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Photograph of females’ agitation for equity. Retrieved from zeitschrift-luxemburg.de

Omorogiuwa Tracy, B.E. PhD, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work, University of Benin, Nigeria

A Discourse of Females Issues in Nigeria: Exploring the Place of Social Work from the Lens of Policy Advocacy

The cultural and political history of Nigeria is patriarchal, leaving women out of the main decision-making machinery, confining women to play second fiddle to men in the society. This age long tradition is indeed an inhibition to the female aspirational pursuits and how their male counterparts relate with them. Until the focus on advancing gender value and social justice strategies aimed at comprehending and then addressing women’s issues to challenge or neutralise the male dominated politico-religious traditions in Nigeria are addressed then the position of women’s place in society remains a problem. Recommendations for social work education and practice necessary for surmounting the structural-induced barriers are considered.


Social Work as a helping profession is concerned with social equity as it applies to vulnerable groups. The cultural and political history of the Nigerian State and the various ethnic nationalities that constitute the State is patriarchal in nature, hence females are considered inferior even in matters that affect them (Salami, 2018). The institutions on which society runs are therefore designed to keep females repressed as they are not considered equal to males. The societal structures that relegate females as subordinates, the attendant difficulties that they are subjected to needs to be understood while at the same time striving to mitigate the cultural and political traditions that feeds these ideologies that continue to oppress women.

In order to redress this discrimination, there is a need for societal re-orientation toward gender equity so as to protect women from discriminatory practices and other voices that reduces the value of the female person. Social work is concerned with female’s issues and advancing gender value and social equity (IFSW, 2014). This article outlines the difficulties engaged with upholding females in the Nigerian setting. It begins by exploring women’s status using multiple sources and policy documents. Further, by substantiating it with evidence, conceptual framework about gender inequity in Nigeria is provided. Difficulties in strategy promotion of females’ issues are further expounded by featuring the current basic frameworks in Nigeria. The need for social work practice, instruction and information building is necessary to the examination of females’ circumstances and the difficulties in question. Blockages associated with strategy promotion of women problems, and the job of social work is vigorously delineated.

Insights into Females Issues in Nigeria

Because of the subordinate status given by the well-established strict based male-centric society and conniving male-ruled social-political framework, females have continued to be disadvantaged in the Nigerian context. Such discrimination of females has impeded their individual advancement across the ages. As a result women's lower societal position has informed and inspired their political and auxiliary action for pushing their specific issues and advancement needs (Opaluwah, 2007; Iloren, 2015). Their lower status results in little or no acknowledgment of females/women's formative problems in the society. Because Nigeria is such as male dominated and socially discriminating environment, it is no wonder that women and women issues are underestimated. Such insufficient portrayal of females' issues and, given the non-inclusiveness in policy and decision making with regard to women participation, this situation poses many difficulties for social workers.

Women in Nigeria experience discrimination because of intersectionality rising out of “class, religion, demography, occupation, and other multifold” personalities. However, this needs challenging as it is worthy of note; that females' accomplishments are firmly connected to the general human advancement of the nation (Opaluwah, 2007; IFSW, 2014; Omorogiuwa & Amadasun, 2020). Such linkages are almost certain as women bear the obligation of raising children generally and contribute to the work and wages of the family unit. Empowering females' privileges and their economic, social and political advancement ought to be considered as essential in any national and worldwide human advancement plan (Bello & Roslan, 2010). Likewise, empowering women posits the pressing need to fuse social equity into social work practice with women in Nigeria.

Politico-Religious Patriarchy in Nigeria: Probing its Structural Nature

The politico-strict structure of the Nigerian culture has made and supported a severe type of male-controlled society (Opaluwah, 2007). In its auxiliary utilitarian structures, male controlled society benefits some people, focusing on men's mastery over females, placing females as the more fragile sex needing protection. In the Nigerian setting, the subjection of females in various strict sacred texts has underscored the negative mentality of some religious conventions toward females' equality/fairness. With quick modernization and urbanization, challenging the subjection of females has become urgent. This creates difficulties as women’s role ostensibly stays inside the well-established strict conventions, which is likely to result in some resistance from male dominated practices and power structures.

The “Global Gender Gap Report, Nigeria is positioned 122 of 144 nations over the world” (IFSW, 2014; World Economic Forum, 2017). This gender discrimination concerning women’s economic involvement and prospect needs addressing despite small changes being introduced as a response to this unsatisfactory ranking. The coordinated idea of women's development in Nigeria presents a challenge as the weak social infrastructures, such intra-family unit imbalances, results in critical disparity in the conveyance of assets and resources impeding the wellbeing of women. The call for wellbeing and political emancipation of women and for policy-induced (Omorogiuwa, 2020) steps to eliminate all forms of gender-based disparities become an urgent matter requiring Government attention.

Given the latest estimate of 2018, it is reported that 71.3% of males and 52.7% for females in Nigeria were literate (Central Intelligence Agency, 2019). In any case, education rates despite everything show sex divergence rose out of territorial and class and gender intersectionality among females. This implies an imbalance in wellbeing against females in Nigeria, where preferences are given to male issues. In the larger global community, such social preferences have led to neglecting female welfare and placing remedial issues to the background (Omorogiuwa, 2020). The systems in which the position of women influences their wellbeing and development, or achievements are differing. Noticeably, women’s self-sufficiency, which is connected to their class, is defined by the male-centric social orders impeding any move towards females' prosperity. Clearly, wellbeing strategies are not sufficient on their own and should be combined with different approaches, such as enlightenment workshops and opportunity for dialogue in prompting a thorough and helpful human advancement for females in Nigeria.

Structural Stranglehold and the Role of Social Work

As pointed out earlier, the basic control of females' problems in Nigeria is solidified by the jobs of traditional and strict based male centric society, further combined with jobs of political and private establishments, which almost unilaterally exclude women. The intricacy of the auxiliary instruments of females' abuse in Nigeria is openly discussed and has been the subject of multi-disciplinary discourse since the last two decades, yet discrimination exist in the production of such knowledge (Salami, 2018). Even so, the worldwide scholarly community has expanded the idea of gender-based mistreatment of females through basic frameworks, which advises the Nigerian situation (Omorogiuwa, 2020). Clearly, the legitimization of social problems connected with females' issues will not become common concerns, until societal members or interests become persuaded that they merit consideration.

How can practitioners’ advance women’s emancipation and empowerment? Germain and Gitterman (2013) suggest the need to look at one's characters and assess possible inclinations. It was additionally recommended that self-perception is essential for assisting clients and impacting networks linked to gender issues. Thus, the task of social work to address gender problems, requires both information calling and a skilled ‘multidisciplinary’ approach to seek government assistance by making mindfulness, and self-worth cognizance among the many players. In the Nigerian setting, the task of social workers to address female gender issues, demands attention, with regard to social equity and sex value, and overall social competency and value of women to society (Omorogiuwa & Amadasun, 2020). This appears to be limited in the current social work training, which can be linked to the overarching gender orientation in favor of males. By and large, current social work training and practice in Nigeria is gender value apathetic.

Exploring the Place of Social Work Practice

The Nigerian social work practice has the potential, with the current reset to anti-oppressive and feminist lens to professional education in some social work schools, to address the local issues related to gender (Amadasun & Omorogiuwa, 2020). Hence, gender sensitization needs to be a basic piece of social work training in the nation, which might be performed through discourse on femininity mindfulness and value. For effective redress of gender-related problems, Iloren, (2015) offered conceptualization of social problems, utilizing the women's liberation points of view. This is likely to challenge male centric views and existing gender stereotype ideologies that inhibits effective social work practice (Omorogiuwa & Amadasun, 2020). The need to move from general practice to a more evidence based training and practice, drawing from international collaboration and working with groups that share common interests in advancing the course of women, to develop curriculum that help address the anomaly of treating females as inferior to males are also worth considering (Omorogiuwa & Amadasun, 2020).

Given the conceptualization of gender orientation from numerous epistemological points of view and additionally from various hubs of intersectionality, it envelops a range of approaches, techniques, accentuations, and expository policies. In this way, strategy practice on gender issues requires a specific instructional method, and evidence based exploration established in deconstructing age-old notions of women’s subordination. While working on gender-related problems in Nigeria, educators will do well to make practice models adopt a dynamic or flexible positioning consistent with current gender understandings. This may entail connecting academic research with critical approach for social work aims, which relates to Nigerian circumstances. Indubitably and given the eclectic nature of the profession, social workers are well capable of leading partnerships that requires intra-disciplinary and interdisciplinary exploration. This includes coordinated efforts and practice models necessary for policy practice and advocacy, with the sole aim of upending the tide of patriarchal stranglehold that have long constricted the emancipation of women in Nigeria.


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