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Gender Issues as it Relates to Achieving the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) in Nigeria

Submitted by on November 5, 2012 – 3:15 PM

topics-nigeria-sfSpanInequality is a widely recognized issue that is in practical sense a very difficult issue to fully address in some aspects of human life. Despite the increase in and focus on gender equality in education, health, employment and other social development issues, these issues has proved to be complicated both for research, evaluation and practice.

Though inequality dates back to centuries ago and are still persistent in all parts of the world from the developing to developed countries, including those with highly developed welfare system such as Norway and Netherlands. However, most forms of these inequalities persist more in developing countries of Africa.

In global perspective, though there appears to be a significant progress in some aspects of inequality, however, ongoing gender inequalities in Africa continue to hamper momentum on most of the goals. These findings illustrates that simply measuring gender inequality in health, education, political participation, socio-economic empowerment or employment outcomes fails to capture the underlying dynamics that influence the likelihood of countries achieving the MDGs. In Africa, using targets and indicators to evaluate the progress of MDGs shows that gender related issues has been some of the reasons for the major setbacks evidenced. Another major setback in Africa and particularly sub-Saharan Africa is unavailability of timely, accurate, valid and reliable date from countries to monitor and evaluate these gender issues. In this paper, we shall examine some of the MDGs as it relates to gender in Nigeria.

Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Although there had been some progress in this MDG, however it is reported that over 443 million people in the world live in chronic poverty which have failed to provide exact statistics on this issue because of the lack of sex-disaggregated targets and indicators that masks the gender dynamics of poverty and food insecurity, concealing inequalities between the sexes, and ignoring relations of power and responsibility. In recent times, several studies and even WHO report indicates that women and girls bear enormous hardship especially during and after civil conflict and humanitarian emergencies.

Also, recent studies show that though globalization has meant new labour opportunities for women, they continue to earn less than men even in similar jobs. Thus, better understanding of how these discriminatory institutions relate to development outcomes could enhance aid effectiveness and inform development programming, as donors and partners countries assess progress and challenges towards the MDGs. Moreover, their employments are often informal, with no access to social security or predictable income. This unequal global progress has been highlighted by two schools of thoughts namely; the social watch which uses the Gender Equality Index (GEI) to examine three areas: Economic activity, Empowerment and Education while the UNDP describes gender disparities using Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) that measures gender equality rather than just Human Development Index (HDI). Though, some authors argue that such statistics most a times fails to capture the informal sectors of the economy where women are often engaged in.

This situation above should re-awoken the need for an urgent gender reform and call for social protection because this had been a global strategy to cushion the impact of shocks and help poor households take advantage of opportunities presented by globalization and economic growth. Also, African countries   should synergize social protection policies across the MDGs by reducing poverty and inequality through strengthen access to, and demand for quality and basic services, supporting economic productivity, and facilitating a better balance between care-giving productive work responsibilities. Furthermore, more data on gender related issues, particularly pertaining to discriminatory social institutions such as early marriage, violence against women and access to land and credit facilities. For instance, in Ethiopia the government led initiative of land certification for women as a way of counteracting women financial vulnerability has greatly improved significantly their economic and social status. This study also shows that empowering through property rights could affect the overall status of women through poverty reduction and malnutrition, illustrating the link between the achievement of MDG 1 and women’s access to assets.

Finally, sex-disaggregated data across all the MDG indicators should be implemented to help policy makers understand how different groups are progressing in relation to the targets, recognizing that women may face specific constraints and barriers that need to be addressed.

Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

Although recent MDG report reveals that most countries in Africa have made significant progress towards achieving this goal, however, it is observable that net enrolment in primary education is on average lower in states with high levels of early marriage leading to fewer than primary school aged children were not in school. From this evidence above, it is suggestive to believe that women’s lack of decision making and economic power in the family and household is associated with lower enrolment in schools.

On a wider view, we could argue that the lack of women’s decision making power in the family and household has limited their ability to make choices to safeguard the health, education and welfare of their children and family. In particular, where women and girls have a very low status in the household, they may have few negotiating power to avoid social pressure to enter into an early marriage. Also, the lost years of schooling not only impact negatively on the girls themselves who get married young, but also on their community and the next generation. Drawing from these issues above, there needs to be an expansion of youth and adult literacy programs to cover women who were not opportune to attend school during their younger age.

Furthermore, this sexual disparity observed could be the reason for the low level women involvement in politics and other spheres of the national economy. This could also be responsible for the high rate of maternal mortality as observed which in a wider scope translates to high infant and under five mortality rates because illustrate women face challenges to health services and facilities even when given the opportunity.

Goal 5: Improving Maternal Mortality

This goal sets out to improve maternal mortality through a range of indicators but of particular interest to this study is the use of contraceptive among women and proportion of women that have antenatal care. Although some countries of Africa have achieved great improvement in this goal, however, Nigeria remains one of the countries in Africa with the highest number of maternal mortality. On an average in Nigeria, the northern parts have a higher level of maternal mortality compared to other parts of the country.

Other issues that could be conceded under this goal that are been overlooked despite clearly playing a role in the rate of maternal mortality are the issue of violence on women physical integrity – violence against women and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This is because women’s physical security, inside and outside their homes, are been compromised by various forms of harmful traditional practices and violence against women throughout the world. Furthermore, the physical and psychological consequences for women and girls include not only reduced access to health services but also limit their ability to bear children safely because of the much greater risk of experiencing complications or death during pregnancy and delivery.

Goal 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases

HIV/AIDS has been one highest kill infection in the last two decades and combating this epidemic trend require more than emergency response, shallow policies and interventions but rather self-conscious approach by all stakeholders. More so, malaria related infections, which is a very popular infection in most of our African community has continued to be the cause of over 40% of children that die at infancy as reported by the WHO 2010 MDG report.

From AFDB, 2010 study, it is observed that there is some gender disparity in the use of condom. The study also revealed that males were found to use condom more than females though this disparity could be argued on the backdrop of more availability and awareness of male condoms as compared to female condoms.

Also, the knowledge of HIV/AIDs varied significantly between both sexes and across various parts of the country with males been more knowledgeable than females about the disease.  It could be argued that the low level of awareness about the disease could be responsible for the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among females. This finding highlight the very importance to scale up policies, health promotion and other forms of public enlightenment strategies targeted at women in all sectors to help address these issues.

Goal 7: Environmental Sustainability

Although there is no reason to believe that there are gender difference in access to improved water or sanitation since these are generally to districts and communities, not to individuals, there is still an important gender dimension to water supply. For instance, in places where people live from a distant to the source of water supply, (whether improved or not) someone must go and collect this water on a daily basis which in most cases, this task falls on female members of a household. Thus, brining an improved water supply to somewhere near residential concentrations can both improve the health of a population and reduce the burden of a particularly tasking and time-consuming form of labour, performed largely by girls and women.




Suggested reading:

AFDB (2010): MDG Report 2010- Assessing progress in Africa towards the Millennium Development Goals.


WHO (2010): World Health Statistics 2009, Geneva.

For comments and contributions, please reach the author via email: [email protected]


About the author: Emmanuel Kidochukwu Uzum is the  Lead Consultant, Public Health and Social Development at EM & PH Consult, Ltd., Nigeria and is focused on health advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, project management, operational research and fund raising for youths, women and other vulnerable populations especially in the areas of Health, Education and Community Development. The author can be reached at:  [email protected]


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