From pre-colonial times to the early 21st century, the role and status of women in Nigeria have continuously evolved. However, the image of a helpless, oppressed, and marginalized group has undermined their proper study, and little recognition has been granted to the various integral functions that Nigerian women have performed throughout history. No human society is complete without womenfolk. This is equally applicable to the nations of the world. Development of any human society could hardly be attainable when women’s roles are not factored in, nor acknowledged and appreciated.
Despite the effort of various governments to close the gap created by gender discrimination, there still existed wide gap between men and women in public life and in all sectors. A lot of traditional and cultural factors have been claimed The Nigerian women have done a lot to escape from cultural prejudice and male chauvinism that inhibited their progress. The women most of the time prefers to work in groups to enable them solve their socio-economic political and cultural problems. They pull their little resources together and are able to provide social services, infrastructure in their communities and thereby promote development and community solidarity.
Nigerian women have indeed ventured into male dominated professions which include aviation, medicine, armed forces and so on. In fact in all spheres of life women are there working both in Nigeria and in many other countries contributing socio-economic development.
Women had been noted to have potentials that are necessary for development. However, they are still denied certain rights due to some psychological, sociological, cultural and traditional factors. The convention on the elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has not been fully implemented in. Though there seemed to be a slight improvement in women involvement in some sectors but the change is not significant compared with the number of women population in the country. Non Governmental Organizations ( NGO) have also risen to fight economic detestable policies that are against women such as political participation, legal status, child marriage etc and also provide more empowerment opportunities for women. Some women groups too especially in the rural areas undertake and complete such projects as water bore whole, and repair of toilets in their general hospital, general free healthcare services.
Neglecting the role women in the country could be seen as withdrawing from attaining the developmental goal of the nation, as women are often refer to as the driving engine of the family (which is refer to as the bedrock of the society). This trend has not changed except that women now take additional burden of extra-domestic affairs. Women contribution in the society are taken with levity as they are taken as very insignificant, however this has gone a long way to put some food on the table of some families, change the family status both economically, educationally and socially. The role of women in 21st century nation building can never be over flocked, little wonder the Millennium Development Goal Strategy (MDGs) was centered on women for most of her achievement. According Ngunjiri et al (2012), Millennium Development Goal Number 3 and 5 promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. Besides, women are expected to play a key role in contributing towards meeting most of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), on poverty reductions, mortality and morbidity reduction, environmental protection among other goals.
Women have proved their strength and competence in our societies in different spheres even in male dominated professions but the rise of women to lead several professional male dominated environments gives us hope and their achievement is a pointer to the capability of the Nigerian woman. The Government should therefore strive to ensure that women have a real voice in all governance institutions, as well as in the private sector and civil society, so they can participate equally with men in public dialogue and decision making. When women participate in decision-making there are huge benefits for other women, men, children, communities and nations.