The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called for the provision of bank loans to women entrepreneurs to promote small and medium enterprises. The ILO Office Director for Nigeria, Ms Claudia Coenjaerts, made the call while declaring open a meeting on Financial Inclusion for Women Entrepreneurs in Abuja.
Coenjaerts said that financial institutions needed to create a level playing field for women in business by formulating financial aid policies that were gender sensitive.
“There is a need to address the specific challenges confronting women entrepreneurs in small, medium enterprises (SMEs, particularly in terms of accessing capital for their enterprises. Policy makers must ensure that financial services providers and development financial institutions must have a clear understanding of the challenges faced by women in accessing financial services.’’
In her presentation, the Director, Senior Gender Specialist, Ms Mwila Chigaga, said that nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide did not have access to formal financial services. Chigaga said that in Nigeria, patronage of financial services by women was extremely low, adding that the percentage was not reflecting the importance of women entrepreneurs.
“This situation can be attributed to the existing patriarchal system and prevailing cultural norms.’’ Chigaga stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria and other financial institutions had been briefed on the development, noting that efforts were being made to solve the problem.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria has for its part identified financial inclusion as a key lever for private sector development and has set out to define a financial inclusion strategy. One of its stated goals now is to increase the formal use of financial services to 70 per cent from the current 36 per cent of the adult population,” she said. Participants at the meeting were drawn from all over the country