What Federal Government Plans for Women

Zainab Maina, minister of women affairs
Zainab Maina, minister of women affairs

The 2013 federal budget has a package designed to enhance the economic empowerment of women. But are women aware of the economic package?

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Jan. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

GOING by the provisions of the 2013 budget, the economic position of women in Nigeria is expected to receive a boost. This is because President Goodluck Jonathan has made specific provisions for women in the 2013 national budget. But not many women are aware of these provisions which are expected to improve their lot.

According to the President, five million women farmers and entrepreneurs are to get mobile phones to facilitate their farming activities. The step, the President said, was to enable the women to access information on agro-inputs. Jonathan also said that the ministry of works would increase the number of women employed in public works programmes as contractors, workers and project evaluators.

Another set of women entrepreneurs would benefit from government support through the ministry of women affairs to bolster their businesses. “Our focus on empowering women is part of our agenda for improving the country’s human development indicators,’’ the president added.

President Jonathan promised another fresh air for women in the 2013 budget
President Jonathan promised another fresh air for women in the 2013 budget

The health of women is also taken into consideration in the 2013 budget.  Jonathan said the ministry of health would give back health and hope to one third of the pool of young girls and women who had been waiting for Vesico Vaginal Fistula, VVF, repairs through surgery and economic rehabilitation. But many women do not even know that government has any programme for them.

Saraya Ibrahim, a Kaduna-based farmer, is not aware of these policies of government. When told that government plans to buy phones for them to facilitate their access to fertiliser and other farming inputs, she bluntly said the government was lying. “The same government would announce every year that it would give us fertiliser at a discounted rate. But what happens? We don’t see it. This same fertilisers end up in the market and later resold to us at retail price. The fertiliser I bought last year was N6,000 per bag as against the N3,000 government said it was selling it.  We don’t see the government fertilisers”, she said.

Gift Njoku, a trader in Lagos, also feigned ignorance of government programmes for women. To her, government is for ‘big’ people and not for people in her class.  The question then is whether the Nigerian government is disconnected from the average Nigerian woman.  A source, vast with women issues, who wishes anonymity, said yes. “I agree that the government needs to do a better job of connecting with and listening to Nigerian women. This should start from the village and local government councils. If women are part of decision-making at those levels, the task of making them aware of policies would already been half done”, she said.

The expert also said in addition to the general policies the government has put in place; there ought to be specific programmes designed to address specific needs of different women. “Women’s empowerment will necessarily be different for women in different contexts. Nigeria is vast and the women have different needs for empowerment. Many of those trying to go into business, point to lack of access to finance; those in agriculture point to difficulty in accessing land for farming as well as farm inputs; those in retail trade may be constrained by multiple taxation and harassment from tax officers. So, a sectorial and contextual approach that puts women at the centre of designing solutions that empower them will be needed”, she said.

She also commended the government policy of providing free surgery to one third of VVF patients in the country.  “I would say that offering free surgery to VVF patients sounds great because they are usually poor and deprived young girls who have been damaged by early marriage”, she said.

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