By Edith Ike-Eboh
First Bank Nigeria Limited has called on the Nigerian government to involve women folk into its economic growth plan to guarantee comprehensive development.
The bank’s chairman, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, disclosed this at the just concluded 25th edition of the annual Nigerian Economic Summit (NES), in Abuja
“The statistics of Nigeria’s population says that women are about 48.5 per cent and men 49.5, let us say it is 50-50 statistically.
“And if you are a businessperson, 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,” she said
According to her, for Nigeria to grow its economy, it must maximise the value of all her human resources, including its female population.
She noted that government must find a ways to take out the limitations that hold women back from actively participating in economic development.
“There are lots of talk shops about funds that are provided and structured for women to access but there are structural defects that makes it impossible for women to effectively access those funds.
“If women don’t have clear property rights, it is a challenge, because for a structure where collateral is required, there is a challenge.
“Part of what we have done in First Bank in the last three years is that we decided to build a project we called the First Gem to try and solve some of the critical issues that we identified.
“For instance, women lack of ownership of personal assets for building wealth, and that also translated to the mindset of building wealth because a lot of women are brought up with the mindset of consuming wealth,’’ she noted.
She added that the bank had nurtured up to 71,253 Nigerian women under its First Gem initiative to skillfully manage their finances, engage in repaying investments as well as access structured capitals around Nigeria to grow their businesses.
Awosika said that through the First Gem, the bank had identified and was gradually clearing out challenges that stop women in Nigeria from becoming economically productive.
“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,” she explained.
Awosika, stated that over that period, women in the First Gem network had gathered multiples of billions of naira.
“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 20150 goals,” she added.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NESG at the summit recognized the bank for fostering nation building through its support for the summit.
They also gave the bank its ‘Long Service Corporate Award’ for distinguished financial and technical support over 20 consecutive unbroken years, thus demonstrating loyalty, steadfastness, passion and partnership towards nation building and economic development.(NAN)