With the determination of making Nigerian women greatly self-reliant, a mobile application was launched as Africa’s first socio-economic empowerment at the maiden edition of the #Herconomy Conference and the third edition of #AGSTribe. Muritala Ayinla reports
For years, there have been agitations for gender balance and the need to tackle myriad challenges confronting women and which made them vulnerable in society.
In the past, many movements have been made with campaigns and advocacy groups established to ensure gender equality and women’s emancipation. Most women in Africa, Nigeria particularly, young and old; educated or illiterate, married or single believe that they are taken as objects of abuses and exploitations.
They are faced with all manners of challenges right from their families, workplaces, schools, religious homes, and any social group they find themselves in. For most women, surviving in the largely patriarchal society and male-dominated world is undoubtedly challenging.
Also, recent statistics have revealed a drastic increase in the unemployment rate in the country as Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, reports a 27.1% unemployment rate in the country as of the second quarter of 202. In a further study, the NBS also indicated that women ranked the highest number of unemployed as female unemployment rose to 31.6 percent from 26.6 percent in the third quarter of 2018.
Therefore, in an attempt to achieve gender equality, promoting social inclusion, and practically empowering women, the AGS Tribe and Entrepreneur has championed a support system for young women through a virtual community of female professionals and entrepreneurs. To this ends, at the launch of the program held at the Landmark Towers, Oniru, Lagos, the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Founder of the AGS Tribe and Entrepreneur, Ifedayo Durosinmi- Etti, wife of the Ogun State governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, and other experts deliberated on how best to address the challenges confronting women.
Speaking at the event, Governor Sanwo- Olu, who joined the event virtually lauded the efforts of the AGS Tribe in empowering women and expressed his commitment to support the initiatives of the community.
He hinted at the efforts of his administration to empower women in the state through a N4 billion Naira fund set to scale up over 200 women entrepreneurs and concluded his goodwill message by pledging to support six of the finalists in ways that will guarantee a big boost to their businesses.
The Ogun State First Lady, Mrs. Abiodun, emphasized need for training, exposure, and access to funding for more women in Nigeria, saying that that woman contributes more to the economy than their male counterparts, especially in the agricultural sector. Durosinmi-Etti said that the urgent need to support struggling women entrepreneurs was the reason for establishing AGS Enterprise Challenge to provide grants for innovative and sustainable business ideas.
“This year however dealt a huge blow on the nation’s economy as the country slipped into recession with many businesses struggling the effects of the pandemic and lockdown measure; hence the AGS Tribe responded with a mobile app and a campaign tagged, #HERconomy.
She added that she leads a growing movementof womenwhonoweasily access grants, training opportunities, mentoring, and access to business leaders across various sectors of the economy.
Noting that she was passionate about championing a support system for young women through a virtual community of female professionals and entrepreneurs, Ifedayo said that she was inspired to write a book, “Accessing Grants for Startup”, adding that she found a staggering dearth in resources for young people especially women and decided to build a com
munity of women. She described the initiative as another giant step towards bridging the gender gap and boosting the nation’s economy by empowering women entrepreneurs in Nigeria. CEO of Variant Advisory, Kehinde Durosinmi-Etti said that the roles of women in the economy have always been pushed to the background.
According to him, there is a need for deliberate policy to be set up to encourage women to step out of the background and take control at the helms of affairs. Ian Walker, Manager, Jobs, World Bank Group, said that the present youthful generation of Africa is the most educated continent has ever produced.
He however observed that the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has made unemployment worse with more people getting laid off from their jobs. The event also attracted many leaders across public and private sectors which include: Presidential Aide on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Executive Director, NEXIM Bank Stella Okotete, Ian Walker, World Bank Lead on Jobs among many others.
The conference featured panel sessions on Women Empowerment with speakers from the United Nations Women Office (UN Women), Mastercard, FBN Quest, Flying Doctors, and the Edo State Government. The panelists unanimously agreed that proper mentorship is needed to empower women to take up roles in entrepreneurship and thrive in them.
They also called for women’s participation in Nigeria’s economy and also advocated support from men as gender balance will in no small measure help to achieve a female-empowered nation.
After what was described by the judges as a rigorous and keenly contested session, Nneka Ogboi, CEO, Mash Baby Foods emerged winner and clinched a grand prize of 1,500,000 NGN, while Ejiro Ogunmor, CEO, Anaborhi Nigeria came second with a prize of 1,000,000 NGN.
The third position was tied as Adetoun Yusuf of Eve Signature and Stella Ndekile, CEO, Nuban Beauty, both went home with 500,000 NGN (with donation support from Olumide Soyombo) to encourage the efforts of the women. One of the finalists, Mary Asanga, CEO, Kutama Enterprise, also went home with a special prize of a 250,000 NGN grant presented by Mr. Ponmile Osibo on behalf of FP Capital.
WhilWhilet of the reforms by the current and past administrations are yet to fully take effect, it is expected that many more women will be empowered across the country through interventions and initiatives such as the AGSTribe.
According to the 2020 PwC, Impact of Women on Nigeria’s Economy, Nigerian women account for 41% ownership of micro-businesses in Nigeria with 23 million female entrepreneurs operating within this segment.
This is why the #HERconomy conference and AGSTribe Mobile both provided unique platforms to support female entrepreneurs through digital inclusion while encouraging more women to actively participate in the nation’s economy.