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Women Empowernment, An Economic Imperative

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I am very delighted to be with you this morning to celebrate the beautiful and diligent ladies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as we commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day.

I would like to specially appreciate our esteemed guests, especially, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed for taking time to be here despite her busy schedule.

As you are aware, the International Women’s Day provides a platform not only to reflect on the progress made so far but to raise awareness and renew commitment to advancing gender parity and women empowerment.

The global theme for the 2019 International Women’s Day which is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” focuses on innovative ways of advancing gender equality and women empowerment. However, the Central Bank of Nigeria has adopted “Investing for Equality” as its local theme. This theme is particularly apt and timely, as it allows us to strengthen our commitment to empowering women which, we believe, is an economic and social imperative.

Ladies and gentlemen, despite overwhelming evidence that gender equality is a driver for economic growth and a prerequisite for achieving the 2030 global development agenda (The Sustainable Development Goals), progress in gender parity has been slow.

Permit me to elucidate on some of the findings of research highlighting the significance of gender equality in economic development:

• McKinsey (2017) showed that if women’s economic participation were at the same level as men, $28 trillion could be added to the world’s economic growth by 2025.

• According to World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report (2018), there is on average 32 percent gender gap that needs to be closed and going by the trend, the overall global gender gap will close in 108 years.

• A 2018 study by the IMF showed that greater inclusion of women as users, providers, and regulators of financial services have benefits beyond addressing gender inequality. Narrowing the gender gap would foster greater stability in the banking system and enhance economic growth. It could also contribute to more effective monetary and fiscal policy.

• The study also found that the gender gap in leadership does make a difference when it comes to bank stability. Banks with higher proportion of women board members had higher capital buffers, a lower ratio of nonperforming loans, and greater resistance to stress.

• Similarly, according to Lagarde (2019), adding one more woman in a firm’s senior management or corporate board—while keeping the size of the board unchanged—is associated with an 8–13 basis point higher return on assets. If banks and financial supervisors increased the share of women in senior positions, the banking sector would be more stable too.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate today, let me remind us that although gender diversity in central banks has improved over the years, a lot more still need to be done to achieve parity.

We are celebrating a milestone today because of the progress made to address gender disparities in CBN. Actions taken by the Bank to advance equality in the workplace include training and skills development, increased employment and leadership positions for women, diversity and inclusion initiatives, supporting female employees to balance work and family life (through child care support, extended maternity leave etc), coaching and mentoring programme to increase knowledge and skills that are necessary for achieving our organizational goals and objectives.

Ladies and gentlemen, these efforts have led to the remarkable progress made in closing the gender gap in the Bank. It is heartening that today women represent 29.0 percent of CBN staff and 29.0 percent of Directors are women, (8 departmental directors and 1 director general of WAMZ) as against 26.0 percent of staff and 25,0 percent of directors in 2014. Similarly 3 out of 11 board members are women (27 percent).

You will agree with me that women make enormous contributions to economic growth either as business owners, entrepreneurs, farmers or employees of businesses. Despite this, women entrepreneurs face numerous challenges to financing, owning, and growing a business.

It is in recognition of these overwhelming challenges that the Bank has developed various gender-responsive interventions that prioritize investments for women, thereby improving access to diverse sources of finances, such as the MSME Fund (60 percent of which is earmarked for women owned businesses), the Anchor Borrowers Programme, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending and the National Collateral Registry to mention few.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to reiterate the Bank’s commitment to build on the achievements made so far, in order to advance women economic empowerment and gender equality.

Although I recognize the efforts that have resulted in this remarkable progress, I want to remind us that there is still more to be done and I am confident that management will continue to expand the frontiers of gender programme.

Finally, I would like to remind us of the statement of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres in 2018 that “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”

This is indeed a call to action and as we celebrate the achievements and contributions of CBN women today, I would like to reaffirm our commitment to finishing this business.

– Being a goodwill message by Godwin Emefiele, governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, at the commemoration of the International Women’s Day, recently.


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