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Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO DG

IWD: Okonjo-Iweala, others urge financial institutions to support women in business


Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO DG
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed
Mr. Herbert Wigwe, GMD Access Bank Plc

By Lydia Ngwakwe

Lagos, March 10, 2022

The Director-General, World Trade Organsiation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has urged financial institutions on the need to support women with working capital and trade finance for them to succeed in business.

Okonjo-Iweala gave the advice at a conference on Thursday organised by Access Bank W-Initiative to commemorate the 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme for this year’s IWD celebration is “BreakThe Bias” while the theme for the Access Bank W-Initiative is “Unbroken To Break.”

“ We hope that financial institutions like Access Bank can partner to support women with the working capital and trade finance they need to succeed.

“We have found out that women owned small and medium enterprises that export tend to earn more, employ more and pay better than firms producing for the domestic market. These export oriented firms are also more productive.

“It is, therefore, key that Access Bank makes great efforts to encourage and support women to develop their own entrepreneurial skills for them to develop and own such export oriented businesses,’’ she said.

Okonjo-Iweala added that the WTO and International Trade Centre were working hard to expand their support to include women owned enterprises in regional and global value chains, to create employment and enhance the living standards of women in their member countries.

“In June when we have our 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, we expect to launch our joint ministerial declaration on women in trade formerly called empowerment within trade, the advancement of gender equality and women’s economic injury.

“This is currently co-sponsored by 123 out of our 164 WTO members. We would like to see how we can formulate trade rules that are more gender responsive and we aim to create trade platforms and knowledge platforms that provide gender disaggregated trade data that can benefit women in trade.

“We have a long way to go. But it is an exciting journey, as we move in this direction,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala praised Access Bank for blazing the trail on the gender front with its W-Initiative.

She said that the W-Initiative balances attention internally to the personnel needs and career development of female staff with its novelty approaches to female entrepreneurship and support to women owned businesses.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that  since the launch of the W-power loan in 2018, the initiative had approved over 60 loans worth over one billion naira.

However, she added that the loans were not good enough given that of the 32 million SMEs in the country, 50 per cent were owned by women, adding that the bank had a long way to go.

The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,  Ms Amina Mohammed, said that Access Bank was already playing a leading role in women inclusion and in driving transformative change.

“The private sector has a key role to play in opening up space for inclusion and driving for the transformative change we need for more just and equal societies. Access Bank is a leader in this regard.

“To fully realise the vision of the sustainable development goals by 2030, we must ensure that the barriers impeding women’s success in the workplace, at home and in leading successful businesses are removed.

“Women comprise 17 per cent of private sector boards, a figure higher than the global average, but it’s still too low. It is imperative that we invest in policies to ensure that women’s ability to scale the career ladder is free from harassment, bias and discrimination.

“Young women need the opportunities to grow, choose their own paths, innovate and contribute to their communities. We need to support them and provide them with a platform where they can become leaders in their own right.

“To advance gender equality, let us continue to expand alliances with feminist men to support the agenda of women’s rights and equality; challenge social norms that hold women back and cultivate new masculinities,’’ she said.

The Group Managing Director of Access Bank, Dr Herbert Wigwe, said that the bank would continue to support women in order achieve their potential.

“The great thing about working in major institutions like the one that I work in is that we don’t have these biases, and we’ve grown to run the largest bank in the continent from a customer base,’’ he said.

Wigwe also acknowledged women who went through sufferings and pains to raise healthy children.

“Today is International Women’s Day and it’s a celebration of women everywhere and we salute all those women who have dedicated their lives to birthing and raising healthy children, we also salute our mothers who have endured poverty, sickness, physical pain and suffering or abusive relationships to be the rock for their children.

“We salute women leaders who have had the strength to do whatever was necessary to make it to the front line and inspire others to implement change.

“And we salute women who had the dream of owning their own business and somehow managed to fight to get off the ground and make it successful.

“Today, we also salute women who have stood firm and have spoken out against unfair actions, cruel words and outdated attitudes, we salute women who have fought their way to  power to ensure that women have a voice  in their country,’’ he said.

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