Gender equality in skills development - how to find a balance

Gender equality in skills development - how to find a balance

One of the goals of education in Nigeria is to empower its citizens to acquire appropriate skills and abilities, both mental and physical, to equip them to live in, and contribute to building, the nation. To this end, the Nigeria Development Plan is committed to the development of a just and egalitarian society where there should be no form of discrimination against women, but equal opportunities and accessibility of education. However, theories have had little relation to the realities, and gender inequalities have persisted – especially in the legal profession.

Until the female incursion in 1935, legal education and the legal practice had been exclusively male professions. Even today it has remained male-dominated. Women still face the debilitating barriers of prejudice, stereotypes, skewed and other inhibitive structures; and these challenges may persist unless something is done. This appears to be a general phenomenon, though in varying proportions. The peculiarity of the legal profession lies in the rippling effects the low participation of women in law has on the general awareness, knowledge and enforcement of the civil and socio-economic rights of women, given the background of socio-cultural marginalisation of women in Africa.

This paper examines the challenges facing women in the attainment of skills development in the legal profession, particularly in penetrating legal specialties, practice settings and higher echelons. It highlights the causes of the gender disparity, as well as the roles of open and distance learning (ODL) opportunities and support sub-systems in eliminating gender barriers and legal education limitations. In the process, the moral and legal imperatives would emerge for bringing about an enduring gender balance in the legal education and legal profession in Nigeria.

[adapted from author abstract]

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