Background to the Study
The impact of women literacy education on the empowerment of women can not be over emphasized. In Nigeria, as in most developing countries of the world, literacy education is valued so much that it is looked upon as a pre-requisite for all the short-comings of society as well as the surest means for empowering women and for national development. Women literacy education is that education given to female children or women at different stages and ways (formal and non-formal). It is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities to become effective participant of a given social group. Women literacy education is the process that brings about self esteem which helps in promoting participation of women in organizations and their community that reflect in the society at large. In reference to education therefore, the new National Policy states categorically that: The Federal Government of Nigeria has adopted education as an instrument per excellence for effecting women empowerment and national development. Education fosters the worth and development of the individual, for each individual’s sake and for the general development of the society.
The document emphasizes that every Nigerian child shall have a right to equal educational opportunities irrespective of any real or imagined disabilities each according to his or her ability. Consequently, education has been pursued with vigor in most parts of Nigeria. It is seen as the factor whose acquisition raises one’s income as well as the social status and progress in the society. In the past, education especially boy’s education was a sort of life assurance. Girls’ education was neglected because cultural and biological factors limited their access to education. Women’s roles were to procreate and lactate. Women had no say in any community or national development as they were believed to be the weaker-sex.
This phenomenon is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is common to other parts of the world. Women have always had less access to educational opportunities than men. The reasons being that women were believed to be birds of passages who will eventually be married to other families aer their training. This is why in places such as India, cousins are allowed to marry so that their wealth will be retained within their families. Women are not treated equally as their male-counterparts in the area of education, job opportunities, distribution of income, inheritance of properties, political opportunities etc. Kagia (1985:2) pointed out that “these disparities do not arise out of overt or premeditated discriminatory action rather they arise because women, like all disadvantages groups, are victims of historical and cultural accidents, errors of omission rather than commission”. It was in recognition of this fact that the United Nations General Assembly of 1969 adopted a declaration on the “Elimination of discrimination against women at the international level. Nigeria as a member of the United Nations Community has joined in the crusade by embarking on programmes aimed at bringing about social change. Most states in Nigeria, including Edo State, have shown considerable interest in women literacy education by promoting and embarking on females’ non-formal education projects for enhancing women productivity for empowering self and societal development. In order to do this eectively, Edo State established the Agency for Adult and Non-formal education centre, Edo State Skill Acquisition Centre.
These agencies are charged among other duties with responsibilities to act as an “instrument for the eradication of illiteracy among adults (male and female) in the state and to provide necessary facilities for this purpose”. Fortunately, women have not rested on their oars in protesting against discrimination. They have asked for and secured to some extent, concessions and strategies aimed at their emancipation towards contributing their own quota in the empowerment of self and economic development of the nation. The important role women have to play towards contributing to the development of the nation is a theme that is currently in vogue so much so that a lot of energies and activities are channeled towards women in the country through the Federal, State and Local Government programmes.
The administration of President Ibrahim Babangida and his wife, Mrs. Maryam Babangida established National Directorate of Employment, Better Life for Rural Women and MAMSER programmes between 1986 and 1987 to conscientise women and create awareness in them to participate in activities that concern and affect them in order to uplift womanhood into competing favourably with their male counterparts when it comes to distribution of income, job opportunities, education, politics and in contributing to socioeconomic development of themselves, their communities and the nation in general. There are problems and set backs inspite of the efforts of the state agency and federal government and non-governmental organizations are making towards women literacy education and women empowerment. The question being asked is about the effectiveness of efforts being made by these bodies. To what extent were the goals and objectives achieved so as to enable the women participants contribute to the socio-economic development of self, community and nation. Statement of the Problem Based on this study, impact of women literacy education on the empowerment of women, in the past in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State and in Nigerian generally, women have been relegated to the background. They are therefore seen as second class citizens which is stigmatization at the highest order. They are seen as a reproduction means only useful for children up-brining. Excluded from taking up official appointments nor appearing in public places and functions. The believe was that women are to be seen and not to be heard. Women are denied access to western education as they are believed to be another man’s properties.