The Role of Education in Women Empowerment

Education is recognized all over the world as the hinge around which the development of any nation revolves. However, a passing look at the pattern of women’s involvement in education in Nigeria reveals appalling low levels. In spite of all the commendable goals, objectives and benefits derived from education, Nigerian women still suffer a lot of constraints which militate against their personal and national development.  The benefits of educating women seem to be vaguely misunderstood as a means of giving women more power over the men.  Although research has shown basic education as a channel for reducing fertility, child mortality, promoting gender equality, increased overall productivity and so much more; there is still a huge gap to be filled as regards this context.

A woman who is properly educated can be referred to someone who has gone through series of processes to acquire knowledge, skills, habits and values that would enable her to function effectively as a member of the society. It exposes the woman to opportunities that will positively restructure her mind, build capacity and develop the inherent potentials for greatness that lies within her. If the vast majority of our women folk are educated, their personal development can be enhanced remarkably. Education is important for everyone, but it is a critical area of empowerment for women. A popular saying goes thus- “If you educate a girl or a woman, you educate a family, a region, or even a country’’ This is not only because education is an entry point to opportunity but also because women’s educational achievements have positive ripple effects within the family and across generations in the fulfilment of women’s obligation.

There is therefore no denying fact that education is vital in the self grooming of a woman as it gives her a sense of individuality which boosts her confidence. You must have noticed a clear cut difference between an educated and uneducated woman. Every aspect of her life ranging from her physical appearance, mental capacity, thought patterns, approach to life issues is structured and precise. The importance of empowering a woman through education cuts across different sectors from family, community, workforce, health, environment, the nation and the world at large.

An educated woman is a plus to any family because she has the ability to make sound decisions that can move the family forward. She will be able to help her children with their school assignments and instill the right information and knowledge into them because she is exposed and enlightened. She also has the ability to measure their academic performances and tender solutions in seemingly challenged areas.

If women are educated, they will be able to assist in nation building and reconstruction. A few women are currently holding powerful positions in our country and there is still room for improvement if women are willing to give it what it takes. It is also pertinent to mention here that the higher the level of education, the greater the likelihood that a women will stay in the labour force.  This creates an ever increasing pool of experienced, skilled and talented personnel from which positions for the local, state or federal levels can be filled. Perhaps with more women managing the socio-political state of affairs, there would be better outputs.

In the economic sphere, women can also engage in small scale or large scale businesses to support themselves, their families and also contribute to economic growth. This also requires some level of education as nominal skills such as good customer relations, financial management, feasibility studies, risk management etc will be needed to successfully run the business. This will drastically reduce poverty level and help achieve sustainable development.

A woman can become aware of harmful health conditions if she is educated, since most enlightenment campaigns against diseases are transmitted either through the radio, television, newspapers, posters, pamphlets or magazines usually in the local languages or English language. If women are educated they will have knowledge of basic health care and will be in a position to take the right steps to good healthcare.

Education is much more than reading, writing or just acquiring degrees. It is an essential investment, a crucial factor for changing women’s position in society. Empowerment means moving from enforced powerlessness to a relevant position of authority. It is an essential means of empowering to fully participate in the development process thereby raising a new generation of business contributors, community leaders, policy makers and world changers. Without an education, a woman is voiceless, cannot stand up for herself or face the impending challenges that life may bring her way.

Kelechi Onwumere is a research officer at WITIN.

TECHNOLOGY- THE DRIVE FOR EMPOWERING WOMEN

Digital and mobile technologies have vast potential for women’s empowerment, providing them with opportunities to find and share information, access educational materials, improved health services, generate income, interact, collaborate, network, and have an online representation. The first step in harnessing the power of technology towards women’s empowerment is to ensure they have access to the various technology tools that are rapidly and continuously evolving by broadening the affordability and expanding the reach of such technologies.. Access to technology, control of it, and the ability to create and shape it, is a fundamental issue of women’s human rights. Technology empowers women to create innovative solutions to advance equality in their communities. Technology has unlimited potentials and women can tap into these resources to make their life better.

For instance, with a mobile phone, a pregnant woman can stay connected to a midwife. For other women and girls, Internet access and a mobile phone can mean access to a bank account for the first time, a new tool to learn how to read and write, or a way to stay safe and avoid harassment in a crowded city. Science and technology will increasingly play a profound role in our lives, societies, and economies – from influencing social interaction and culture to voice and political participation, to access to services, learning, and income opportunities, to innovation, infrastructure development, resilience and sustainability, to the achievement of personal well-being. These all require urgent action based on the best available science, technology, and interdisciplinary research – including the perspectives, talents and experiences of women as well as men.

When women have access to and control of technology, the potential benefits are vast. However, this scenario is not automatic. The revolutions in science and technology are not fully inclusive in their participants, design and impact. Moreover, we must be diligent in preventing and mitigating risks to women when it comes to science and technology, either in the form of direct threats – including online violence and harassment – unintended consequences, or from reinforcing or exacerbating inequalities.

One thing we know for sure is that science, technology, and innovation are advancing rapidly. We need policies and systems – including education, research and development, outreach programs, and data and monitoring – with gender equality at their core and that challenge stereotypes. Only in this way can we ensure that women are continuously at the forefront of STI development and have access to new opportunities as they arise. Women who are connected to technology either their mobile phones, tablets, laptops have the potential to limitless empowerment opportunities which can make them  become relevant through the acquired information  for their environment, businesses, families  and the world at large. When women have access to mobile technology, online social media, and ICTs (information and communications technology) like Google +, they are able to report on human rights issues as they occur and to connect with other women to discuss solving problems in their societies. Technology of this kind gives women a platform to voice the issues that are important to them and to be heard all across the world.

Women hold the key to reaching more prosperous and developed societies if they can access the tools to innovate within their communities. Knowledge is power and the fastest way to transfer this “power” to women is through technology.

CULTURAL BARRIERS TO WOMEN EMPOWERMENT

Wherever you live, you’re going to be influenced by the attitudes, customs and practices of the people around you. Those basic elements are the definition of culture. When a person of one culture encounters the beliefs and resulting actions of another culture, there may be a clash. This can be a barrier to success. Those barriers can have huge implications in the community, society and the world. Culture interacts with development in multiple ways. However the importance of culture within development should not be seen as translating to crystallizing and solidifying its meaning or providing definitive ideas of what works.

Society have long witnessed a normative approach toward societal ways of life, which has seen the male in the front burner in all the affair of the society, thereby giving little or no attention to the female folk in the environment. In selected situation where the women were seen or heard, such societies were tailored and tagged “weak society”. In recent time, the women have broken out of their shell by been empowered and later held some leadership position, which has improved the society where they lived.

In some parts of Nigeria, culture and tradition are instruments of women domination. They constitute among others the ideology of the society, which is a superstructure on the socio-economic foundation of any society. Many of the religious beliefs and traditions are dated back to the colonial area and were designed to justify and sustain peace at all levels. Tradition or culture have dictated men and women relationship for centuries and entrenched male domination into the structure of social organization and institution at all levels of leadership limiting the participation of women in education, labour market, politics, business, family, domestic matters and inheritance.

The world has experienced a lot of changes from the colonial era till this time which separates women from being bound by a particular culture or being restricted in activities that can potentially develop and empower them to become better. The belief that a woman’s place is restricted solely to the shores of the home should be discouraged. If this belief is passed down from one generation to another without any positive intervention, the inherent damages to the unborn generation cannot be quantified. Women have the potential to contribute significantly to the society if they are allowed to break out from cultural barriers and be rightly empowered.

 

NETWORKING – WOMEN EMPOWERING WOMEN

According to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, closing these gender gaps matters for development and policymaking. Greater gender equality can enhance economic productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions and policies more representative.
While the society work towards gender parity, women should consider building their capacity to make them relevant in their families, communities and society; one of the ways to achieve this is through the networking process. Women are natural networkers; as they connect to each other, there is knowledge sharing, more opportunities, partnerships and businesses are formed, they become more equipped individually and as a group too. Empower fellow women standing by each other. Women need to support each other and stand together against the obstacles facing us every day. It might take some time to get there, but here are some of the ways to empower women and stand as a united body.
One of the easiest ways to empower women around you is to be a role model to them. Be confident and show them that it is easier than they think to be a strong and powerful woman. Women are always in need of more role models to show them the way in life. You could be just the outstanding role model a women needs in her life to empower her.
Going along with watching what we say, take the time to compliment those around you. Women feel way more empowered when they have more confidence. That little boost of confidence you get when you receive a compliment might be just what you need to feel more confident. When we raise each other up, we are empowering each other to reach our full potential.
If you see a woman who is being mistreated, say something. Don’t let these things just pass by. Every time that a woman is belittled, it impacts each and every one of us. By saying something, you are letting the world know that empowering women is a not something to be taken lightly. There are many women organizations rising up against women violence, rape etc, you can go the extra mile in contacting any of them to save a life.
Regardless of your religion, body type, sexual preference, or even fashion sense, we are all women and we all need to stick together. You should be empowering all women to follow their dreams, no matter what their dreams are. By empowering other women, we are allowing each other to reach our highest potential. Empowering women is the only way to fight back against this different treatment. The greatest feats of activist efforts throughout history, across the globe, have come from community and connection. It’s time for all of us to get connected, reach out and lift up each other. You can start with a kind word, a helping hand or just remembering to connect and acknowledge the importance of the people you meet.
Associations are a great way to empower women; usually women get inspired when they can directly relate to other women’s success stories. Women need to work together as a team to break barriers, laws and norms that seemingly restrict them. By networking and associating with each other, women can build better businesses, gain a larger economic space, becomes part of civil society and can have a louder voice when advocating policies that will benefit their lives and businesses.
‘’Girls COMPETE with each other, real women EMPOWER each other”

CREATING A PLACE FOR WOMEN IN THE SOCIETY

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.