By Prof. Protus Nathan Uzorma
The development of women should be given top priority in the pattern of economic development in any country that wants to attain stable economic growth and advance family living standards.
As the world of women today, is no longer confined to periphery of household activities, rather they contribute in the promotion of economic development in different capacities due to awareness in women, effects of women liberation movement, and effect of women development organisations. This has increased the female work participation rate in the early 70s that was very marginal to higher rate for close to three decades now. Although women form a very large proportion of the self-employed group, their work is often not recognised as “work” because the prevailing ‘household strategy’ catalyses the devaluation of women’s productive activities as secondary and subordinate to men’s work. Women’s contributions vary according to the structure, needs, customs and attitudes of society. Women entered entrepreneurial activities because of poor economic conditions, high unemployment rates and divorce catapult.
Even though, in recent years a great many changes occurred in the life of women all over the world influencing their attitudes, values, inspirations, ways of feelings and acting for effective participation in all walks of life, still there occurs few social and economic barriers that prevent women from entering any field of economic activity.
The extent of women empowerment in the National hierarchy is determined largely by three factors namely economic, social, and political identity and their weight age. These factors are deeply intertwined and interlinked with many cross cutting linkages which imply, that if efforts in one dimension remain absent or weak, the other components cannot be sustained as they will not be able to bear any sudden change or upheaval. Therefore, it is only when all these three factors are simultaneously addressed and made compatible with each other. Then only, women can be truly empowered, thus for a holistic empowerment of women- Social, economic and political aspects must converge effectively on women’s life.
All over Africa and precisely in Nigeria, many families rely on women to care for them and to provide basic necessities for survival. As these women receive education and are recognised with a higher legal status, they provide their households with superior nutrition, stronger food security and increased access to healthcare. Despite the crucial investments women make in their families and the contributions they make to their communities, Sub-Saharan African women constitute only 15% of the region’s landholders, and they face disproportionate challenges ranging from sexual exploitation to illiteracy and disease. Regrettably, women suffer silently in the background.
It is evident from daily lives that women play important roles in reviving economies of countries worldwide, and these women can be leaders both in politics and private sectors, and thus heads of entrepreneurs. It nonetheless takes creativity to be an entrepreneur. A female entrepreneur is an inventor. She devises new ways of doing new things. Business-building is an adventure in learning how to do new things, with new customers, new models, new approaches, new solutions, new needs, new niches, and new markets. Thus, women entrepreneur’s experience is awash in new.
Women entrepreneurship is an advanced self-employment strategy, aimed at empowering the grand managers of the world’s families. When women are empowered, the foundations of the human families are empowered too. Thus, when women undertakes to run, organise, and own private businesses set as small and medium scale enterprises, no matter which area of life is involved- Agriculture, trade, petty manufacturing, fashion and modelling, art-world creativity and ingenuity, crafts and stylistic designs, politics , etc, modern families are on route to grand financial freedom.
Consequently, any African (and precisely, Nigerian) family whose women- Mother, wife and daughter, are bereaved of worthwhile self-empowerment and entrepreneurial backgrounds that not only supplements the sole dependent incomes of the male head, who traditional roles have designated as breadwinners of the family, is bound to live within an average of $2 per diem. Desmond Tutu once declared, “If we are going to see real development in the world then our best investment is women.” Thus, empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.
In doing these, the private sector (Petty, small and medium scale enterprises) are key partners in efforts to advance gender equality and empower women. Current research demonstrating that gender diversity helps businesses perform better signals that self-interest and common interest can come together. Yet, ensuring the inclusion of women’s talents, skills and energies- From executive offices to the factory floor and the supply chain, requires intentional actions and deliberate policies.
Women entrepreneurship is certainly a sure way to sustainable global development and financial freedom. It is only entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial spirit that can tackle global challenges, transform communities, create jobs, spur economic growth and close the opportunity gap that confronts far too many people in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
Consequent upon these, and in order to accelerate thriving local and global communities, which are not possible without sustainable societal development and financial freedom of families, women entrepreneurship is a conditio sine qua non for every desiring nation, state and family. This makes it necessary for unflinching support for the development of sustainable, market-driven models to build skills, networks and pathways for desiring women, in order to unlock the potential of first-movers and risk takers everywhere. These too are only possible when more entrepreneurs are deployed across all sectors, starting businesses, running sustainable social enterprises, and bringing fresh ideas to old challenges.
It is only through entrepreneurship, that modern families and the human society of our age can create more vibrant communities, a stronger Nigeria and a more prosperous world, closing the opportunity gap and scaling creative solutions to persistent problems. Thus, for the attainment of sustainable societal development and financial freedom, women entrepreneurship is a necessary condition for sustainable economic development, which like a pandemic, once set and spread, attains great height in alleviating sufferings in modern families and help Nigeria and our State, Imo, to attain the desired sustainable development and therewith gain financial freedom for women, the change-makers of our families and societies. To this effect, a sense of economic opportunity is like fire- When ignited, it spreads quickly. Our women are able and ready, but lack due supports from their families, society and all social constraints around them. To this effect, Eleanor Roosevelt declared, “A woman is like a tea bag- You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” And Margret Thatcher added, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” We have all these in abundance around us, in our families, communities, state and country. Let us thus make maximum exploits of our God-given talents lest the Creator returns and chides us useless for throwing away the talents.
There is no saying the fact that women entrepreneurship, which is evidently grand empowerment, is a sure way to sustainable global development and financial freedom. But these are not concepts and realities to be merely discussed and emotional ovations rendered, and after which all retire home to continue from the age-long stereotypes that have kept the Nigerian society and indeed the world in crawling sustainable development and financial freedom for individual families. The US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton once said “I believe that the right of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.” It is high time to finish this Millennium unfinished business.
Nigerian and Imo women need to rise and take business adventures, which not only entail creativity but help as well to engage greater number of the unemployed graduates and youths of our society that wander jobless on daily basis, while their prime youthful ages pass unfulfilled. It is only when this is done that we can confidently say like Nancy Pelosi that “Women are leaders everywhere you look, from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women, and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes.”