…Makes Case for Gender Equity
In an effort to contribute meaningfully to the growth and success of women in business, Access Bank has revealed it dispensed N40.5 billion worth of loans to women SMEs in 2022.
The Group Head of ‘W’ Initiative’s at Access Bank, Mrs Abiodun Olubitan disclosed this at the bank’s women conference to mark the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) themed “Embrace Equity” on Thursday in Lagos.
Speaking further, Olubitan noted that the bank had earmarked N100 billion for loans for women SMEs in the current year to enable them boost their businesses.
Introduced on July 2014, Access Bank “W” initiative was created to empower female entrepreneurs in Nigeria, offering the participating women and their families access to a wide range of opportunities such as access to loans and credit facilities; access to healthcare and mentorship; access to the “W” community in which they can get insights concerning managing finance and increasing productivity.
Addressing the theme, Olubitan said equality is different from equity. In her words, “we want to give everybody fairness and equal opportunity to thrive to take advantage of everything available around them, both man and woman.”
In his welcome address, the Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Access Corporation, Dr Herbert Wigwe, said that the bank was at the forefront of stamping out the discrimination of women in the workplace.
Wigwe noted that the theme of equity gives room for all women to thrive above their limitations. “Equality is society’s destination. Equity will be the root for all of us to get there. And in such a world, no one is left behind,” Wigwe said
Wigwe said that all hands should be on deck to share the bank’s vision of gender equality and equity.
In her goodwill message, the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, frowned against the stigmatisation of women in the society.
She said that the conference was a forum for women to talk about issues affecting them, although many women had achieved great heights in the society in spite of the challenges.
According to her, their successes will give validation to the dreams of others; those who are here and those who are online.
She also encouraged women to embrace challenges, step down of fear and doubt. She enjoined women to dream big without thinking of limitations as obstacles.
Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in his keynote speech said
women in businesses are on the rise across the country and have contributed significantly to job creation and economic growth.
According to him, many African countries women are responsible for most of the agricultural production.
Noting that the bank have the highest percentage of women enterpreneurs in the world, Adesina said women are bankable. In Fact nine out of 10 women pay back their loans, a truly extraordinary number and this shows that women are bankable.
“It is however bewildering that women in Africa continue to face a $42 billion financing gap in Africa. There exist inbuilt gender biases against women in terms of access to finance. We always hear from financial institutions that they need guarantees and de-risking instruments to be able to lend to women but this is quite not just to women.
“Currently, the overall distribution is 39.5 per cent women and 60.5 per cent of men are going to split to achieve full gender parity at the African Development Bank by 2028.
“We are making significant progress, already 50 per cent of my executive leadership team is made up of women,” Adesina added.
According to him, now is the time for women to take action, raise equity and build a better and more inclusive future.
“By investing in women, we create a ripple effect that positively impacts the entire community,” Adesina said.
On her part, the Minister for women Affairs and Social Development, Pauline Tallen, said that women should be celebrated because of their uniqueness.
Showing gratitude to the chairman, management and staff of Access Bank for putting up the event to celebrate the uniqueness of women, Tallen also appreciated the Wife of the Ondo State Governor, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, for her support in women emancipation through her non-governmental organisation.
Also speaking, the First Lady of Ondo, Anyanwu-Akeredolu, decried the number of women elected into the National Assembly.
Anyanwu-Akeredolu said that voter intimidation, suppression and electoral violence would deter women from taking part in the electoral process.
According to her, women should learn to speak out against societal ills and be ready to support one another to become the best in life.
She added that with the advancement of technology, pregnant woman should not die while giving birth if the right infrastructure and medical care were provided.