Poverty is regarded as a state of deprivation and is manifested in illiteracy, lack of access to food, water, poor housing and inability to meet basic ends’ meet. The prevalence of poverty however presents a paradox of the country’s natural and human resources endowment. An assessment of the incidence of poverty in Nigeria shows that poverty has worsened in Nigeria since the 1980s. While many Nigerians, especially women, are worse off than their male counterparts. It is against this backdrop, that poverty reduction becomes one of the most urgent challenges facing the Nigerian government.
Poverty reduction has always be a focal point in Nigeria in spite of successive government changes. The daunting challenges however, remain challenge of understanding the dimensions and causes of poverty, and developing appropriate and effective strategies to eradicate poverty in the country. The incidence, depth and severity of poverty among women are so much. In Nigeria today, most people live on a mere N120 (less than $1) a day, hence such people are regarded as those enmeshed in poverty.
Apparently, a chunk of the nation’s population lack basic amenities, adequate health care, shelter and good jobs. It should however be noted that of the high preponderance of poverty amongst Nigerians, Nigerian women are the most affected. This is not unconnected with the fact that they are often marginalized in various spheres in the society. From decision-making process, politic, religious, social spheres as well as on issues relating to employment opportunities, economic opportunities among others.
The Nigerian women precarious position in the society is not helped by the malaises they are vulnerable to, such as domestic violence, illiteracy, high maternal mortality, low income and poverty, women trafficking, political and social marginalization, that have been to the chagrin of many feminist group in the country. Admittedly, copious data on poverty in Nigeria indicate that about 70% of poor Nigerians are women. Indeed a substantial percentage of such women are said to live below the nationally and internationally defined poverty line, lacking access to basic necessities of life such as basic education, basic nutrition, adequate health and social services.
Sociologically, Nigerian women are known to be extensively preoccupied with diverse complex roles as mothers, workers and household keepers-taking care of their husbands, children and their extended families. The Nigerian women are dominant in the agricultural sector, ensuring the propagation of most food stuffs in Nigerian market.
They as well engage in the tedious task of transporting their agricultural produce from the rural areas to urban areas, even through difficult terrains. They also perform most of the majority of the task food processing tasks and dominate the rural and urban informal sector activities. In spite of this, an insignificant number of women own their own farm lands, have access to agricultural inputs, agricultural credits and subsidies that can help boost their productivity and incomes, which would have created positive impact on their poverty state.
Realizing that women are always the worst hit by poverty, there is therefore the need to focus various poverty alleviation efforts and policies on Nigerian women. In this respect, poverty alleviation measures should be hinged on women’ economic, socio-political, structural and cultural context as well as other milieux. That is to say the poverty alleviation programmes must take into cognizance, women social, political and cultural depravation as well as societal beliefs and values.
Poverty alleviation programmes are economic policies that should be directed at women, especially the rural women most affected by poverty. The past National Development Plans never placed any emphasis on poverty alleviation among women neither to various economic policies of the past. Some past policies include: the Better life for Rural Women (BLW), the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP),the Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN) in Ondo State, Family Support Programme(FSP) , many microcredit schemes for women among others.
Only a few of such economic policies were geared towards the alleviation of poverty among rural women. It should be noted that, an approximately 70% of those living within the poverty ratio live in the rural areas of Nigeria, where they depend largely on agriculture. Various policies on agriculture were expected to create positive economic impact on the rural poor, which include rural women. Past rural development programmes have not been able to transform rural development for rural women to benefit from. This manifests itself in the failure of the development and poverty alleviation strategies to create a synergy between rural poverty alleviation and rural agricultural development.
For most Nigerian women, the effect of poverty manifest through their inability to take care of the basic needs of their children. This concern over the inability to satisfy their children’s basic needs tend to cause a feeling of insecurity, inadequacy and anxiety as well as make them vulnerable to social vices such as prostitution, women trafficking and some crimes. The concern for the standard of living of women in Nigeria can be seen in truth as, concern to alleviate the socio-economic status of Nigerian women. Many programmes initiated by the government or international agencies and NGOs, designed to improve the standard of living of women in Nigeria have either had minimal impact or failed out rightly to address the preponderance of poverty among Nigerian women.
Given the poor performances of past poverty alleviation programmes, there is the need to channel most poverty alleviation programmes to Nigerian women, especially those in the rural areas. This is because of the significant role women play in their household, in the economy and in the society. Women tend to show more concern towards the family due to their innate qualities. Alleviating the poverty of women would amount to alleviating the poverty of many families currently enmeshed in poverty in Nigeria.
Writtne By Johnny Eshikena Bob