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 The fundamental contributions of women in their households and national economies are increasingly acknowledged within Africa and by the international community mainly because of their energetic efforts to organize, articulate their concerns and make their voices heard. At both grassroots and national levels, more women’s associations are taking advantage of the new political openings to assert their leadership roles. They are also pressing for an expansion of women’s economic and social opportunities, and the advancement of women’s rights. By improving their own positions, women enhance the country’s broader development prospects.

However, women in Nigeria continue to face enormous obstacles. A nation’s population is usually almost divided evenly between males and females except under peculiar circumstances such as war or highly selective immigration which normally affect males more than females. Nevertheless, throughout the ages, the sharing of power, wealth, influence, employment etc, between men and women has never been close to equality. Even in the most advanced countries, gender inequality in wealth distribution has remained a live issue. Over the years, many women have faced daunting challenges of joblessness, no source of livelihood, widowhood, and single parenthood. These challenges notwithstanding, the roles played by women in national development and in all facets of human endeavors have been quite notable. Though there has been considerable progress in developing the capabilities of women, their participation in economic and political decision making remains very limited.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in its 2005 Human Development Report listed some examples to show that in spite of the considerable progress in developing women’s capacities, women and men still live in an unequal world. The examples include the following: poverty has a woman face, because 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women: the increasing poverty among women arises from their unequal situation in the labour market, their status and power in the family etc; women’s labour force participation rose by just 4 percent in 20 years (from 36 percent in 1980 to 40 percent in 2000); women have relatively low access to credit from formal banking institutions because they mostly do not have collaterals to offer; all regions record a higher rate of unemployment among women than men; among illiterate people in developing countries, the proportion of women is higher than men’s; women’s wages are below average. The UNDP report adds that in 55 countries with comparable data, the average female wage is three quarters (¾) of the male wage in the non-agricultural sector. In developing countries, women still constitute less than one-seventh (1/7) of administrators and managers. Women occupy only 10 percent of parliamentary seats and only 6 percent of cabinet positions.

Women development is the process whereby women develop the capacity and the ability to control and direct those things which affect them. The growing recognition of their contributions has not translated into significantly improved access to resources or increased decision-making powers. Neither has the dynamism that women display in the economic, cultural and social lives of their communities through their associations and informal networks been channelled into creating new models of participation and leadership. Aside from the political challenges, the material conditions under which most women live and work continue to deteriorate due to economic and social decline, conflicts, and the spread of diseases. Nigeria is the most populous country in sub Saharan Africa and is also termed the ninth most populous country in the world. The 2006 National Census puts Nigeria’s population at about 150 million about 50% of which are females. Many of the women in Nigeria largely live in poverty. Their personal poverty is a lot more pervading than that of the male and this threatens the very survival and health of the nation. Poverty has a woman face since 70% of people in poverty are women.

The Woman has been defined in so many ways as; the weaker vessel, feeble minded being, child bearer, emotional being, man’s helper, caretaker, man’s better half, man’s wealth preserver, man’s soul mate, home managers, among others (Okereke, 2007). No matter the number of categories the woman is placed on as stated above, she is more than these. A woman is powerfully created with superior structures. She is impeccably and uniquely made by her creator. The emergence of 21st century laden with sufficient evidence; scientifically and otherwise, has proved that women are capable of holding leadership positions as men. Woman, as many think, are not naturally weak. They neither have limited contractual capacity nor lower intelligence quotient than men. This is proved in the likes of women like Margaret Thatcher “the iron lady”, former Prime Minister of Britain, Indira Ghandi, former Prime Minister of India, Queen Elizabeth II of England, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia. In Nigeria, we have women like Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Late Professor Dora Akunyili, former Minister of Information and Director of NAFDAC, Dr. Ndi Okereke Onyiuke among others who distinguished themselves in leadership and administration of Nigeria.

In the last two decades, according to Olaleye (2008), debates, on the status of women and the need to integrate them into development process of any nation have ranged from national and international workshops, seminars among others. In Nigeria today, the women have come a long way in business, politics, education, sports and other professions. They have made an indelible mark in their efforts to conquer the limitations of the past which have sought to place them permanently in the kitchen and bedroom. Nigerian women are still relegated to the background as they lack the educational, economic and political power necessary to actualize their innate potentials.

Ifedili and Ifedili (2012), assert that Nigerian women are stalled by culture, which made them vulnerable to effectively join the workforce and contribute to economic and thus, national development. Majority of Nigerian women have not been fully mobilized and empowered to contribute to national development. Otherwise, we would not still be talking about women empowerment.

The concept of development has been viewed from different angles; social, economic, political and cultural. Okemakinde (2014) viewed development to depict positive change and empowerment in socio-economic and political conditions or situations of the society. Olomukoro (2012), views development in terms of human potentials and capabilities in the context of relations with other social groups. He further emphasized that development means greater understanding of social, economic and political process, enhanced competence to analyse and solve problems of day-to-day living, expansion of manual skills, greater control over economic resources, restoration of human dignity, self respect and equality. Thus national development is a multi-dimensional process involving the transformation and improvement of the economic, social and political situations. This development can only be rapidly possible when the women attain adequate empowerment.

Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (2014) defined empowerment as giving somebody power or authority to do something; to give somebody more control over their own life or the situation they are in. Mills and Friesen (2001) see empowerment as the authority of subordinates to decide and act. It is something people do for themselves which involves solidarity and participation in the struggle for greater control over their lives. Empowerment according Okereke (2007), is a process of giving strength, push or enablement to do something to make it perform the desired or expected task. He further explained that empowerment in relation to human being is a mental, spiritual, intellectual moral and physical re-awakening. It is strengthening the feeble or weak-minded person(s) and helping them rise up and be part of the political and economic revolution going on in the nations of the world. It is stirring up the spirit of a person to do the extraordinary or seemingly impossible thing. Lasiele (1999) described women empowerment as the provision of adequate opportunities to women to develop their potentials and contribute to the development of the nation in particular and to the world in general. It is seen as the provision of conducive environment or opportunities to women to contribute their quota to the social, political and economic development of a nation. Okereke (2007) viewed women empowerment as the act of strengthening women to rise up and handle the challenges of life. He further said it is about motivations which help women to do what they thought they could not do. Okemakinde (2014) see women empowerment as a veritable mechanism to increase women skills and abilities, their control over the resources and decisions affecting their lives. Woman empowerment is therefore, regarded as the breaking of barriers that limit women from doing certain things men do in the society. It is setting women free from cultural and traditional bondages that militate against their productive powers and development. The history of development clearly teaches that nations are built by the collective will of the citizens and creative hard work. It is evidence that one of the weaknesses of the emerging economies of African nations today is the failure to deeply involve women in the process of governance and development (Okereke, 2007). No nation can develop to the limit of its potentials unless women are fully empowered to take up responsibilities as men and work collectively towards the political and socio-economic development of the country. To fully empower women requires a holistic approach to break the cultural and traditional barriers that hold women in bondage in a free world of equal opportunities. The time has come when women should be fully integrated into the scheme of things for national development.


Women have numerous important roles and functions to carry out, many of which conferred a great deal of power and respect on them. Women play an integral role in societies, both modern and ancient. They are responsible for the upkeep of the household, women are the cornerstone of agricultural production, processing, marketing and utilisation, reproduction and the rearing and discipline of the children. Therefore, women have consistently shaped the cultures and societies in which they live for hundreds, and even thousands, of years.  The erosion of the status of women occurred gradually but was significantly exacerbated and hastened by foreign invasions, particularly colonialism.

The status and power of women in Africa in antiquity and the pre-colonial period was significantly healthier, notwithstanding feminist agitations. Traditional Igbo women did not hear about womanism and, or feminism as defined and theorized in today’s understanding. It is important to remark that the case often made of African culture as rigidly male-centric is stereotypic. The Africa of pre-colonial times, and even colonial times had an auspicious place for women. Undoubtedly, women of the period rose to fill the place with sufficient pomp and grace, achieving considerable impact. In traditional Africa, women had recognized and played vital roles in the economic development of their communities. Among the Kikuyu of Kenya, women were the major food producers and thus not only had ready access to land but also had authority of how the land was to be used and cultivated. Therefore, the value of women’s productive labour in producing and processing food had established and maintained their rights in the domestic circus and other spheres.

However, they have always defended their rights and Nwapa chooses to highlight this inner strength in her representation of female characters.  It is in the light of this that this study seeks to emphasize women emancipation and economic independence in Flora Nwapa’s Efuru.


            The main purpose of this study is to assess women emancipation and economic independence in Flora Nwapa’s Efuru. Other specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. Examine how effective or otherwise she has portrayed these themes in her novel.
  2. Evaluate how the writer encourages women emancipation in her novel.
  3. Determine her stylistic approach in the treatment of these themes.

            The following research questions were raised in order to guide the study:

  1. To what extent has Nwapa succeeded in arousing female participation of women in socio-political activities trough her novel, Efuru?
  2. How does the writer encourage women emancipation in her novel?
  3. How does the writer propagate women economic independence in Efuru?

            This study is relevant especially now that the women are taking family responsibilities and don’t want to be full time house wives only. This study shall be of benefit to the general reading populace, especially the women. The women will benefit from this study because it will serve as a source of encouragement to them towards the road to emancipation and economic independence. Furthermore, the research after it is completed, will serve as a reference materials for future researchers who will want to carry out research in the same field.


            The study is limited to women emancipation and economic independence in Flora Nwapa’s Efuru. Despite the fact that the study is limited or restricted to selected texts, references shall be made to other materials that are related to the topic under investigation.


            The following terms are defined based on how they are used in the context of this study:

Emancipation: Social, political and economic freedom for women.


Flora Nwapa, (born Jan. 13, 1931, Oguta, Nigeria—died Oct. 16, 1993, Enugu), Nigerian novelist best known for re-creating Igbo (Ibo) life and customs from a woman’s viewpoint.

Nwapa was educated in Ogula, Port Harcourt, and Lagos before attending University College in Ibadan, Nigeria (1953–57), and the University of Edinburgh. She worked as a teacher and administrator in Nigeria from 1959 until the Biafran civil war erupted in 1967. After the war she was commissioner for health and social welfare in East Central state before she formed Tana Press/Flora Nwapa Company to publish African books.

Efuru (1966), Nwapa’s first novel, is based on an old folktale of a woman chosen by the gods. Idu (1970) centres on a woman whose life is bound up with that of her husband to such an extent that when he dies she seeks him out in the land of the dead. In This Is Lagos, and Other Stories (1971) and the later novels One Is Enough (1981) and Women Are Different (1986), Nwapa continued her compassionate portrayal of women in modern Nigerian society. The novel Never Again (1975) and Wives at War, and Other Stories (1980) deal with the Biafran conflict. Her sole volume of poetry is Cassava Song and Rice Song (1986).

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