By Josephine Agbonkhese & Elizabeth Adegbesan
The Centre for Public Policy Alternatives, CPPA, in partnership with the International Research Centre, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, DfID, and the Hewlett Foundation, has highlighted strategies that would increase the participation of women in Nigeria and Ghana in the various sectors of the economy.
The CPPA and its stakeholders disclosed these in a symposium titled: Making Economic Growth Work for Women in Developing Countries: Case Study of Nigeria and Ghana, organised by the IDRC GroW Project, an initiative of the CPPA.
The event also explored the constraints faced by women as workers, entrepreneurs and caregivers in the labour market considering the institutions, policies and practices that can promote positive change.
Speaking at the symposium, Director-General, Nigeria Institute of Social Economic Research, NISER, and Founder, CPPA, Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, said women must be prepared to take risks to be able to gain equal status with men in the economy.
“Women should be prepared to take risks because everything in life, just like politics, is an art of war. They need to understand also the business of networking; this idea that people will wake up one day and see equality of genders is farce. There is a fourth revolution being experienced and the ability to think is the requirement of this fourth revolution.
“Personally, I think the opportunities for women have never been better. That is why I say there is no box anywhere stopping women except for the psychological box in the mind. We need to rethink this whole business of women empowerment because women value safety and the ability to take risk is a prerequisite for success.”
Also speaking, Amina Oyagbola, Managing Consultant, AKMS Consulting Limited, challenged Nigeria to adequately put its women population to use.
“How can you have over 200 million people and then decide that you’re only going to be using half of them? Apart from all the natural resources in the world, what is important to economic growth is the people management of those resources. Nigeria is a blessed country and one of the most critical assets any country can have is the human asset.
“Women are fundamental and critical to economic growth, and there is evidence to show that when they are empowered and enabled, a nation’s GDP will grow exponentially. This has happened in Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa and many other countries in Europe. Any nation putting aside its women is like an aircraft that has decided to fly on one engine; it cannot go far.
“It starts with enabling women to have access to land without any cultural limitations with regards to inheritance. We need to change our laws, pass the Child Rights Act, the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, and demolish the codes that allow and enable the chastisement of women in the 21st Century and ensure that we focus on implementing policies that would ensure inclusive growth.”
Chairperson at the event, Mrs Hadiza El-Rufai, First Lady, Kaduna State, emphasised the role of literacy in the attainment of gender equality, adding that it was to boost women’s economic growth that she established the Women Literacy Project, a platform under which she has set up several literacy centres across Kaduna State.
El-Rufai also reeled out projects being executed across the state via her non-profit initiative, all in her quest to ensure growth for women.
On her part, Ms Jennifer Obado-Joel, Co-Principal Investigator, IDRC GroW Project, stressed that to achieve inclusive growth in the various sectors of the Nigerian and Ghanaian economies, government must set up policies to make sure patriarchal systems are abolished, and also empower women to move from small scale agricultural business to large scale.
“Also, we must educate the male child to see his sister or opposite gender as equal, enforce education of the female child, train women in business on how to manage funds and follow up the progress of the empowered women by giving them targets and monitoring their progress,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mr Nyoki Ita, Government Corporate Relations Officer, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, described women as critical managers of scarce resources, calling out against their marginalisation.
Ita said: “In Nigeria, we have 0.38 per cent of female participation in the oil and gas sector and 0 per cent in drilling while 80 per cent of rural areas are filled with artisan mining operators. A lot of them are uneducated, divorced or single mothers. The growth of women in the economy has not been inclusive. In the extractive industry, we want women on board-strategy in the administrative section. 6:4 of women and men should have access to training.”
Also at the event were Breno Braga, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute, Washington DC; Thywill Eyra Kpe, Regional Director, Department of Gender, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ghana; and Julian Oyegun, Principal Investigator, IDRC GroW Project in Nigeria and Ghana, amongst other dignitaries.