More investment is needed in women’s cooperatives for them to realize their full potential and make a major contribution to the country’s economic growth.
That was the consensus at a high-level national symposium on women’s cooperatives held in Abuja on Tuesday.
The symposium which brought together experts, policy makers and women in cooperatives was organized by the Cooperative Finance Agency of Nigeria (CFAN) to celebrate World Cooperative Day 2022.
Speaking at the event, the President of the Nigeria Economic Society (NES), Ummu Jalingo, said adequate investment in women’s cooperatives will contribute to the development of Nigeria.
Ms. Jalingo explained that cooperatives are a global engine of economic growth as they generate $2.98 trillion in annual revenue.
She said that at least 12% of people on the planet are members of cooperatives. She said cooperatives provide jobs or work opportunities to 10% of the labor force.
She noted that international cooperative movements represent 800 million members, more than the total population of the entire European continent.
She said women’s cooperatives may not be the solution to the world’s problems, but they are certainly part of the solution.
Ms. Jalingo said the role of cooperatives in the development of the country cannot be underestimated. She said cooperatives create a bond between women that helps them make big decisions.
Investment in women
Speaking at the event, Bala Kofarmata, Professor at Dangote Business School, Bayero UniversityKano said investing in women’s cooperatives is as good as investing in a household.
Mr. Kofarmata said that investing in cooperatives is vital for the growth, sustainability and development of the country’s economy.
He noted that the federal government should be the main investor in women’s cooperatives, followed by other stakeholders and development partners.
He said that to promote women’s cooperatives in Nigeria, the government must develop a framework that will support the funding of such platforms.
“A low level of investment in any sector will lead to slow growth,” he said.
Mr. Kofarmata said there was no clear effort to ensure the concrete development of women’s cooperatives in the country.
He lamented that although Nigerian women constitute more than 50% of the total population, they own less than 10% of the country’s resources.
He said that only 13% of agricultural land is owned by women, despite being the majority labor force in the sector.
He said these statistics call for affirmative action to engage women in productive enterprises, including cooperatives.
A representative of the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Atinuke Folashade, said that globally, cooperative societies help promote collaborative change and contribute significantly to social integration, job creation and poverty reduction.
Ms. Folashade said it was important for various stakeholders and cooperative organizations to partner with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to enable more women to benefit from various government interventions.
She said this will ensure they meet community needs and adapt to local concerns; as well as building a peaceful society and promoting collaborative entrepreneurship and economic growth.
In her remarks, a representative of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment, Juliet Nwadi, said that despite the growing positive role of cooperative movements as a reliable strategy for development, the participation and inclusion of women in activities cooperatives are not very visible.
Ms. Nwadi said her experience in Africa shows that women remain essential agents of development, especially in rural communities.
She said this is most apparent in societies where women and children quickly assume roles as heads of families and clans.
She said, however, that more outreach was needed to ensure that women are fully aware of the opportunities that await them.
“Majority of women, especially those in the rural community, lack the knowledge to access funds approved by the government,” she said.
AWITA-PAWED Coalition Chair Ruth Agbo said more collaborations and investments are needed to keep co-ops moving.
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Ms. Agbo said such an investment can be in cash or in kind. She urged the government to develop a framework that can accommodate women.
“It is necessary to create a department to monitor and supervise the activities of the cooperative platforms. Cooperatives have many advantages and this should be supported by the government,” she said.
world cooperative day
World Cooperatives Day is celebrated every year on the first Saturday of July. It is an opportunity to promote the cooperative movement around the world and to present the successes, challenges and opportunities of cooperatives as a business model.
The symposium was supported by dRPC and the Partnership for Advancement of Women in Economic Development (PAWED) and was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
CFAN Executive Secretary Emmanuel Atama said the symposium marks a turning point in the annals of the women’s cooperative movement in Nigeria.
Mr. Atama said that all the discussions concluded during the event will be fully implemented.
He said that women must become very practical to achieve substantial growth; noting that the women’s cooperative train will become a moving train.
Mr. Atama said the CFAN team will work with the PAWED team to generate a one-year work plan with deliverables and will also conduct a quarterly review.
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