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Subjection of African women: The effects on economic development

Ifediora, John (2008): Subjection of African women: The effects on economic development.

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Abstract

The abysmal economic performance by African States in the past three decades is attributable to a host of known factors – mismanagement of resources, graft, and bureaucratic corruption (Mauro, 1995); but of all the known culprits that have so far suppressed economic growth, none are more intransigent, and yet least addressed, than Africa’s patriarchal customary practices, and traditional observances. These pervasive practices are traceable, with relative facility, to controlling cultivated traits of ancient origin that have remained resilient to the moderating effects of education, and experiments with ‘democratic’ forms of governance. The failure to incorporate cultural sensibilities, and to see things from the point of view of Africans continue to frustrate all otherwise reasonable attempts at development. Amongst experts in the development community, it is widely acknowledged that a major cause of economic underdevelopment in modern Africa is the relative absence of industrialization, and lack of demonstrable opportunities for effective employment of both capital and human resources (De Soto, 1989). But while capital accumulation and industrialization are mutually self-sustaining and fundamental to development, how a society treats and deploys its human capital ultimately determine its development trajectory.

An overarching question, therefore, is how to further explore the effects of culturally induced disparate treatment of African women on economic development, and how the ensuing inequality of opportunities between the sexes detracts from development efforts. The thesis of this inquiry is that the denial of fair and equal treatment to women in African societies is a major contributing factor to perceived and actual economic underdevelopment, and that real and sustained socio-economic development is achievable only when such unjust practices are allowed to elapse into disuse. Using Nigeria as a case study, this work would provide a robust guidance on the effects of subjection on development, and how such effects may be ameliorated by gender-sensitive public policies in education, and employment opportunities. The analytic approach adopted is necessarily informed by a liberal interpretation of justice that presumes a moral equality of the sexes, and admits of no preference or natural disability of one or the other.

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