Women Socio-cultural Organization play an important role in enabling rural women to achieve economic empowerment through poverty alleviation. The general aim of this study was to determine the contribution of Women Socio-cultural Organization in the empowerment of rural women. In a bid to achieve this objective, the study sought to assess the achievements of these groups in increasing women access and control of economic resources, in assisting women contribute towards economic decisions at the household and community level, and in enabling women access credit and business services. The study also looked at the hindrances to the group’s performance. The study was conducted in Oyi Local Government Area, in Anambra State and focused on registered Women Socio-cultural Organization. In its design, the study adopted a survey research design, use of random sampling and purposive sampling of cases. Data was collected using interview schedule and key informant interviews. Qualitative data was analysed through content analysis whereas quantitative data was analysed using figures and tables. The study revealed that the groups were averagely contributing towards the economic empowerment of rural women in the region. In its findings, the study showed that the groups had averagely played a part in advancing the economic growth of women through improving their accessibility to economic resources at the family and community level. The study also showed that the groups had played a role in enabling women make decision at the family and community level as well as in helping them access credit facilities. However, the study also revealed that there were constraints limiting the relevant groups functionality and they include; lack of proper accessibility to information; family interference on groups’ performance; strict rules imposed by financial institution on loan application; poor leadership in the groups; laxity and prejudice from government officials especially in disbursing funds; low education level amongst group members and lack of leadership training on group leaders. The study recommended the need for more entrepreneurship training for women as this will enable them raise their incomes. There is also need for capacity building on women so that they can grow their businesses into profitable enterprises. The study further recommended diversification of income generating activities by Women Socio-cultural Organization and need for government, private organizations and community members to inculcate a cultural orientation that recognizes women and position in society. 

1.1 Background to the Study
The social, economic, political and cultural empowerment of women has received great attention on global arena. Numerous conventions have been drawn up to advance the development of women. These efforts are informed by the multiple challenges women and girls face and realization that women are the key to pulling society out of poverty. As observed by the 1975 conference on women in Mexico, the challenges faced by women are the same challenges faced by society and the political, economic and social conditions are an important benchmark in women empowerment (United Nations, 1976). 

During the 1980 conference in Copenhagen it was noted that significant progress had been made in women development, but more efforts were still required to fully address the plight of women. Due to recognition of importance of gender equality the UN in 1984 established UNIFEM as a separate fund of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to address issues of gender equality (World Economic Forum, 2005). In 1985, at third women conference held in Anambra, it was noted that the number and scope of activities in women empowerment had grown (United Nations, 1986).  The 1995 conference on women in Beijing further identified important issues in women empowerment and they were: equal access to economic resources including land, credit, science and technology; vocational training; access to information; communication and markets (United Nations, 2012).

Resulting from meetings held by UN and state nations, international instruments and treaties aimed at the improvement of women have been developed. Most importantly is the Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979 which is regarded as the bill of rights for women (UN Women, 2006). Other conventions and treaties address elimination of violence, equal remuneration, discrimination, education, marriage and exploitation. The international platform has therefore laid proper foundation for continents and countries to effectively empower their female population. These treaties have not merely helped governments and other actors to come up with and implement policies, but have also enabled local women to proactively adopt initiatives like Women Socio-cultural Organization to enhance efforts towards empowerment. These groups have since taken a global role because of their key importance in unifying women to achieving empowerment.  

The level of self-help groups in Nigeria grew exponentially and by the mid-1980s it is estimated that there were about 15,000 – 20,000 self-help groups in the country. The figures have continued to rise and the country has more than 800, 000 registered Women Socio-cultural Organization. These groups play a major role in linking women tap on opportunities, accorded to them by the said governmental and nongovernmental actors. This therefore, makes Women Socio-cultural Organization an important entity in empowering women in Nigeria.  A good example is the Kenda Posho Mill project which has been in operation since 1988 and has successfully helped women improve their economic status. In nyeri also, a women’s dairy project has been reported to have advanced the economic status of their members (Republic of Nigeria, 1997c).  The groups are said to enable women pool their resources together, influence their lives and those of their families (Were, 1985)

1.2 Statement of the Problem
Women have been side-lined from fully participating in economic, social and political activities, despite them playing important roles such as being mothers, teachers, nurses, farmers and other professional undertakings pivotal in society. This has usually been manifested by low political representation, retrogressive cultural practices, unequal labour rights, lack of participation in decision making, lack of property ownership rights and lack of access to education. The net effect of this has been to confine women to poverty and socio-economic insecurity (UN Women, 2007). The rise of Women Socio-cultural Organization has been recognized as one of the most effective means of transforming society through women by the international community. These groups are very important in reducing poverty levels amongst women by enabling them to have control over economic resources, make economic decisions at household and community level as well as enabling them have access to credit and business facilities. They also act as unifying factors, bringing women together with an aim of empowering them. 
 With the number of Women Socio-cultural Organization rising in Nigeria, the benefits are expected to contribute significantly to the empowerment of women. About 20,000 Women Socio-cultural Organization had been registered by July 2013, Ministry of Labour (2013), a significant rise compared to 135,294 groups registered in 2005 as indicated by Nokia Research Centre (2009). In Anambra State, there are more than 5,000 registered Women Socio-cultural Organization geared towards economic empowerment of women in the region. (Oyi District Strategic Plan 2005 – 2010).  However, inequalities pitied against women ought to be addressed extensively by such groups still exists in rural societies regardless of their continued rise. These inequalities include: inability of women to fully have access and control over important economic resources at the household and community level; low economic decision making at the household and community level; limited enterprise ownership among others (Kiraka, Kobia and Katwalo 2013; Nyanjom, 2011; Mbatiah, 2010; Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics and ICF Macro, 2010; Institute of Economic Affairs Nigeria, 2008; World Bank, 2008). 

1.3 Research Questions
The study sought to answer the following research questions.
1.      Have Women Socio-cultural Organization improved women’s access and control over economic resources? 
2.      To what extent have Women Socio-cultural Organization enabled women make economic decision at the household and community level
3.      To what extent have Women Socio-cultural Organization enabled women to access credit and business services?
4.      What constraints do Women Socio-cultural Organization face in the effort to empower women?

1.4. General Objective
The purpose of the study was to analyze the contribution of rural Women Socio-cultural Organization in the economic empowerment of women in Anambra State, Oyi Local Government Area,  .

1.5 Specific Objectives
The specific objectives were:
1.      To assess the contribution of Women Socio-cultural Organization in increasing women access to and control of economic resources at the household and community level.
2.      To evaluate the contribution of Women Socio-cultural Organization in enabling women to participate in decisions making at the household and community level
3.      To assess the contribution of Women Socio-cultural Organization in the enabling women to access credit and business facilities. 
4.      To investigate the constraints Women Socio-cultural Organization face in their effort to effectively empower women.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study The proposed study was focused on analyzing the contribution of Women Socio-cultural Organization in the economic empowerment of women. The study was limited to Oyi Local Government Area, Oyi Local Government Area in Anambra State and sought to analyze only registered Women Socio-cultural Organization in the . To allow for quality collection and analysis of data, the study focus was narrowed down to 10 Women Socio-cultural Organization. This was arrived at after consultation with Oyi District Social Services officer who indicated that 95 per cent of the registered groups in the  were geared towards economic empowerment. The study was also narrowed down to the economic aspect of empowerment of women in the county.  

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Size: 83 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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