Christopher Thornley
Canadian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Christopher Thornley

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Canadian Government has announced that it would provide the sum of $27.3million this year to support humanitarian assistance in the North-east region; a larger chunk of it the government believes would impact more on women and girls.

The Canadian Government has also disclosed its plans to assist Nigerian women entrepreneurs and professionals to overcome major challenges confronting them in the business and political environment.

Canadian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Christopher Thornley, who disclosed this at a one-day National Women Business summit and exhibitions in Abuja, said the decision to support women entrepreneurs and professionals was in line with his country’s foreign policy on gender equality.

“Canada is already working with the Federal Government of Nigeria and other partners to protect and promote the rights of women and girls in Nigeria. For example, we have projects focused on ending child marriage with ‘Save the Children and the United Nations Population Fund’. Much of our development programming in the areas of health and sustainable economic growth is also focused on empowering women.

“In addition, this year, we are providing 27.3 million in humanitarian assistance for the conflict in the Northeast which has had unique impacts on women and girls.

“With the launch of our new feminist international assistance policy, we look forward to intensifying our efforts to invest in the women and girls of Nigeria and to help unlock their potential,” he said.

The envoy, while commending the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN) for organising the summit, said Canada believes that gender equality, including women’s economic empowerment, is necessary for effective poverty reduction and economic growth both in Canada and around the world.

While noting that women around the world are rising to success and leading impressive enterprises, he expressed belief that events such as this would help raise awareness; provide a venue for open dialogue and the sharing of experiences, and encourage women and men to take stronger action to promote equality into the future.

He said: “As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, Prime Minister Trudeau announced on the margins of the G20 summit in Hamburg that Canada would contribute $20 million toward the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi).

“We-Fi will target small and medium-size businesses and will also invest in other projects and programmes that support women entrepreneurs. Led by the World Bank, We-Fi will help women-owned and women-led businesses in developing countries to access the resources they need, including financial and technical assistance”.

In her welcome address, National Coordinator, Association of Nigerian Women Business Network, Nkiru Okpalla, noted that the prevalent economic condition in the country has placed a huge demand on women and they are equally rising to the challenge.

“You must agree with me that women are a force for progress. They constitute over half the entire population of our citizenry, and women’s economic advancement to a very large extent, impacts and also provide solutions to conflict and community management, food security and agriculture as well as resource scarcity and sustainability,” she stated.