IWD: Vivian Bello Foundation empowers small scale women traders in FCT

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…Seeks digital financial inclusion for Nigerian women

By Chimezie Godfrey

An NGO, the Vivian Bello Foundation in collaboration with the Girl-Child Freedom at the Grassroots (GCFG) has kick-started the empowerment of small scale women traders in Nigeria with digital financial literacy.

The empowerment program which took place at Dutse Market, Dutse, Abuja on Thursday, was aimed at addressing challenges faced by small-scale women traders in the FCT and Nigeria at large, occasioned by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) monetary policy.

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The Program is the Foundation’s inaugural event and Digital Financial Literacy for small-scale women traders as part of its activities to mark the 2023 International Women’s Day, IWD, with the theme,”Strengthening the Financial Digital Access of Women for Inclusion and Economic Empowerment”.

Addressing the women at the event, the Founder/CEO, Vivian Bello Foundation, Ms. Vivian Bellonwu decried the fact that Nigerian women, especially the small scale traders have been at the receiving end of the CBN’s cashless policy, noting that while the entities who interact with the economy at bigger scale does not seem to have much problems, those on the smaller scale have struggled with the policy and its operationalization.

Bellonwu pointed out that the theme of this year’s IWD being”DigitAll, Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality “, struck essentially at an issue that is of pivotal importance, involving and integrating women with modern day digital innovations.

She noted that about 65% of women in Nigeria do not have access to affordable and reliable internet connection, adding that this acts as enabler to digital illiteracy and exclusion of women in this aspect of economy.

She said,”This has been one area where Africa and particularly Nigeria has fared weakly, the foundation for this being the internet where about 65% of women in Nigeria do not have access to affordable and reliable internet connection. This acts as enabler to digital illiteracy and exclusion of women in this aspect of economy.

“When therefore the Central Bank of Nigeria announced the sudden new monetary policies in Nigeria to usher in a near-total cashless economy, it was not surprising that it hit majority and more devastatingly at women, particularly those in the lower scale of trades and artistry. Many of these categories of women had neither effective bank accounts and operations, nor sufficient knowledge and understanding of the processes of the digital procedures that back up the cashless policy mandated by the Apex bank. They were thus thrown into not only quagmire of confusion but also into hardship as many watched as customers thinned and sales dwindled drastically.

“To remain afloat, many resorted to improvising or channeling their transactions and inflows t to any available individual who has knowledge of the digital process and perhaps also has the devices. Needless to say they made a fortune from these women who are made to either part with exorbitant amounts as charges or risk loosing sales. Of course faced with mostly no other choice, they accede to such. It is on record that Nigeria remind among the top seven countries in the world with unbanked population. According to the World Bank’s FINDEX Report 2021, over 64milllio. of the about 200million Nigerian population does not have account with a financial institution or mobile money platforms.

“Within these period of months that the cashless policies have been in place, the economic capacities of women have been seriously hampered arising from severely reduced economic activities and this has had negative effects on families and children which are dependent on the proceeds of these women’s ventures for a living and survival.

“The Vivian Bello Foundation and it’s partner the Girl-Child Freedom at Grassroots (GCFG), being organizations that are focused on issues that promote and protect gender rights and social inclusions of vulnerable populations, and having done assessments and identified these challenges to women in the cashless policy have set out to synergize with relevant institutions, (as we have here today, FINTECHS, etc), to work at combating these challenges for women.

“This is important now because, even though there seems to be some relief in the cash crunch, we must not loose cognizance of the fact that the policy is still in place and will in no distant time kick in again in full force. Besides, it is important that we do all we can to bring women fully on board digital financing because the world generally is moving away from analogue financial process and so it is no longer given a matter of choice for women to embrace it, it is simply imperative.

“We are therefore must delighted today, that we have digital financial institution, (Opay and Wired Banking Africa), who rightly bought into the idea of supporting women inclusion in the digital financial process and made themselves available for this program.

“We indeed, thank them and want to believe that they will continue to partner in this process as they are equally relevant in helping people at the Grassroots integrate with the cashless policy. They will have the opportunity with our women (and indeed men too), interact with them , take them through some of the channels, platforms, avenues, devices and methods that will enable them become fully cashless;active and transact their businesses smoothly without much difficulties with any aspect of business transactions.

“Fintechs have emerged as very significant and dependable hands in Nigeria’s economy and only recently, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele did single them out to praise them for facilitating smooth transactions for Nigerians and their role in reducing strain on the conventional Banks.”

Bellonwu expressed the optimism that in no distant time all Nigerian women would be integrated into and acquainted with digital financial processes and will be transacting their businesses freely and with ease.

“I therefore once again welcome you all here to this event , and even though it is the Foundation’s inaugural event, we will however continue to liaise with these great organizations here and every other relevant ones towards finding solutions to any issues or challenges that arise for women.

“I therefore urge you to feel free to speak with them (in the language you know how to speak), share your challenges and issues etc, and it is my hope that in no distant time , all women in this Dutse market and indeed across other places will be well integrated into and acquainted with digital financial processes and will be transacting their businesses freely and with ease,” she said.

Also speaking, the Executive Director , GCFG, Nwaiwu Chinonso revealed that the GCFG has empowered over 10’000 women and girls in Nigeria on digital cash transfer for low income women.

He noted that a woman’s works changes when payment is designed to suit her needs, adding that a women. can be an economic actor and has the opportunity to break the poverty circle and hunger.

He said,” Our Girl-Child is the future mother, GCFG has empowered more than 10’000 women and girls in Nigeria on digital cash transfer for low income women. A woman’s works changes when payment is designed to suit her needs, digitalized and directed to her own account. Digital financial inclusion means that a woman can be an economic actor and has the opportunity to break the poverty circle and hunger. Once women are economically empowered, entire families and societies can flourish.

“Digital financial capabilities is having that knowledge , skills, behaviours, and understanding to access financial services delivered through digital technologies. A woman who is digitally and financially capable can evaluate, choose and use financial services that can enhance her life. Because of the complexities that digital financial capability entails , building women’s capabilities is not a one-off exercise, but requires an iterative and gradual process.

“Market women have faced a lot of problems during the shortage of cash, loss of goods, poverty, hunger, and loss of lives.”

Highpoint of the event was the sensitization and training of the women on digital finance processes by Fintechs.

The Vivian Bello Foundation is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which collaborates with sister organisations and institutions and works to eliminate gender and social inequalities in the society.

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