CHESTRAD Leads Conversation on Women’s Economic Empowerment at the UN

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Vanessa Obioha

At the ongoing 2020 United Nations General Assembly, a non-profit organisation Centre for Health Sciences Training, Research and Development (CHESTRAD), recently held a side event to discuss the various ways to ensure financial inclusion for women.

Using its new initiative ‘Tariro’ a health and financial inclusion programme, which gives and expands the access of children, girls and women to financial and health products and services, the NPO hosted seasoned experts to plumb the theme ‘From Aid to Trade: Transformation of African Financing for Children, Girls and Women’. The session was moderated by the Executive Director, Public Health Partnerships, Merck & Co Inc., Joan Benson.

At the centre of the discussion was the sustainability of financing for women and the availability of data to ensure no one is left behind as highlighted by the Founder of CHESTRAD, Lola Dare during her presentation.

One of the panellists, Monique Vledder, the Practice Manager for the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in her submission echoed Dare’s suggestion for the need for blended financing.

“It is not always that private sector investments have the same equity that we have collectively. So by blending grant financing and private sector financing we (GFF) have been able to focus more on those marginalised populations that have been left behind to ensure that there is quality health care.”

She, however, noted that it is important to identify women who are paying out of their pockets for services that are usually not given to them in high quality. That way, the women will not have a financial burden on getting these services.

While blended financing is one of the ways to ensure sustainable financing for women and children, the Managing Director of Bank of Industry, Nigeria, Olukayode Pitan argued that other financial solutions should be explored

He cited that the economic situations aggravated by the global pandemic have made access to health insurance for women and children almost impossible. Therefore, he suggests that the corporates can be encouraged to look at aspects of healthcare they can support.

“And whatever they are able to put into that area, then we can have some tax rebates from the government. They can get financing that is cheap and sustainable over time. And you can actually get into partnership with governments,” he said.

His other solution was community involvement in religious sectors.

The General Manager Lagos State Health Management Agency Emmanuella Zamba advised that it is very critical to look at ways the financial inclusion can penetrate the informal sector which is what the government is doing with Tariro. She also mentioned the state has community commercial partnerships with two financial service providers to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to healthcare services.

Senior Vice-president Health, Rockefeller Foundation, Naveen Rao identified the gender inequality that exists in data tools and science.

“When it comes to gender and data in health we see this inequality starkly in high maternal and child mortality rates. Right now the recorded average is 144 maternal deaths. It’s going to get worse because COVID-19 has disrupted so many essential services.”

He added that the class divide in the future will not be about wealth but access to data.

Specifically addressing the theme, the Chief Executive Officer of PACT, a non-profit international development organisation, Caroline Anstey stated in clear terms that the past few years have seen a downturn of events for financial support for women. Instead of more money flowing in, she said more are flowing out.

“At the same time, we know that the good news is that the world is changing, and a lot of private sectors or private investors are looking differently at how they want to measure environment social governance. They’re looking differently at how they measure returns.”

The onus then, according to her, is for organisations to look for bankable projects that will attract private sectors. But she gives a caveat.

“Obviously, we have to be careful about greenwashing, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) washing. And this has to be done in a methodologically sound way. If you look at the metrics that 114 major corporations have just signed up to have harmonised metrics around environmental, social governance. There’s a lot going on in the environmental space. There’s quite a lot going on in the governance space, there’s very little going on in the social space, and most people in private, with private finance, are now looking for exciting social projects, often focused on gender. We already see gender tagging. We have to really diversify our offerings and look at that issue of blended finance around public, private.”

At the end of the discussion, the panellists which also include the Director, Business Development, Soft Alliance and Resources Limited, Feyi Agagu; Medical Director CHILDAccra, Juliette Tuakli; Managing Director Lotus Capital, Hajara Adeola; and the Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Investor Robert F.Kennedy Human Rights, Sancia Dalley agreed that blended financing is one way to sustain financial support for women, and Tariro is moving in the right direction to achieve that.