News Column

FG Reiterates Commitment to Women Empowerment

July 7, 2014

Blessing Adewole

The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Zainab Maina, has reiterated Federal Government's commitment to economic empowerment of women in the country.

The minister spoke at the weekend when she received the executive members of the Nigerian Quintessential Business Women and the Association of Non-Bank Micro-finance Institution of Nigeria in her office.

Maina noted that the economic well-being of women was urgently required to guarantee their full participation in governance and decision making.

"My dream is to see that Nigerian women become economically and politically empowered and independent to enable them contribute more meaningfully to national development endeavours.

"This is because the most important independence anybody can acquire is economic independence. Once you are economically empowered, the sky is your limit," she stated.

She however regretted that there were several barriers to the full optimisation of women's economic potentials, ranging from cultural, religious, traditional, to legal discrimination.

Maina said the ministry has taken necessary steps to assist women to be financially independent through a multifaceted approach to mobilise funds and resources just as the ministry was speaking with the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure the inclusion of Nigerian women in the financial system.

This she said could be done by promoting financial inclusion through their various initiatives such as the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) as well as their Agricultural Financing Scheme.

The minister disclosed that to create access to loanable funds at the grassroots, the ministry established the Women Fund for Economic Empowerment (WOFEE), in collaboration with the Bank of Agriculture, adding that over 5000 women had benefited so far from the scheme.

Earlier, the President of Nigerian Quintessential Business Women Association Shimite Katung, explained that with its over one million members across the country, the association had been supporting women to boost their economic enterprises, especially in agricultural and solid minerals productions, packaging and marketing.

The Executive Secretary, Association of Non-Bank Micro-finance Institution of Nigeria, Godbless Safugha, assured the minister of their commitment to create a network of financial institutions that would provide quality and affordable micro-finance services, especially to women at the grassroots.

And in another development, the minister said that despite lack of access to productive resources coupled with other constraints facing the Nigerian women, they still contribute about 70 per cent to the economic growth of the country.

Maina, who disclosed this when she received the Association of Nigerian Business Network (ANWBN) in her office at the weekend lamented that "women in the urban area still lack access to bank loans and other facilities which are needed for production.

She regretted that established restrictive practices and constraints have not allowed the Nigerian women to take advantage of their numbers and position to significantly influence the decision making processes that will change their unfavourable position.

The minister noted that for the present condition of the Nigerian women to change more positively, deliberate efforts must be made to ensure that women have access to political and economic power at higher levels, adding that, "one way of doing this is to empower women both economically and educationally."

Maina said that empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors and through all levels of economic activity was essential for building strong economies, establishing more stable and just societies, achieving internationally agreed goals for development, sustain ability and human rights as well as improving quality of life for women.

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Source: AllAfrica

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