By Michael Eboh
Chairman of First Bank Nigeria, FBN, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, has called on the Federal Government to include Nigerian women in its economic growth plan, stating that this was critical to guarantee comprehensive economic and national development.
In a statement by the bank in Abuja, yesterday, Awosika, who was speaking during a breakout session tagged, ‘empowering Nigerian women,’ at the just concluded 25th Nigerian Economic Summit, NES, disclosed that there were certain barriers to the economic development of women that needed to be removed.
According to her, for Nigeria to grow its economy, it must maximise the value of all her human resources, including its female population, as well as finding out ways to take out the limitations that held women back from actively participating in economic 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 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.
She said, “All we are saying is when you teach women what to do and create structures around them, you are empowering them. Our commitment and drive is to raise a generation of empowered female entrepreneurs and corporate women who build comfortable personal wealth which puts them in a comfortable position to take personal decision.
“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 parts 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.