This paper is an extract from a Ph.D thesis titled information behaviour and socio-economic empowerment of textile market women in southern Nigeria
Information is an essential part of all facets of life. It is such an important raw material, that its acquisition and understanding is germane in decision making, policy formulation, as well as implementation for growth and survival. Reliable information is the cornerstone for building the awareness, expertise and practical strategies necessary to improve the world we live in, in terms of health, physical, technical, mental, social and scientific development of humanity (Adetoro, 2010). Without adequate information, not much can be achieved especially when it concerns decision making or acquisition of knowledge. Information is vital to decision makers at all levels in all circumstances (Ajayi, 2007). However, there is always a need for individuals to obtain relevant information as Meyer (2005), Kamba (2009), Kachharo (2007), submit information helps in reducing the degree of uncertainty in the operating environment of any organization.
The concept of information behaviour begins with an individual's need. Authorities have argued that information need is the lack of appropriate information on which to base choice that could lead to benefits or services that may improve people's well being, (Miranda and Tarapanoff, 2007; Lambert and Loislle, 2007). Kebede (2002), conceptualized information need as the uncertainty that arises in the individual, which they believe can be satisfied through information acquisition. Factors that give rise to information need include seeking answers, reducing uncertainties, bridging gaps, solving problems, understanding (making sense) and coping (Case, 2002). The different characteristics of work environment make one type of information need and seeking different from the other. Therefore, it is beneficial to study each group of information seekers one at a time and use the results to develop user-oriented information systems in order to serve each group better. Beyond this, the assessment of information need and seeking behaviour of various groups and individuals is essential in assisting them to access and use information resources for optimal performance and productivity.
Kerins, Madden and Fulton (2004) report that the whole essence of information need and seeking behaviour is for information use and the actual process of using information has to do with the way individuals internalize information content. Having access to relevant and timely information has a role to play in the way the information is used. Although, information use is a fundamental concept, there are no definitional or methodological approaches that are broadly accepted or applied. (Kirk, 2002 as cited by Choo, et al 2002).
The term empowerment covers a vast landscape of meanings, interpretations, definitions and disciplines. According to Sughosh's India Foundation (2010) and Dasarathi, (2006) empowerment is the process of obtaining basic opportunities for marginalised people, either directly by those people, or through the help of non-marginalised others who share their own access to these processes.
In addition, one important implication of this definition of empowerment is that the individual and the community are fundamentally connected. Women empowerment according to Afolabi (2003) comprises five components: women's sense of self-worth; their right to have and to determine choices; their right to access to opportunities and resources; their right to have the power to control their own lives both within and outside the home; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just, social and economic order both nationally and internationally. Some elements as necessary conditions for empowerment include access to skills training, problems solving techniques, best appropriate technologies and information, participation in decision making processes by all people, particularly women and youth, (Singh and Titi, 1995).
In the context of this study, socio-economic empowerment is described from the viewpoint of a woman being financially independent through her engagement in income- generating activities. These include having' access to productive facilities that would enhance her income- generating capacity, having control over the income generated by investing in personal properties, having personal savings either through thrift or bank account(s) and contributing to the financial upkeep of her household, actively participating in household decision-making on issues that affect her livelihood, such as choice of health care facilities, children's school, number of children, child spacing, as well as having improved self-worth gained through awareness and ability to negotiate and voice out concerns on issues that infringe on her rights as a person and as a woman.
In Nigeria, the empowerment' of women has in the recent years come to be recognized as a central issue in determining the status of women. Thus, in 1989 the National Commission for Women, charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights and legal entitlements of women, was established. It later metamorphosed into the Ministry of Women Affairs in 1996. Recently, the Ministry evolved a National Gender Policy (2006), which highlights the rights and privileges of women within the Nigerian State.
Nigeria has also ratified various international treaties on women's rights, such as Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) committed to securing equal rights for women. Similarly, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS, 2004) recognizes the need to integrate women into the development process by enhancing their capacity to participate in the economic, social, political and cultural life of the country through measures such as mainstreaming women's concerns and perspectives in all policies and programmes, and promoting women's access to micro-finance and other poverty alleviation strategies.
Textile trading is an area dominated by women all over the world. From the accounts of Colleen (1993), both men and women were noted to be of economic value in the production, distribution and marketing of textile products, He emphasized that "skilled workers at all stages of the manufacturing process, including both men and women, produced the textile for which the Sokoto Caliphate was well known in the 19th century". Colleen mentioned specifically that women received scant attention and contributed directly to the textile industry in a variety of capacities as weavers, marketers, dyers and managers. According to Gereff (2002), textile is known to have contributed globally to the Gross Domestic Product (GNP) of nations and has also offered many ranges of employments to both the skilled and unskilled labour in the developing countries.
It has been established that information is a critical facilitator of socio-economic development of a nation. Therefore, there...