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1.1Background to the Study

Non-Governmental Organizations(NGOs) are continually increasing andgathering momentum in their activities.These non-governmental organizations are largely seen as important agents inimproving the quality of life and fostering economic development. The term non-governmental organization varies.It is for example, what most Africans refer to as voluntary development organizations. According to the World Bank (2000) non-governmental organizations include many groups and institutions that are largely independent of government and that have a primary humanitarian or cooperative rather than commercial activities.Non-governmental organizations are free associations of individuals or group of people who share common interests and ideals or identical objectives. Their central goal is empowering the powerless particularly women folk, or helping them to strengthen their hidden potentials with a view to helping them to participate in the socio-economic development for their emancipation from less to a more better human condition(Islam and Sultana,2005).

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) refer to independent voluntary associations of people acting together on a continuous basis for some common purposes, other than achieving government office, making money or illegal activities (Willett 2006). NGOs have gained increasing recognition because they tend to be more sensitive to the needs and aspirations of poor communities, minorities and women. As a result, NGOs tend to command more legitimacy in the eyes of the poor than most governmental structures (Ofosu-Appiah, 2003). The international community and many governments are increasingly recognizing NGOs because of the belief that they help to share in the costs of providing development services and because of their perceived ability to reach the rural poor. Steinberg (2001) reports that non-governmental organizations as a group deliver more aid than the whole United Nations System and disburse more aid than World Bank. Korten (1998) reported that non –governmental organizations have been looked upon as a means of getting women the economic benefits they need more directly and cheaply than governments have been able to accomplish. Non-governmental organizations may include charitable and religious associations that mobilize private funds for development and promote community organization. According to the World Bank (2003) the concept of empowerment isthe process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.

1.2 Problem Statement

Over the years, different international fora have long recognized the importance of women empowerment for development. In many societies, women have always been considered inferior to men. Women have been marginalised economically, politically, culturally and socially. This has contributed to undermining the full potentials of women for enterprise development in Nigeria. (UNICEF, 2003). As a result, in recent times, formulating an appropriate intervention for transforming the status of women both within and outside their homes has become one of the major preoccupations of development.

Enterprise development is defined as the act of investing time and capital in helping people establish, expand or improve businesses. Enterprise development helps people to earn a living; it helps them out of poverty; and it leads to long-term economic growth for themselves, their families and their communities. The potential of women entrepreneurs remains largely untapped in developing and emerging markets, with many lacking access to the financial services, skills and opportunities they need to become successful business owners. Some recent studies have shown that in developing countries, women own only around 30% of small businesses and as little as 17% of medium enterprises. Women are also three times more likely to operate within the informal economy.The Enterprise Development Programs addresses these challenges by enhancing women‟s access to capital and markets, delivering tailored business training, and facilitating business registration. Consequently over the years in Makurdi, Benue State, different non-governmental organizations have emerged to empower women for enterprise development. These non-governmental organizations have been operating in order to facilitate effective women empowerment through community mobilization, vocational training, delivery of agricultural services, delivery of credit services and delivery of health services. These non-governmental organizations in Makurdi include Jireh-Doo foundation whose goal is to improve the lives of the under-privileged through delivery of resource, mobilization and capacity development. Jojo-Shaahu foundation whose goal is to help individual to achieve their full potential. Pearls care initiative whose goal is to raise awareness on women and implement programs towards a healthy living for sustainable development. Osa foundation whose goal is to help individuals in communities to reach their goals. Rohi-Nissi health care foundation whose goal is to improve the lives of women through quality health services delivery and Centre for empowerment and development whose goal is to envisions a better life for women in urban and rural communities.

However, there is insufficiency empirical studies and knowledge on the socio-economic characteristics, roles perception of women on effects and factors influencing women participation in these non-governmental organizations enterprises development programs in Makurdi Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State, Nigeria. This study therefore sought to address the following research questions:

i. what are the socio-economic characteristics of women in the study area?

ii. what role(s) is non-governmental organization playing in empowering women?

iii. what are the women’s perception on improving the performance of non-governmental organizations ?

iv. what are the factors influencing the level of participation of women in the enterprise development programs?

v. what are the constraints to implementation of non-governmental organizations women empowerment programs?

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