From the Fringe to the Mainstream: Integrating Women into Trade Union Activities in Nigeria. Issues and Challenges
Nigerian women’s involvement in the socio-economic development of their various societies over the years has been well documented. These activities had been located mainly within their families and communities. However their foray into wage employment has necessitated their participation in other activities within industry. One of such activities is trade unionism whose objectives include clamouring for social justice and equity in the workplace. Trade Unions strive to enable improvement on existing working conditions of members through mass actions. By providing several benefits for their members, particularly a platform for participation in managerial functions in the work place, Unions have become a veritable force within the relationship between workers and management. However, in spite of their agitations for industrial democracy and social justice, women participation in unionism is still limited. Nigerian women are still marginalized in the leadership and decision making processes of their unions despite various official policies supporting participatory democracy. This paper therefore explores the internal workings of trade unions in Nigeria with specific reference to the location and activities of women in these organizations. Using a multi-stage random sampling technique, six hundred and forty workers were involved in this study. Both questionnaire and in-depth interviews were used to elicit information. Specifically, the study looks at activities of women within the administrative structures of the unions. Findings reveal that women are grossly under-represented in the governance of trade unions in Nigeria. Many reasons have been adduced for this state of affairs with the most strident being the patriarchal attitudes of the society. The paper concludes that efforts to move women from the fringe to the mainstream of trade union activities are constrained by some socio-cultural factors. Suggestions on the necessary steps required to ameliorate the situation are proffered.