What Men Can Do, A Woman Is Doing it Better

Temitope Mustapha, Abuja

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Thirty-seven-year-old Anita Omang, mother of three is not only courageous but also determined to excel in a business believed to be an exclusive reserved for the male folks.

With just a secondary school certificate, Omang sat around barbers’ shops in Kuje, one of Abuja’s area councils to learn the art of barbing.

“Sometimes I would sit around where a barber is working, and there I found myself growing interested in having the knowledge of how to make neat haircuts for men,” she recalled in an interview.

“I didn’t have the formal skills on handling a clipper to barb anybody, but watching the men do their thing I acquired barbering skills and I had confidence in myself with mental pictures of different haircut styles.

“The day I decided to barb, I confidently engaged the clipper, gave a man a haircut and it was as if I had been barbing all my life,” she recalled.

Economic hardships bite harder with growing inflation, the mother of three is making as much as N7,000 in a week from her unisex salon, from which she takes care of her family needs.

She has had to raise funds by herself to start her business despite series of schemes to support women entrepreneurs by the Nigerian government.

Realities with women’s endeavors have exposed the slack effect of the available funds to meeting the business needs of the women as most of them do not have direct access to the available funds across the ministries and agencies such as their abilities to access assisting capital that can expand their businesses and create economic stability.

Omang had worked as a hair stylist before venturing into a private enterprise of her own with a life-long dream of owning “a big salon where many people will be working for me and I will be paying them salaries.

She started plating hair for others as a kid, when she was just six years old.

“When I was six-year-old my mother would say, won’t you ever get tired of plating people’s hair and I would say when I grow up I want to own a big salon, but growing up, I struggled on my own to raise capital of about N500,000 to start up this unisex salon, I worked in about six beauty homes as a hair stylist where they paid me token of N40,000. Bit by bit I raised the capital for my own business,” she recalled.

Just like Omang, a lot of women in Nigeria in the informal sector rely on internal sources of capital, such as personal savings and funds from family and friends to start up their businesses.

This, over the time has become a major factor reducing the pace of their business’ growth and limits their opportunities of investment.

As of April 2022, Nigeria’s population was estimated at around 216.7 million people. Out of this, 106,825,265 are women. The female population represents (49.4%) of the entire census. In spite of this high population, women have continued to face increasing challenges ranging from lack of access to funding of their businesses, right to ownership of property as well as other problems in contributing to the basic needs of the fair families.

The 2021 World Bank Report on the Informal sector disclosed that 82.1 percent women in Nigeria are in the informal sector, while the National Demographic Survey of 2018 revealed that about 84 percent of women in Nigeria earn less than their spouses. Reports revealed that the informal sector contributes to 60 percent of Nigeria’s entire economy.

A small percent of women in Nigeria are engaged in income generating activities as revealed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report of 2019. The NBS revealed that 25.37 percent of women are making income whereas 74.63 percent of them are not generating income.

Data from Enhancing Financial Innovation &Access EFInA, specified that women in Nigeria have continued to be more financially excluded than men with only 45 percent of women engaging in formal financial services compared with 56 percent of men.

A Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mrs Aisha Ahmad has described this gender gap in financial inclusion as worrisome, stressing that there is a need to develop strategies and initiatives for policy makers to deliberately implement policies that will bridge this gap.

According to a business consulting firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2020 statistics also revealed that 77 per cent of women in Nigeria tend to work in the informal sector, this further reveals how limited the efforts of the women are in contributing to the well-being of their homes.

A Research by development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC) on Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) 2022, made known that the Federal Government of Nigeria allocated a total sum of 103.49billion to Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) related projects which included Women-core and women-plus-others projects. The percentage allocated to WEE is 1.89 per cent of the FGN total capital budget expenditure and 0.60 per cent of its total approved budget size.

The budgetary allocation to Women Economic Empowerment  in the approved 2022 increased by 101.61 per cent compared to N51 billion in 2021. In this regard, the total of women-core projects increased from 118 to 164 in the year 2022, the total women-plus-others WEE project increased from 527 to 774 in 2022. This shows 39 per cent and 47 per cent increase respectively. The overall WEE projects increased from 645 in 2021 to 938 in 2022 across 26 ministries, departments and agencies of the Nigerian government.

While there are deliberate efforts by the government to improve the economic empowerment of women  in Nigeria through several targeted programmes across the Ministries and agencies, Nigerian women still suffer from access to these funds.

In an instance, For Nano-MSMEs to be eligible to get a loan via one of Small Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN initiatives, the main requirement is usually to have a registered business. However, since many women-owned businesses are usually informal, this poses a great challenge to them accessing such loans and grants.

Likewise, most commercial financial providers require businesses to have proper documentation and be registered in addition to more stringent lending criteria and high interest before they gain access to loans.

It is obvious that the challenge to economic empowerment of women is no longer the absence of finance but accessibility of these funds remains the major problem confronting the growth of women’s enterprises .

Recently, the Director-General of SMEDAN, Dikko Radda called for reduction of bottlenecks to accessibility of funds for women in the informal sector. The women also lack access to loans like their male counterparts due to limited personal financial assets that can serve as collateral.

These collateral requirements by most financial providers play a significant role in excluding women from the formal credit market.

 

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