By Juliet Ukanwosu
The Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN), has reiterated the need for empowerment of women, saying it is an integral part and a powerful driver of sustainable socio-economic growth and development of any nation.
Extractive360 reports that the call was made on Saturday in Abuja during the 5th edition of the Nkechi Isigwe Annual Lecture (NIAL) series with the theme – Diversity and Inclusion in the Nigerian Extractive Industries: An Entrepreneur’s Perspective.
In her remarks, APWEN President, Engr. Elizabeth Jumoke Eterigho, explained that it is a known and accepted fact that the empowerment of a women has a higher ripple effect not only on her family, but on the nation at large.
“Women empowerment is an integral part and a powerful driver of sustainable socioeconomic growth and development of any nation. Empowering women promotes their self-worth and confidence, enable them to make their choices, set their own
agenda, gain relevant skills and encourage their right to influence social changes for themselves and others,” she said.
Engr. Eterigho added that “according to the United Nation (UN) Women Empowerment Initiative, it was clearly stated that, there is a two-way relationship between development and women empowerment. When a woman is adequately empowered and able to gain access to good education, livelihood, healthcare, security and political participation, they feel more secured and empowered which in turn contribute immensely to social and economic development.”
In view of this, three widows from Umuahia, Abia State, South East Nigeria, the home town of Nkechi Isigwe, were selected for empowerment at the NIAL maiden edition of the empowerment program. The initiative is expected to enhance the economic lives of the beneficiaries namely; Onu Rosemary, Ebere Uchegbu and Odigbo Akigbo, who were all selected through the association of Umuahia indigenes resident in Abuja.
“This initiative we believe particularly will enhance or augment the efforts of the widows in training of their children in schools thereby, leaving a better life. To sustain this initiative, we call on all well-meaning Nigerians and corporate organizations who appreciate empowerment of women, particularly, the widows to join APWEN to support this initiative,” the APWEN President said.
Presenting the lecture of the day, Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, stated that there are huge potentials for entrepreneur in the extractive sector, adding that we need to get women involved in the entire value chain of the industry -exploration, production and refining of crude oil as well as mining of our mineral deposits.
He disclosed that a soon to be released study conducted by NEITI with focus on the impact of mining in our communities through the prism of gender inclusivity and impact, threw issues such as deprivation and marginalization of women in the employment structure, relegating them to only ancillary service providers and decreased opportunities from land-based livelihoods such as land, water, forests etc. as a result of mining activities.
He said the study also showed maternity leave issues facing women as they end up struggling to regain employment after returning from childbirth; the practice of payment of benefits (royalties and compensation) to men “on behalf of families” leaving the women more exposed to hardship, as well as evidence that mining in the community leads to prevalent cases of girl-child abuses, girl-child early marriage and girl-child prostitution.
Dr. Orji stated that NEITI has initiated aggressive programs to pay special attention to generating reliable data and subsequent engagement to improve women’s participation in the extractive sector, with a goal to address the huge gap in gender imbalance in employment, investments, and decision-making in organizations in the extractive sector through empirical evidence based on data and constructive engagements. For instance, he said, out of 102 companies covered by the NEITI 2020 solid mineral sector audit report, only 29 provided information on gender and employment, while out of the 5,820 employees, only 14% of women were employed.
“I wish to restate that we need to do more to expand opportunities for women in the extractive sector. NEITI is ready to offer any support and partnership to help our women realise their full potential in the sector. We call on APWEN to lead this conversation as professionals and provide the needed guidance and expertise in this area,” the NEITI boss said.