Nigeria’s Hidden Resource Neglected

Zainab Maina, Minister of Women Affairs
Zainab Maina, Minister of Women Affairs

A United kingdom sponsored study on Nigeria reports that women’s economic situation is growing worse because of governments’ failure to marry theoretical policies with practical implementation

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Nov. 19, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

“THE CHALLENGE: Nigeria’s 80.2 million women and girls have significantly worse life chances than men and also their sisters in comparable societies,” according to a recent study funded by the UK Department for International Development , DFID. This statement may come as a surprise to the federal government of Nigeria which is dominated by men and has worked for years to realise the millennium development goals.

If the objectives of the millennium development goals are met, certainly women in Nigerian would be the greatest beneficiaries because of the pro-poor nature of the initiative. But the reverse is the case with the millennium development goals programme where both the federal and state governments have spent billion of naira without any appreciable gains in eradicating poverty which afflicts women most.

According to the gender in Nigeria report 2012, “excellent policies and intentions have not translated into budgets or actions to make the changes required if women are to contribute to Nigeria’s development. The national gender policy has yet to bear fruit, while implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has stalled. Violence, according to the report, compounds and reinforces this disadvantage and exclusion of women.

Women selling foodstuff
Women selling foodstuff

“The opportunity: women are Nigeria’s hidden resource. Investing in women and girls now will increase productivity in this generation and will promote sustainable growth, peace and better health for the next generation. What happens here to women and girls matters, not least for realisation of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs”, the report said.

One of the key findings of the study is that 54 percent of Nigerians still live in poverty and the proportion has doubled since 1980 (when about 28 percent were classified as poor) Nigeria’s human development indicators are also worse than those of comparable lower middle-income countries. Forty-two percent of Nigerian children are malnourished. The averages hide a context that is worse for women and girls.

“Nearly six million young women and men enter the labour market each year but only 10 percent are able to secure a job in the formal sector, and just one third of these are women,” it said. The report noted that rising income inequality hits women hardest. Nigeria is among the thirty most unequal countries in the world with respect to the income distribution.

African women carrying grain
African women carrying grain

The poorest half of the population holds only 10 percent of national income. Significant rural-urban differences in income distribution impact particularly on women, because 54 million of Nigeria’s 80.2 million women live and work in rural areas, where they provide 60 – 79 percent of the rural labour force.

“Inequality harms social cohesion and may exacerbate conflict, especially when some social groups are perceived to be excluded from opportunities. Conflict adversely impacts on women and girls, reducing their mobility and inhibiting participation in social, economic and political life,” it said.

Nigeria is also marked by huge geographical disparities. According to the report, human development outcomes for girls and women are worse in the North, where poverty levels are sometimes twice as high as parts of the South (72 percent in the North-East compared with 26 percent in the South-East and a national average of 54 percent). Nearly half of all children under five are malnourished in the North-east, compared to 22 percent in the South-East. Hausa girls, for example, are 35 percent less likely to go to school than Yoruba boys. The impact of inequality on the lives of the girls and women is reflected starkly in health and education outcomes, nationally and between North and South. Levels of gender violence are also high notably in the South where inequality is greatest, the report said among other things.

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