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Women and Poverty Reduction in Nigeria: From rhetorics to action Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Amaka for Kids, Nigeria Feb 16, 2007
Human Rights , Poverty , Maternal Health & Child Mortality   Opinions


7. Structural and Systemic Discrimination
8. Legal Environment
9. Structural Adjustment programmes
10. Rural/Urban Divide
11. State Failure/ Lack of coherent government policies mainstreaming gender

From Rhetoric to Action

The Time for change has come; the time to move away from rhetoric to action has indeed come. The changing tide began with both the world Social Summit in 1995 and the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women also held in 1995. While the women conference focused on gender specific causes of poverty and strategies to addressing them, the Social Summit firmly called on governments in developing countries to take necessary steps to develop specific anti- poverty strategies based on enhanced participation of all stakeholders. Following this call Nigeria, government commenced the drafting of its own Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) amidst pressure from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to whom Nigeria is heavily indebted that future concessional assistance would be tied to the preparation of an appropriate PRSP by individual countries, and a deadline of June 2002. Despite the time frame Nigeria still has not produced a final PRSP document. As at November 7- 8th November, the Office of the Vice President was still consulting with Civil Society based on the Interim PRSP. Before, this PRSP exercise intended to ensure that official policies and resource including bilateral external debt relief and concessional assistance from the Bretton Wood Institutions are geared towards poverty reduction, Nigeria has grappled with programmes intended either for Poverty Alleviation or Poverty Eradication and/ or Reduction. We are still dabbling with terminology and in search of the right language while poverty continue to ravage the Nigerian citizenry. Nigeria is not in want of initiatives to either alleviate or eradicate poverty in fact; the government on the past17 years has taken a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging poverty reduction. The programmes ranges from the Better Life for Rural Women: National Directorate of Employment (NDE); Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI), the Family Support Programme (FSP); the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP); Poverty Alleviation (PAP); National Poverty Eradication Programme (NPEP); the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP); and the Artisan Fishery and small ruminant production schemes amongst others. The Educational and Health Sector have their own initiatives on Adult and Nomadic education and also Primary health care. Like I noted earlier Nigeria is nit lacking in ideas but what is needed is commitment and leadership and economic will to vigorously pursue policy initiatives undertaken. Anti- poverty programmes such as Better Life Program or the Poverty Alleviation Programme cannot per se achieve eradication of Poverty. What is needed is structural change in economic sphere to ensure women access to resources, opportunities and public services. For, Example, in the on going privatization of major government corporations how many women will buy shares in these corporations? If leadership does not make genuine efforts and authorities concerned with policy implementation, the same unjust and unequal economic structure will be perpetuated where women and other poor people gets nothing.
Again, non -participation of women in formulation of macro-economic and social policies and strategies for poverty reduction has undermined successful implementation and sustainability of any programme initiatives in this regard. In other words, successful implementation of any anti- poverty reduction programme will require democratic participation. Women and men must participate fully and equally in the process of formulation and review of policies geared towards poverty eradication. In adequate mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all economic analysis and planning to address the structural causes of poverty has contributed to failure of some of these governments initiatives. Another problem is incoherence in government on poverty and gap between policy and action. Thus, the work of National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) in reality not matching with the policy document of PRSP leaves doubt about government initiated poverty programmes in general and prospects for success.

Suggested Strategies

In terms of strategies we need to take into account the above mentioned in particular to empower women as an autonomous being enjoying equal rights with their male counterpart. Education and training is key to empowerment and release of women’s production potential. Therefore, giving women access to decision- making and economic resources, including credit facilities, land ownership and inheritance. Women are the closest to environment and we need to empower them to utilize environmental resources for their benefits.
Gender Budget Initiatives (GDI): This is an increasingly popular tool recommended by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It called for the integration of gender perspective in budgetary decisions on policies and programmes.


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