Finance Minister calls govts to create economic opportunities for women 

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The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has called on governments at the various levels to put measures in place for strategic approach towards establishing gender parity in the society by providing more economic opportunities to women.

The Minister said this on Tuesday in her keynote address during the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 2019 International Women’s Day with the theme “Investing for Equality,” in Abuja.

She noted that economically empowered women will guarantee stronger economies.

Mrs Ahmed said, “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.”

The Daily Times recalls that the 2019 International Women’s Day was themed “Balance for Better.”

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 29per cent staff are women, 29per cent are in top management and 27per cent women are in the board as it stands currently,  she task the governor and his deputies to scale it up to 50per cent.

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, 29per cent of your staff as women, 29per cent in top management and still about 27per cent 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 50per cent 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 70per cent), 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.

“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.

“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.

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