By Michael Eboh & Gabriel Ewepu
Chairman of First Bank Nigeria, FBN, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, has disclosed that for Nigeria to record any meaningful economic growth, it must maximize the value of its female population, alongside all its human resources.
In a statement by the bank in Abuja, Awosika who was speaking during a breakout session tagged, ‘empowering Nigerian women,’ at the just concluded 25th Nigerian Economic Summit, NES, advised government at a levels finding out ways to take out the limitations that held women back from actively participating in economic development.
She called on the Federal Government to include Nigerian women in its economic growth plan, stating that this was critical to guaranting comprehensive economic and national development.
She said, “The statistics of Nigeria’s population says that women are about 48.5 per cent and men are 49.5. To save any argument, let us say it is 50-50 statistically. And if you are a business person, imagine that you have 50 per cent of your assets locked up and not utilised at all, and you expect to compete with your neighbors and excel. You are already disadvantaged.
“When we are talking about women, it is a business and national development issue. It is not gender issue. We will have a balanced life when women get to deliver their share of what is required to build a nation.
“There are lots of talk shops about funds that are provided and structured for women to access but there are structural defects that make it impossible for women to effectively access those funds.”
She argued that it poses serious economic challenges in a situation where women do not have clear property rights, especially in a structure where collateral is required.
“We educate and empower her to become an asset to the nation and not a liability. If we want to achieve the 2050 goals, we need to turn every single citizen into an asset for their ability to create value for the nation and help achieve the 2050 goals.”
To this end, Awosika disclosed that as part of strategies to address the challenges of the womenfolk, First Bank Nigeria, FBN, has empowered 71,253 women under its First Gem initiative, through building the capacity of the women to mobilize resources for wealth creation.
Awosika said through the initiative, the women were nurtured to skillfully manage their finances, engage in repaying investments as well as access structured capitals around Nigeria to grow their businesses.
She stated that the bank had identified and was gradually clearing out challenges that hindered women in Nigeria from becoming economically productive.
She noted that from October 2016 till date, women in the First Gem network had gathered multiples of billions of naira, adding that majority of the young women who had worked with the bank had set up investment clubs.
She said, “At First Bank, we launched First Gem in 2016, between October 2016 and now, we have had 71,253 women locked into the system. Women who never thought they had any capacity on building wealth, but simply by investing capacity on information, explaining to them how money works and how to manage resources, and to consciously understand the value of each penny they spend, we were shocked as much as I knew this was what we had to do.”