SPEECH PRESENTED BY THE NATIONAL COORDINATOR OF THE ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN WOMEN BUSINESS NETWORK (ANWBN) – BARR. NKIRU JOY OKPALA – DURING THE ADVOCACY VISIT TO HIS EXCELLENCY, THE CANADIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER, ON WEDESDAY, 24TH DAY OF MAY, 2017 AT 11:00AM, AT THE CANADIAN HIGH COMMISSION IN ABUJA
We express our profound gratitude to the His Excellency, the High Commissioner of Canada, for affording us time to be with him this morning. We are grateful for this reception, and pray that the outcome will be far-reaching and beneficial to the Nigerian, and also, the Canadian Women in Business.
The Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN) is a coalition of 18 Women Business and Professional Associations in Nigeria with a membership of over 920,000 Women Entrepreneurs who had come together with the common goal of encouraging and improving sustainable entrepreneurial development among women through research, advocacy and policy reform initiatives. The Association came into existence in Lagos, in the month of February, 2013, with the support of the Centre for International Private Enterprise, (CIPE) a core Institute of the USA National Endowment for Democracy, specifically dedicated to building the civic institutions vital to democratic society, particularly on business advocacy, and enterprise ecosystems.
The Founding Member Organizations of ANWBN are:
- Association of Nigerian Women in Business – ANWIB
- Association of Women Farmers of Nigeria – AWFN
- Country Women Association of Nigeria – COWAN
- ECOWAS Federation of Business Women Entrepreneurs – FEBWE
- International Federation of Business and Professional Women – BPW-Nigeria
- International Women Society of Lagos – IWS
- Market Women Association – MWA
- NACCIMA Women Wing – NAWORG
- NASME Women Wing – NASME Women
- NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women – NNEW
- Nigerian Association of Women Entrepreneurs – NAWE
- Nigerian Network of Women Exporters of Services – NNWES
- Women Entrepreneurship Program – AWEP Nigeria
- Women in Business and Management – WIMBIZ
- Women in Successful Careers – WISCAR
- Women’s Consortium of Nigeria – WOCON
- Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association of Nigeria – WISTA
- Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative – WRAPA
ANWBN is still open for Membership.
One primary objective for establishing this coalition is for it to serve as a unifying voice to address effectively, issues affecting business and professional women across the entire nation, and support human rights and gender equality. Since its birth, CIPE has been doing a lot, including capacity development of key officers of all the 18 Member Organizations of ANWBN to ensure its growth and sustainability. It has also supported ANWBN in carrying out relevant research works that enabled ANWBN come up with Policy Documents and Business Agenda, which had received great recognition by relevant Government Agencies in Nigeria.
We gladly present here to the His Excellency, the National Women Business Agenda, and the Compiled Reports that led to the formation of the Agenda. We are proud to say that to a large extent, these are aiding in addressing some of the anomalies within the business environment wherein women operate in our country, Nigeria. However, a huge lot still needs to be done, and that is part of the reasons we are here today to see how we can work together on the common pursuit of Human Rights, Gender Equality, Empowerment and Building Peaceful Societies.
There is no doubt that a conducive business environment is a pathway to growth and sustainability. It sure brings about economic prosperity, job creation and indeed, national development. It is a major driver for positive competitiveness, and citizens’ participation in the sustainable development of any nation. Moreover, a nation like ours where women constitute over 50% of the entire population, and where it has also been proven that majority of these women are entrepreneurial, but lack adequate support for business survival, taking a deep look into what constitute challenges and impediments to their growth and sustainability as well as mapping out credible and viable means of addressing these challenges are paramount steps towards the economic growth and the actualization of the SDGs. Females’ economic power enhances the wealth and well-being of nations, and no nation can have true democratic governance without the inclusion of women who compose about half the entire population. It will amount to leaving more than half the entire population behind.
World studies have shown that if gender gaps can be closed in different areas like health, education and economic enterprise, poverty eradication can be accelerated and Communities will be safer. UNDP had stressed in its 2016, Study on Human Development, that “Achieving Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is the right thing to do and it is a development imperative”. Gender Equality includes business parity and Political participation. Women, therefore, must be accorded their rightful and equitable positions in all spheres and hemisphere of life – politically, economically, and socially. Their inclusion in decision making cadres as well as their direction on the part of excellence in production, are major routes to improving their status,
As a coalition, we are constituted of women from divers spheres of skills, abilities, and enterprise. These span from agriculture to arts and craft, processing to manufacturing, packaging to shipping, and marketing locally to export. Yet, a lot of these women are in are not breaking even, nor meeting desired market demands. This is majorly due to the fact that they are not doing it right with either packaging, quality control, standardization, minimization of costs building trusts, or being abreast with new innovations and technology. This is really worrisome to us as a Coalition. Having looked around, we came to the conclusion that we still face these issues mostly because we have not tapped into the huge resources that abound with High Commissions like yours.
Moreover we had equally been advocating for gender/affirmative considerations in terms of priority patronage to Made in Nigeria products. Actualizing that, we also need to have our products meet local and international competitiveness in order to tap into priority considerations. On these premise, therefore, we decided to come calling to lay bare before you, our desires, and seek your full assistance over crossing these huddles, and getting to the peek. We have come to appeal that you, Please:
- Become our ally, in actualizing our Business Agenda, our Mission, as well as in fulfilling our Coalition’s Objectives. Some of the issues on our Business Agenda include advocating for good policies on gender equality, particularly on economic resources, increase in political participation of women and inclusion of women in decision making cadres at all tiers of government.
- Aid in building the capacities of our Women on agricultural and other products development, quality maintenance, standardization, packaging, and marketing, in order to meet Canadian Market. These will in no small measure, enhance Women’s Economic Growth, gender equality, comparative competitiveness and Sustainability.
- Engage ANWBN in Business to Business Seminars and Conferences within Canada and Nigeria, especially those that are affirmative or gender focused, in order to grow trade, and build better understanding.
- We are organizing a National Women Business Summit in Abuja on 18th of July, 2017. We need your full support as a Partner on this Summit. The Theme of the program is:
“Strengthening the Women MSMEs, Pivotal to Ending Recession, and Achieving the SDGs”.
We shall be most grateful if you will be a Sponsor in the Project. The Summit shall take a score-card of the positive effects our Advocacy program has made on the four issues on our Women National Business Agenda, and equally proffer solutions on new innovations and best practices for gender equality and economic growth, which are drivers to peaceful cohabitation and conflict reduction. We shall be glad if the High Commission would be a Lead Panelist on the Session that deals on:
“Gender Equality and Women inclusion in Politics, the pathway to Safe, healthy, and Educated Society”.
- Furthermore, we have designed that at the end of the Summit, we shall be empowering at least, twenty Nigerian women and ensure their families are led through wealth Creation. Eight of these women we have proposed, shall be taken from four IDP Centers, while the other twelve shall in twos, be drawn from each of the six Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria. This shall become one of our annual targets, and we shall ensure adequate mentoring of any woman who comes under our wealth creation project.
Indeed, Sir, ANWBN is determined at promoting the creation of female-led sustainable enterprises. We are poised at securing support for policies that support Gender Equality, and safer communities.
We, therefore, wish to let the High Commission know that ANWBN is available for different forms of Collaborative relationships, and projects execution. We boast of geo-political spread, because we are in all states of Nigeria, we also joy on our numerical strength. We are a viable group for developmental relationships and our track records are enviable. Having you here Sir, we are certain that we have an icon to collaborate with. We, are committed in our pursuit, and we urge you, to please, keep your doors open for ANWBN. Place us in a special part of your heart, because we shall always be knocking at your doors for the sake of the Nigerian Women in Business.
Once again, we express our profound gratitude to you, for this great opportunity to address our issues. It is our optimism that you will handle our requests with kids gloves, and aptly. We ask that the Almighty continues to equip you with all the tools you need for outstanding success in your works.
With your support to the Nigerian Women in Business, we look forward to our nation becoming one of the first nations in the actualization of the Agenda 2030 – Sustainable Development Goals, and we say once again,
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, SIR, for this reception!
Barr. Nkiru Joy Okpala.
National Coordinator, ANWBN