In furtherance to building a sustainable economy, various stakeholders have harped on the need to include the economic empowerment of women as a way of reducing the effects of economic insecurity which often leads to violence against them.
Available statistics show that, there are twice as many women below the poverty line than men, and up to 19 times as many men in executive positions than women. Women are subordinates to men in every aspect of life if we are being realistic and its worse when she cannot add value or give reasons to be appreciated and then she is stomped upon as well.
In a chat with the PRINCE OKAFOR, the Executive Director of GMYT Fashion Academy, and President of GMYT Foundation, Princess Oghene Kelechi demystifies the need for women’s involvement in eradicating crime, corruption amidst other challenges limiting development in the affairs of the nation.
What is the need for women empowerment in Nigeria?
Women Empowerment leads to more economic benefits not only to the individuals but to the society as well. Women empowerment leads to more financial independence of women and girls.
Women Empowerment reduces poverty, contributing significantly to the family welfare. Empowering girls leads to reduced levels of domestic violence.
Educated women and girls are able to stand for themselves and escape from incidences of domestic violence.
From the various experiences I have had with women and youths having participated in the GMYT SMEs Support Scheme, I created a platform birthed by GMYT Foundation with the core value to create solutions by creating job opportunities for millions of youth and women and supporting small scale businesses around the world with a hundred thousand naira or more every month, here at GMYT fashion academy and so far we have given out an estimate of over a million naira. And there has been a significant change in the lives of every woman I have been able to empower either with money, industrial machine, or scholarship.
Apart from empowerment, which other issues is your foundation interested in?
Violence against women is undoubtedly one of the most widespread of human rights abuses and studies revealed that as many as one in every three women has been beaten, murdered, coerced into sex or abused in some way and most often by her lover, husband or another male family member.
Why should the federal government and private sector support women empowerment?
Financial empowerment of women stimulates economic growth within any country. This can lead to stability of the nation, reduction in poverty, as well as making the nation competitive in the global market.
Having more bargaining chips on the table can help a country’s leaders make better deals with other governing bodies, as well as receive aid and support more effectively.
From home-based micro-businesses to small startups and shops, women create over half of the 9.72 million new small-business jobs in Nigeria.
Not only are women creating more jobs, the National Federation for Independent Businesses says women-owned small businesses weather recessions more effectively and show more adaptability than men-owned small businesses.
The more empowered women are, the more job opportunities which solve the national problem of unemployment, safety and security.
Are you not expecting too much?
In addition, studies have shown that women are the most creative and innovative; Women have been innovating and excelling in the fields of science and math for hundreds of years, despite facing harassment and discrimination.
Women are handy and crafty which serves as a source of livelihood for many women, if women are supported and groomed in their crafts there will be greater achievements. The urine powered generator that was created in 2012 by three 14 year old Nigerian girls. The more support women have, the more creative they will get.
Empowering of women frees men from the pressure to be the primary wage-earner and shows little boys they can explore all aspects of who they are, without paying attention to roles that are traditionally “masculine” or “feminine.”
Men will have more freedom to work part-time or take care of children, which frees them up for other, more interesting activities. A supportive woman shoulders some responsibility for the family creating lesser pressure for men in general.
Challenges facing women empowerment in Nigeria
Legal, political and socio-cultural constraints, remains the top of the table challenges faced by Nigerian women in pursuit of their career and affecting growth of the nation.
Despite apparent legal protection for women in the Federal Constitution, this protection can be contradicted by gender-based laws such as the need for female police officers to gain permission to marry.
Additionally, the constitution removes only women’s opportunity to confer citizenship onto a foreign spouse, and there is significant variation in the legal rights afforded to women across the country regarding asset ownership and marriage.
Women are comparatively invisible on the Nigerian political scene, particularly at state and federal levels. Both self-imposed and systemic constraints combine in a mutually reinforcing manner, with violence and male domination of decision-making leading to a lack of willingness on the part of women to engage. Additionally, the monetisation of politics and influence means wealthy political sponsors are unlikely to back female candidates.
Also, the patriarchal nature of Nigerian culture is a key reason often given for the relative disempowerment of Nigerian women, together with a mix of cultural and religious beliefs that infringe on women’s rights and are integrated into customary law.
Influence on economic growth?
Last year we trained over 86 women and this year we are currently embarking on a new project to train 500 women for free. I wish I could train everybody for free but, it is the academy that is funding it, we do not have sponsors or partners.
“GMYT fashion academy has created over 300 students that are doing very well in the fashion industry. Some of them are into production, some are into ready to wear, and some of them have their own fashion academy today. Log on to our website to see a list of our alumni and so much more.
Given all these, what is your core mission?
Our mission is to create job opportunities for millions of youth and women around the world, and from our history, when our students finish from here they start their own businesses because of the business knowledge they have gained from entrepreneurial classes held every month with top notch guests teaching us on different topics.
We also have job placements waiting for them just so they do not want to go start their own business.
We live in a world where more money is spent and it has less impact on people’s lives. There are thousands of women, girls and youths that need to be empowered. Every year, we see more graduates on the outside without jobs.
Some women, girls feel deprived, unwanted, lonely and even depressed. They are distressed because of their inability to cater for their basic needs amidst their overflowing willingness to earn a living.
Hence, the good news is that skill as little as a grain of sand can end abjection, re-ignites a mindset of discernment, and brings about a person of independence. The world has become a place where skill is more lucrative than even white collar jobs.