President Buhari’s decision to empower women is a step in the right direction
President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent decision to set aside N1.6 billion for the empowerment of women is a step in the right direction. “I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the increasing role that our women are playing in revitalising the agricultural sector. Modern farming is still hard and heavy work and I salute our Nigerian women in sharing this burden’’, said the president during the nationwide broadcast to mark his one year in office on May 29.
The N1.6 billion, which is expected to be domiciled in micro-finance institutions as loans to women across the nation, is to assist in rehabilitating the economies of rural communities, particularly those impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency and other conflicts. Justifying his decision, the president expressed regret that for too long, Nigeria had neglected the poor and victimised the weak, accusing past leaders of promoting profit and growth over development and freedom.
Women are the pillars of the family institution, yet they are the victims of the most telling abuses and socio-economic, cultural and political exploitation in our society. Indeed, crimes, communal conflicts, wanton destruction to life and property (in which women and children are at the receiving end) have gradually become so endemic in our society, to the extent that many of the despicable violations are considered commonplace, with outrage and horror alarmingly being displaced by indifference and disdain. On a yearly basis, the World Investment Report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) indicate that we lose trillions of naira to ethno-religious crises. Even so, the figures do not give the entire picture of the loss.
How do you put a price on the thousands of people dislodged from their farms and their homes? How do you account for the fact that tomato which used to be in abundant supply in our country is now a scarce commodity?
Although poverty is both complex and multi-dimensional, still it can be narrowed down to critical issues like access to basic amenities of life like shelter, healthcare, food, transportation, means of communication, water, electricity, household income, ability to send children to school and the quality of education.
Many women in most Nigerian villages are highly impoverished. They lack access to basic medical facilities. They lack access to drinkable water. They still trek long hours to the farm to work for multiple hours just to eke out a living. They die from preventable illnesses. It is indeed a scandal that most pregnant women in most Nigerian villages still give birth in huts with no running water.
In addition, many of the women are economically disadvantaged by policy (tax, access to finance, land, inheritance) and unfairly burdened by culture with bearing and raising children.Thus while many countries have made huge strides in gender equality, the struggle for empowering women rages on in Nigeria.
But their empowerment is crucial for strengthening the families and communities, improving food security and bringing about sustainable development. Ordinarily, programmes like this belong in the realm of the private sector but because of the prevailing poverty in many rural communities (and in some of our urban slums) and the absence of facilities that government should ordinarily avail its citizens, we welcome this intervention. If well implemented, it could take many of our women, especially in the rural areas, out of poverty with the attendant multiplier effects for the larger society.