• Stakes N73b on women-owned businesses
The Bank of Industry (BoI) has reaffirmed its commitment to women-led businesses, saying there could be no sustainable development in Nigeria unless women were proactively empowered.
Managing Director, BoI, Olukayode Pitan, said this at the Bank of Industry (BoI) International Women’s Day Conference 2023 hinged on the IWD theme: “Embrace Equity”, yesterday in Lagos.
Pitan revealed that as of December 2022, the bank had disbursed N73 billion to women-owned/led businesses across various sectors of the Nigerian economy.
He said that besides providing financial and business advisory services to women business, the bank had also developed and strengthened various strategic partnerships to support the cause of women.
The BoI MD added that the bank had disbursed $4.5 million, out of a commitment of $10 million in Alitheia IDF Fund.
Alitheia fund is a $100 million investment equity fund, which provides financial support to women-led organizations across various sectors, such as hygiene and personal care, healthy food snacks, education supplies and humanitarian/relief products.
“We are also the local execution partner for the Islamic Development Bank’s Business Resilience Assistance for Value Adding Services (BRAVE) programme in Nigeria.
“This is a $14.27 million initiative that was designed to support women-owned businesses, particularly those living in economically disadvantaged areas arising from conflicts and social unrest.
“So far, the bank has achieved the disbursement of N2.9 billion to 322 beneficiaries in the pilot states of Kano, Gombe and Edo.
“We have also partnered with key women organisations, such as Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR) and Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ).
“These organisations work with us to support gender advocacy and empowerment by providing capacity-building and mentorship training to ensure women’s representation in public, private, and political leadership positions.
“As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, we have collaborated with several other non-profit organisations in supporting women businesses,” he said.
Addressing the IWD theme, Pitan said the subject of equity was relevant to every sphere of life and that inequity had marginalized women, people of colour, disabled people, and the economically-disadvantaged.
He stated that the current era of digital transformation provides more opportunities to eliminate gender inequality and make adequate infrastructural facilities available to foster social inclusion and integration for the disabled.
Pitan noted a lot of attention had been placed on advocacy and investment in education, economic and political empowerment programs in achieving gender equality.
He, however, stressed the need to better understand the challenges that women encounter either at the home front or at work, to ensure an effective and sustainable solution.
“While gender equality is primarily focused on providing both sexes with equal opportunities, gender equity works to correct the historical wrongs that have left women behind such as cultural restrictions on education, employment and others.
“‘Embracing equity’ can be achieved by making deliberate efforts to scale-up the representation of women in leadership and policy-making roles; including creating enforceable laws that frown upon gender inequality and challenging societal biases and gender stereotypes”.
Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs Mariam Katagum, noted that the 2023 IWD theme ’embrace equity’ presented a true representation that levelled the playing field for both sexes.
She noted that to build an equitable system, one must first understand and take into cognisance the challenges that women face and provide tailored support for both personal and professional development.
“Equity is a means to achieving gender equality and we must remain committed to addressing systems and structures that stifle women’s growth.
“We must continue to speak out against gender inequality and violence, provide equitable access to finance, and enhance entrepreneurial support.
“We must remove barriers to women’s participation in trade and commerce and push to close wage gaps between sexes”, she said.