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Improving women economic empowerment to boost national development

Supreme Desk
4 May 2022 10:33 AM GMT
Improving women economic empowerment to boost national development
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Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) is increasingly at the centre of international development policy not just as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has introduced a series of development plans as part of effort to move the country towards the path of growth and development.

The national development is the country's action plan for national development, as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The latest one, the National Development Plan 2021 to 2025, was approved on November 10, 2021.

The plan was expected to succeed the "Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, and the Economic Sustainability Plan 2020" that elapsed in the year 2021.

The new development plan is aimed at building a vast infrastructure development, promoting macroeconomic stability and improvement living conditions.

Given the importance of Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) to the national socio-economic and political development, this report is an analysis of the new plan with the following objectives: To determine whether or not the new plan prioritises WEE; ascertain whether WEE is seen as a strategy for achieving the goals of the plan, identify the similarities and differences between the new plan and the previous development plans and identify the policy issues in the new plan.

WEE is increasingly at the centre of international development policy not just as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

To reach several development objectives, such as those set out in the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, empowering women is seen as key to reducing poverty and improving the health and wellbeing of future generations. Women make up one half of the human population, yet they suffer gross inequalities.

Gender gaps in income and human capital persist despite rapid improvement in global living standards and educational attainment, and women continue to dis-proportionately bear the burden of unpaid care work and be subject to gender-based discrimination and violence.

According to experts, Nigeria's fundamental issues in the sub-national WEE Budgets 2018-2021 are

Poor Prioritization of WEE: Between 2018 and 2021, some states allocated up to 1 per cent of their capital budgets to WEE-focused programmes. Although there are WEE-related programmes that are lump sum in many some other states' empowerment projects across the Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs).

For the lack of WEE Project coordination: Several States are implementing WEE and there are no known efforts available in such states to coordinate these WEE programmes. While the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is implementing its WEE budget, the Ministries of Enterprises, Finance, Women Affairs, and others are also implementing theirs. This is prone to corruption and the same set of people are capable of benefiting at all times, leaving a large number of others without access.

In June and September 2020, the three planning committees namely; Technical Working Group (TWG), Central Working Group (CWG), and National Steering Committee (NSC) were set up to prepare the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP), 2021 2025, MTNDP 2026-2030 and Agenda 2050.

One year after their inauguration, the draft of the long-awaited development plan was approved.

The new National Development Plan is aimed at generating 21 million full-time jobs and lifting 35 million people out of poverty by 2025. It is part of the Federal Government's effort to lift about 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.

The plan has the following broad strategic objectives: To establish a strong foundation for a diversified economy, with robust MSME growth, and a more-resilient business environment, to invest in critical physical, financial, digital, and innovation infrastructure; to build a solid framework and enhance capacities to strengthen security and ensure good governance, and enable a vibrant, educated, and healthy population.

To achieve these objectives, an investment of about N348.1 trillion from both the public and private sectors is estimated between 202 and 2025.

While 14 per cent (N49.7 trillion) of the fund will be sourced from the government capital budgetary allocation, 86 per cent (N298.3 trillion) will be sourced from private investors.

Expectedly, 59.5 per cent of the N49.7 trillion from the public sector will be contributed by the Federal Government, 27.2 per cent (N13.4 trillion) by the State Governments, and 13.6 per cent (N6.8 trillion) by the Local Governments.

The Development Research and Project Centre (DRPC) has suggested that the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, should come up with indicators and set interim targets for various WEE promises in the National Development Plan 2021-2025.

That the Federal Government of Nigeria should link resources to promises, stating clearly, that the funding commitment of each of the tiers of the government as well as the private sector is to invest in WEE-specific projects annually over a period of five years.

The DRPC said that this should also apply to subsequent plans such as the Medium-Term National Development Plan 2026-2030 and Agenda 2050.

On the issue of the lack of attention paid to women in some critical sectors such as mining, solid minerals, and creative sector, the MDAs need to ensure that projects and programmes to be designed address the challenges of women working in this sector. This also applies to women in other sectors such as science trade and industry.

It said that the government should ensure the production of gender audit of the plan implementation annually, and should always upload the National Development Plan progress implementation report online to guarantee unfettered access to information on the plan implementation in a simplified user-friendly manner, including the availability of a comprehensive report of the plan.

It said that there was the need for transparency, accountability, and prudent management of all resources accruing to the plan from all sources and the need for continuous capacity development (training and retraining) of MDAs on gender audit.

The state government should avoid the sabotage of the LGAs funding and allow them to carry out their functions as prescribed in the 1999 constitution.

According to the DRPC, this is to enable the LGAs implement programmes and projects on WEE at the local level in line with the national development plan 2021-2025.

It said that the Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) should conduct high-level advocacy for the WEE implementing MDAs, and endeavour to engage the National Assembly on the amount to be dedicated to the WEE in both their annual ZIP.

It advised that CSOs to create awareness on the full implementation of the NDP 2021-2025 and also monitor implementation and simplify the document for effective understanding by the average Nigerian woman.

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has also called for the socio-economic empowerment of Nigerian women and girls to achieve the desired strong economic growth in the country.

Ahmed said, "the economic and social empowerment of women and girls is critical to our collective vision of a prosperous and resilient Nigeria.

"It is therefore imperative that we prioritise the advancement of women in all spheres of society, and specifically in areas relating to their socio-economic empowerment.

"If we are to have a stronger and more inclusive economy, it is crucial that we take a long-term and strategic approach to ensuring that women are economically empowered.

"Global research shows that, despite their contributions, many women remain economically disempowered. Women are especially vulnerable to poverty and are more likely to be affected by poor service delivery and instabilities.'"

She called for the development and implementation of policies, regulatory frameworks, and programmes that are inclusive and gender-sensitive.

"And we must remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent women from participating fully in society and from reaping the economic benefits of their participation.

"This is especially important given the evidence that gender-neutral policies are often applied in ways that exclude and disenfranchise women stakeholders and other vulnerable communities," she said.

According to the minister, the economic empowerment of women and girls "is a necessary driver for our country's development".

She said that her team adopted Gender Responsive Budgeting in the preparation of the recently approved 2022 Budget.

"The step was taken, following months of stakeholder-consultations, with support from the International Monetary Fund.

She added that the Budget Office would be working with MDAs on the implementation of the gender budgeting provisions, with an initial focus on those sectors that have been considered critical to human capital development, including health, education, and humanitarian affairs.

She called for partnership among the various levels of government, CSOs and the private sector, urging all stakeholders to show greater interest in the empowerment of women in the country.

"By economically empowering women and ensuring their full participation in society, particularly in leadership and decision-making roles, we can ensure improved economic development outcomes for all," she said.

According to Mrs Mercy Adeojo, founder of Women Strengthening Women in Nigeria, an official Community Interest not-for-profit organisation dedicated to Women across the nation, giving women greater economic empowerment means enabling them to increase their right to economic resources and their control over meaningful decisions that benefit themselves, their households, and their communities.

Adeojo said that these include the right to control their own time, their income, and access to participation in existing markets equally, as greater empowerment would improve their well-being and economic status.

She said empowering more women to work, results in better growth of third-world economies, because women's economic empowerment increases economic diversification, and boosts productivity and income equality, resulting in other positive development outcomes.

According to her, as a study from the IMF shows, "policies that improve access to educational opportunities and finance for women can contribute to a reduction in inequality and an increase in economic growth for the developing country.

She said that providing women and girls with more educational opportunities contributes to reductions in fertility rates and increase in labour force participation rates, and better quality of human capital of the future economy and generations.

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