are so limited they never experience even a fraction of what life has to offer a modern day person; where they do not know their rights because these are encoded in languages and signs that they cannot decipher because they are unable to read (and please do not tell me that there is beauty in illiteracy because you know as much as I do that illiterate people remain poor and excluded in every society of the world today); where their lives are simply one long, miserable nightmare of poverty and dispossession.

The fact of the matter is that Africa has to become modern, and we will not allow anyone to stop that process, whether they think it is part of their privilege to continue studying Africans as ‘exotic objects’ or to exploit Africa for profit and gain. Through the struggles of African women for rights and justice we are moving our continent out of the backwardness that has been so ‘exciting’ and ‘profitable’ for certain groups of people.

As far as I am concerned, Europeans cannot continue to have the monopoly of modernity at the expense of the rest of the world. We can move forward together, or we can do it the harder way and continue the contest over each persons right to define themselves as complete and dignified human beings – we have a choice, and I hope that we will choose the path of cooperation in making the world a place of dignity and justice for all human beings. Then culture can become what it was meant to be, and aesthetically, life-enhancing artifact in the service of all those who craft and use it as a source of pleasure.


Women’s right and the Sharia Law

Women’s right and the customary law

Strategic Litigation to support Women’s right before National Court

Judicial Measures

2.12 The role of judges in advancing the human rights of women is systematically shared into two parts – namely the ideologies of judicial restraints and judicial activism (Nweze, 2003). Very recently, judicial activism has been applied in a number of decided cases on gender issues in order to depart drastically from obnoxious customs that obstructs women’s progress and full development. The following landmark decisions is a boost to the legal environment for the protection of the rights of women and girls in Nigeria:

i. Asika v Atuanya (2008) 17 NWLR (pt 1117) p.286: In this case, the Court of Appeal held that any custom that is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience must be abolished, and should not be allowed to rear its ugly head. A custom that discriminates against women by denying them the right to own land in their father’s estate was held to be repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. The Court also held further that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria re-emphasized the rights of every citizen of Nigeria to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria, as such women should not be deprived of ownership and the right of inheritance of immovable property.

ii. Lois Chituru Ukeje vs Mrs Gladys Ada Ukeje April 2014, the Supreme Court of Nigeria declared in this case that no matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate. Consequently, the Igbo customary law which disentitles a female child from partaking in the sharing of his deceased fathers estate is a breach of section 42(1)(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, a fundamental Rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian. This said discriminatory law is void as it conflicts with section 42(1)(2) of the said Constitution.

iii. Onyibor Anekwe & Anor v. Mrs. Maria Nweke (2014) LPELR 22697 (SC), the Supreme Court held that Nigerian customs which disinherit women are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and should therefore not be allowed to stand. The court therefore declared as repulsive, the custom of the Awka people in Anambra State which allows married women to be disinherited upon the death of their husband because they did not have a male child for the late husband.

iv. Dr. Priye Iyalla-Amadi Vs Director- General of the Nigeria Immigration Service & Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in which the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt held that it was discriminatory and a violation of Section 42 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 18(3) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights for the immigration to insist on a written consent of the husband before an international passport can be issued for the wife (woman) when no similar condition is applicable to the men.

v. The provision of the Police Act, which prohibits a female officer from marrying a man of her choice without the permission of the Commissioner of Police in the command where she is serving, has been declared illegal and unconstitutional by a Federal High Court. The judge held that Regulation 124 was illegal, null and void due to its inconsistency with Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution and proceeded to annul it pursuant to Section 1(3) of the Constitution.

2.13 With these judgments many more women will be bold to come forward and challenge situations of injustice and because it is a decision of the Supreme Court, no court can legally give a contrary judgment.

Decided Court Cases in Support of Equality in Marriage

14.6 The Nigeria Bench is not left out as activist pronouncement and cutting down of customs that held women down are declared. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has taken the violation of women’s right as a special project which is evidenced in the number of judgments cutting down obnoxious customary practices against women.

14.7 Justice Bode Rhodes Vivour of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in April 2014, in the case of Lois Chituru Ukeje vs Mrs Gladys Ada Ukeje, wife and daughter of Mr. Lazarus Ukeje declared thus:

“…no matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate. Consequently, the Igbo customary law which disentitles a female child from partaking in the sharing of his deceased father’s estate is a breach of section 42(1)(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, a fundamental Rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian. This said discriminatory law is void as it conflicts with section 42(1)(2) of the said Constitution. In the light of what I have been saying, the appeal is dismissed”

14.8 In April 2014, the Supreme Court nullified a custom that disinherited women as repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience in the case of Mrs. Maria Nweke vs Onyibor Anekwe and Anor. The claim was for a declaration for the right of occupancy over a parcel of land where the Plaintiff lived with her husband until his death. The Defendants were disinheriting the Plaintiff because she had only female children for her late husband. Justice Ogunbiyi did not hesitate to make this pronouncement: CEDAW/C/NGA/7-8


“I hasten to add that the custom and practice of Awka people upon which the appellants have relied is hereby out rightly condemned in very strong terms. A custom of this nature in the 21st century societal setting will only tend to depict the absence of the relatives of human civilization. It is punitive, uncivilized and only intended to protect the selfish perpetration of male dominance which is aimed at suppressing the right of the women folk in the given society. One would expect that the days of such obvious differential discrimination are over. Any custom that disinherits a daughter from her father’s estate or wife from her husband’s property by reason of God’s instituted gender differential should be punitively dealt with. The punishment should serve as a deterrent measure and ought to be meted out against the perpetrators of the culture and custom. For a widow of a man to be thrown out of her matrimonial home where she had lived all her life with her late husband and children by her late husband’s brother on the ground that she had no male child is indeed very barbaric, worrying and flesh skinning”.

14.10 Also the Court of Appeal in Asika vs Atuanya (2008) 17 NWLR (Pt 1117) at 484 struck down the custom that portends to demean a woman merely because she is a person of feminine gender and declared such customary practices as unconstitutional.

14.11 Pathetic situations witnessed in Shodipo v Shodipo (1990) WRN 98 where the court refused to consider the wife’s contribution to the 43 year old marriage and just awarded a lump sum of N200,000 equivalent of (1800) U.S Dollars to her, which was considered exceptionally discriminatory are now giving way to broader interpretation of 50-50 equitable distribution of marital property upon divorce. Both visible and invisible contributions of spouses must be taken into account before arriving at such decisions. This also extends to decisions in maintenance and custody of children which must be guided by overriding interest of the child. The following cases decided in Nigerian Courts within this reporting period will clearly strengthen the judicial bent.

14.12 In LT. Adeyinka A Bibilari vs Ngozika B Aneke Bibilari – (2011) 13 NWLR (PT 1264) p. 207 intolerable behaviour was condemned by the courts. Also in Motoh v Motoh (2011) 16 NWLR (Pt 1274) 431-631, the court drew distinction between forms of marriages in Nigeria and the rights attendant to such marriage and held that photographs are clear proof of celebration of marriage.

14.13 Clearly the Matrimonial Causes Act did not make cruelty a ground for divorce but by extension, Section 15(2)(c) which authorizes an aggrieved spouse to petition for divorce on the ground that the conduct of the Respondent is reprehensible allows such cruelty to occasion divorce. Such cruelty could be physical, emotional (psychological) and economic. In Bibilari vs Bibilari (2011)(supra) the court held that cruelty, though not specifically made a ground for divorce under Section 15(2) of MCA, a court can hold that a marriage has broken down irretrievably on the ground that one of the spouses has been cruel to the other.

14.14 Marital rape, which is not a crime in Nigerian jurisprudence by reason of Section 6 of the Criminal Code Act, is now being given extensive interpretation by the courts that a rapist must be declared as one even in matrimony

Judicial Measures

2.12 The role of judges in advancing the human rights of women is systematically shared into two parts – namely the ideologies of judicial restraints and judicial activism (Nweze, 2003). Very recently, judicial activism has been applied in a number of decided cases on gender issues in order to depart drastically from obnoxious customs that obstructs women’s progress and full development. The following landmark decisions is a boost to the legal environment for the protection of the rights of women and girls in Nigeria:

i. Asika v Atuanya (2008) 17 NWLR (pt 1117) p.286: In this case, the Court of Appeal held that any custom that is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience must be abolished, and should not be allowed to rear its ugly head. A custom that discriminates against women by denying them the right to own land in their father’s estate was held to be repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. The Court also held further that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria re-emphasized the rights of every citizen of Nigeria to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria, as such women should not be deprived of ownership and the right of inheritance of immovable property.

ii. Lois Chituru Ukeje vs Mrs Gladys Ada Ukeje April 2014, the Supreme Court of Nigeria declared in this case that no matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate. Consequently, the Igbo customary law which disentitles a female child from partaking in the sharing of his deceased fathers estate is a breach of section 42(1)(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, a fundamental Rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian. This said discriminatory law is void as it conflicts with section 42(1)(2) of the said Constitution.

iii. Onyibor Anekwe & Anor v. Mrs. Maria Nweke (2014) LPELR 22697 (SC), the Supreme Court held that Nigerian customs which disinherit women are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and should therefore not be allowed to stand. The court therefore declared as repulsive, the custom of the Awka people in Anambra State which allows married women to be disinherited upon the death of their husband because they did not have a male child for the late husband.

iv. Dr. Priye Iyalla-Amadi Vs Director- General of the Nigeria Immigration Service & Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in which the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt held that it was discriminatory and a violation of Section 42 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 18(3) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights for the immigration to insist on a written consent of the husband before an international passport can be issued for the wife (woman) when no similar condition is applicable to the men.

v. The provision of the Police Act, which prohibits a female officer from marrying a man of her choice without the permission of the Commissioner of Police in the command where she is serving, has been declared illegal and unconstitutional by a Federal High Court. The judge held that Regulation 124 was illegal, null and void due to its inconsistency with Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution and proceeded to annul it pursuant to Section 1(3) of the Constitution.

2.13 With these judgments many more women will be bold to come forward and challenge situations of injustice and because it is a decision of the Supreme Court, no court can legally give a contrary judgment.

Chapter Three

Developmental strategy

investing in women and girls is one of the most effective ways of promoting development.

It has long been recognised that investing in the human development of women — and particularly the education of girls — reaps a dual dividend. It improves the quality of life of the women in question, enabling them to be more productive members of society. It also enables them to become champions of human development for their families and communities. The resulting improvement to their children’s welfare and life opportunities has multiplier effects that expand with each new generation. Conversely, social problems that disproportionately affect women, such as high maternal mortality and violence against women, destroy human capital. When women are illiterate, with poor health and little control over their fertility, their children also pay the price. These are not just women’s issues; they are brakes on Africa’s development.


In the past decade access to basic health services has risen dramatically across Africa, yielding real progress in tackling preventable diseases. For example, deaths from measles, a major child killer, declined by 80% in sub-Saharan Africa

between 2000 and 2011.10 Across Africa, the under-five mortality rate has decreased by 37% since 1990, and maternal mortality has fallen by 42%.11

Women have benefited from greater access to health services, but they still face many health risks. The expansionof health services has led to many improvements in healthcare for African women. In sub-Saharan Africa, around halfof all births are now supported by a skilled birth attendant.12Some countries, such as Ghana, Ethiopia and Rwanda, havereduced maternal mortality by improving access to skilled birthattendance and obstetric care and educating communitiesto make better use of health services. Yet Africa as a wholewill not meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) onmaternal mortality, and its rate of progress is behind otherdeveloping regions. Women are at greater risk of dying duringchildbirth in sub-Saharan Africa than in any other region of theworld. For women aged 15 to 19, complications in pregnancyand childbirth remain the leading cause of death.13

African women also face a wide range of other health challenges. They are less likely than men to take measures to avoid contracting HIV from their sexual partners. They are more at risk from burns from cooking accidents and pulmonary diseases from indoor air pollution. Women from poor communities face the risk of unsafe abortions. Overall, women’s health status is closely linked to their position within society. Where women are discriminated against, economically marginalised or vulnerable to violence, their health also suffers.

Women have a right to control their fertility. Where women are able to make informed choices on the number of children they bear — with access to both information and safe means of birth control — they are better placed to provide for the welfare of their families. In many African countries, fewer than 10% of women have access to contraception. The unmet need for safe birth control (that is, the proportion of women who do not want to become pregnant but are not using contraception) is above 35% in countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Liberia.

Africa’s population is expected to rise from 831 million in 2010 to 2.1 billion in 2050. If there is no reduction in fertility rates, it could reach 4 billion by 2100, according to some estimates,1

The driving force behind this approach rests on the assumption that sustainable development is the most effective means to eliminate poverty. Sustainable development, in the international development context, refers to initiatives that have the potential ability for communities to be self-sufficient, currently and in future generations, to meet the needs of its inhabitants in the absence of external aid (Kirsop, Arunachalam, & Chan,2007).

One initiative that encourages sustainable development is microfinance. Microfinance is an economic initiative that Dr. Mohammed Yunus pioneered in Bangladesh in the 1970‟s (Adams & Raymond, 2008) as a means to provide financial services, particularly credit, to people who have little or no guaranteed source of income. Yunus devised a group-based monetary lending system that relies heavily on social collateral and community-level social dynamics. The success of Yunus‟ microfinance institution, Grameen Bank, generated global interest in microfinance as an effective poverty-alleviation strategy. In the three decades since its inception, microfinance has been successful in stimulating economic activity to improve the living standards of poor citizens. This has contributed to its rapid growth in the field of international development. According to Moyo (2009) there are currently at least 43 countries across 5 continents that are providing millions of poor people with financial services.

Microfinance is now considered to be a key factor in the attempt to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to reduce poverty by 50% by 2015 (United Nations, 2008).

Theoretical and conceptual framework

Supporting NGO Strategy to Women’s right

Action and Changes

Report and Recommendation by the special rapporteur of the UN

Recommending Legal and development strategy to tackle these problem


Giving Women Access

Change Work place

Changes in their economic condition


In Nigeria, some laudable efforts have been made to put in place the necessary mechanisms required for the elimination of gender discrimination so as to ensure gender parity and human dignity. The National Gender Policy, which replaced and reinforced the previous National Policy on Women, is particularly targeted at the gender inequality problematic in Nigeria. In the face of the above, the history of development policies in Nigeria has somewhat been that of lackadaisical attitude to the gender variable. The first two decades of development planning in Nigeria from 1963 when it became a Republic, for instance, was largely characterized by gender- blind and gender-insensitive development policies. In the same vein, Nigeria, particularly since the wake of the 1 980s, embraced gender-biased economic policies where women’s interests were subsumed within the national interest and gender sensitivity was almost inconsequential, infinitesimal and a non-issue.

With the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals by the United Nations in September 2000 more interest has been generated and a better attention paid to the pursuit of gender sensitive policies at both global and national levels. Specifically, the third goal, which is aimed at achieving gender equality and women empowerment, is both of intrinsic value and at the same time at the heart of the attainment of all the other goals. This is essentially because the United Nations Millennium Declaration maintains that if women are granted their pride of place in history, the gesture and development will assist the process of effectively combating poverty, hunger, disease and stimulating sustainable development. At least, until equal numbers of girls and boys are in school at all levels of education it will be impossible to build the knowledge necessary to eradicate poverty and hunger, combat disease and ensure environmental sustainability. The benchmark for assessing the level of attainment of gender equality and women empowerment includes enrolment in education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, employment as well as political decision-making. The gender parity or equality question in Nigeria will therefore be analyzed in the context of the under listed indicators

Evaluation of the strategic Framework


1. The Strategic Results Framework (Implementation Plan) of the National Gender Policy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been developed at a watershed moment, whereby the government is recommitting itself to the implementation of national and international conventions and laws, in support for gender equality, the empowerment of women and women’s human rights. The Strategic Results Framework has been developed from priorities within the National Gender Policy. It has further been prioritized based on the challenges that could be addressed within the immediate 5 years, with lead provided by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development.

2. 16 key thematic areas were signified1 within the National Gender Policy for an elaborate description of the situation analysis of the national gender status, which continues to present major challenges to the country’s overall development. The key policy areas are focused around 5 critical areas – (i) Culture re-orientation and sensitisation to change gender perceptions and stereotypes; (ii) Promotion of women’s human rights and in particular focusing on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and in supporting new legislations and legal rights of women; (iii) Promoting the empowerment of women and integrating gender within key sectors as highlighted within the NGP – (Agriculture/Rural Development; Environment/Natural Resource; Gender and HIV/AIDS; Health and Reproductive Health/ Rights; Education/Training; Labour/Employment); (iv) Women’s political participation and engendered governance including gender and conflict management and (v) Supporting institutional development including the use of ICT and building strategic partnerships, including identifying new partnerships with men’s organisations, faith based organisations and traditional institutions.

1 Please refer to the Nigeria National Gender Policy for the articulation of the 16 Thematic Areas.

3. The Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, has developed this Strategic Results Framework that enables it to successfully implement the core principles of the National Gender Policy. The guiding principles as indicated within the National Gender Policy are as follows:

 Making gender analysis an integral part of all policy articulation, implementation and evaluation undertaken by not only by Government at all tiers and within all arms, but also by all stakeholders.

 All stakeholders, including government, the private sector, civil society organisations, and community based organisations, development partners, and individual women and men have a role to play in the achievement of gender equity and equality.

 Instituting a gendered culture that brings about cooperative interaction of women and men, recognising human rights of all persons a culture which respects women’s and men’s capabilities and entails cooperation and interdependence-

 A cultural re-orientation that will be supported by policies and programmes of gender education, sensitisation, dialogues, incentives, motivation and responsiveness, rather than only through legislations.

 Transformation of the policy environment within which gender equity programmes are to be implemented, supported by resources – financial and technical, demonstrating political will.


 Reforming of the existing structures of the national gender management system with a view to strengthening their capacity for a more robust mandate.

 Promoting the empowerment of women through the bridging of existing gender gaps will be considered integral to the achievement of gender equality, and using policies and legislation of affirmative action if necessary and would no way be deemed discriminatory.

 The Policy builds on existing structures and practices as well as draw from international experiences and practices.

The Strategic Development Results Framework will particularly focus on the following:

– Establishment of an institutional framework for the advancement of the status of women, as well as the achievement of gender equality;

– Advocacy for the promotion of new attitudes, values and behavior and a culture of respect for all human beings;

– Strengthening the voice and leadership of women for continuous organizing, advocacy and ensuring that gender equality issues remain high on the national agenda.

3. The Strategic Results Framework has the following starting points:

a. It is grounded on the fact that the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development has the primary responsibility for the coordination of the implementation of the National Gender Policy based on its mandate as the key national gender machinery for the Federal Government of Nigeria, and that the Federal Government of Nigeria is demonstrating political will to implement the policy through the allocation of resources.

b. The overall implementation will be the responsibility of all critical stakeholders. The Ministries of Women Affairs at the State levels, the Local Government Areas/Women Development Officers/structures will undertake the coordination of the implementation at the state and local levels respectively. Critical stakeholders in the implementation are sectors like Agriculture, Labour, Health, Education, National (States) Agencies for the Control of AIDS (NACA/SACAs), Environment, Trade/Commerce; and institutions like the National and States’ Assemblies, the Judiciary, public sector institutions like Banks and Micro financing organisations. It is expected that financing will be provided within the national budgeting system, through the gender machinery and structures and through the various sectors. This would require strengthened partnerships and coordination within all government institutions, and in particular between the key gender machinery in the country, the national planning institutions and the Finance Ministries at all levels.

c. It is developed based on the critical issues from the National Gender Policy which was developed through a comprehensive consultative process and thus represents feedback on how to proceed from all critical stakeholders in Nigeria

d. It is a framework that is ambitious in its focus on deepening the knowledge that exists in Nigeria on gender equality and the empowerment of women, and would be creating strategic partnerships between government, at the Federal, States’ and Local levels, and women’s organizations, civil society, the United Nations and multi/bilateral donors to ensure accountability to the implementation of the National Gender Policy.



A. Implementation and accountability for gender equality and the empowerment of women in Nigeria have lagged behind the commitments and normative agreements that the Federal Government of Nigeria has signed on to at both the national and international levels.

 The Millennium Development Goals to which the Federal Government of Nigeria is a signatory, which aims to significantly reduce poverty, inequality and disease, is supposed to be achieved by 2015 and the Strategic Results Framework presents an opportunity to contribute to the achievement of these goals. The Strategic Results Framework demonstrates how to translate these commitments into concrete action, investment and hopefully result into positive changes in women’s lives in Nigeria.

B. Strategic partnerships and leadership commitment are key to the success of the Strategic Results Framework of the National Gender Policy.

 Implementing the Strategic Results Framework would require strategic partnerships – within government (the executive arm) and among the different levels of government (Federal, States & Local) and with the other key tiers – Legislative and Judiciary. Partnerships would also need to be broadened to include women organizations within the civil society, UN agencies, bilateral and multi lateral donors supporting the government of Nigeria to implement commitments to gender equality. Already there exist very many indicators of progress from such partnerships – collaboration on promoting women’s political participation, collective support to the passing of critical laws in states’ Houses of Assemblies, girls’ education initiatives, advocacy on harmful traditional practices and emerging partnerships to deal with gender and sexual based violence.

 The Paris Declaration and Principles on new aid modalities are reshaping development partnerships. In Nigeria, donor governments and partners, including the UN, are required to support national priorities with a focus on national ownership, harmonization and alignment, mutual accountability and results. This mean the Federal Government of Nigeria would need to define more concretely its results, to enable partners support the implementation. The Strategic Results Framework is therefore one of such frameworks that would shape the partnership between Nigeria and her development partners in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women, to which the development partners have also made commitments to.

 While it has been recognized that there is a need for partnerships with new constituencies, including working with men on women’s human rights and in particular on gender and sexual based violence etc, gender equality however remain the key responsibility of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and counterparts in the States and local governments.

C. The implementation of the National Gender Policy will lead to a need for technical and policy advice from technical national institutions like the National Centre for Women in Development, the Bureau of Statistics and key research institutions, including Universities, to move forward on gender equality.

 Recognition of the diversities and multiplicity of actions required across a spectrum of actors as well as a dearth of required expertise to move the process in a systematic manner. Unavailability of tools, data and information to stimulate evidence based planning, advocacy and programming are additional challenges that constrain gender


mainstreaming at the different tiers and levels of governance, and in different sectors and situations.

 The Strategic Results Framework focuses on the restructuring and strengthening of the National Centre for Women in Development as the key institution responsible for providing critical analysis, baseline indicators and providing status of progress to guide the implementation of the National Gender Policy, and more importantly in ensuring that Nigeria becomes an equitable society. The Centre would be critical for the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs as the driver of gender equality and the empowerment of women in Nigeria. These two institutions would need to be strengthened and resources invested in them to enable them meet the challenges of implementing the Strategic Results Framework. The strengthening will include adequate resourcing, positioning within government, placement of highly technical staff etc.

 Other critical research institutions like the Bureau of Statistics, Universities etc. will be required to develop gender policies and management systems to engender their processes (recruitment, training etc) and more importantly, their research work that would provide added value to the achievement of the objectives of the National Gender Policy in terms of changing perceptions, trend gender analysis on critical areas like poverty, agriculture, HIV/AIDS, etc.

 The Strategic Results Framework delivers a clear message – the two institutions, and their counterparts in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, need to be strong drivers and voice for gender equality and the empowerment of women in government. That there should be within these institutions, incentives and accountability for performance, necessary to convert visionary commitments identified within the National Gender Policy into concrete action. The Strategic Results Framework is based on the premise that there is political will to respond to the challenges identified within the National Gender Policy, and to realign national resources, strengthen national institutions for gender mainstreaming and support coordination mechanisms for the empowerment of women.

Supporting developmental N.G.O. Strategy to Women Human Rights

Report and Recommendation by the special rapporteur of the UN

Chapter Four


What is Empowerment?

Understanding gender equality and women’s empowerment

Gender equality implies a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, outcomes, rights and obligations in all spheres of life. Equality between men and women exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence; have equal opportunities for financial independence through work or through setting up businesses; enjoy equal access to education and the opportunity to develop personal ambitions.

A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives.

Women’s empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all. Where women’s status is low, family size tends to be large, which makes it more difficult for families to thrive. Population and development and reproductive health programmes are more effective when they address the educational opportunities, status and empowerment of women. When women are empowered, whole families benefit, and these benefits often have ripple effects to future generations.

The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined — they are socially determined, changing and changeable. Although they may be justified as being required by culture or religion, these roles vary widely by locality and change over time

What is Empowerment?

A review of definitions of empowerment reveals both diversity and commonality. Most definitions focus on issues of gaining power and control over decisions and resources that determine the wellbeing of one’s life. Inherently, it is an ideology endowed with potential for assisting development growth, especially for women in developing nations. For example, according to DAWN, empowerment represents the transformation of power relations throughout society, increased wellbeing, community development, selfsufficiency, expansion of individual choices and capacities for self-reliance. The above description seems to substantiate one of the few specific empowerment definitions that centred on women’s development. Similarly, Keller and Mbwewe (1991:45) describe empowerment as A process whereby women become able to organise themselves to increase their own self-reliance, to assert their independent right to make choices and to control resources which will assist in challenging and eliminating their own ‘socio-political’ subordination

As noted above, the abstract nature of empowerment means there is no mono-causal explanation or application of the concept. Some of these explanations and usages are outside the scope of this study, while others gave a general overview of the concept. For example, Friedmann, a sociologist, exploring the concept of empowerment (based on his theory of ‘Alternative Development’) identified three kinds of empowerment: social, political and psychological. Information, knowledge, skills, financial resources and participation in social organisations constitute social power, while political power entails access to decision-making processes affecting one’s future, including participation in voting and collective action (1992). McWhirter (1991), identifies empowerment as the process by which people, organisations, or groups who are powerless become aware of the power dynamics at work in their life, develop the skills and capacity for gaining some reasonable control over their lives and exercise this control without infringing upon the rights of others.

Following McWhirter’s (1991) definition of empowerment, it becomes apparent that empowerment has a specific focus in women’s development in the developing countries. According to McWhirter, a process whereby women become able to organise themselves to increase their own self-reliance, to assert their independent right to make choices and to control resources, will assist in challenging and eliminating their own subordination in the households (p.222).

Meanwhile, empowerment, according to the World Bank, is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Central to this process are actions which both build the individual and collective assets of the poor and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organisational and institutional context that govern the use of these assets (World Bank

Poverty Analysis 2003). Furthermore, the World Bank 2003 Annual Report and other World Bank reports since the early 1990s, recognises that empowerment is very vital to overall progress in development as it “ensures that all people have the ability to shape their own lives by providing opportunity and security and fostering effective participation and social inclusion” (p.13). Nonetheless, in the later 1980s and early 1990s, some commentators found the World Bank shifting slightly to a revised neo-liberal model, stressing market-friendly state intervention and good governance ( Peet and Hartwick 1999). Gradually the concept of empowerment, especially through micro-credit schemes became the catchphrase for every women’s development programme initiated by the World Bank in the developing countries. In its written statement, the World Bank has maintained its commitment to a gender mainstreaming strategy, but evidence emerging from developing countries indicates its policies do not achieve this. The World Bank has been criticised for paying lip service to women’s issues by different quarters, especially the feminist organisations who maintain that the World Bank’s development programmes mainly support male interests. As Marina Lazreg (2002:125) has noted, “the World Bank is subsuming the concrete under the abstract, practice under theory, resulting in the blurring, if not the obliteration of the difference, or the often noted lack of fit between theories and practices of development”. Therefore, the question is how does the World Bank plan to challenge the existing sociocultural practices or patriarchal structures that are at the root of women’s disempowerment while in the pursuit of the “efficiency approach”  ? And how empowering are World Bank policies and programmes when they are implemented in the form of ‘power-over’?

With the increasing dominance of the ‘financial sustainability paradigm’ by institutions like the World Bank, the UN and other international donors, definitions of empowerment have become diluted to mean insignificant increases in individual income and ‘selfconfidence’. Therefore, to locate the concept of empowerment in relation to this study, I have explored the different views and explanations of this concept by various feminist writers in gender and development and from the understanding of market and rural women in Oyo and Imo. It is a logic that stems from different understandings of women’s wellbeing, growth and sustainability. Besides, the profound – but un-identified  Efficiency sought to increase women’s productivity in order to enhance their quality of live, differences in the ways in which power is understood perhaps explain how it is that people and organisations as far apart politically as feminists, politicians and the World Bank have embraced the concept with such interest (see also Rowlands 1999).

Proposition that Empowerment is one of the strategy for promoting Equality

Theory and Practice of Empowerment

According to Cheston and Kuhn (2002), empowerment encompasses both choice and power. To them it involves having options to choose from as well as having the power to choose among the available options. In the context of microfinance, adhering to a financially-based paradigm of empowerment is problematic, because it reflects the choice component of empowerment, but not the power component. For example, a woman who has increased economic resources as a result of her participation in a microfinance program may have more choices than she did previously, however it does not necessarily mean that she has the power to make more or different choices than she could before. Daley-Harris (2000) explains that women‟s power to make choices may be largely determined by the values of the society in which she lives. In this way, changes in income may not make a difference on a woman‟s perception of empowerment if women are generally disempowered as a group within her culture. Therefore, causal beliefs that presume an automatic direct relationship between change in income with change in empowerment are based on naïve assumptions

Conceptualising empowerment: resources, agency and achievement.

One way of thinking about power is in terms of the ability to make choices is to be disempowered, therefore, implies to be denied choice1. My under-standing of the notion of empowerment is that it is inescapably bound upwith the condition of disempowerment and refers to the processes bywhich those who have been denied the ability to make choices acquiresuch an ability. In other words, empowerment entails a process of change.

People who exercise a great deal of choice in their lives may be very powerful, but they are not empowered in the sense in which I am using the word, because they were never disempowered in the first place. However, to be made relevant to the analysis of power, the notion of choice has to be qualified in a number of ways. First of all, choice necessarily implies alternatives, the ability to have chosen otherwise. There is a logical association between poverty and disempowerment because an insufficiency of the means for meeting one’s basic needs often rules out the ability to exercise meaningful choice. However, even when survival imperatives are longer dominant, there is still the problem that not all choices are equally relevant to the definition of power. Some choices have greater significance than others in terms of their consequences for people’s lives. We therefore have to make a distinction between first and second order choices where first order choices are those strategic life choices, such as choice of livelihood, where to live, whether to marry, who to marry whether to have children, how many children to have, freedom of movement and choice of friends, which are critical for people to live the lives they want.  These strategic life choices help to frame other, second-order and less consequential choices which may be important for the quality of one’s life but do not constitute its defining parameters.

Empowerment thus refers to the expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them. Changes in the ability to exercise choice can be thought of in terms of changes in three inter-related dimensions which make up choice: resources, which form the conditions under which choices are made; agency which is at the heart of the process by which choices are made; and achievements, which are the outcomes of choices. These dimensions are inter-dependent because changes in each contributes to, and benefits from, changes in the others. Thus, the achievements of a particular moment are translated into enhanced resources or agency, and hence capacity for making choices, at a later moment in time.

 Dimensions of empowerment

Resources (conditions)

Achievements (outcomes)

Agency (process)

Resources can be material, social or human. In other words, they refer not only to conventional economic resources, such as land, equipment, finance, working capital etc. but also to the various human and social resources which serve to enhance the ability to exercise choice. Human resources are embodied in the individual and encompasses his or her knowledge, skills, creativity, imagination and so on. Social resources, on the other hand, are made up of the claims, obligations and expectations which inhere in the relationships, networks and connections which prevail in different spheres of life and which enable people to improve their ituation and life chances beyond what would be possible through their individual efforts alone.

Resources are distributed through a variety of different institutions and processes and access to resources will be determined by the rules, norms and practices which prevail in different institutional domains (eg. Familial norms, patron-client relationships, informal wage agreements, formal contractual transactions, public sector entitlements). These rules, norms and practices give some actors authority over others in determining the principles of distribution and exchange within that sphere. Consequently, the distribution of ‘allocative’ resources tends to be embedded within the distribution of ‘authoritative resources’ (Giddens), the ability to define priorities and enforce claims. Heads of households, chiefs of tribes, directors of firms, managers of organisations, elites within a community are all endowed with decision-making authority within particular institutional contexts by virtue of their positioning within those institutions. The terms on which people gain access to resources are as important as the resources themselves when the issue of empowerment is being considered.

Access may be conditional on highly clientilist forms of dependency relationships or extremely exploitative conditions of work or it may be achieved in ways which offer dignity and a sense of self-worth. Empowerment entails a change in the terms on which resources are acquired as much as an increase in access to resources

The second dimension of power relates to agency, the ability to define one’s goals and act upon them. Agency is about more than observable action; it also encompasses the meaning, motivation and purpose which individuals bring to their activity, their sense of agency, or ‘the power within’. While agency often tends to be operationalised as ‘individual decision making’, particularly in the mainstream economic literature, in reality, it encompasses a much wider range of purposive actions, including bargaining, negotiation, deception, manipulation, subversion, resistance and protest as well as the more intangible, cognitive processes of reflection and analysis. Agency also encompasses collective, as well as individual, reflection and action.

Agency has both positive and negative meanings in relation to power2. In the positive sense of the ‘power to’, it refers to people’s capacity to define their own life-choices and to pursue their own goals, even in the face of opposition from others. Agency can also be exercised in the more negative sense of ‘power over’, in other words, the capacity of an actor or category of actors to over-ride the agency of others, for instance, through the use of violence, coercion and threat. However, power can also operate in the absence of any explicit agency. The norms and rules governing social behaviour tend to ensure that certain outcomes are reproduced without any apparent exercise of agency. Where these outcomes bear on the strategic life choices noted earlier, they testify to the exercise of power as ‘non-decision-making’ (Lukes). The norms of marriage in South Asia, for instance, invest parents with the authority for choosing their children’s partners, but are unlikely to be experienced as a form of power – unless such authority is questioned.

Resources and agency together constitute what Sen refers to as capabilities, the potential that people have for living the lives they want, of achieving valued ways of ‘being and doing’. Sen uses the idea of ‘functioning’s’ to refer to all the possible ways of ‘being and doing’ which are valued by people in a given context and of ‘functioning achievements’ to refer to the particular ways of being and doing which are realised by different individuals. These realised achievements, or the failure to do so, constitute our third dimension of power. Clearly, where the failure to achieve valued ways of ‘being and doing’ can be traced to laziness, incompetence or some other reason particular to an individual, then the issue of power is not relevant. When, however, the failure to achieve reflects asymmetries in the underlying distribution of capabilities, it can be taken as a manifestation of disempowerment.

Impact and Effective way of Empowerment

Different Strategies of Empowerment

Political Participation

3.7 Since 2007, there have been increased efforts to ensure increased women’s representation and participation in both elective and appointive positions in the country through:

i. Increased emphasis on implementing the provisions of the National Gender Policy, in all spheres of government and non-governmental activities;

ii. Insistence on the 35% Affirmative Action target of the National Gender Policy in all appointive and elected offices.

iii. Massive sensitization of the citizenry on the negative impact of harmful traditional practices hampering women from political participation.

iv. Deliberate schemes and programmes aimed at the economic empowerment.

3.8 Additionally, Political Parties are advancing policies aimed at encouraging women into political decision making positions at the highest levels. Most political Parties now allow women seeking political offices to obtain nomination forms free of charge whereas their male counterparts pay heavily to obtain same. The FMWASD with UN Women and other development partners put in place a Trust Fund to assist female politicians bidding for elective offices.

3.9 The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a strategic institution developed its in-house gender policy to positively influence the enabling legislative CEDAW/C/NGA/7-8


environment for electoral processes. It will also facilitate the adoption of relevant institutional measures and mechanisms related to the achievement of impartiality and equality and contribute to bridging gender gaps in political representation at all electoral related levels, especially in elected and appointive positions

Women and politics

Women’s political functions in pre-state and community politics are rich in variety and broadly representative of all subsaharan Africa. In southeastern Nigeria, women’s authority structures paralleled men’s to function as women’s courts, market authorities, and overseers of village welfare. Women managed their own affairs in kinship institutions, age grades, secret and title societies. In markets, women fixed prices, settled quarrels among traders, and imposed fines to enforce their will.  Ibo villages have women’s councils, at various territorial levels.9 Among the Mende in Sierre Leone, women’s secret societies called Bundu, which protect women’s rights, serve as political support bases and training grounds for women chiefs, such as for Madam Yoko of the Kpa Mende Confederacy. In Cameroon, Bamileke female farmers may be admitted into the Mensu, a women’s society composed of the best cultivators. The Mandjon was a group of important women who administered village work done by women, such as clearing paths.  Among the Kikuyu in Kenya, women’s age-segmented organizations matched those of men’s and performed a wide variety of functions, including judgment, mutual aid, initiation into womanhood, cooperative farm labour, religious ceremonies, and disciplinary action among women.

The kingdoms of the central lakes region, southeastern Africa, and West Africa had formally defined female authorities such as QJeen Motheri QJeen, or other royal positions, some of which still continue today. The Ohemaa or female ruler among the Akan in Ghana occupied the senior of two stools, a visible repository of political authority. She advised the chief and had JudiCial jurisdiction over domestic matters and those of the royal family. Elsewhere, women represented women’s interests in the political system. Among the Yoruba, the Iyalode, a woman chief selected on the bases of her achievements (rather than birth) served as spokesperson for women andrepresented their interests in opening new markets and judging infractions.

She, like the Omu among the Igbo, presided over a council and counsellors whom she elected . The Bamileke Fong’ smother, regarded as the eq .. Jivalent of a chief, presided over women’s secret societies.16 still common in contemporary times are women’s rotating credit societies, agricultural communal labor groups, and church and cultural associations.

However prevalent women’s participation, African societies are not stratified by gender, class, or status  t-tlt all societies had women’s associations or authority structures, and in rigidly stratified societies with titled female leaders, the mass of ordinary women were not always part

of politics. Regardless of stratification patterns, the pre-capitalist character of most African societies prior to colonialism limited the scope of existing resources which were distributed unevenly (or evenly) by gender, class and status. The colonial state hastened and aggravated this stratification, setting the stage for an expansion in the totality of resources to distribute unevenly, with men accumulating a disproportionate

share of opportunities, wage employment, mobility, and credit.

Micro Finance as a tool of Empowerment

Theory and Practice of Micro-Finance

Empowerment and Micro-Credit Schemes

Challenges to Empowerment through Microfinance


Not everyone in Bangladesh or beyond is happy with the .microfinance paradigm.. In some cases, the entire microfinance approach to poverty alleviation has been criticised, often from a neo-Marxist perspective, in terms of its focus upon the market and poor people.s financial liquidity rather than on the socio-economic structures that underlie poverty (see Mayoux 1995). Others note that the very success of microfinance as an industry is based on its failure to challenge the foundations of class structure and patriarchy, and that the home-based self-employment often emphasised by MFIs limit the potential for people to escape poverty and marginality. A handful of Bangladeshi NGOs, such as Nijera Kori, have maintained their commitment to fostering radical social movements through awareness-building and mobilisation against instances of injustice and barriers of access to public entitlements . without recourse to providing microcredit (Kabeer 2002).

Most critiques today, however, focus on moving the models forward, not discrediting the approach in general. For instance, the degree of achievement of the oft-stated goals of poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor, and the extent to which different groups benefit, have become important topics of research and debate. Hulme and Moseley (1996) have highlighted the overall lack of knowledge about those for whom microcredit is just .micro-debt.: loan defaulters and programme dropouts. An increased understanding of these groups has facilitated innovations in financial services for the poorest that emphasise flexibility, savings, and the central role of assets (Matin and Hulme 2003). Further, the perceived trade-offs between the achievement of goals of poverty alleviation and empowerment, the evolution of financially sustainable MFIs, and the provision of a broader range of financial and non-financial services to a more diverse clientele, have come under increased scrutiny by practitioners and scholars, as have the best ways of reducing costs to both MFIs and their donors, and to poor people themselves, and the role of technology in this struggle.

It is also important to note that there have been failures among Bangladeshi MFIs, these include the collapse of Gano Shahajyo Sangstha (GSS), a large NGO-MFI, due to allegations of misuse of donor funds and gender discrimination in 1999. It is also clear from fieldwork that an unknown number of poor people have suffered because of bogus NGOs. In such cases, tricksters establish savings groups with premises of loans once people have built up a savings fund. However, before the loans start the organisers disappear with the group.s savings.


Evaluating Three Micro finance project that provide micro credit to women in Nigeria

Female Empowerment through Microcredit in other part of the World relevant to Nigeria (Bangladesh as case study)

Bangladesh is internationally renowned, not for its cultural heritage or beautiful natural environment of which its citizens are justifiably proud, but for poverty, floods, famine, disease, war, overpopulation, oppressed women, corruption, ferryboat disasters, water contaminated by arsenic. Bengali Nobel Prize winners . Rabindranath Tagore and Amartya Sen . are .claimed. by India, the Royal Bengal Tiger is endangered, and we probably shouldn.t mention the cricket. But Bangladesh is now also famous for the .invention. of microfinance; for the commitment and

insight of Muhammed Yunus and other NGO leaders; for the vast cadre of competent and honest NGO field staff who put the microfinance model of poverty alleviation into practice every day; and even for narrowing formerly huge gender gaps in economic participation, educationand health11 (arguably largely through microfinance and the other activities of NGO MFIs).

Employment creation by the MFIs themselves . above and beyond the effects on clients  has been enormous. We estimate that there are at least 50,000 credit officer-type positions across the country, and considering their own households, many times this number derive their livelihood from the provision of microfinance services. Below we discuss the crucial role played by the early .social entrepreneurs. as creators and developers of MFIs and the microfinance industry in Bangladesh, but an important oft-overlooked effect of the current industry is its role in creating the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF)

.If you think a state-run organisation is always doomed to fail you are wrong. Better look at Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation .. (Shahiduzzaman 1999) The Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (Rural Employment Support Foundation) is GoB and an .apex organisation., a parastatal involved in loaning GoB and donor funds (World Bank, USAID, ADB and IFAD) to its partner organisations (POs) for on-lending as microcredit. When PKSF was established by the Government of Bangladesh in 1990, it was a signal that microfinance was coming of age as public policy. While the organisation took a few years to establish itself, it is now a main means through which Bangladeshi MFIs access funds, and may be both the largest and most successful of such organisations globally. By the end of financial year 2003-4, the cumulative loan disbursement of PKSF POs at field level stood at over US$ 2.2 billion (PKSF 2004). These funds have been on-lended to 5.1 million borrowers, of whom 90% are women. In financial year 2003-4, PKSF provided over US$58 million in loanable funds to 206 POs: three big. organisations (ASA, BRAC and Proshika); 195 small and medium ones; and, for the first time, eight .pre-PKSF. organisations. PKSF POs operate in every district in Bangladesh.

This is an exceptionally large number of MFIs in the context of apex bodies in other countries, but there are still well over one thousand small MFIs in Bangladesh not funded through PKSF.13 In 2002 PKSF funds made up only about 15% of the total microfinance industry in Bangladesh, compared to 37% Grameen Bank funds (Levy 2002; calculated from PKSF 2002). At the same time, PKSF funds made up 24% of the on-loanable funds available to NGO-MFIs, with 25% from (largely compulsory) member savings and 17% from .service charge. (interest), and only 16% directly from foreign donors. In 2003-4, PKSF POs were able to maintain a loan recovery rate above 98% at the field level. In turn, POs were able to repay PKSF, including interest (.service charges.), as per schedule, such that PKSF was also able to maintain a loan recovery rate above 98%.

A large majority of PKSF credit was issued under the rural microcredit programme . 74% and 71% of all mainstream funds, and 69% and 62% of total funds in 2002-3 and 2003-4 respectively. Both urban microcredit and microenterprise credit are, however, growing in importance in PKSF.s portfolio. PKSF also assists POs in strengthening their institutional capacity, in an attempt to enhance their sustainability and ability to repay loans. While PKSF claims that it favours no particular model of microfinance, instead encouraging innovations and different approaches based on experience, Matin et al (2000) note that it does in fact .prefer its partners to use the dominant product. . in this case, the Grameen-style group lending approach.

Many commentators note that the comparative success of PKSF is based upon the fact that its development was preceded by that of a large and stable microfinance industry, as well as on the strong and independent decision-making that its management is able to pursue, attributed to the prominence and commitment of individuals on its Governing Body and General Body (Levy 2002). In May 2005, the Managing Director of PKSF, Dr Salehuddin Ahmed, was designated the ninth Governor of Bangladesh Bank. He has committed to turning the central bank from a purely regulatory body into a .bank of the people devoted to alleviating poverty from the country., with a focus on microcredit for small and medium enterprises (Independent 2005). If PKSF.s emergence in 1990 was a signal that microfinance was coming of age as public policy, Dr Ahmed.s appointment may be read as an indication that it has become part of mainstream public policy.

Export and replication

Bangladeshi microfinance models have been exported both formally and informally around the world. The Grameen Bank Replication Program of Grameen Foundation USA was established in 1999 to support institutions and social entrepreneurs throughout the world who seek to replicate the Grameen Bank approach, or scale up existing programs to provide financial services to the poor. Through 52 partners in 22 countries (including the US), the Grameen Foundation USA currently affects close to 1.2 million of the world.s poorest families (Grameen Foundation USA, 2004).

BRAC is unique as a .southern. NGO that has now .exported. itself to two other countries. In June 2002, BRAC Afghanistan was launched, and in May 2005 BRAC registered as an NGO in Sri Lanka, after first arriving in the country with a relief and rehabilitation programme after the tsunami. Of course, BRAC is not only globally known as a microfinance success . its non-formal primary education programme is particularly well-regarded . and BRAC Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, like their parent, does health, education and social development as well as microfinance.

Nonetheless, by September 2003, BRAC Afghanistan had lent almost US$1 million to over 10,000 borrowers, with a 100% repayment rate. The status of microfinance . particularly of the form developed in Bangladesh . as a .panacea. in the development industry has also been exemplified by several international bodies. In 1996, the World Bank set up the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP), and committed US$ 200 million to MFI programmes globally. Dr. Fasle Abed, founder of BRAC, was a member of its first Board and, when CGAP decided to focus on poverty-reduction it recruited two Bangladeshi staff to spearhead his function.

• The Microcredit Summit in February 1997 successfully raised donor and commercial funds in a unified effort to reach 100 million of the poorest families by the year 2005 (now extended to 2015). It is headed by Professor Yunus of the Grameen Bank. Also in February 1997, UNDP and UNCDF launched MicroStart in order to foster transparency and good institutional and financial performance among MFIs. Since its inception, MicroStart has become operational or is being developed in 20 countries, and grants have been approved for 68 MFIs. ASA is a MicroStart International Technical Service Provider, and has been instrumental in MFI development in Nigeria and the Philippines as well as India. Jain and Moore (2003:2) note several reasons that the .Grameen model. has become the most important in terms of replication. Some of these are to do with the Grameen Bank itself . its relatively early development, and, as discussed below, its leadership, which .has been especially active and effective in publicising the virtues of the Grameen model . and in doing so in terms that appeal to . donors.. The other reasons are two do with characteristics of the two biggest global microfinance .contenders.. The Banco Sol approach, it is argued, doesn.t seem to offer an alternative rural model, and its history is too grounded in recent Bolivian history. BRI success is too dependent on .the unusual capacity of Indonesian village-level authorities to monitor and influence individual households.. For many reasons of design and implementation discussed below, the Bangladesh experience or at least its portrayal by those at its forefront. seems to have grabbed the attention of practitioners and policy-makers internationally as both simple and flexible enough to apply to different contexts.

Explaining the Success of Microfinance in Bangladesh

How can the success of microfinance in Bangladesh be explained? Here we apply McCourt and Bebbington.s framework to try to identify and explore the key factors.

The Policy: Innovation, Design and Specification

As we saw in the previous section the initial stages of the evolution of microfinance in Bangladesh started as an experiment. Mohammad Yunus operated a small scale, action research project out of which emerged a number of lessons which he, and later others, applied to microfinance. Both the process adopted (experimenting on a small scale, improving the efficiency of the service once it became effective and phasing expansion over several years) and the .design. features selected (see below) have contributed to success. The process appears to be similar to what David Korten (1980) described in a seminal work as a .learning process. approach.

There are many overlapping explanations of why the Grameen model worked. They explain how it produced a product that met client needs, developed relatively low cost delivery mechanisms and generated resources that permitted it to survive and expand. Here we extract findings from Hulme and Mosley (1996). Jain and Moore (2003) provide a critical approach to many of these explanations.

Targeting: In order to reach those most in need and/or those most able to effectively utilise credit to alleviate their own poverty, Bangladeshi MFIs have adapted combinations of direct targeting, using an effective indicator-based means test (e.g. a combination of effective landlessness and involvement in manual labour combined with being female), and indirect targeting, through selfand peer-selection. Bangladeshi MFIs allow for self-selection through a combination of initially small loans with market-level interest rates and strict repayment conditions, as well as time consuming and potentially stigmatising membership obligations such as compulsory attendance at meetings.

Screening out .bad. (non-poor and too-poor/non-viable) clients: Charging market related interest rates and client involvement in group selection.

Ensuring repayment: Intensive borrower supervision by field staff; peer group monitoring; performance incentives to staff; progressively larger loan sizes; and, compulsory savings.

Reducing costs: Accessing no-interest or low-interest loans from donors; building up low cost client savings to on-lend; cost recovery by charging market-related interest rates.

Administrative efficiency: Working with groups; transferring transaction costs to clients; standardised products and procedures. Thus, the perceived financial soundness of micro financial services targeted at various subgroups of the poor . women, the landless, small business owners etc. . is not only based upon the replacement of subsidised credit by market-rate loans (indeed, most Bangladeshi MFIs continue to depend on subsidised donor credit, and few are sustainable). Equally important is the heightened ability of innovative targeting, screening and monitoring mechanisms. As Besley and Kanbur (1991:70) state, ..policy-makers can have their cake and eat it too . improved targeting means that more poverty alleviation can be achieved with less expenditure!.

For an extended period of time (1985-1995) other MFIs in Bangladesh (especially BRAC and Proshika) copied this specification . with modifications and improvements. After 1995, there was a growth in MFIs that signed up to the Grameen Bank story . the poor are bankable and sustainable institutions can be created to meet their microfinancial needs . but adopted very different models. Prominent amongst these are ASA; BURO, Tangail; and SafeSave.

An important feature to note, in relation to the main innovations in Bangladesh and elsewhere, is the central role of public and non-governmental organisations (Hulme and Mosley 1996). While much of the performance of MFIs has to be understood in terms of them adopting .private sector.

practices . charging market-related interest rates, treating individual branches as cost centres, stripping out administrative costs . the for-profit sector has played only a small role in experimentation and effective innovation.


Pilot projects around the world have shown that high levels of motivation and resourcing can achieve .success. on a small-scale in virtually any field. Once the innovation has been identified the task that emerges is how to shift to service-delivery on a large scale (see Rondinelli 1993 for a discussion of scaling-up pilot projects). In Bangladesh there were three main components to this process.

First, was the scaling up of the Grameen Bank itself. This required the standardisation of it .model. (cells of 5, groups of 30, 12 month loans, standard repayments etc.) the creation of an administrative structure that could steadily expand with only limited losses of effectiveness and efficiency and access to financial resources. Fuglesang and Chandler (1987) describe the model and the processes that permitted the Grameen Bank to expand without .over-reaching. itself.

In particular, Grameen Bank managed to create a human resources system that could turn out high numbers of effective fieldworkers and field level managers. Key elements of this included selection (take only new graduates who have not learned bad practices in the state or commercial sectors), practical training, a rewards package that matched the market, merit-based promotion, and the active promotion of an organisational myth. Professor Yunus fully understood the invisible, management benefits that arise from staff feeling they are part of a high performing organisation. Jain and Moore (2003) also note the importance of the relatively unhierarchical campus-style living. that Grameen Bank and many other MFIs promote, through which field staff are insulated from many of the pressures of both the people with whom they work, and their own families, such that they are able to focus on operating as an effective team.

As Grameen Bank expanded and developed its management information systems, based until the late 1990s on paper rather than disk, were sufficient to maintain its functioning. Access to financial resources for continuation and expansion was made possible by charging clients

interest rates around twice those charged in government .rural credit. schemes and through access to donor funds. There were so many donors in the 1980s and 1990s wishing to finance poverty reduction in Bangladesh, and so few .good projects. to fund, that Professor Yunus was able to select the donors from whom he would take grants.

The second path by which the microfinance industry was expanded was by competitor organisations copying the Grameen model (usually with some modifications). This is most obvious in the case of BRAC which operates a microfinance programme that is now of a similar size to the Grameen Bank in terms of numbers of active borrowers. Although BRAC staff like to argue that they invented their own model, it is clear that over the 1980s BRAC found it hard to compete with the Grameen Bank and it adopted the Grameen model into its .integrated. rural development approach to produce a .credit plus. model providing clients with group-based microcredit and technical advice.

Even more remarkably, Proshika . a consciousness-raising, peasant mobilisation NGO with origins in radical socialism . began to adopt the Grameen model in its programmes in the early 1990s. This created the basis for it to begin to rapidly expand (its clients seemed to prefer microcredit to consciousness-raising) and by the late 1990s microcredit was its major activity. Countless smaller NGOs have followed BRAC and Proshika to such a degree that many observers are concerned that microfinance has crowded out other roles that NGOs should take on.

The third path to expansion has been through microfinancial innovation outside of the Grameen model. Organisations such as ASA, BURO, Tangail, and SafeSave have been persuaded that the poor are bankable. but have sought to provide them with products that more adequately meet their needs than the Grameen model. This has meant a greater emphasis on savings, individual rather than group-based approaches and greater flexibility in terms of loan size, repayment schedules and access to savings. To a significant degree the .success. of the Grameen Bank encouraged these organisations (or more accurately their leaders) to seek to do better by undertaking their own experiments.



Learning and Adaptation

In the mid-1990s the Grameen Bank was sometimes accused of not learning, having locked itself into a standardised model and discouraging other organisations from moving away from the Grameen model. We can say this with confidence as we were among the accusers. At the time there were some grounds for making such a case, but one must admit that the Grameen Bank and Professor Yunus have learned and innovated over the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2001-2 the Grameen Bank launched itself into Grameen II with a promise to transform its services to clients. The new .products. include flexible loans, voluntary savings and micro pensions. The latter are proving especially popular. Grameen has also been innovating in other areas including mobile telecommunications, reported to be especially successful (Sachs 2005).

Great Man, Great Men . Great (Little) Women

Organisational and policy success is often explained in terms of the exceptional ability and performance of leaders (Leonard 1991). This has been common for the Grameen Bank (there is a vast idolising literature on Mohammad Yunus). Similarly, both BRAC with Fazle Hasan Abed and Proshika with Dr Qazi Faruque Ahmed have been seen internationally as achieving great results at a massive scale. There can be no doubt that Bangladesh.s microfinance industry has been inspired by Yunus and developed through other effective leaders. However, the contribution of the Grameen Bank.s (and other MFI) clients must also be recognised. For many observers of the country.s MFIs there is a recognition of the heroic contribution that the clients have made. Millions of .little. women (in terms of social status as well as height and body-mass index) have shown extraordinary agency and capacity to use MFI services, improve the well-being of their households, and repay their loans.What then can be said for the practice of targeting women, towards which the Bangladeshi MFI community shifted in the 1980s? In many ways, the success of microfinance in Bangladesh is based on poor women.s agency, and on their lack of agency

Chapter Five


Economic growth in Nigeria has been quite robust lately with rates among the highest in Sub Saharan Africa. Remarkable progress has been made to restore macro-economic stability in the country. The development context in Nigeria shows that the economy has experienced growth over time. Nigeria’s rebased GDP shows that the Nigerian economy grew by as much as 7.41 per cent in real terms in the year 2013. According to the World Bank, the country’s GDP growth rate as at 2012 was 6.5%. Nigeria’s per capita income has also increased by as much as over 60 per cent from $1, 091 in 2009 to $1, 700 in 2013. The Gross National Product (GNP) of about US$195 billion in 2007 rose to US$353.2 billion in 2009 while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita from the 2010 estimate is US$1,324. Based on this growth trajectory, the projected real GDP rate for 2015 is 7.25% and it is believed that this growth will continue to attract foreign investment into the country. This will, on the long run create better livelihood and opportunities for the economic empowerment of its citizens, half of whom are females

Democracy has continued to yield results including the increase in the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression, human dignity, fair hearing, freedom of movement freedom from discrimination and all other associated rights. Governmental policies, CEDAW/C/NGA/7-8


programmes and activities have continued to witness a boost typified in extended educational, legal and legislative advocacies/outreaches. These were accompanied by trainings, workshops and seminars aimed at broadening and expanding rights horizon in issues of gender mainstreaming.

2.15 Non-governmental organizations on their part have redoubled their efforts as monitors of the government and whistle blowers when they notice improper conduct from government angles. This has resulted in greater collaborations and networking between the NGOs and the Judiciary, Legislature and other key stakeholders including other civil society groups. Attempts are directed at conscious strategic litigation and alternative dispute resolution which offer a more permanent equitable arrangement.


2.16 Low literacy rate in Nigeria has consistently slowed the pace of progress in promoting the rights of women and impacted the enjoyment of rights negatively.

2.17 Patriarchy also constitutes a very big hurdle in this pursuit and is reflected in the slow pace of legislative reforms with respect to laws affecting women, poor enforcement mechanism, trivialization of corresponding laws due to lack of understanding especially among the legislators.

2.18 Ingrained customary practices, acceptance of discrimination as a measure of divide and rule, usage of violence to maintain patriarchal hegemony, the influence of religion as the opium of the masses, illiteracy, poverty and selective acceptance to conform to international bench marks constitute great hurdles to the achievement of gender equality

2.19 Poor budgetary allocation.



Cultural Relativism


But, has microfinance been a public policy success? As we pointed out earlier, this depends on what you mean by public. It has certainly been a success in terms of the broader concept of public action. that Amartya Sen floated in the early 1990s (and then seemed to abandon). It started as a public action project . Professor Yunus and his colleagues were members of a civil organisation (a university), but also public servants. They were financed by public monies and NGOs. The Grameen Bank became a statutory body but the .replicators/adaptors. that scaled up microfinance were mainly NGOs and thus part of civil society. Subsequently, a major vehicle for scaling up has been the PKSF, a public-private partnership. Behind much of this activity, both innovation and replication, has been donor resources . from the public sector in wealthier countries. All of this is set in a regulatory and macro-economic framework that has been supportive (or at least has not been too disruptive) and is part of the public sector. We can label this as networks, co-production or whatever but two things need to be noted.

First, the main players are state and/or civil society . this is public action. Second, the private for- profit sector has played only a minor role in this success. Private sector concepts . profit/loss, unit costs, performance related pay, market based interest rates, competition have been an important part of the story, but for profit organisations have played only a minor role.

The case Hulme and Mosley (1996) made ten years ago . that commercial businesses do not invest in creating pro-poor innovations, that they are followers but not leaders in service provision for the poor . still seems to hold.

Finally, why has microfinance been a policy success in Bangladesh? We agree with Zaman (2004) that visionary leadership, a supportive (or more accurately, not too unsupportive) policy/regulation environment, effective action by donors, a suitable physical and social environment and, recently, PKSF to provide scaling up finance and improve industry standards have been key factors. We would also add that the visionary leadership needs not only to be technically able but needs to have the skills and social resources to manage the domestic and international political economy, and that the institutional processes have to permit learning and allow effective implementation systems to be operated. It must also be noted that millions of little. women (see earlier), the clients, have made microfinance a success.

But is there any over-arching explanatory framework or is .success. largely about a list of attributes? The best we can find is Uphoff.s (1992) concept of .social energy.. This postulates a process by which dynamic leaders, and the ideas and ideals they promote, diffuse through society gaining momentum and persuading individuals and organisations to take on different values and do things differently. The spark of social entrepreneurship that Yunus set off has literally energised scores of other leading Bangladeshi social activists and thousands of others to try to get micro financial and other services to poor people. The diffusion process has moved into the public sector through PKSF and, with the appointment of the Director of PKSF as governor of the central bank, this social energy seems set to sweep into the financial sector more widely. Maybe it will stop here. But, maybe not. Providing services to poor people didn.t used to be an .exciting. or .sexy. activity . microfinance in Bangladesh has helped to make it .sexy.. That is a great achievement! And a .policy success. in the .failed field. of poverty reduction, in a .basket-case. country like Bangladesh, shows the agency of the poor, and remains inspirational.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

Related Content

All Tags

Content relating to: "Equality"

Equality regards individuals having equal rights and status including access to the same goods and services giving them the same opportunities in life regardless of their heritage or beliefs.

Related Articles

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this dissertation and no longer wish to have your work published on the UKDiss.com website then please: