Some 42 years ago, Mr. and Mrs Abdallah left their village Zambuk in Yamaltu Deba Local Government Area of Gombe State to Kaduna in search of a better life. They later got married in Kaduna and that marriage produced eight children including 25-year-old Sarah whose story attracted this correspondent. While her father bares the major financial obligations at home, her mother runs a petty trade to support the family though she depends on soft loans from a microfinance bank to keep her business running.
Some of the questions many have been asking include why majority of African women have less access to finances than financially low and therefore have more challenges in meeting financial obligations. Why are many of them not in school? Is their education a factor in their access to finances? Why are women behind in financial inclusion?
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) report in 2019 identified low income, education and low trust in financial service provider as the key findings that undermined women’s access to financial services.
According to data by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) as analysed by Business Day in Augus 2019, 44.1 percent of the total excluded adult population in Africa’s most populous nation are men while 55.9 percent are women, this leaves the gender gap at 11.8 percentage points.
Though there have been frantic efforts to check the trend through several government interventions, the stories of girls and women on a daily basis shows there are a lot to do to empower African girls and women to be financially independent. This can be done through scholarship like the case with Miss Sarah Abdallah.
Sarah Abdallah, whose parents were introduced in the opening paragraph is an indigene of Zambuk village, Yamaltu Deba L.G.A of Gombe State, was number four in the family of eight. She lives with the family at Angwan Baro, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
To her, corporate organisations have the wherewithal to help girls and young women in Africa to reach their potentials in life. Sarah believes that, age-long disparity between gender in the Sub-saharan African where women don’t own property was also a development that calls for the global attention.
She shared her story, “I live at Ungwan Baro, Sabo, Kaduna though I am from Gombe State. I have attended day school from primary to the university because I could not afford boarding school or hostel accommodation.
“I went to school from home everyday. But, after my secondary education, there was no hope of going further due to financial implications. I was at home for a few years after my secondary education. I did well in my school living certificate examination so, I was prepared for any opportunity to move ahead.
“But while waiting for the fortune to smile on me someday, I was occupying myself with computer skills and as well as supporting my mother in her trade.
“Meanwhile, my mother was a client of a Microfinance bank called LAPO. Specifically, the branch in Sabo which is trekable from her house and shop. I later got to know that LAPO has a scholarship intervention programme called Client Child Education Programme.
“Many of us applied and were invited for the pre-qualification examination. That was between 2013-2014. At the end of the day, I was selected alongside a few others who passed the exam for the university scholarship. It was like a dream.
“For the four years, that is, between 2014 and 2017, my going to school which about 15 kilometres from where we live was so difficult because sometimes, I had to trek far in order to reduce the cost of transportation to and from school. Most times, I prayed to meet good Samaritan that would reduce the burden for me.
“Today, those pains are gone. I am now a graduate of Political Science from Kaduna State State University (KASU) courtesy of LAPO Microfinance bank. The bank is also working on my employment before the lockdown orchestrated by ravaging COVID-19.
“If all things are equal and I secure a good job, that means I will be able to affect many lives positively through my testimony and other empowerment interventions that I have in mind All thanks to God Almighty and LAPO Microfinance bank for making my dreams come true”, she prayed.
“My family especially my mother is very proud of me. Whenever she observed that some of her customers want to treat me badly while supporting her in ‘akara’ business, she would quickly tell them “don’t look down on her, she’s a graduate. That alone has encouraged some of them to promise to send their girls to school.
Speaking on the need to give both male and female children quality education, a renowned Kaduna-based Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi said, it is long overdue because the world clock is now tilting towards women due to their population.
“Whether we like it or not, women are going to take over the world because they are increasing numerically. So, if you have a daughter now, you should be more concerned about her education than that of the boys because she has to be well educated to survive the future. If you empower a woman’s education, whether as a parent, government or private establishment, you will have a stable society.
“In Islam, education is compulsory for both men and women and as I said, there is no limit to what woman can do. You need female gynaecologist, you need a female engineer, you need a female pilot, you need female lecturers and so on. So, it is very important to make our environment safe for our children to acquire quality education irrespective of their gender”, added the cleric.
Commissioner in charge of Kaduna State Ministry of Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, called on the corporate organisations to channel their corporate social responsibility (CSR) towards women financial inclusion for women in addition to the government’s efforts.
She said, “you are aware of the N200 million given to us to empower women were about 764, who formed the majority of the beneficiaries were from rural areas. We are now waiting for the N400 million to reach more women.
“Even when we know that money is important, we also encourage education which is why we have continuous education for older women and free education for our girls from primary to secondary school.
“We believe when a woman is educated, she can establish herself in business or get employed by the public or private establishment.
“Outside the government, we also encourage private companies to channel their CSR towards women empowerment. The government cannot do it alone.”
Mrs Hannatu Hauwan of Legal Awareness for Nigerian Women (LANW) appeared to be on the same page when she said, the women exclusion in financial planning is an African problem that must be solved by Africans through deliberate programmes that can make them the functional nucleus of the African society which they are.
Sarah however called on the leading African Corporate Organisations include but not limited to Dangote Group, Sonatrach, Steinhoff International, Sonangol, The Bidvest Group, Eskom, Sasol, MTN Group, ShopRite HoldingsMassmart Holdings, Old Mutual Life Assurance Company, Telkom etc, to earmark 40 percent of their CSR towards education empowerment of African especially and young women especially those in the low-income settings so young women like her can have a second chance of changing the world around them when they are mentally and financially empowered.
By Sola Ojo 01-05-2020.