Muslim Women and Children in the Nigerian Project. A Paper Presented By Dr Lateefa M. Durosinmi





Let me first express my profound gratitude to IWF for the invitation to present a paper at this forum. I am also very delighted to be in your midst and feel highly honoured to be invited here as one of the Speakers.

Alhamdulillah, that it has pleased Almighty Allah, SWT to make it possible for IWF to exist for the past 30years. We thank Almighty Allah for His Mercies and favours on the Foundation and pray for more rewarding years and greater heights in the service of Allah and humanity.


The current population of Nigeria is put at 174.5 million as at July 2013, making us the most populous nation in Africa. Sixty percent of the population is comprised of children and youths under age 35 years. In the same vein, women form at least 50% of the country’s population. The two groups, women and youths constitute the highly vulnerable segments of the population; especially children (age 0-14 years).  The apparent neglect of these groups will spell doom for the future of the country, unless concerted and sustainable efforts are made to redress the state ‘hostility’ to the future leaders and their drivers, women. May Allah help our economic planners.

In this discourse, attempts are made to highlight the nature of the Nigerian projects, the programmes, the level of performance in the implementation of these projects and how they affect Women and Children/Youths.

Although on April 6 this year, Nigeria rebased its gross domestic product (GDP) to the whooping high of $510 billion, which has pushed it above South Africa as the continent's biggest economy, raised the size of the economy by over 60 percent, and  pushed the country to the 26th largest economy in the world, from 30th just in 2012. Nigeria is still a very poor country, where a large population of the citizens, particularly women and youths are still deprived of the basic necessities of life.  


The Nigerian state has had to cope with Political, Economic, and Social challenges in an attempt to ensure stability and continuity within the polity. These challenges have also thrown up a myriad of social problems such as poverty, unemployment, deprivation and high level corruption. All of these have brought untold hardships upon the citizenry.

Nigeria's problems are man-made that require conscious efforts by citizens to resolve. Nigerians must shun the politically induced divisive religious and ethnic intolerance to enable us jointly confront the social problems to safe our youths.



Education is the cornerstone and the foundation for the development of any nation.

Educating a girl child is a fundamental human right and certainly the best investment to overcome poverty, ignorance and disease.

There can be no significant or sustainable transformation in societies and no significant reduction in poverty until girls and women are properly educated.

In Nigeria, 60-62 % of out of school children are girls. Of the world’s nearly 1 billion illiterate adults, 2/3 are women. 2/3 of the over 130 million children worldwide who are not in school are girls. It is unfortunate that Muslim girls constitute the majority of these groups.

Recent statistics show that about 70% of the mass of illiterates or semi-literates we have in this country are women.


  • Access and completion of quality basic education by all Nigerian children, irrespective of their socio-economic conditions is yet to be accomplished. Nigeria contributes about 30-40% of the world’s total number of out-of-school children.
  • The problems of enrolment, retention and completion of basic education requirements, especially of the Girl Child still persist.
  • Increased poverty and deprivation among youth;
  • Increased youth restiveness and crime.
  • Inadequate parental care and breakdown of family and positive traditional values in Society;
  • Teenage pregnancies, child marriages, harmful traditional practices, and obstetric Fistula
  • Girls and young women bearing the brunt of HIV infection; and
  • Youth exclusion in the political and policy development processes.
  • Very high unemployment rates (probably one of the highest number of unemployed graduates in the world);
  • Young people used as cannon fodders in times of political, ethnic, and religious conflicts around the country.

The Nigerian project hopes:

  • To ensure Every Nigerian Child has access to good quality education that will enable them to make a positive contribution to society.
  • To make the Nigerian’s educational system result oriented to reduce the army of jobless unemployed youths in Nigeria. With the right policy in Education that will provide for re-training of the teaming employed youths, to fit into a carefully thought-out and result oriented schemes.


Women and children make up more than half of Nigeria population. The group bears a disproportionately higher burden of poverty and diseases. Nigeria has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, 800/100,000 live births, as well as a very high childhood mortality rates of 100 per 1,000 children under five years of age.

The major causes of the very poor maternal mortality and morbidity in Nigeria are:

  • Grossly inadequate health facilities, particularly in rural areas
  • Inadequate infrastructure
  • Poverty
  • Illiteracy
  • Poor health funding
  • Low status of women
  • Harmful cultural practices
  • Transport difficulties
  • Social disorganization

Women in General affairs of the Country:

  • Failure to integrate women’s concerns and gender issues in National policies and


  • Gender biasedness in the Nigerian Constitution and Laws;
  • Gender Imbalance in opportunities and distribution of critical resources of the nation including land, capital, educational opportunities; employment and infrastructures, etc.;
  • Weak Institutions that address women issues: Most of the institutions currently handling gender and women issues are not efficient because of weak support from government.
  • Low capacity for gender education: Gender Studies is new in the curriculum of most of the Nigerian institutions of higher learning.
  • Poor literacy levels of women to access and process information on their strengths and opportunities.

Women and Agriculture

Women generally have poor access to intensive agricultural business, they are denied of land ownership, credit is not readily available, essential farm facilities like fertilizers, pesticides and farming tools are not readily available to women. Women also lack easy access to support from extension services, and access to markets for their products.

To empower women farmers, governments should address key policy such as:  

  1. Strengthening women’s land rights
  2. Enhancing women’s use of tools and equipment that reduce manual labour on the farm
  3. Providing community-based child care centres
  4. Promoting cultivation of high-yielding farm crops to women farmers
  5. Helping  women to have access to farm markets
  6. Improving educational levels of women farmers

Women and Micro-credit schemes

Recently, some efforts have been made to improve fund availability to women through the Micro-credit schemes:

(1) Women Fund for Economic Empowerment, WOFEE, in collaboration with the Bank of Agriculture and the state governments.

(2) Business Development Fund for Women (BUDFOW), in collaboration with the Bank of Industry. The two schemes are revolving facilities with an interest rate of 10%.

In addition, 77 skills acquisition centres have been constructed and equipped across the country to increase income generation, through job creation, for women, especially at the grassroots level.


A Muslim woman is a female adherent of Islamic faith who is submissive to Allah and unconditionally practises the Deen of Al-Islam with additional guidance from the Glorious Qur’an and Hadiths.

Compared to other women in Nigeria, Muslim Women have poorer access to the very limited opportunities available to Nigerian women in Nigeria. These are due to a number of factors, including:

  • The misconceptions amongst sections of the Muslim Ummah that Muslim Women are only to be seen and never to be heard and should face only domestic chores (even in a highly pluralistic society like ours).
  • Deliberate relegation of women to background in the name of religion, which is contrary to teachings of Islam and Qur’anic injunctions (Q 16:57-59).
  • Greater poverty among the Ummah.
  • Complacency among many Muslim Women
  • Inadequate Education

EDUCATION: Muslim Children and Muslim Women

There are more uneducated children among Nigerian Muslims compared to non-Muslim children.

 How many Muslim children are in schools- Primary, Secondary and tertiary levels? We also have less qualified teachers at all levels.

How many Muslims are benefiting directly and indirectly from the available grants from international bodies aimed at improving school facilities in some states of the federation?

Benefits from all financial assistance are also grossly compromised for the Muslims because of

the inability of Muslims to access such facilities based on the conditions. 

In Nigeria, 60-62 % of out of school children are girls. Of the world’s nearly 1 billion illiterate adults, 2/3 are women. 2/3 of the over 130 million children worldwide who are not in school are girls. Most of the children from the low-income backgrounds who do not have access to good-quality education are Muslims. It is unfortunate that Muslim girls constitute the majority of these groups.

This is despite the fact that, Education is a right to all Muslims, children and adults, females and males. Education of females is a religious right. This is because Allah, in His infinite wisdom, made education and seeking of knowledge compulsory for all human beings, male and female. 

A large majority of Muslim women today are completely ignorant, of both Islamic education and secular education! It is a pity indeed. In the last one or two decades, many men have reluctantly paved the way for Islamic education of women, but this is pegged to a certain level.

It is sad to note that, today Muslim women are the least educated around the world despite the impressive role of Muslim Women scholars of old, and the fact that many notable leaders of the well-known schools of fiqh, such as Malik bn Anas, Ahmad bn Hanbal, learnt at the feet of their mothers.

We are not unaware of the great disadvantages faced by illiterate citizens in Nigeria, and we have them aplenty. Every effort should therefore be made to improve the educational standing of all Muslims, children and adults. Otherwise, we shall continue to lose out of the economic benefits of modern Nigeria.


Since independence, Nigerian governments have evolved different developmental plans, under different names including the developmental plans Visions (2010, 2020), Needs and Agendas (Seven point agenda, Transformation agenda), all of which are aimed at enhancing production, economic growth, industrialization and human capital development.

Of all the developmental plans, it was theMillennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations in September 2000 and embraced by Nigeria since 2005 that specifically addressed the issues of Nigerian women and their children with Goals 2-5:

Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty & Hunger

Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Goal 4: Reduction of Child Mortality Rate

Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health

Goal 6: Combat HIV-AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Nigeria was recently credited for meeting the MDG of reducing people living in extreme poverty and hunger half, well ahead of the 2015 target set by the United Nations; unfortunately, there is still a very long way to go with  regards to achieving the Goals 2-5 set for women and children less than a year to the 2015 target.

The Nigerian Projects, the subject of this lecture are formulated to further improve economic well-being of the citizens in the face of global competition. The project target but not limited to, food security and agriculture development; economic empowerment programmes; good health care delivery system; qualitative and functional education; as well as security and youth development, and lots more:

Constituents of the Nigerian Projects:

  • Food Security and Agriculture;
  • Economic Empowerment Programmes;:
    • Practical social programmes aimed at eradicating poverty, provision of employment, and assisting the disadvantaged ones in the society.
    • Efforts on Women must be intensified because the prosperity or otherwise of women has direct impact on their children and our youths in general.
  • Good Health care delivery system;: 
    • Functional Reproductive Health Care leading to safe motherhood with subsequent reduction in Infant and Maternal mortality.
    • Local Governments in Nigeria should address, with vigour and honesty their Statutory Responsibilities for Primary Health Care Facilities in the country.
  • Qualitative and Functional Education;
  • Security; 
  • Youth Development

The Nigerian projects are often times without functional project monitoring initiatives with ethical parameters.

Nigerians and its leaders fail to see Nigeria as a project. Rather, Nigeria to most people, is like a big round cake, which as long as you can use a knife; you can slice off your portion of this cake, sometimes, large enough to go round your circle of friends and acquaintances.  In fact, it is a party with fairly no rules, reckless generosity and prodigal accountability.

In addition, some people in Public offices turn social and people oriented programmes, intended to generally to improve the socio‑economic life of the citizens, into avenues of self-enrichment, wastages and deliberate improper management.

Of course, the Nigerian Constitution provides for a strong Executive arm with so much powers to control.

The projects, if honestly implemented and sustained, would positively transform Nigeria to a country every citizen will be proud of. The question now is how it affects the Ummah, or better still how can we exploit the facilities for the benefits of Muslim Ummah and indeed the Nigerian State?


Women constitute about 50 per cent of the total population and contribute very significantly to national development. However various studies and surveys have shown that women are in the lowest income level in most organizations and constitute the highest percentage of the poor and the vulnerable. They are also predominantly in the informal sector of the economy.

Gender disparity is significant in all strata of economic and social activities in Nigeria, and is aggravated by cultural rigidities, harmful traditional practices and misrepresentation of religious practices; unfortunately some Muslims are also guilty of the latter.

A major role of women that is grossly compromised due to the disadvantage position of women in our society is reproduction and upbringing of children. Illiteracy and poverty impact very negatively on the primary functions of women. An educated woman has been found to be a better mother than her counterpart, because she is better able to manage her health care and that of her children. She can easily follow medical advice for herself and the children. Such women also have the advantage of helping the school projects of their children. They are also in a better position to take care of some of the immediate needs of their children, especially when the husbands are not around.

The highly deprived women –uneducated and poor- are more vulnerable to abuse by men. Such women appear to be worse with the Muslim women since illiteracy level is higher.

Socio-cultural factors and insensitivity to gender issues in educational institutions result into inability to tap human resource capacity of 50% of the Nigerian population (women). The consequence is under development and lack of economic growth (for women are part of the wealth of nations)

Gender is an important indicator for measuring global/regional/national /institutional development

Although there is no constitutional provision for gender disparity, however this exists, particularly in the rural areas due to low literacy rate.

There are many social/cultural practices that have reinforced gender inequalities in Nigeria, as in other developing countries.

The Government recognizing that harnessing the potentials of the entire citizenry, will fast track development and social harmony adopted the 30 per cent affirmative action under NEEDS in 2004-2007. Under the Plan, government planned to strengthen the national machinery and institutional capacity for the advancement of women, children and the physically challenged. The government was also to make efforts to meet the 30 percent affirmative action, for women in decision-making positions in the political and public sectors

The Nigerian Project Hopes:

  • To advance and empower women, children and the physically challenged to ensure substantial improvement in their productivity, well-being and quality of life;
  • Ensure the well-being and safety of women at the workplace – amend Employment act to ensure to prohibit all forms of sexual harassment;
  • Enhance participation in business and entrepreneurial activities;
  • Improve access to finance, training and information;
  • Provide opportunity for women to participation in Agro-based business activities;
  • Encourage women entrepreneurs;
  • Create opportunities and programmes that will involve women income generating activities to expand their businesses;
  • Promote gender equity in education, particularly in the Sciences, ICT and Engineering courses, by targeting scholarships or financial support for girls desirous to pursue such courses;
  • Exposing women to international conferences to enrich their knowledge, in global demands and practice;
  • Reducing incidence of poverty and improving quality of life;
  • Reducing violence against women - creation of awareness on safety and well-being of women and children, prevent abuse and violence, resolve conflicts and ensuring family harmony;
  • Provide administrative, technical and material support for mobilization of women and focused organizations, in order to achieve the goals of women empowerment and        gender mainstreaming, particularly the attainment of at least 30 per cent women participation in decision making positions; and
  • Improve the Health status of Women by promoting healthy living programmes.



Nigeria has a large youthful population as the population of Nigerians below the age of 35 years comprises 60 per cent of the entire population of the country.

One of the goals of a nation is to ensure that its youths acquire values that will eventually nurture them into citizens with enviable character that can contribute positively to advancement of the nation.

With this expectation, the nation must live up to its responsibility of proper guidance and mentorship of these future leaders through provision of an atmosphere in which our youths are able to develop both the intellectual and personal abilities to the highest degree.

Poverty of the populace has created massive unhealthy socio-economic problems, which have changed the orientation of the youths

The Nigerian youths cannot make positive contributions to national development if they are not opportune to do so. The contributions depend on the kind of foundation & type of opportunities they have.

What kind of foundation does a Nigerian child/youth have?

The basic foundation a Nigerian child/youth receives depends on:

  • The Parents and guardians (how well they are equipped & how well they discharge their responsibilities)
  • The teachers (the capacity to deliver and ability to serve as role models)
  • Adults (are they worthy of emulation in character and indeed)
  • Religious leaders (what do they preach? What do they practice?)
  • The Government (How well they discharge their responsibilities with honesty, compassion and justice; with full security for all)



The Nigerian project has a role to play on the development of the youths. The Nigerian project should:

  • Defend and protect children’s fundamental human rights and facilitate their sound physical and psychological development;
  • Promote and protect Child rights issues such as rights to survival, development, protection and participation;
  • Promote activities to alleviate poverty, violence and other threats to the well-being of children;
  • Build a culture of peace and understanding among children, youth and work for the peaceful co-existence of all people, regardless of colour, class, creed or tribe;
  • Ensure responsible parenting 
  •  Protect every child from indecent and inhuman treatment such as sexual exploitation, drug abuse, child labour, torture, maltreatment and neglect.

Thus, Every child:

  • Has right to good life and normal development;
  • Is entitled to receive compulsory quality education, irrespective of their socio economic conditions.
  • Is entitled to good health care including vaccination against all childhood diseases,  protection from illness and proper medical attention; and
  • Should acquire appropriate life skills and values for sustainable living.

The Nigerian Project and Economic Empowerment

Economic empowerment is an important component of the Nigerian Project. This is a good development and it should be properly implemented for the benefit of all and sundry.

There is generally low economic empowerment for the majority of Nigerians, in particular the women and youths who are currently facing massive unemployment, even including those with tertiary education. 

The uneducated segments of the society are more adversely affected, and this is where we come in. We are more affected. Another area where Muslims are at greater disadvantage of the poor empowerment opportunities is that many Muslims could not access the benefits of the “Micro-credit schemes for women”  provided by the Project because of the associated 10% interest rates. This is a greater challenge to Muslim leaders; there must be a way out such that Muslims can also benefit from the scheme. The very rich Muslims can launch interest-free micro-credit scheme for the Muslims, and  allow the suffering poor to access the fund for their benefits and their families. The Muslim Ummah must ensure that women are empowered to be able to compete effectively with other women. Economic empowerment of females is a social responsibility and very essential to improve the woman’s living conditions and helps a woman to live a virtuous life.

The Nigerian Project and Governance

As in other democracies of the world, successive governments in Nigeria have been engaged in the sustained campaign for greater and effective women participation in politics in line with the Beijing conference declaration which advocates for 35 percent affirmative action. The affirmative action seeks higher representation of women of at least, 35 per cent in appointments for political and public offices.

The implementation of Gender Policy has also resulted in an increase in women’s representation in Government from 10% in 2011 to over 33% 2013, with the appointment of 13 female Ministers out of 42, representing 31% and four Special Advisers out of 18, representing 23%. These appointments have set the stage for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, target number three on Gender Equity and Women Empowerment.


Despite the fact that more than half of Nigeria’s population is young people below the age of 35, they are for the most part, excluded from policy and decision-making on issues that affect them.


Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an:

 “The believers, men and women are protectors of one another; they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity and obey God’s and his apostle. On these, Allah will have mercy. He is mighty, wise……Q9:71-2.

In these verses, Allah gives both men and women the assignment of ensuring that the good prevails in societies. Allah thus enjoins both men and women to participate in governance..

Since Islam enjoins us to play active part in social welfare systems, Muslim Women must be involved in the development of our communities and thus the nation. She should contribute to the decision making process with the resolve to defend the interest of women.

Muslim women must therefore be active participants in good governance by participating positively in all aspects of the Nigerian project.


The Nigerian project is seriously endangered by the growing spate of terrorist attacks and kidnappings. The bombing of the Nyanya motor park, kidnapping of about 129 school children within a space of one week, are indicative of the fact that the security agencies seem not to be fully in charge.

The current unhealthy economic situation In Nigeria favours the growing in security in the country. The leaderships at all levels of governance in the country are further enhancing this poor state of insecurity by the most reckless life styles and high level corruption of political elites. Even, religious leaders are no different. There is a very strong need to change the system for good, let us have proper reorientation of the body politics and encourage our youths to embrace good value system.

Values and virtues are being eroded. These are being replaced by individualism, materialism, apathy and moral degeneration, etc. There is also deterioration of the family system. Parents find it increasingly difficult to cater for and monitor their children and wards in their attempts to cope with the challenges of modern living,

Economic depression leads to mass   unemployment. Unemployment leads to frustration and crimes. Research has shown that uncontrolled unemployment, often promotes social decadence and criminal tendencies among the affected, especially the highly mobile youths. There is usually progression from optimism to pessimism, from pessimism to fatalism, accompanied by that dreadful feeling of insecurity. This is the state we are currently. 


Governments at all levels should make concerted efforts to honestly and properly implement the spirit and letters of the Nigerian Projects as a means of checking the growing instability, poverty and insecurity in our country. 

The Nigerian leaders must have sincerity of purpose, must be forthright and God-fearing. And thus put the interest of the masses above selfish interests and personal ambition. Leaders should willingly submit to the principles of transparency and accountability.

On our women, government should

  • Establish councils for women and family development at States and LG areas to strengthen linkages with communities in order to address issues affecting women at the grassroots.
  • Economic empowerment of females is a social responsibility and very essential to improve the woman’s living conditions and helps a woman to live a virtuous life.
  • Our governments at all levels must ensure the continuity/sustainability of programmes/projects that will facilitate economic empowerment and intellectual development of women.
  • Women must be intellectually empowered for credible functions in various positions in life and the prosperity or otherwise of women has direct impact on children and our youths. Thus, by empowering women, we are saving our future, the future of our youths.


  • Design programmes that will benefit youths and  turn them into valuable assets for the society at large

Distinguished audience, I thank you for listening.


  1. Nigeria Vision 20: 2020 The First National Implementation Plan (2010 – 2013) Volume II: Sectoral Plans and Programmes May 2010:
  1. JOHN AINOFENOKHAI, Rebased GDP, World bank and Nigeria’s realities.
  1. Millennium Development Goals: A performance review for NIGERIA!