THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS TO WOMEN EMPOWERMENT: A Case Study of National Council of Women Societies, NCWS, Nigeria
In the past, women were sidelined in the world dominated by men. But in the recent time women have come into positive focus to fight the domineering tendency of men folk.
In view of this, women all over the world form themselves into strong organisations to uplift the living standard of their women folk and to participate in national development. This is done by assisting women in both the urban and rural areas to plan their roles as homemakers and nation builders.
In view of this the National Council of Women Society NCWS was established as an umbrella organisation for the empowerment of all Nigerian women as homemakers and nation builders both in the rural and urban area; whether literate or illiterate. The NCWS in recent time has been accused of being urbane and elite oriented in all its activities as such diverting from its major role as a body umbrella for all Nigerian women. This study is aimed at examining this facts whether it is true or not. In doing this the survey method was utilised, questionnaire distributed to 120 respondents selected through random sampling. Interview was granted also to some officials of NCWS. Also publications of the council and other relevant document of the organisation were used as secondary data. This study reveals that the activities of the council is urban based and elite oriented, the government patronage also do not allowed the council to take appropriate measures against their activities. These were nothing but jamburies which is of little help to any measures that is detrimental to the well being of the women benefit to the less privileged Nigerian women they claim to serve.
The researcher, however recommends that, the NCWS in Nigeria should move be to grass root oriented, they should ensure that they work or create avenue an independent sources of fund so that they would not rely on government patronage for their source of money. This would make them independent of government control and manipulation.
1.0 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
All over the world, non governmental organisations were continually increased and gathering momentum in their activities. As the world continues to emphases the issue of good government and globalised democratic setting, these non governmental organisations were largely seen as an important agent of limiting authoritarian governments, strengthening popular empowerments, reducing political in accountability and improving quality of public government and reducing fluctuation of market prices.
These non governmental organisations are free associations of individuals or group of people who share common interests and ideals or identical objectives; they are mostly independent of the government, but in some cases, they attract government patronage or assistance. The organisation is influenced in some ways by the institutions of government. The government may have an indirect impact on the organisation either through the creation or the enforcement of legislation that regulates their behaviours by supporting and promoting its activities or by offering it a wide range of advisory services. The formation of most the non governmental organisations have been chiefly motivated by man’s concern for others caring, for this need and services of humanity. These motivation might be economical, political, social and cultural issues. The non governmental organisations varies in structures, roles and activities. Their motivations can be religious, cultural gender or political sentiment.
Among the non governmental organisations is the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Nigeria. This organisation was founded in 1958 with the aim of bringing into being throughout Nigeria, federation of non political women’s organisation to assist
women in towns and villages with important roles as home makers and nation builders. It seeks to create among their members an awareness of being a good citizen. The extent at which the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) has performed these roles would form the bed-rock of this study.
In the recent, time women all over the world have come into positive focus. This trend was as a result of a realisation of what the world might have been missing by not involving them positively. According to Orucha (2003), the progress and development of any nation is the woman in that societies.” Thus, women represents a tool for positive change, depending on how they are treated and the level of opportunity given to them to actualise their potentials. This declaration in 1978 by the United Nations Organisation at the international year for women as well as the decade for women, are the organisation’s contributions towards the emancipation of women.
However, in Nigeria, in spite of the misconception arising from traditional and religious beliefs in the role and place of women in the society, a study of our history shows a lot of achievements of Nigerian women in the social, economic & political sectors. This was manifested during colonial days, when in 1929, Aba women revolted against the British Colonialists for taxing women, this uprising later brought the evolution of autonomy in local government administration in the country.
Nigerian women, in their local domains, also played significant roles, as they are playing today. For instance, the Association of Daughters in Igboland has been record in the book of history, “They do not only settled internal disputes in the villages of their birth, but also settle dispute between their villages of birth and the ones into which they are married
They deliberate on issues affecting their communities and their decisions were binding and respected by others”. This part of the measures is required for economic stability.
1.1 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
Since political independence in 1960, misrule, arbitrariness and corruption have characterised governance in Nigeria. Since colonial rule, several civil society organisations have emerged to champion societal cause against the autocratic state or to defend the collective interests of their members (Barkan, Mc Nurthy and Ayeni 1991; 475-780).
With globalisation and its visible characteristics such as universalisation of institutions, practices and structures, civil society organisations in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa received increased impetus. As such, several civil society organisations with specific political aspirations and role emerged. Their goals were essentially political and they attempt to limit the state power impinges on transparent and accountability.
In Nigeria, some civil societies (gender-related inclusive) have been playing pivotal role in enhancing state performance, transparency and accountability in government. Other civil societies (gender-related inclusive) have more or less become extension of state power. Some have also become collaborative with the state in the marginalisation of interests they claim to serve. In this process authoritarian and non-performing governments bolstered.
One of these civil societies which in gender centered is women’s civil society organisations. Garba (1997: 256), Omololy, (1997) provides a typology of women civil organisations in Nigeria. They are autochrious and heterochtorious women’s organisations.
Igba (1982) and Afigbo (1996: 539-57) record the existence of women’s organisations during the colonial period, which provided a forum for the articulation of women’s interest. Those include the Iyalode Societies and the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) in Western
Nigeria. Nwabiola Movement, Southern Ngwa Women’s Association etc. In the East, superficially, these women interest organisations appeared strictly social and economic, but the underlying motives for their organisation and certain actions are political. The women’s organisations in their various communities organised themselves to resist the political order, which has threatened their existence in the political and economy of their community.
Mba (1982), Olojede (1995), Shettima (1997). Toyo (1997), Salihu (1997), examine the dominant women’s groups in contemporary Nigeria. These includes the National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS), Women in Nigeria (WIN), Mba (1982: 165) notes that NCWS and it progenitors Nigerian Women’s Union (NWU), federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies (FNWS), were among the first women’s civil societies. They gave oppression to women’s interests, which had struggle or been given expression or represented. They also applied pressure in obtaining public hearing. The activities and pressure of NWU and FNWS contributed largely to the enfranchisement of Women in South-eastern and south
– western Nigerian. The movements were active and vocal in articulating women’s problems through mass mobilisation. The association’s leadership was very conscious of the special role of women, the importance of women to the society and the assertion of their rights vis-à-vis men.
The national council of women societies (NCWS) in Nigeria was founded with the aim of protecting and enhancing women interests and rights in general. There has been growing criticism by many opinion leaders and scholars the credibility of NCWS to performing this functions. Toyo (1997), Pereira (1997) discusses the progressive alignment and collaboration of NCWS with the political class in the marginalization of women in Nigeria. The authors opined that the regular received of subventions from government
contributed to the warm relationship between NCWS and the governors and this lead to subsequent loss of autonomy of NCWS. According to these scholars NCWS become a mouth organ for the government and the dominant male interest against women’s interest reflected in the explanation of one of its key officials (Pereira, 1997):
“There is no need… for a women to be liberated from a man, the man owns the government. There is a need for women to fully participate in government but we need some level of understanding. We (the NCWS) are not there to take away what they have but we are here to assist them in doing WHATEVER they do better”
As such, if a woman’s movement is to be guided by such Philosophy, what benefits can be derived by the generality of women in the civil society who are oppressed by negative socio-cultural practices? This is a question that begs for an answer.
This development has caused a lot of discontents among members of this groups. Shettima (1995), Iman (1997), Salihu (1997) discusses the emergence of parallel women’s interest organisation who do not share NCWS patronizing approach. Among the emergence parallel women interest organisation was Women in Nigeria (WIN). WIN was established in 1982. It drew its inspirations from a leftist ideology, which identifies the pressure nature of class and gender dynamics as been responsible for the marginalisation of Nigerian women. The autonomous character of WIN has enable the organisation to develop its own ideological position to locate women’s participation in political development within the control needs for fundamental social change in general, aims at eradicating, class and gender basis of exploitation (Pereira, 1997; 8-12).
Toyo (1997:7) examines the lack of consensus among women’s organisations even for seemingly similar interests or objectives. This, problems remain a major set back for women’s organisations in influencing policies in favour of Nigerian women. She also cautions that the existence of women’s civil society organisation like NCWS, is not a guarantee for a strong civil society, as several women’s organisations are steeped in vitriche internal conflicts thereby impeding actions which may portend positive changes for their beneficiaries. Their major problem constitute a major to NCWS in achieving its major policy objectives. Toyo (1997; 7) suggests that for women organisations, especially NCWS to make any impact on our policy process, they would need to network among themselves and build coalitions.
This study attempts to examines this problems and the extends to which NCWS have empowered women, and enhanced good governance in Nigeria.
1.2 AIMS OF STUDY
The major objectives of this study is to examine the role and contributions of NCWS to women empowerment in Nigeria. Specific objectives of the study includes:
- To examine the nature and effectiveness of NCWS. (i.e. Structure, funds and activities).
- To identify the major problems or constraints of the NCWS and the factors responsible for such problems.
- To examine the extent or effects of this problems on the effectiveness of the organisation.
- To make suggestions for improvement.
1.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Everywhere in the world, women have always been considered inferior to men. Women have been marginalised economically, politically, culturally and socially. As such, women interest organisation have continually mobilize themselves to fight against this gender bias.
The utility of this study lies its ability to throw more light on women interests groups or organisations in Nigeria vis-à-vis, their potentials for enhancing popular participation and possible strategies for strengthening them as agent of change for improving government for the ultimate benefit of their members.
This study is of significant because of the conflicting assumption on the role of National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) Nigeria in protecting and enhancing women interests and empowerment. This believed would come out with a lot of fact about NCWS and it will also widen out horizon on their activities, their encounter with the state over governance issues, expecting issues that affects women, their strategies and their impacts on government policy as it affects its members.
The research would also be of a great significant to other parallel women organisation as the researcher believes, the findings would settle several scores that is among these women interests organisations. It would also be of benefit to the Nigerian government in terms of policy making on gender bias issues
The following hypothesis are adopted for the purpose of this study.
- That NCWS is an elite and urban based in detrimental rather than for the rural
- That alignment and collaboration of NCWS with the government or political class
contributed to the loss of autonomy by NCWS.
- Lack of consensus among the NCWS has been a major set back to the organization in achieving its objectives.
1.5 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is limited to the analysis of NCWS. The major reason for this choice is, firstly, the NCWS is about the oldest women’s civil society in Nigeria since after independence and it is also a government recognised umbrella for non-governmental women’s organisation comprising of other civil women’s societies. It also has a history of relationship with government. And finally, it has a wider coverage in terms of its member, patronage and activities as such, NCWS serves as a special focus point in terms of its capacity to influence government policy in favour of women interest and at the same time, empowering them.
Some of the limitations involves time, finances, study coverage, data materials and sport from the NCWS officials and members.
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
In order to achieve our stated objectives and to test these hypotheses employed for this study. The survey design is adopted.
1.6.1 SOURCE OF DATA
Both the Primary and Secondary data source were used in this research work. Secondary data: These are source got through the examination of books related to civil society, women organisations, publications and documents of NCWS, Ministry of Women Affairs, National Women Centre, relevant magazines, Newspapers and other government publications etc.
(a) Primary source of data: These source of data was sourced through the use of questionnaire and interview. The interview was conducted on some of the officials of NCWS in their Headquarters in Abuja and some opinion women leaders.
The questionnaire method of eliciting data was used to ensure that respondents responded more objectively. This is due to the fact that questionnaire ensure greater impersonately as well as sufficient time to respond.
Both open and close ended questions patterns would be used, because the close-ended questions restrict respondent to the extent of the questions, while the open ended question allow the respondent to offer his/her response without restriction. This gives the respondent the chance to include all what she considered necessary in her answer to the question.
1.6.2 POPULATION AND SAMPLE SIZE
The total population of this study includes all the members of National Council of Women societies (NCWS) Nigeria and the officials of (NCWS) Headquarter, Abuja.
Stratified sampling and random sampling method were adopted. For the purpose of the study. 90 members of all class were randomly selected as sample size. While 30 officials of NCWS were randomly selected as sample size making the total size 120
This sample size is considered representative of the entire population for making inferences and generalisation on this total population.
In collecting the questionnaire distributed, 85 member respondent responded while 5 decline. Also only 25 out of the thirty selected officials also responds to the questionnaire while 5 decline.
1.6.3 STATISTICAL TOOLS FOR ANALYSIS
Simple statistical tools was adopted or used. As such, tables, frequencies and percentages were used for the analysis of data collected.
1.7 DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS AND NOTES
NGO: These are non governmental organizations, free associations of individuals or groups of people who share common interest, ideas or identical objectives. Mostly independent of the government.
NCWS: Is among the non governmental organization which means the National Council of Women Society it’s the umbrella organization for women which was founded in 1958. With the aim of helping both rural and urban women throughout the federation.
Empowerment: Means to delegate a legal power or right of participation in all the national issues, both politically, socially and economically as a citizen with full autonomy.
ELITE: Means the few who are considered socially superior to the rest in a group or society, political class or the ruling class, they actually have the power or the means of been superior than others