To reduce the high level of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina has said that government is to establish a National Grassroots Revolving Loan Fund that will provide social welfare support to the grassroots.
The Minister made this known while delivering Nigeria’s presentation on the giant strides being taken by the Federal Government in addressing poverty and hunger, especially amongst rural dwellers at the on-going 56th Special Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, New York, United States.
According to her, the activities of the Fund would greatly contribute to the success of the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan as well as fast track the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Nigeria.
Maina argued that the grassroots which constitutes over 80% of Nigeria’s population contribute about 7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Minister observed that Nigeria women, especially the farmers, produce about 80 percent of what is consumed in the country, hence, the Nigerian government has set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Women in Agriculture in order to raise the access bar of women to agricultural land, inputs and resources, as well as make them benefit from the Nigeria Inventive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) programme.
Hajiya Maina reaffirmed the commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan to women empowerment with fulfilment of his campaign promise of giving women the UN-promoted 30% Affirmative Action quota.
“Our President did not only fulfil his promise to the Nigerian Women, but actually gave women about 33% appointive positions in the federal cabinet. And he is still doing it in other appointments,” she pointed out.
In addition, she said the Federal Government is currently constructing about 70 Women Skills Acquisition Centres across the country in a bid to fast track economic empowerment of rural women and ensure the success of the Transformation Agenda of the President.
She equally lauded the relentless efforts by the country’s First Lady,Dame Patience Jonathan in addressing women issues and concerns, which she observed had contributed to the improved status of women in Nigeria.
Hajiya Maina therefore called for systematic and comprehensive strategies to empower women in rural areas to maximize their potential to combat extreme poverty and hunger, and help them facilitate sustainable development in their communities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking earlier, Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro stated that, “This session of the Commission on the Status of Women is an opportunity to solidify consensus among
governments and civil society on those actions needed to make a real difference in the lives of rural women”.
“If rural women had equal access to productive resources, agricultural yields would rise and hunger would decline,” Ms. Migiro told delegates
Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said empowering women requires a transformation in the way governments devise budgets and make and enforce laws and policies, including trade and agricultural policies, and how businesses invest and operate.
“We have to remove the structural, cultural, social and economic barriers that prevent rural women from participating fully in the economic and political life of their countries,” she said.
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