FG, Stakeholder Partner on Sourcing Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs

By Justina Auta

The federal government, in collaboration with other stakeholders, has launched a Women’s Empowerment Project to improve access to procurement opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

Minister of Women Affairs, Ms. Pauline Tallen, at the launch of the project “Empowering Women through Positive Public Procurement Reform in Nigeria” in Abuja, advocated for policy reforms in positive public procurement.

Tallen, represented by Mr. Idris Mohammed, Director supervising the Office of the Permanent Secretary, said the project was supported by the African Development Bank, UN Women and funded by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi).

She said the project will promote women’s inclusion, gender equality and empowerment, inclusive economic growth and national development through improved access to public procurement opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

“The launch of this project echoes our advocacy to advance the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs through greater access to public and private procurement opportunities,” she said.

She noted, however, challenges that limited access to procurement opportunities for women entrepreneurs to include limited information on how to write bids.

According to her, others are the lack of technical capacity to execute contracts, access to information and networks to respond to tenders, long delays in payment from government procuring entities.

“Investing in building the capacity of women entrepreneurs to benefit only from public procurement would not guarantee their economic empowerment.

“We must first address the existing structural barriers that women entrepreneurs face and accelerate actions to promote gender sensitivity in procurement processes, practices and institutions, so that change can happen in a reasonable time,” she said.

Ms. Beatrice Eyong, National Representative of UN Women in Nigeria and ECOWAS, said the project will contribute to the empowerment of women and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The launch of the project focuses on the inculcation of gender-responsive procurement processes, as a panacea to advance the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs,” she said.

She further explained that the project supports reform and institutional strengthening to improve access of women-led businesses to public procurement and the development of gender-sensitive procurement initiatives.

Furthermore, Mr. Lansana Wonneh, Deputy Country Representative of UN Women Nigeria, said the project aims to support reform and institutional strengthening to improve access of women-led businesses to public procurement.

Wonneh, represented by Dr. Chukwuomeka Onyimadu, National Economist at UN Women, said she would also support the development of gender responsive procurement as part of COVID-19 response strategies.

According to him, Lagos and Kaduna states are the pilot states to run the three-year project.

Mr. Sanusi Yero, Chief Executive of the Kaduna State Public Procurement Authority, said the findings revealed that women-led businesses were not actively involved in public procurement opportunities.

Yero attributed it to negative public perception, lack of technical capacity, financial ability and inability to get a loan, lack of awareness/knowledge and fear of sexual abuse, among others.

“Existing policies and practices at the state and federal levels are not fully gender-responsive.

“Today, we are here to change these negative trends and practices through Affirmative Procurement.

“The selection of Kaduna and Lagos States as the pilot state and members of the National Steering Committee (NSC) is not by chance but given commitments to procurement reforms and sustainability.

“So we understand the burden and the expectations and with the support of the National Steering Committee and other stakeholders, I assure you that the success is ours,” he said.

Likewise, the Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency, Mr. Onafowote Fatai-Idowu, reiterated his commitment to women’s empowerment and capacity building. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Saidu Adamu/Isaac Aregbesola

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