COVID-19: Experts call for women empowerment, integration

Women activist, financial and health experts have called for the empowerment and integration of women, particularly those at the bottom of the pyramid in the society, adding that they should be given decent access to credit.

This was disclosed during an online event on Wednesday tagged “Experts Weigh In On The Impact of COVID-19 on Women at The Bottom Of The Pyramid”

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The experts also called for the direction of more intergenerational and digital services towards girls and women.

The Founder and former Managing Director, Lift Above Poverty Organisation Microfinance Bank Limited, Godwin Ehigiamusoe, said there is a need for open conversations between government agencies and the most vulnerable women, to help them understand the specific challenges faced by these women.

Ehigiamusoe added that there is a need for a restructuring of loan facilities with more emphasis on disadvantaged women.

While highlighting LAPO’s initiatives in this regard, he said, “this financial product had been used by LAPO microfinance bank to help low scale business owners with cash flow problems.”

Ehigiamusoe also called for stakeholders and individual engagement of women in the society.

“Engage women, connect with them, understand their situations from their own eyes to meet their needs”

Saudatu Mahdi, the Women’s Rights Advocate and the Secretary-General of Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), stressed that the pandemic affects everyone but disproportionately affects women and young girls.

Mahdi highlighted the need for a national database of women in the lowest economic strata.

“Establish a database to input those who need support with these facilities, this database would give financial agencies a clearer understanding of where these services are needed most and how they could be made available.”

She said that the pandemic has exposed women to significant levels of violence at home and at the work front.

While calling for responders to women abuse to be listed as essential services, Mahdi cited the difficulties agencies like WRAPA have had, trying to get to women who have suffered abuse.

A medical doctor and Women’s Health Activist, Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi, disclosed that the majority of macro loans were given to men and that women were inadvertently nudged towards owning and running small scale businesses predominantly.

She called for “unfettered access to descent credit” for women without asking for ridiculous collateral.

She called for more attention to be given to women and girls as violence leads to increase in health care expenses and less productivity.