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Non-formal education as a tool for empowering girls and women in a religiously conservative context: The case of northern Nigeria

Afolayan, Gbenga Emmanuel (2021) Non-formal education as a tool for empowering girls and women in a religiously conservative context: The case of northern Nigeria. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Non-formal education has been attributed with many benefits for rural women who are unable to participate in formal schooling. However, little is known about the perspectives of non-formal education programs (NFEPs) from the lived experiences of females—especially in Nigerian Islamic conservative communities. To address this gap, this thesis explored multiple perspectives of NFEP from the lived experiences of females in a region with high rates of child marriage. Using a qualitative case study design, the data were collected through focus group discussions and interviews in two rural communities in northern Nigeria. Participants comprised two leaders from each community; three NFEP personnel; 28 females who had participated in a NFEP, and 24 females who had not participated in a NFEP (n=59). The findings provide unique insight that can guide the phenomenon of NFEPs for rural females in religiously conservative communities. The participants reported a need for literacy skills and economic independence and were generally quite positive about NFEPs in their communities. Most participants in NFEPs reported having increased knowledge, positive attitude and behaviours, improved ability to express themselves, partake in decision-making in the family, and to organise themselves for collective action—all of which resulted to empowering experiences. Also, most male partners (spouses), parents of the participants and male participants (community leaders) were supportive of the NFEP, supportive of women working outside the home and women earning money. The program participants reported that NFEP has been a positive influence on their self-worth, role in the society, future aspirations and dreams for their daughters because of their relative economic independence and the status they seem to enjoy within their communities. Female program non-participants support NFEP but many of them could not participate because their spouses and parents did not allow them. Thus, while many males supported the participation of women and girls in NFEP, gendered barriers still existed. In conclusion, females can be empowered in these conservative communities if it is done in a way that respects socio-cultural traditions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Goal 5: Gender Equality
Supervisor(s): Perry, Laura and Hammond, Libby-Lee
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