The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has earmarked the sum of N132 billion under its Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF), to enhance Women Economic Empowerment in the country.
The amount represents 60 per cent of the total sum of N220Bn set aside by the apex Bank under the scheme to address cash flow challenges of financial services in the Micro Finance sub sector.
This was the high point of a meeting held in Abuja at the weekend between the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, and the Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Mrs. Sarah Alabi.
Hajiya Zainab Maina commended the CBN for taking the lead in promoting financial inclusion of women and other marginalized Nigerians through its various schemes such as the Revised Micro-Finance Policy, the Agricultural Credit Guaranty Scheme, the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) and the newly introduced MSMEDF.
She noted that these schemes, if properly harnessed especially by women at the grassroots, will go a long way in reducing the current exclusion rate of women from financial services of 46.3 to 20.0 per cent by the year 2020, and ensure the much needed economic empowerment of women in the country.
“The successful integration of women in the financial system will ultimately lead to robust participation of Nigerians in the economy; lead to expansion of available markets and enhanced economic development.
“The Ministry welcomes more initiatives by financial community to encourage access of its target groups to financial services, especially women at the grassroots that contribute greatly to the GDP, and produce more than 70 per cent of agricultural produce,” she added.
The Minister however urged the CBN to engage gender-sensitive Micro Finance Banks in the disbursement of the funds to the end beneficiaries so that the generality of women would not be schemed out.
Earlier, the Acting Governor of the CBN, Mrs Sarah Alabi observed that in most cases, women exclusion in financial services was as a result of lack of financial literacy of the women, especially those at the grassroots.
To this end, she emphasized the need for the CBN to collaborate with the Ministry on advocacy programmes that will create the necessary awareness towards greater participation of women at the grassroots on the various economic support programmes of the bank, especially the Agricultural Credit Guaranty Scheme meant for small scale farmers.
Mrs Alabi noted the need to ensure feedbacks during the enlightenment campaign, to enable the CBN make necessary policy adjustments, and guide the bank in fine-tuning the guidelines of the new SMMEDF scheme.