Ac­cess Bank pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor

The Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria recog­nises the fact that fi­nan­cial ac­cess, in­clu­sion and lit­er­acy are the cor­ner­stones of poverty re­duc­tion.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria re­port­ing

Facts and fig­ures

Gen­der equal­ity is achieved when women and men en­joy the same rights and op­por­tu­ni­ties across all sec­tors of so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing eco­nomic par­tic­i­pa­tion and de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Equal­ity of the gen­ders en­tails the view that the as­pi­ra­tions and needs of women and men should be equally val­ued and favoured.

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions (UN), “Gen­der equal­ity is not only a fun­da­men­tal hu­man right, but a nec­es­sary foun­da­tion for a peace­ful, pros­per­ous and sus­tain­able world.” Sta­tis­tics from the UN in­di­cate that glob­ally, 750 mil­lion women and girls alive to­day were mar­ried be­fore the age of 18 and at least 200 mil­lion women and girls in 30 coun­tries have un­der­gone fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion (FGM). Also, women have made im­por­tant in­roads into po­lit­i­cal of­fices across the world. Their rep­re­sen­ta­tion in na­tional par­lia­ments – at 23.7 per cent – is still far from par­ity.

Glob­ally, just 13 per cent of women are agri­cul­tural land­hold­ers; and more than 100 coun­tries have taken ac­tions to track bud­get al­lo­ca­tions aimed at pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity. Women in North­ern Africa hold less than one in five paid jobs in the non-agri­cul­tural sec­tor. But glob­ally, the pro­por­tion of women in paid em­ploy­ment out­side the agri­cul­ture sec­tor has in­creased from 35 per cent in 1990 to 41 per cent in 2015.

Un­for­tu­nately, the real­ity to­day is that women have fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties for eco­nomic par­tic­i­pa­tion than men. Women have less ac­cess to ba­sic and higher ed­u­ca­tion, greater health and safety risks, and less po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. While progress has been made to­wards gen­der equal­ity around the world, there’s still much grounds to cover – par­tic­u­larly in some coun­tries, where gov­ern­ments have been try­ing to roll back women’s rights.

In Nige­ria, the prob­lem of gen­der in­equal­ity has ex­isted for decades. Pa­tri­archy, which is the big­gest cul­prit for gen­der in­equal­ity, is very ev­i­dent in Africa. It has been per­pet­u­ated for gen­er­a­tions by re­li­gious be­liefs and the di­verse cul­tures. In the north­ern part of Nige­ria, women are still largely sub­or­di­nated to men, as women are only con­sid­ered to be home-keep­ers and child-bear­ers.

Meet­ing the needs of women

The Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN) recog­nises the fact that fi­nan­cial ac­cess, in­clu­sion and lit­er­acy are the cor­ner­stones of poverty re­duc­tion. To this end, the apex

bank has taken the lead in de­vel­op­ing Nige­ria’s Na­tional Fi­nan­cial In­clu­sion Strat­egy (NFIS) to en­sure that a clear agenda is set to in­crease both ac­cess and us­age of fi­nan­cial ser­vices. The NFIS ar­tic­u­lates the chal­lenges in fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion and iden­ti­fies ar­eas of fo­cus, key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors (KPIs) and tar­gets, and de­scribes the im­ple­men­ta­tion struc­ture.

In­deed, the NFIS was de­vel­oped with the aim to boost ac­cess to fi­nance, specif­i­cally for ex­cluded groups such as women and mi­cro, small and medium-sized en­ter­prise. The strat­egy pro­vides for re­duc­ing the ex­clu­sion rate of women from 54 per cent to 20 per cent by the year 2020. To achieve this, spe­cial in­cen­tives and pro­vi­sions would be made avail­able to fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions to de­velop prod­ucts that would meet the needs of Nige­rian women.

The CBN, as part of its de­vel­op­men­tal ef­forts, sup­ports En­trepreneur­ship De­vel­op­ment Cen­tres (EDC) in the six geopo­lit­i­cal zones of the coun­try. The apex bank places con­sid­er­able fo­cus on women in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of these cen­tres.

In 2012, the Bankers’ Com­mit­tee, which com­prises of the CBN, Nige­rian De­posit In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion (NDIC), De­posit Money-Banks and Dis­count Houses de­clared it the year of ‘Women Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment.’ The Bankers’ Com­mit­tee sub­se­quently de­vel­oped a ded­i­cated sub­com­mit­tee fo­cused on women eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment. One of the fo­cus ar­eas of this sub-com­mit­tee was to fa­cil­i­tate the de­ci­sion of the Com­mit­tee to en­sure that women oc­cupy more lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the in­dus­try. The tar­get was to in­crease women rep­re­sen­ta­tion on Boards to 30 per­cent and 40 per cent at the se­nior man­age­ment level by 2014.

As a re­sult of this ini­tia­tive, the in­dus­try has wit­nessed im­prove­ments in the num­ber of women ap­pointed as Board Chairs, Bank CEOs and women in man­age­ment po­si­tions. How­ever, de­spite this progress, it is clear that the in­dus­try is far from achiev­ing the set goal.

Fur­ther­more, in 2012, Ac­cess Bank ini­ti­ated and cham­pi­oned the process that led to the de­vel­op­ment of the Nige­rian Sus­tain­able Bank­ing Prin­ci­ples (NSBPs). This was achieved by work­ing with key stake­hold­ers of the bank­ing in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the CBN, In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion (IFC), amongst oth­ers.

The NSBPs are a set of nine (9) prin­ci­ples that now guide the en­tire bank­ing in­dus­try to em­bed sus­tain­abil­ity in busi­ness op­er­a­tions and prac­tices. To­day, Ac­cess Bank serves as the chair of the Nige­rian Sus­tain­able Bank­ing Prin­ci­ples’ Im­ple­men­ta­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee set up to guide, sup­port and drive the bank­ing in­dus­try to em­bed the nine NSBPs in the in­dus­try.

One of the prin­ci­ples of the NSBP’s (Prin­ci­ple 4) is hinged on ‘women’s Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment’ and it aims to “pro­mote women’s eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment through a gen­der in­clu­sive work­place cul­ture in our Busi­ness Op­er­a­tions and seek to pro­vide prod­ucts and ser­vices de­signed specif­i­cally for women through our Busi­ness Ac­tiv­i­ties.”

How­ever, de­spite the strate­gic ef­forts and progress made by the bank­ing in­dus­try to drive gen­der equal­ity and women eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment, the in­dus­try is still well on its way to achieve the set goal. It is, there­fore, im­per­a­tive that the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to adopt new and in­no­va­tive strate­gies that will en­able the achieve­ment of the over­all goal of gen­der equal­ity in the sec­tor.

NSBP and gen­der equal­ity

To this end, as part of the ac­tiv­i­ties to com­mem­o­rate the Fifth An­niver­sary of the Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Nige­rian Sus­tain­able Bank­ing Prin­ci­ples, the NSBP’s Im­ple­men­ta­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee as chaired by Ac­cess Bank, or­ga­nized a ca­pac­ity build­ing ses­sion, ti­tled: “Gen­der Equal­ity in the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Sec­tor.” The ses­sion was or­gan­ised on Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 19, 2018 and hosted by Ac­cess Bank.

The aim of the ses­sion was to pro­mote the em­pow­er­ment of fe­male em­ploy­ees and drive gen­der in­clu­sion in the lead­er­ship of Nige­rian banks. It also stressed the need to iden­tify and ad­dress the so­cio-cul­tural bar­ri­ers per­pet­u­at­ing in­equal­ity.

The event fea­tured key­note speak­ers, in­clud­ing Dr. Her­bert Wigwe, GMD/CEO, Ac­cess Bank Plc; Ibukun Awosika, Chair­per­son, First Bank of Nige­ria; Vic­to­ria Mo­jekwu, Di­rec­tor, Ca­pac­ity Build­ing, Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria, amongst oth­ers. The event also fea­tured a panel dis­cus­sion on the theme, “Driv­ing Gen­der Equal­ity in the Work­place.” The pan­el­lists in­cluded Foluke Aboderin, WIMBIZ; Ken Eg­bas, CEO, TruCon­tact; Ade­bola Wil­liams, Co-founder, Red Me­dia; and Bekeme Masade, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, CSR-in-Ac­tion.

Speak­ing at the ses­sion, He­bert Wigwe, said: “The ses­sion is about strength­en­ing gen­der equal­ity as far as fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions are con­cerned but I would urge us to take it to a dif­fer­ent level. Let us get peo­ple in man­u­fac­tur­ing and other fields to ba­si­cally em­brace what is good for the en­tire world, in this case we are talk­ing about gen­der equal­ity. The Nige­rian Sus­tain­abil­ity Bank­ing Prin­ci­ples have come a long way from where we started from five years ago. But there are still sev­eral in­sti­tu­tions that have not at­tained the level of com­pli­ance that we would ex­pect, par­tic­u­larly as it per­tains to gen­der equal­ity.”

Also speak­ing at the event, Chi­zoba Mo­jekwu said that, “So­cial­iza­tion has been so con­cretized that it is hold­ing a lot of things back for both men and women and that so­cial­iza­tion ex­tends into the work place. Or­ga­ni­za­tions are still largely pa­tri­ar­chal and reg­u­la­tions do not work. So my views are that we are deal­ing with a ma­jor trans­for­ma­tional is­sue than a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge. We haven’t been en­gag­ing the rest of the body but only the neck. Un­til we take a holis­tic view and en­gage, we will con­tinue to ap­ply band-aid to a se­ri­ous prob­lem that has deeply rav­aged our body politic.”

Mrs Ibukun Awosika, said that, “to im­prove gen­der equal­ity, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions need to have bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the life and things that in­flu­ence the abil­ity of each gen­der to de­liver and thus cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment to sup­port such.”

The pro­gramme reached over 150 key stake­hold­ers in the bank­ing in­dus­try di­rectly. It also reached over 100,000 peo­ple on­line, cre­at­ing aware­ness and sen­si­tiz­ing stake­hold­ers. The event pro­vided cru­cial in­for­ma­tion that will em­power the work­force -- par­tic­u­larly women -- and pro­vide it with the req­ui­site skills and com­pe­tences to at­tain strate­gic lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions are still largely pa­tri­ar­chal and reg­u­la­tions do not work.

L-R: Omobolanle Vic­tor-Laniyan, Head of Sus­tain­abil­ity, Ac­cess Bank Plc; Ibukun Awosika, Chair­per­son, First Bank of Nige­ria Plc; Her­bert Wigwe; GMD/CEO, Ac­cess Bank Plc; Osayi Alile, CEO, ACT Foun­da­tion, at the In­dus­try Ses­sion on “Gen­der Equal­ity in the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Sec­tor,” which held at Ac­cess Bank

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