The Role of Women in Nation Building

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THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN NATION BUILDING
Tayo A. Zubair

Nation Building is a process of constructing and fashioning a national identity. The choice of these key words, process, and construction and fashioning are very fundamental because they are the basic ingredients of nation building. Taking a critical look at these words one will realize that nation building is indeed a process which takes place over a long period of time. It is gradual and not drastic or a sudden occurrence. Construction and fashioning are also very important in nation building because there are things to be constructed and fashioned out, both in physical and intangible terms. Fashioning here is a conscious effort at creating an identity and a national image. Among those things to construct and fashion out are behaviors, national image, values, institutions and even physical monuments that depict common history and culture of the people of the state. Furthermore, national identity has to do with shared feelings among a people with a common or similar heritage, a sense of belonging to a common nation, a feeling of togetherness that is expressed through the sharing of a common national language, national anthem, show of respect for a common national flag, etc. Nation Building is also about forging a sense of unity among the various units of a country; it include making conscious efforts in uniting heterogeneous societies as one indivisible unit, united in national goals, believes and common national aspirations. It not only involves rebranding of image, but also includes the revamping, restructuring and reorientation of a nation. Indeed, Nation building is different from State building, because while the later is more of building and strengthening states institutions which could also be from an outside influence, the later is more concerned with the building of a strong national identity. Moreover, it does not really require an outside involvement, but it does require the inputs from all sections of the State. Although every section and group of a State has roles to play in nation building, however, in many cases, this is not so as only few sections have perpetually dominated mainstream development leaving behind significant contributions to nation building from other vital sections of the State. This is particularly true in most developing countries especially in Africa. Notable among such groups/sections are the women whose roles in nation building have not been fully harnessed. The traditional role of women from history has always been childbearing and/or rearing and housekeeping, which often include subsistence agricultural activities. However, for most of the time they have been excluded from most political or nation building activities. In many societies they are regarded more or less as second class citizens. In most African societies, gender preference is prevalent and right from birth, the girl child is faced with the possibility of rejection, because the male child is preferred to the female and this preference also affects the education of the girl child. The education of the girl child is not considered important and if ever they were educated, it is always limited, while their brothers in the same family are given a better chance of furthering their education to a higher level. In addition to this, the education given to them is meant to make them function better in their traditional roles and not for community service or for nation building. Furthermore, in most African societies, women could not contribute to public discussions on matters affecting the general public. They are excluded from decision making processes of the state. This is indeed a reflection of their roles at a home in decision matters. A typical example is in the choice of marriage partners where women had little or no say. Many a times, they were forced into marriages that were negotiated by their male relatives without their consent or that of the mother. They could...
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