By Etuka Sunday
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2019 International Women’s Day with theme, ‘#BalanceforBetter’, on March 8, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, sought the inclusion of women in policy making and adequately represented in the extractive industry.
Mrs Ahmed made this call while speaking on the potential women possess but not utilized to transform the extractive industry despite their huge number that could revolutionise the entire value chain in the industry.
According to her government needs to develop policies, regulatory frameworks and programmes that “target women, so as to remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent them from participating fully in, and benefiting economically from, the extractives sector.”
The International Women’s Day, IWD, was marked globally on March 8, 2019 with theme, #BalanceforBetter, which the United Nations Organisation, UNO, began celebrating International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace and to recognize the enormous and strategic contributions made by women in different fields of endeavour in shaping the society.
She said: “Evidence shows that gender-neutral policies are often applied ways that exclude and disenfranchise women stakeholders and other vulnerable communities. Governments need to develop policies, regulatory frameworks and programmes that target women, so as to remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent them from participating fully in, and benefitting economically from, the extractives sector.
“Women must have a seat at the table to participate in decision-making in the sector more generally, as well as to contribute to the development of gender-inclusive strategies more specifically. They must also be given the support and tools with which to participate, and women’s views must be taken into account at the project and community levels.
“By empowering women and ensuring their full participation in leadership and decision-making roles, we can ensure (1) increased transparency and accountability at all levels; (2) more inclusive partnerships at the community level, leading to better protection for the most vulnerable; and (3) stronger emphasis on addressing the industry’s environmental impact.
“A gender-balanced and inclusive approach to the extractives sector will empower women economically, resulting in stronger economies overall. According to the World Bank, extractives companies with women in leadership positions see 5-20% more profit and more robust corporate governance and transparency.
“It is important to promote the participation of women-owned small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in the extractives industry through inclusive financing structures and improved access to information and opportunity across the industry value chain.
“Supporting women in the extractives sector will lead to improved and more sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes, and move us all one step closer to realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
However, she expressed concerns over what she described the extractives sector as “traditionally male-dominated industry, the extractives sector has been particularly susceptible to gender bias and systematic discrimination across its value chain. Women are underrepresented at all levels, particularly in national and international leadership roles.”
She further stated that, “In shaping the sector and they are less likely to benefit economically. There is also an insufficient pipeline of women and girls with the necessary educational background and work experience to enter the sector. At the project level, women are often not consulted by governments and companies during community engagements, in part due to structural barriers such as lack of information.
“These challenges are amplified by a general lack of policies and regulatory frameworks aimed at identifying and protecting the rights of women and ensuring equal representation and access across the sector.”