…Empowering women will ensure stronger economies
By Ebriku John Friday
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed has called on governments at the various levels to put measures in place for strategic approach towards establishing gender parity in the society.
Mrs Ahmed stated this as a keynote speaker during the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 2019 International Women’s Day with the theme Investing for Equality, on Tuesday in Abuja. It would be recalled that this year’s International Women’s Day was themed Balance for Better.
The Minister in a statement by her special Adviser on media and communications, Mr Paul Ella Abechi, also noted that economically empowered women will guarantee stronger economies.
According to her, “Given the challenges we are facing, it is critical that we take a long term and strategic approach to establishing gender parity, and ensuring that women are economically empowered, resulting in stronger economies overall.
She said, “It is my distinct pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate the achievements of women and to engage in an important dialogue regarding what we must do to ensure continued investment in and support of gender equality in Nigeria.
“It is well established that the economic empowerment of women and girls is a key driver of economic growth and improved development outcomes, ultimately leading to improved economic resiliency. It is therefore imperative that we prioritize the advancement of women in all spheres of society, and specifically in areas relating to their socio-economic empowerment.
“Today’s event provides a unique opportunity for us to reflect individual and collectively about our own respective journeys as women (and men), and decide what we can and must do to ensure that we reach our gender parity goals. 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.”
While appreciating the efforts of the CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele in improving the place of women in the bank, where 29% staff are women, 29% are in top management and 27% women are in the board as it stands currently, she task the governor and his deputies to scale it up to 50%.
She said, “Let me also purse to congratulate the Central Bank of Nigeria for its leading role in gender parity. As the governor has said, you have today, 29% of your staff as women, 29% in top management and still about 27% in the board. We want to charge the bank, especially the governor and the deputy governors, to move these progress so that you continue to lead to 50% in each of this levels.”
Speaking further on the challenges and progress made so far in empowering women she said, “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 70%), 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.”
The Minister also stated that, “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.
“First and foremost, it is important 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 organizations.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance has identified key intervention areas Government must focus on to continue to develop and support women in its efforts of investing for equity. They are, Access to financing for women-owned businesses, particularly MSMEs; Boosting financial inclusion and financial literacy amongst women and girls; Improving human capital development outcomes for women and girls through targeted government spending in line with the ERGP priorities.
Other areas, ensuring that our budgeting process is more gender-sensitive through the incorporation of gender-based budgeting; Access to Information and develop targeted capacity development programmes aimed at developing women at all tiers and ensuring they have the support and structure in place to succeed, particularly in positions of leadership.