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UK launches $100m programme to support women-owned enterprises in Nigeria

The programme would be financed by British International Investments through the First Bank of Nigeria.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing. (PIC)

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing disclosed this in her opening remark at the Gender and Inclusion Summit organised by the Policy Innovation Center, (PIC), in Abuja, on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.

The summit themed “Connecting the dots for a gender-inclusive society" was the last event in the series of events at the 28th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit.

Laing said the programme would be financed by British International Investments through the First Bank of Nigeria.

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The first female British High Commissioner to Nigeria said the focus of the UK on women empowerment is largely around financial inclusion.

According to her, the programme is part of the UK’s three ‘Es’ projects which include educating girls; empowering women; and ending violence against education.

She said, “The UK has three areas focusing on gender. The three ‘Es’ included educating girls, empowering women and ending violence against women and girls.

“The UK has worked on education for decades now, particularly in north-east Nigeria where we have supported 1.4 million additional girls going to school.

“On the empowerment side, we recently launched a $100 million programme through the First bank of Nigeria which will [provide] direct funding specifically to women-owned enterprises.”

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Similarly, Ms Cybill Chidiac, Senior Programme Officer, Gender Equality Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA said the investments and partnerships of the foundation are geared towards improving livelihoods and economic opportunities for women.

She said the foundation currently manages over 100 grants designed to support a broad range of health and development interventions in Nigeria in partnership with both Federal and State governments.

“At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we see huge opportunities to support Nigeria in leading the global efforts to harness women and girls’ economic power and equality. Each of our investments and partnerships is based on our fundamental belief that everybody deserves to lead a healthy and productive life regardless of their social or economic background.

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“In Nigeria, the foundation partners with federal and state-level government agencies and affiliates, development partners and private sector and civil society. The foundation currently manages over 100 grants designed to support a broad range of health and development interventions in Nigeria.

“Our grantees and partners like the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, played a pivotal role in charting Nigeria’s future and the gender-inclusive inclusion summit has similar potential for impact.

“And we are proud of our partnerships with our partnerships have produced from strengthening primary health care systems, developing human capital development frameworks, improving livelihoods and economic opportunities for women and much more.”

In the area of gender equality, Chidiac said the foundation currently supports an initiative tagged "Nigeria For Women" which is implemented by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

According to her, “The foundation’s investment in the Nigeria for Women project is intended to support a range of key outcomes, including increasing health knowledge and health-seeking behaviors; decreasing physical violence; increasing women’s self-confidence, increasing decision-making at the household level, expanding livelihood opportunities and increasing women’s incomes”.

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US government calls for support for women

Also speaking at the summit, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, who joined the event virtually stressed the need for women empowerment and having them in leadership positions in all aspects of life.

She said, “In Nigeria, the US mission works to promote environments which support women’s economic success to address challenges that hold women back and to empower Nigerian women to do the same.

“Fundamentally, we see it as our duty and that of everybody to ensure women and girls have opportunities to participate in the lead in all aspects of life”.

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She also said the US government prioritises gender equity and equality to advance the rights and empowerment of women and girls.

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