Till date, over 1.3 million interest-free loans have been successfully disbursed through Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), with a little over 1.1 million loans under the TraderMoni Scheme.
Zainab S. Ahmed, Minister of Finance noted this at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 2019 International Women’s Day Commemorative Event themed “Investing for Equality”.
Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) has prioritised the provision of micro-loans for women through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and the Women Empowerment Fund.
“These Programmes are crucial because access to financing is a key driver of financial and social inclusion for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) especially for women-owned enterprises”, she said.
The event provided a unique opportunity for participants to reflect individually and collectively about respective journeys as women (and men), and decide what can and must done to ensure that they reach our gender parity goals.
The finance minister noted the need to take a long term and strategic approach to establishing gender parity, and ensuring that women are economically empowered, resulting in stronger economies overall.
“Gender equality is critical to ensuring inclusive and sustainable development, and achieving our goals under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, Ahmed noted.
She believes that at the government level, it is important to design and implement policies and programmes in a way that ensures women’s participation at all levels.
“At the individual level, we each must take the time to support and mentor the women and girls in our lives, and we should each feel empowered as agents of change working towards ensuring equality. By empowering women and ensuring their full participation in society (particularly in leadership and decision-making roles), we can ensure improved economic development outcomes for all”, the finance minister added.
“As we discuss the strategic ways in which we can work to empower women and ensure gender parity, it is important to commend CBN for last year’s updates to the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). These updates will ensure, amongst other things, the inclusion of women and other disadvantaged groups in implementation of the NFIS.
“Specific strategic initiatives include the tailoring of financial products to serve the needs of women, recognizing that women are traditionally excluded from formal financial services because they cannot meet the account opening and loan requirements. With these and other updates, CBN is well positioned to address the gender dimensions of financial inclusion” she stated further.
She is of the view that Government continues to develop and implement policies, regulatory frameworks, and programmes that are inclusive and gender-sensitive, to remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent women from participating fully in society and from reaping the economic benefits of their participation. “This is especially important given the evidence that gender-neutral policies are often applied in ways that exclude and disenfranchise women stakeholders and other vulnerable communities.”
“Women must have a ‘seat at the table,’ and be co-creators of any strategic interventions aimed at ensuring gender parity in the long run. This means that women need to lead, drive and shape the gender parity agenda (alongside men).
“It is not enough to simply have women in leadership positions – they must be given the support and tools with which to advance gender equity. Part of this process will include dialogue and partnership with women-focused groups, both in the private sector and in civil society organisations,” Ahmed added..
While significant progress has been made in addressing gender inequality issue both globally and domestically, and across different subject matter areas, there is still more work to be done. Research shows that, despite their contributions, many women remain economically disempowered.
Women account for a disproportionate percentage of the world’s population living in poverty (estimated at 70percent), and are more likely to be affected by poor service delivery and instability. A 2018 Global Gender Gap Report produced by the World Economic Forum indicates that at the current rate, it will take an astounding 108 years to close the global gender gap, with the economic and political empowerment gender gaps needing 202 and 107 years to close respectively.
In the Nigeria context, the factors inhibiting gender equality mirror what is happening on the global scene. Women face challenges when it comes to accessing resources, including financial services, property, and other assets. Additionally, women are less likely to receive critical education, skills and training opportunities, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields. These challenges are compounded by issues of work-life balance, with many women opting out of leadership tracks due to home commitments and inadequate support at work. For these and other reasons, we are seeing fewer women in leadership positions than we should.
These challenges are amplified by several underlying factors, including: (1) an inadequate policies and regulatory frameworks aimed at identifying and protecting the rights of women, and ensuring equal representation and access across various sectors; and (2) socio-economic norms and cultural factors.
Such statistics are a sobering wake-up call and represent a necessary call to action for the development and implementation of government policies and initiatives aimed at promoting gender equity. Additionally, stakeholders across the private sector and civil society must work together with government to ensure that we move towards our goal of achieving gender parity, and in turn achieve inclusive and sustainable development.