Women all over the world have been acknowledged for their important roles in providing livelihoods for their families, winning an enviable reputation for their economic contribution through food production, processing and trading. Yet in Nigeria, few research studies have been documented on the health and occupational hazards of rural women. Women are often incapacitated by occupational hazards that interact with other causes of illness to produce a wide range of adverse outcomes that severely impairs rural productivity.
To help address this gap in knowledge, this literature review, published in the Journal of Rural Social Sciences, seeks to analyse the health problems and occupational hazards of rural women in Nigeria resulting from their income generating activities. It examines access to and use of health care services by rural women, identifies the causes of health problems and occupational health hazards, and examines the consequences of such health and occupational hazards in a bid to come up with suggestions to improve rural women’s health conditions and living standards.
A review of primary data reveals a number of factors impacting rural women that leads to decreased productivity, including: reduced access to health care services; poverty; low levels of agricultural mechanisation, necessitating intensive and time-consuming labour; long work days; inadequate information; and a lack of extension services available to rural women. One example given is the processing of cassava into “gaari”; a labour-intensive process that exposes women to cyanide, heat and burns.
In order to overcome these deleterious factors, the authors suggest a focus on the dissemination of health related information as a panacea for dealing with rural occupational hazards. Information must be organised and presented in an accessible manner, so that it will motivate and encourage the rural women to use them. Additionally, extension workers must also be supported to educate women on necessary precautions during production activities, and labour-saving devices provided in a gender-sensitive way that is both convenient and suitable for women’s needs.