Aishatu Debola Aminu is the country director of New Faces New Voices (NFNV) in Nigeria. Here, she speaks about Nigerian women’s great yet undervalued and unrecognized contributions to the country’s economy as well as their marginalization when it comes to access to finance
What is New Faces New Voices’ vision for African women?
Our vision at New Faces New Voices (NFNV) is to bring about African women’s sustainable economic development, we therefore advocate for innovative investment in African women, ensuring they take centre stage and add their value to the economy of their countries.
But it is very important to mention that the various country chapters of NFNV have been given the mandate to identify their local objectives depending on the needs of their particular environment, which is the only way they could make positive impact.
So, our objective in the Nigerian chapter, which apparently is the most active chapter among our 16 different country chapters across the continent, is to ensure an enabling environment for women-owned businesses and mentor emerging women enterprises in all fronts.
I mean not only in the area of access to finance but also in creating enabling environment for them to do business including building their capacity to be able to churn out products that can compete in the global market.
NFNV-Nigeria is due to be officially launched on the 8th of May 2017, what do you hope to achieve with the event?
Like you said, we are formally launching NFNV-Nigeria on the 8th of May at an event scheduled to take place in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, and we are going to have as our guest speaker, Mrs Tinuola Thompson –Ajayi, a two–time chairperson of the Association of Professional Women Bankers (APWB) of Nigeria and a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (FCIB).
She will deliver a public lecture entitled “The Role of Women in Recession and Economic Development of Nigeria”.
Those that will grace the occasion include Nomsa Daniels, the executive director of both Graca Machel Trust and the New Faces New Voices (NFNV), who will represent the founder, Mrs Graca Machel, the widow of Late Nelson Mandela. Her Excellency Hajiya (Dr) Amina Namadi Sambo, wife of former Vice-President of Nigeria who is also the Grand Patron of the Nigeria chapter of NFNV will also be at the launch event.
I will like to use this opportunity to acknowledge Her Excellency’s continues support to NFNV-Nigeria since its inception. She has been relentlessly supporting the country chapter since we commenced operation.
Coming back to your question, the launch of the Nigeria chapter will further reinvigorate our plans and activities in Nigeria to enable us drive towards the quick attainment of our objectives. We have already implemented programmes like the women cross border trade project as well as capacity building and literacy training for women in rural areas, among others.
Moreover, every year NFNV Nigeria comes up with what we call a game changer and our 2018 game changer is to unveil at our inaugural annual dinner a ‘new face’ for New Faces New Voices in Nigeria such that the woman entrepreneur will become an inspiration and a model for doing business.
Our game changer strategy for 2018 has to do with the huge influx of rural women to urban areas, in search for greener pastures. That is to say, we want to build the rural women’s capacity to appreciate and utilize the resources around them, which will help reduce the rural-urban drift and also reduce poverty levels in rural areas.
And it is not as if we are neglecting the urban areas or we don’t have poor women in urban areas. In 2015, our game changer was building the capacity of active urban poor; there are different classes of urban poor. The active urban poor are those that try to make changes in their lives, their examples are women who produce gurasa (pita bread) at home in the case of northern Nigeria or women who produce garri (cassava flakes) at home in the case of southern Nigeria.
Also part of our post-launch plans, we are going into a partnership with a non-interest financial institution to help our women in trade with interest free loan to support their businesses.
The event is themed: “The Role of Women in Recession and Economic Development in Nigeria.” What role can women play in ending Nigeria’s recession?
Even before recession, women have been making great contributions to the economic development of Nigeria and although their impact is being felt their contribution is not being recognized. At NFNV, we are close to women at grassroots and so are aware of their great contributions to the Nigerian economy.
A simple example could be found in farms, constructions sites, and motor parks where you find women who wake of as early as 4am in the morning to prepare food which they take to sell to people working in these kinds of places.
The food is very vital for the productivity of people working in these places. And it is the proceeds from such food business that many of these women use to pay for their children’s school fees and cater for their other needs.
Our research has shown that when the recession sets in, more and more women have joined these kinds of petty businesses to complement the income of their husbands because we are at a critical period when both parents in a family have to work to be able to support the family.
After recession, we want to make sure those women get the necessary support to contribute to economic development, we want to get the government to reevaluate its policies in relation to women’s participation in economic development. As women, we want to be given the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes on issues that directly affect us.
Women constitute majority of the peasant labour force in the agricultural sector and contribute tremendously to agricultural output in Nigeria, unfortunately they rarely benefit from agricultural incentives and innovation. How marginalised are Nigerian women, economically?
Marginalization has been in existence for a very long time and we have raised our voices and multiplied our faces, like Ma Graca Machel always says. There are improvements but the improvement is very slow. Statistics has shown that 60% of Nigeria’s population is women and our contribution to particularly the agricultural sector is very vital.
Even in the northwest region were traditionally women’s contribution to agriculture was low, there is an increase in women’s participation in farming activities which shows the increasing role of women in economic development.
Unfortunately, men seem to be benefitting more from government’s grants and loans for agriculture for which reason I am always insisting that the government review its policies in respect to these grants and loans so that more women will benefit from them.