Advocating the Woman Affirmative Action and Women Empowerment in Rural Cross River State of Nigeria: The Role of the Civil Society and the Media

Advocating the Woman Affirmative Action and Women Empowerment in Rural Cross River State of Nigeria: The Role of the Civil Society and the Media

Endong Floribert Patrick Calvain (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3018-3.ch017
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Most media initiatives (particularly radio and television programs) bordering on women empowerment and the woman affirmative action tend to give less attention to the rural woman to the advantage of her urban counterpart who, to a high extent is already abreast of the feminist concept. This more or less “accidental” discrimination is causing the grassroots women to stay somewhat in ignorance and to further be victimized by the viscous patriarchal system which prevails in traditional circles. Based on a documentary analysis and semi structured interviews with experts, this chapter explores the role of the local media and the civil society in the sensitization of the rural woman towards emancipation and socio-economic empowerment in Cross River State of Nigeria. The chapter equally assesses the effectiveness of the advocacy strategies employed by local media houses and NGOs for such purposes. It assesses civil society's use of the media for the women affirmative action in rural Cross River State of Nigeria as well as the local media potential to push this affirmative action in the grassroots.
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The global struggle against patriarchy and chauvinism – manifested by issues such as the discrimination against women, gender inequality and the relegation of women to a subordinate status in the society – has engendered a variety of strategies and paradigms geared towards women emancipation and women empowerment. Some of these strategies include (i) the Beijing Conference, (ii) the Vienna Declaration of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [1979], (iii) the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflicts [1974], and (iv) the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [2000] among others. To keep pace with this global mobilization against women marginalization, the Nigerian Federation has ratified the above mentioned declarations as well as a multitude of other international conventions pertaining to women emancipation. In addition to its signing of these international conventions, the Nigerian Federation has adopted gender sensitive schemes such as the Women in Development (WID) and recently the Women Affirmative Action which is described as a paradigm conceived “to promote power sharing and to protect groups [notably women] considered to be relatively disadvantaged” in the Nigerian socio-economic sphere (Jibril, 2006).

In principle, the Affirmative Action is a program or policy seeking to redress pass social discriminations through the elaboration of strategic actions to ensure equal opportunities in such areas of development as education, law, politics and employment. Neologisms such as the Africanization policy (of the 1940s), the Indigenization policy (adopted since 1960), and the quota system represent various facets of the Affirmative Action in Nigeria. These forms of Affirmation Action have been adopted at different periods in the history of Nigeria. As a neologism and socio-political (development) paradigm, the Women Affirmative Action is progressively becoming popular in today’s Nigeria. It has come to be supported by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as revealed in its three components including: (i) anti-discrimination clause, (ii) the federal character principle and (iii) the federal character commission (Jibril, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Women Affirmative Action: A term used to refer to various government policies or programs aimed particularly at increasing the proportion of women in various sectors historically considered to be male dominated. These sectors include employment and education among others. This definition is by analogy with the term affirmative action which is a government program, conceived to encourage the increased representation of minority, disadvantaged or marginalized social groups at key sectors of a country. In countries such as India the movement us known as reservation while in UK, it is called positive discrimination.

Community Media: A term used to refer to any form of media created and controlled and influenced by a community. Such a community may be geographic (a small town) or virtual (interest and identity) in nature. Community media are equally participatory in nature. They are created or envisaged out of the need to enable the expression by a specific community of its opinions/views in a systematized, strategic and influential way. Community media are therefore to be contrasted with state-owned media, public broadcasting and commercial media.

Civil Society: A community of citizens, linked by a common interest and having the same activity. This community comprises organizations which are non-governmental and non-profit in nature, and which work for the interest of citizens. Examples of civil society organizations include churches, labor unions, NGOs, and other non-profit organizations which work for the common good, providing very important services in a society; this for very little or nothing in return.

Women Emancipation: The term “emancipation” is often associated with the value of freedom. It implies freedom from legal, political or social restrictions. It is equally a process which enables the powerless social groups to gain access and control of resources in a given society. In tandem with this, woman emancipation is inextricably linked to efforts or social schemes aimed at setting the women free from all types of bondage and sociopolitical and economic exploitation. The term “woman emancipation” is thus generally used to refer to the process by which women in general and poor women in particular are made to gain access and control of all forms of resources in a nation. It is a movement which aims at ensuring freedom of self-fulfilment and self-development for women, as well as equal access to domestic and community resources.

Women Empowerment: Women empowerment is a term used to refer to struggles by women (particularly poor women) to achieve full and equal human rights. It is equally used to refer to the totality of social, political and economic mutations/changes needed by women to realize their full human right. In tandem with this, there are over three interrelated forms of women empowerment namely political empowerment (through participation in elections and government), economic empowerment (which entails women having authority to make decision regarding their access to and use resources) and social empowerment (often through public policy and education).

Community Journalism: This is journalism designed to serve distinct communities, particularly small towns, suburbs or urban neighborhoods, as well as specific communities and short term goals. The communities concerned in a context of community journalism are usually “small” in some respects and have a number of characteristics which differentiate then for the larger population. Given their “small” size, the news that serve them (these communities) tend to be small and the journalists producing this news enjoy strong connections to the communities in question.

Grassroots Communications: This is communication strategies developed for mobilization and sensitization in the grassroots (localities often viewed as the rural and agricultural zones of a country). Grassroots is equally used to refer to the totality of people living in the rural areas of a country, as a socio-economic or political force. Viewed from this angle, grassroots communication is seen as emanating from rural communities and aiming at advocating specific issues. It therefore occurs when, for payment and on behalf of a client or employer, individuals (particularly civil society organizations) appeal to rural communities to communicate with public office holders about an important/vital topic, through such means as advertisements, websites, organization of a letter writing campaign, or through social media tools such as (but not limited to) Facebook or Twitter.

Cross River State: It is one of the 36 States of the Nigerian Federation. It is located in the south-eastern zone of the country and has as capital city Calabar.

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