THE Federal Government on Thursday decried the N1.6 billion National Women Empowerment Fund (NAWEF) laying idle in the Bank of Industry.
This is even as it called on states to access the funds.
The minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan made the call at a one day sensitisation programme for wives of governors, wives of Local government area Chairmen, women of elective positions on the effective implementation the fund.
She said inspite of the various intervention to make the funds accessible, states are finding it difficult to access the funds by meeting all the terms of conditions especially the repayment of the loans.
She explained that the federal government had decided to implement the fund in eight pilot states, which she said include, “Abia (South East), Awka Ibom (South South), Osun (South West) and Nassarawa (North Central).
Others are Jigawa (North West), Adamawa, Yobe and Borno (North East).
“Unfortunately, all together we have gotten only 25,740 applications from all the eight pilot states, when actually we expect 80000 from all the states.”
She said, “The overall objective of the NAWEF programme is to provide access to financial services for women involved in micro and small scale enterprises to scale up their businesses. The programme is also a revolving loan facility that is interest and collateral free requiring beneficiaries to repay within a specified period of six months or more depending on the kind of enterprise or business to enable other benefit from the scheme”.
She added that to sustain the fund certain conditions have been put in place saying, “Women guaranteeing each other as members of same cooperative group; women ensuring commitment to repayment as scheduled while less stringent conditions to access the fund to make repayment easy for beneficiaries”.
She warned that defaulters will be sanctioned by black listing their Bank Verification Number (BVN) and revoking their group’s certificates saying, “defaulting beneficiaries will never be able to do any banking transactions in Nigeria”.
The deputy country representative of UN Women, (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) Adji Dates Ndiaye noted that Nigeria should take the lead in empowering women in Africa because of its populous nature.
She commended the federal government for setting aside the NAWEF funds to empower women saying that most donor agencies put their funds in specific intervention like supporting pregnant women and children or for women in conflict torn areas while other women who need support to grow their business are not included.
She added that UN Women will help build the capacities of women to succeed in accessing the loans.
Meanwhile the Osun State commissioner of women affairs and social development Hajiya Latifat Abiodun said that sending the application and verifying those on the names has been quite challenging.
“Most women in the rural areas do not have bank accounts and find it difficult to open one, which makes their application hard to be selected.”
Yobe has the highest application with 3832, followed closely by Jigawa with 3655, Abia with 3456, Adamawa 3269, Nasarawa 3243, Borno 2659, Awka Ibom 1597 while Osun has only 1029.