The study investigated the level of women empowerment and women’s participation in development processes in Nsukka. The study explored the factors responsible for this level of empowerment and participation of Nsukka women in development processes. A total sample of 540 respondents who are adult males and females from the age of 18 years and above participated in the study. The study covered the three autonomous communities in Nsukka which are Nkpunanor, Ihe/Owerre and Nru. Five hundred and ten (510) copies of questionnaire were administered to the female respondents who were randomly selected from the three autonomous communities. In-depth interview was used to study another 15 men and 15 women who were purposively selected. The findings show that some factors such as restriction of women by their husbands, ignorance of the existence of empowerment initiatives and lack of interest among women have hindered women from taking advantage of existing empowerment initiatives. It was found that Nsukka women participate in some development processes especially in agricultural production activities, voting in elections and belong to women’s organizations. It was also discovered following the testing of the hypotheses that the higher the income level of women, the higher their participation in development processes. The study also showed that the higher the educational level of women, the higher their participation in development processes. The study also revealed that lack of time due to domestic and reproductive roles of women, poor economic base, illiteracy, discriminatory attitude of males have restricted women’s participation in development processes. A major implication of these findings is that if women become economically and educationally empowered, their participation in development processes will be greatly enhanced and this would make economic, political and educational development of Nigeria more realistic. Based on the results of the study, it was recommended that programmes for women upliftment must integrate the vital dimensions of empowerment such as formation of social capitals, provision of financial and credit support systems, and enterprises and need-based skill development through training. It was also recommended that there should be: re-orientation of men’s mind set on women’s empowerment and participation in development processes, need for abolition of traditional and religious practices affecting women and girls, and need to provide unlimited access to education and media to women and girls. Finally suggestions for further research were made.


Title page ii

Certification - iii



Table of contents   

List of tables and charts

Abstract - xi


Background to the study1

Statement of the problem5

Research questions7

Objectives of the study8

Significance of the study9

Definition of key concepts  10


2.1 Review of empirical literature ---------------- 14

Review of theoretical literature16

Concept of women empowerment16

The need for educational empowerment19

Justification for economic and political empowerment22

Review of relevant theories and models25

Theoretical framework32

Research hypotheses34


Research design35

Study area and population35

Sample size and sampling procedure37

Sample size37

Sampling procedure38

Instrument for data collection39

Instrument administration39

Method of data analysis39


Demographic characteristics of respondents41

Results of the major issues in the study47

Test of Hypotheses62


Summary  65

Conclusion  67

Recommendation  68

Suggestions for further research70

References 71

Appendices:  76

I. Introduction letter 76

II. The questionnaire 77

III. The interview guide 82



Empowering women has become a frequently cited goal of development intervention (Mosedale, 2005). In 1970s when women empowerment was first invoked by the Third World feminist and women organizations, it was explicably used to frame and facilitate the struggle for social justice and women equality through a transformation of economic, social and political structures at national and international levels (Bisnath & Elson, 2003). The need to empower women seems to centre on the fact that women have potentials to contribute to the development process but are constrained by some factors that render them powerless. While the reasons for any particular woman’s powerlessness (or powerfulness) are many and varied, it may be necessary to consider what women have in common in this respect. The common factor is that, they are all constrained by their reproductive responsibilities, societal norms, beliefs, customs and values by which societies differentiate between them and men (Kabeer, 2000). These constraints are shaped by male dominated social structure (patriarchy), high rate of poverty among women, and gender division of labour.

Nevertheless, focusing on the empowerment of women as a group requires an analysis of gender relations, that is, the way in which power relations between the sexes are constructed and maintained. In patriarchal societies like Nigeria, men have ultimate authority over material resources in the household, such as land and cash crops, and over the labour of women and other household members. Women having no direct access to land and cash crops or men’s labour, must request these resources from their husbands or from other males in the household to whom they are obligated (Adams & Castle, 1994). Women’s level of education, poverty and men’s attitude towards women have over the years posed a serious threat to

women’s participation in development. It is obvious that level of education and economic conditions of women most often determine their level of participation in decision making both at family, community, state and national levels. There is generally unequal burden of domestic maintenance and childcare responsibilities allocated to women as compared to men. Male dominance in sexual relations, with its consequence on women’s lack of control over their sexuality in many societies has denied women right to determine the number of children they want. They have a low decision making power as compared with men. The prevailing patriarchal ideology, which promotes values of submission, sacrifice, obedience and silent suffering often undermines the attempts by women to assert themselves or demand for share of resources and right (Hawkesworth, 1990).

Empowerment therefore requires an analysis of women’s subordination, the formulation of an alternative more satisfactory set of arrangements to those which exist. These can be achieved through the alleviation of the burden of domestic labour and child care, the removal of institutionalized forms of discrimination, the establishment of political equality, improving the economic status of women, freedom of choice over child bearing, and taking measures against male violence and control over women (Molyneaux, 1985). In other words, empowerment requires transformation of structures of subordination through changes in law, property rights, and other institutions that reinforce and perpetuate male domination (Batliwala, 1994). This could be done by improving the educational, political and economic status of women to enable them to participate actively in development processes. It is this realization of the need to have women run their own lives, be part and parcel of socioeconomic and political agenda in their countries, that the United Nations devoted a decade (1975-85) to issues concerning women and development. The ultimate goal was to

empower women to develop their potentials, contribute to and benefit from development on equal basis as men (United Nations, 1975).

In 1990s, many agencies used the term women empowerment in association with a wide variety of strategies including those which focused on enlarging the choices and productivity of women (Bisnath, 2001). Many conferences had been held with the intention to advance the status of women and eliminate gender- based discrimination. Some of these conferences include Mexico Conference of 1975, Copenhagen Conference of 1980, Nairobi World Conference of 1985, and the 1995 Beijing World Conference. There had been other conferences on women across the globe.

Many strategies had also been put in place to empower women, politically, economically and educationally in Nigeria. These strategies according to Okeke (1995) include widening women’s access to education, encouraging their full participation in cash economy, getting women to participate in politics and reviewing laws on status of women. The 1999 constitution provided promotion and protection of women’s right in Nigeria. The Federal government adopted the national policy on women in July, 2000. This policy provided, inter-alia, for affirmative action to increase to 35 percent women’s representation in the legislative and executive arms of government. The Federal Government has also set up the National Women Development Centre as a parastatal to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs. The Centre is primarily in-charge of research studies on women’s issues (WomenAid Collective, 2008).

The Third Millennium Development Goal (MDG) focused on the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. The United Nations Millennium Projects Task Force on education and gender equality has outlined seven strategic priorities to achieve the Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals. These include: strengthening opportunities for

secondary education of girls while meeting commitment to universal primary education; guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health and rights; investing in infrastructure to reduce women’s and girls time burdens; guaranteeing women’s and girls’ property and inheritance right; eliminating gender inequalities in employment by decreasing women’s reliance on informal employment, closing gender gaps in earnings and reducing occupational segregation; increasing women’s share of seats in national parliaments and local governmental bodies; and combating violence against girls and women (International Centre for Peace Research on Women, 2005 Report).

National governments, including Nigeria, have evolved strategies and programmes to empower women politically, educationally and economically. Indeed, many states and towns that make up Nigeria have also benefited from these initiatives and it has not excluded Nsukka town. Some of these programmes are organized by women themselves, government and non-governmental bodies at community levels to support other programmes at state, national and international levels. These initiatives include, formation of women’s organizations that engage in development-oriented activities to tackle social problems such as inequity in political, economic and education sectors, male dominance, maternal and child health, child marriage, and other related problems. Other approaches to these initiatives include economic empowerment which focuses on improving women’s control over material resource. This could be achieved by organizing women for savings and increasing women’s access to credits, income generation, skills training and other related activities. These empowerment initiatives also involve consciousness raising and accumulation of knowledge and ideas, for it is acknowledged that women’s empowerment requires awareness of complex factors causing women’s subordination. This is achieved through education and other literacy related activities.

Although some empowerment initiatives exist in Nsukka, for example, micro credit programmes, skill training centres, adult literacy centres, women cooperative societies among others, the effectiveness of the initiatives has not been examined. This study will therefore examine the availability of empowerment initiatives, evaluate their roles in promoting women’s participation in development processes and also identify factors that constrain women’s successful empowerment and participation in development processes in Nsukka town.


Women’s population of 68.3 million constitutes almost half of the entire country’s population, of 140 million (National Population Commission, 2006). This numerical strength has not been translated to equal treatment in the society. Apart from numerical strength, women have great potentials to evolve a new economic order, thereby helping in accelerating social and political development and consequently transforming the society into a better one. Olawoye (1995) describes Nigerian women as a crucial factor in production. According to her, they are largely responsible for the bulk production of crops, agro-based food processing, preservation of crops and distribution of yields from farm centres to market in both rural and urban areas.

Nigerian women are contributing their quota to the development of the nation, but their potentials seem not to have been fully tapped due to some constraints. Disparities still exist between men and women in education, employment and income opportunities, control over assets, personal security and participation in the development process (Rahman & Naoroze, 2007). This may be as a result of lingering constraints including poor economic condition of Nigerian women, lack of adequate legislation and policies to support the rights of women, unequal access to education, limited access to land, lack of assertiveness among

women etc. Level of education, income level, and men’s perception on the need for women’s participation in development have been viewed as determining factors in women’s participation in development processes. With regard to political participation, women have been grossly underrepresented. The last general election revealed a 6 percent representation of women across all levels of elected offices across the country. With regard to Enugu State, out of the 17 local government areas of the state, no woman was elected as the executive chairman and only five women are in the state house of assembly that has 24 members. This is a gross under representation of women who make up about 50 percent of Nigerian population (WACOL, 2008). Affirmative action has not been fully adopted by either governments or political parties. There is still low level of education among women.

Under-representation of Nigerian women in educational, economic and political programmes could lead to a serious set back in development and, thus, the need for women empowerment. Many programmes have been put in place at local, state, national and international levels. These programmes and initiatives aim at widening women’s access to education, encouraging women’s full participation in cash economy and politics and reviewing laws on status of women. These initiatives are organized by both women themselves, and governmental and non-governmental organizations and include the provision of micro-credit facilities, educational programmes, skill acquisition, political participation, and related activities. These programmes are evident in Nsukka.

Though some of these empowerment initiatives exist, the effectiveness of these initiatives in promoting the participation of Nsukka women in development processes has not been empirically examined and documented. This dearth of research has created the need for this study. This research will therefore assess the empowerment initiatives available to women in Nsukka and evaluate the role of these initiatives in promoting women’s participation in

development processes and identify the factors that limit empowerment and participation of Nsukka women in development processes.


The following research questions are to guide this study:

1. What are the empowerment initiatives available for women in Nsukka town?

2. In what ways have Nsukka women been empowered economically?

3. In what ways have Nsukka women been empowered politically?

4. In what ways have Nsukka women been empowered educationally?

5. In what areas have Nsukka women participated most in the economic, political and educational development processes?

6. What are the factors that may militate against Nsukka women’s full empowerment and participation in development processes?

7. Does the educational qualification of Nsukka women influence their participation in development processes?

8. Does the income level of Nsukka women influence their participation in development processes?

9. Does the employment status of Nsukka women influence their participation in development processes?


The general objective of this study is to assess the impact of empowerment on women’s participation in development processes in Nsukka. The specific objectives are:

(1) To identify the empowerment initiatives available to women in Nsukka.

(2) To ascertain the ways in which women have been empowered politically in Nsukka

(3) To assess the ways in which women have been empowered educationally

(4) To ascertain the ways in which women have been empowered economically

(5) To identify the areas which Nsukka women have participated most in economic, political and educational development processes

(6) To identify the factors which may militate against full empowerment and participation of Nsukka women in development processes.

(7) To determine the relationship between Nsukka women’s educational qualification and their participation in development processes

(8) To determine the relationship between women’s income level and their participation in development processes

(9) To ascertain the relationship between Nsukka women’s employment status and their participation in development processes?


The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, this study will add to the body of knowledge on the levels of women’s empowerment at the local and community levels. It will throw more light on the existing literature with regard to the role of empowerment on women’s participation in developmental processes and the factors that limit

women’s empowerment and participation in development processes. It will be of great help to students and researchers who may want to investigate issues relating to women.

Practically, this work will produce data, which will enhance the understanding of major factors that hinder women empowerment and participation in developmental processes and the best strategies for eliminating the constraints. Based on this, governmental and non- governmental organizations would be able to mount effective policies and empowerment programmes that would be beneficial to women and the world in general. This work will also serve as a working document to women community-based organizations and other established women organizations that are interested in improving the status of women.


Development processes: Development processes for this study include all the activities involved in the political, economic and educational activities which can lead to the upliftment and enhancement of women’s status and the society at large. These activities include voting and contesting for elections, belonging to political parties and involvement in other political activities, involvement in both formal and informal educational training, and involvement in money-yielding, production activities and other related activities.

Economic development process: This includes entrepreneurship activities, cooperative- related activities, production activities and all other processes relating to money-yielding activities that lead to improvement of the well-being of women and the society.

Economic empowerment: This entails women’s access to and control over the means of making a living on sustainable and long term basis and receiving the material benefits of this

access and control which leads to economic independence. It includes access to land, agricultural facilities, micro credit, cash crops, and skill and technical training.

Educational development process: This involves all formal and informal training activities, including teaching, creating awareness on the need for education, and skill acquisition that results in the enhancement of women’s status.

Educational empowerment: Educational empowerment entails women’s opportunity to acquire literacy skills, ideas and knowledge which will help in liberating their minds and improving their socio-economic and political statuses. This is achieved through access to media, adult literacy programmes, workshops and awareness campaigns.

Employment status: Employment status is the type of endeavours or occupation that women engage in for their livelihood. This is categorized into self-employed, civil servants, women employed in private firms and unemployed women.

Empowerment: This is a process whereby women are provided with both material and non- material assets to enable them to engage in activities that aim at reducing their powerlessness which was created by their membership of a marginalized group. These activities include income generating activities, educational activities, and political activities.

Empowerment Initiatives: Empowerment initiatives are programmes which are established by individuals, government and non-governmental organizations in communities to help in improving the status of women and the society. These programmes range from micro credit programmes, activities initiated by women organizations, literacy programmes, women skill training, and other related programmes.

Gender: Gender is defined as the social, economic, political and cultural attributes, perceptions, and opportunities which a society associates with being male or female.

Gender awareness: Recognition that women and men have differences in needs and roles in society. Gender awareness enables one to identify problems arising from gender inequality and discrimination that must be addressed.

Gender discrimination: Following Aidoo, et al (2002), gender discrimination in this research means a differential treatment of individual groups based entirely on their being male or female. This difference contributes to structural inequality in the society. It has manifested in systemic and structural discrimination against women in the distribution of income, access to resources, participation in decision-making, education and power.

Gender equality: A principle that ensures equal rights and opportunities for women, men, girls and boys in all sectors of human endeavour, politically, educationally, legally and economically.

Gender inequality: This is the denial of equal rights and opportunity for both sexes in all sectors of human endeavor, politically, educationally, legally, and economically.

Inequality: This is the denial of equal rights and opportunity based on membership of a particular sex, class, ethnic group etc.

Participation: This means being actively involved and taking part in development processes in the society.

Political development process: This entails all activities relating to political decision- making, electioneering activities, organizing women for change, and other activities that are concerned with mobilization of women for enhanced status in the society.

Political empowerment: Political empowerment is the process of promoting women’s access to power and decision-making. This involves giving women the opportunity to participate in political matters like electing people and contesting for elections, belonging to political parties

and women organizations, and attaining leadership in order to challenge the existing structures of inequality.

Women: For the purpose of this study, the term women is defined as adult females from the age of 18 and above.

Women empowerment: This is a process through which women acquire skills and willingness to critically analyse their situation and take appropriate action to change their status in the society. It is a process of enabling women achieve control over their lives through expanded choice. It encompasses women’s access to education, landed property, political positions and involvement in money–making activities and decision-making processes. It is a function of individual initiative which is facilitated by institutional change and support.





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