How can women in Nigeria become economically empowered and contribute to the development of the country? A panel of experts have shared their thoughts. Read below;
1 | Break gender norms in childhood
It’s important to implement gender sensitisation through education as early as primary school. Trying to bring about a change in mindset about what roles are “traditionally” for women (such as care work) is crucial to creating a more open and accepting society. Fiza Farhan, global strategic development advisor, Lahore, Pakistan @Fiza_Farhan
2 | Work with religious and traditional leaders
For most parts of northern Nigeria, some discriminatory norms can be tackled by the involvement of religious and traditional leaders. After sensitisation and behaviour change, a man would not restrict his wife’s or daughter’s involvement in any economic activity. Titus Orngu, gender technical adviser (Women Peace & Security Programme), UN Women, Yola-Adamawa, Nigeria
3 | Encourage employers to hire inclusively
We must create awareness about the potential of women in the workplace. When it comes to supporting lower-income women who may not have high levels of formal education, it’s important to help employers realise the value of competency over credentials. Let’s encourage employers to look beyond a CV (which is merely a proxy for the skills they want to hire) and instead focus on the competencies our youth posses (both men and women). This will lead to more inclusive hiring practices. Noella Moshi, programmes lead, WAVE Academies, Lagos, Nigeria
4 | Pass a gender equality law
Legislation – such the gender and equal opportunities bill (GEOB) – would go a long way in addressing some of the discrimination that women face. It would adddress the issues of inheritance rights and property/land ownership.
One of the reasons the GEOB was represented at the National Assembly was because of pressure from influential women and groups. Though the bill was previously thrown out, the lawmakers said that it could be presented again. Elections will soon be here and no one would like to test the power of women voters. The majority of women in Nigeria – including those in the Boko Haram-ravaged north-east – stood in the sun, rain and in the face of attacks to vote. Titus Orngu
5 | Get women access to capital
Women run 30% of all registered businesses worldwide, yet only 10% of women entrepreneurs have access to the capital they need to grow. Partnerships are crucial: mobilising the skills and resources of public and private sectors creates a bigger impact than working in isolation. For example, for our Road to Growth project, we involved a bank in designing our training curriculum on financial literacy, and also organised events with the bank and the women entrepreneurs to build relationships.
It’s not enough to simply teach women about financial literacy; financial service providers must also offer the right kinds of products and services. And of course the right legislation is critical for women to have land rights, collaterals and access to loans. Annabel Azim, enterprise development programme director, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, London, UK
6 | Recognise informal workers
Most of the world’s poor, especially in developing countries, are working, and of the estimated 630 million working poor, the majority are women. The primary challenge is that most of those cannot work their way out of poverty because most earn their living in the informal economy where average earnings are low while costs and risks are high.
In Nigeria, the value of the informal economy has been estimated at 7.615tn naira ($48.2bn). And yet the activities – the livelihoods – of these workers remain almost entirely unrecognised, valued or taken into account in urban planning or local economic development. If urban poverty, inequality and unemployment are to be reduced, urban informal workers, especially the working poor, need to be recognised, valued and supported as economic agents who contribute to the economy and to society. Victoria Okoye, urban advocacy specialist, Wiego, Accra, Ghana
7 | Make travel safer for women
We need to integrate women more effectively through infrastructure. For instance, our Nigerian Infrastructure Advisory Facility has connected millions of women to employment: an estimated 550,000 trips have been taken by women, facilitated through these improved transport networks. The GEMS3 programme identified that women are less likely than men to travel when challenges such as bad roads prevent them from doing so. Removing obstacles to travel will have a disproportionately favourable impact on women. Adanma Abalunam, project manager on the Growth and Employment in States (GEMS3) programme, Adam Smith International, Abuja, Nigeria
8 | End violence against women at home and work
I did research last year on masculinities, conflict and violence in Nigeria [pdf] that found that women’s difficulties within the home increase as their earning power grows, particularly if they earn more than men. At the same time, we also need to look at violence women experience in the workplace. Most women in Nigeria I know who have set up their own business or work for a company or organisation have experienced sexual harassment. This has a detrimental impact on women’s wellbeing at work as well as their motivation.
In some cases, men often will not allow daughters, wives or sisters to work outside the home (although many still engaged in home-based businesses) “for their own protection” and to guard against this violence. Chitra Nagarajan, activist and writer, Maiduguri, Nigeria @chitranagarajan
9 | Teach boys to respect women
There’s a long-term role that parents must play in raising our sons better. I grew up believing many things to be true that I have now found to be unfavourable to the development of women and opportunities. My son, and every boy in his generation, must be educated about equality and that it is the role of any human to support another, as men must women. Gbenga Sesan, executive director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria @gbengasesan
10 | Use emergencies as opportunities
In emergency situations, individuals often turn to opportunities for immediate economic relief where dependents have no alternative but to “allow” women to enter the labour force. So while this may not necessarily lay the foundation for long-term change in society, organisations and the civil society need to use this situation to their advantage. Providing short vocational training for women to improve their skills and make them more favourable for employment will empower them. The government would need to implement policies and task forces to ensure that economic progress is not halted when these women return to their communities. Fiza Farhan
11 | Look at wider inequality in Nigeria
In Nigeria, the gap between the rich and poor is massive and has been growing. This can be seen by the fact that even when GDP was growing, youth employment was falling. We need to look at women’s economic empowerment, but we also need to look at economic inequality in Nigeria in general. We need to move away from a system of kleptocratic politicians and officials as well as rampant capitalism and its models of growth that have harmed so many women and girls and exacerbated economic inequality. We need a model of economic development and growth that is much more socially and environmentally conscious and focuses on ensuring the whole of society, not just the wealthy few, benefit from economic growth. Chitra Nagarajan