Social Capital and Community Development: A Nexus for Women Informal Learning

Social Capital and Community Development: A Nexus for Women Informal Learning

Adejoke C. Babalola
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8265-8.ch011
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This chapter explores the types of informal learning that take place as women participate in adult literacy programs, community development projects, and as they use social capital in three states in south-western Nigeria. The data used for this study were extracted from a recent research work titled “Effect of Literacy Education and Social Capital on Rural Women's Involvement in Community Development in Southwestern Nigeria.” Three states were selected from the southwestern Nigeria, two Local Government Areas (LGAs) were selected from each of the three states, and two rural communities were also selected from each of the selected local government areas by random sampling technique. From each of the rural communities, 60 rural women were randomly selected, making a total number of 720 respondents. A structured questionnaire, an in-depth interview guide, and focus group discussion were used to collect data. The women attributed the informal learning documented to the relationship they formed during the period they attended literacy classes and participated in community development projects.
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As a result of the socially prescribed gender roles and gender division of labour, most women, in the rural areas especially in Nigeria, are faced with huge responsibilities assigned to them in food production and community development by circumstances, communities and the society. They have less free time than men, as they carry out subsistence agriculture for food security, while at the same time carrying out their critical role in the reproductive economy. Ekong (2010) highlighting the activities of the rural women stated that ‘Nigeria rural women are continually involved in farming, processing of harvested crops and storage, transportation, marketing, rearing of livestock and home making’(p. 412). Opeke and Okuilagwe (2000) stated that,

For all these chores, rural women have no help (whether human or mechanical). In this wise, they are seldom recognised as somebody in their own right. They are reduced to low level in the community due to the years of negative self-image imposed on them by the society (p.74)

A high level of illiteracy is also noticed among women in the rural areas of Nigeria. Nigerian women’s literacy level is much lower than that of men, especially the rural women. According to the National Population Commission (NPC) conducted in Nigeria (2003) more women 35.8% of the population aged 15 years and older had no form of education compared to 18.8% of the men.The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Rural Poverty Report (2001) recognises that rural girls are less likely to achieve the same level of basic education as boys. If one of the children in a household has to drop out of school because of family (usually the mother's) workload, the cost of schooling or for other reasons, it is usually the girl-child. If poverty precludes sending more than one child to attend school in town, then it is the boy who is normally selected to attend. Girls who were unable to attend school as children swell the rate of adult illiteracy. Thus gender inequalities in adult literacy remain persistent and deep (Division for the Advancement of women (DAW), 2008).

The problem of illiteracy among women, cited above, is just one of the many challenges women face in rural areas. Other problems are limited access to information, capital and other resources that could help ensure women’s economic independence and improve their bargaining power, their social, political and economic stability. When decisions are to be taken in our rural communities concerning their lives and children they are rather exempted. Their ideas are neither heard nor taken serious. To support this view, writing on the plight of women in Ayangba Community in Dekina Local Government of Kogi State, Nigeria, Momoh, Uman and Mohammed (2002) cited in Ebirim (undated)observed that the women have been relegated to the background. They have little or no say in the community. They are only meant to be heard and not seen. They are regarded as second-class citizens. Majority of them are poor financially and educationally. They are poorly nourished, lack adequate health care and social security. They are even marginalised in decision-making. This view is supported by Opeke and Okaligwe (2000) who stated that the rural Nigeria women typically operate in a harsh and hostile environment. They have to cope with all the conditions of their ruralty as well as contend with their subordinate role in the society. More importantly is the way women perceive themselves and the role they think they should play in the society, especially supportive roles (Mejiuni 2012).

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