Members of business community converged on the Main Auditorium of Kwara Hotels, Ilorin during the week where women and youth inclusiveness, who had over time, grappled with ostracization in the scheme of things, dominated discourse. AHMED ‘LATEEF was there.
Feminism is a social theory or art movement, which advocates removal of legal and social restrictions on women with a view to bringing about equality of the sexes in all aspects of public and private life. Conceived and probably birthed in the nineteenth century, the movement came into being as a panacea to change the old narrative that had implacably restricted rights of females unlike their male counterparts.
Having come to the reality that their liberties are confined as a result of native laws and taboos, many women sucked in, suffered in silence and innocently retired to fate.
The known social restrictions had invariably placed men over the women in all areas of human endeavours and this became a source of concern for all stakeholders, especially those who shared the ideology and philosophy behind feminist movement.
And since the movement was developed, it had become an indispensable tool through which women were being stimulated and fortified to rise and break the shackles of social restrictions that had manacled them over the years.
A number of scholars, devoid of gender, keyed into the feminist movement with the belief that it was high time for voices of women to be heard and not restricted to the other room. The belief in this school of thought is that women can contribute significantly to the political, social and economic growth of the society if given the requisite supports and opportunities.
The need to accord females a place of pride like male counterparts had become manifest with the number of women, who in their various callings and professions, bested men.OLOJOKU: A Trade Unionist As King
But in spite of the contributions of women, all in a bid to pull down the wall of social restrictions against them, things appear far from being over for them. In public and private sectors, they still battle to remove landmines placed on their paths.
It was part of the efforts to address the challenges facing the women, particularly in business community that Kwara Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KWACCIMA) held a forum between Tuesday and Wednesday in Ilorin, the state capital to remove the encumbrances and offer antidotes to enable them compete favourably.
Themed “The United Women: Catalyst for Economic Growth and Development in Nigeria”, the forum was described as apt and timely for women, who have longed to grow their businesses prior to the conference.
The forum also featured a session for youth where they were acquainted with the skills and renewed vigour to excel in their businesses. At the event was also the official inauguration of Kwara State chapter of NACCIMA Women Organization (NAWORG) and NACCIMA Youth Entrepreneurs (NAYE).
The KWACCIMA President, Dr Ahmed Adeoye Raji, in his speech at the epoch making event, said the chamber was mooting an idea of establishing an institution to be named NACCIMA Academy to train women and the youth in business development management.
Should the plan materialise, Raji informed that the participants of the proposed Academy would be empowered in Skill Acquisition and proficiency in international languages.
The KWACCIMA boss noted that the duo of women and youth were only recognized in trade and commerce and rent-letting investment rather than keying into real production, saying that they must explore other vital areas to make the state economy economy grow faster.
He said Kwara was fast becoming the industrial hub of the North Central region and urged the state government to encourage establishment of one factory in each of the 16 local government areas of the state.
“At this conference, we KWACCIMA members and executives are incubating a partnership with our parent body, NACCIMA and the Kwara State government for the establishment of NACCIMA Academy, where training will be given to the women and the youths in Business Development Management, Skill Acquisition and proficiency in international languages.
“The majority of women and our youths are only known in the area of trade and commerce and rent-letting investment instead of going into production. They have to push beyond these limits; they need to explore other vital areas of the economy. That is what can make the state economy grow faster.
“They must catch on with newer methodology in business as well as derivable benefits from the government, regulatory bodies and financial institutions. There are initiatives and schemes such as the SME funding, credit facilities that can be accessed to launch them into manufacturing and become industrialists.
“Gone are are the days when Kwara State was being described as a civil service state because most economic activities and spending use to be at peak at month-end when salaries get paid. We have outgrown that status quo. The state is fast becoming the industrial hub of the North Central region.
“In fact, we all in the Business Community and the state government should embed in the mantra- One Local Government, One Factory and we also plead that the state should start to be driven by industrialisation and investment provision rather than concentrating on Tax to drive the process of governance”, Raji said.
Also speaking, NACCIMA National President, Hajia Saratu Iya Aliyu, said the inclusion of women in the chambers movement was in line with the new narrative of gender mainstreaming to national development.
She described the initiative as a reflection of commitment to the growth and quest for gender equality and general economic empowerment of women in accordance with the global trend.
Hajia Aliyu, who spoke on the vision of NAWORG, said “The importance of women within the chamber movement cannot be overemphasized. It is line with the new narrative of gender mainstreaming to national development. It is a reflection of commitment to the growth and quest for gender equality and economic empowerment of women generally.
“This is in line with the global trend, which has been driven by the United Nations through many of its international conferences and eventual establishment of UN Women as the Apex UN body on women issues.
“NACCIMA through NAWORG will continue to do its own part to ensure a united front by women and indeed all stakeholders to enhance the goal of gender equality and economic empowerment, which is critical to economic growth and development in Nigeria”.
In her remarks, the National Chairperson, NAWORG, Mrs Patricia Idiakhoa, said the group, which was constituted as one of the trade groups of NACCIMA in 2005, has the mandate to coordinate the activities and protect the interest of women entrepreneurs for the promotion of trade and industry nationally and across the West Africa sub-region.
She stated further that membership of the business women group was open to all women entrepreneurs in chamber movement in the country, adding that NAWORG had since inception, coordinated and participated in various activities within the country and the ECOWAS sub-region.
Mrs Idiakhoa, who clarified that the women business group was not competing with men but complementing their efforts, said the inauguration of Kwara chapter marked the beginning of a fresh journey in the advancement of the group.
She maintained that it was imperative for the group to consolidate on its success to further transform women entrepreneurial status to boost the nation’s economy.
“I urge all of you in this chapter to be role models and be prepared to render selfless service to yourselves and NAWORG. There is a role for everyone to play. If you are successful, you can mentor someone. Live a life of significance by mentoring someone. If you are less successful, come and learn from others. Eschew pessimism; let integrity be your watchword”, Mrs Idiakhoa said.
Also speaking, the state NAWORG Coordinator, Hajia Zururat Romoke Zubair, said the state chapter under her leadership would leverage on the opportunity to enhance and promote capacity building, profitable trade and indigenous products capable of easing women economy and making it more competitive free.
She called for synergy of the state government in micro, small and medium development fund and cottage industries development to encourage and save women entrepreneurs from financial distress.
Also at the forum, the state Commissioner for Enterprise, Mr Abdulwahab Femi Agbaje, said the State government has set aside over N150,000,000 as a special fund for state entrepreneurs.
Agbaje, who said the budgetary provision designed to support businesses of entrepreneurs, assured that the present administration will also encourage young promising youth entrepreneurs and the people of the state through the provision of financial advisory services.
The commissioner informed that the Bureau of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in the state was being reorganized and reinvigorated for availability and accessibility of funds at a low interest rate for viable businesses and cooperative societies to establish and grow businesses.
“I am delighted to inform you that the state government is doing all things possible in harnessing its resources to provide an enabling environment to encourage women and youth entrepreneurs and business minded people to establish and grow their businesses with ease.
“The Bureau of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, which is under the Ministry, is being strategically reorganized and tirelessly reinvigorated to ensure that funds are made available and accessible for viable businesses and cooperative societies/groups to establish and grow businesses at a low interest rate.
“This time around, the state government has taken a giant stride and another step forward by making a modest budgetary provision of over N150,000,000 available to Entrepreneurs in the state in order to support their businesses.
“The government will also be providing financial advisory services to young promising youth entrepreneurs and the good people of the state.
“The state government is prepared to provide succour by way of partnering with investors in the critical sectors of the economy, to promote and encourage entrepreneurship development in the state”, Agbaje said.
A former acting Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Industry (BOI), at the session, Dr Waheed Olagunji, called for stepping up capacity building efforts for women entrepreneurs ahead of the imminent fourth industrial revolution.
He said the world was transiting to a point where knowledge economy would dictate pace of doing business in the globe, pointing out that stakeholders could take advantage of this with proper education of girl child.
Olagunju said for women to be productive in economic sense, capacity must be built considerably in terms of skills acquisition and demands driven educational system.
The Group Managing Director of Harmony Holdings Limited, Abdullahi Abdulmojeed, said there was need for continued engagement and share best practices in the collective effort to rid the society of poverty through empowerment of women and the young people.
Abdulmojeed, who commended NACCIMA and KWACCIMA for what he described as fantastic and very innovative efforts put in place for the forum, noted that the event was in line with the focus of the new government to include women in the scheme of things.
He explained that the state has become the headquarters of inclusive governance policy, adding that no single government in the country has more women in governance than Kwara.
The two days forum, which attracted eminent personalities from across the country, also featured interactive segment and decoration of wife of Kwara State Governor, Mrs Olufolake AbdulRazaq; and a business mogul, Alhaji Jani Ibrahim, as Matron and Patron of Kwara NAWORG respectively.