By Justina Auta
President Muhmmadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja, inaugurated the High-level Advisory Council (HLAC) to scale-up education and economic empowerment of women and girls in the country.
The HLAC is to improve gender inclusion in development policies and projects.
It is also to provide strategic guidance, policy support and oversight to government laid gender equality initiatives, and advise Nigeria’s financial and technical partners on critical areas of support for women and girls.
The Federal Ministries of Women Affairs, Education and Finance, Budget and National Planning would work with state governments and key stakeholders to prioritise areas where support are needed to accelerate gender parity in the country.
The HLAC would coordinate strategic programmes for women and girls and monitor the National Women’s Economic Empowerment Policy Dialogue, Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE), and the Nigeria for Women Project.
President Buhari said the initiative would reduce poverty, drive economic empowerment, sustainable livelihood and education of Nigerian women and girls to fulfill the promises he made in 2015.
“The well-being of women and girls remain a pivotal indicator of how well any nation is doing in driving her developmental plans.
“I am proud of the tremendous progress that has been made to emphasize the needs of Nigerian women and girls into national economic planning, policy development, public programming, and public financial management.
“While there has been progress, we are not unmindful of the gaps associated with harnessing the available resources of government, the innovation and efficiency of the private sector, and the technical expertise of our social and development sector partners to drive women and girls’ empowerment outcomes,’’ he said.
The president noted that coordination had remained a key gap in the efforts to improve livelihoods and democratise opportunities for women and girls, adding that the HLAC would bridge the gap.
“As this council takes off, I want to charge it with the mandate to drive all round collaboration and action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality, between now and 2030,’’ he said.
President Buhari commended the Ministers of Women Affairs, Finance, Budget, and National Planning, as well as Education for exemplifying collaboration and innovation in service delivery.
“I also want to thank our private and social sector partners, especially the council’s private sector Co-Chairs for being willing to join us on this journey to improve the lives of Nigerian women and girls.
“I want to charge the HLAC to initially focus on driving women economic empowerment, especially in the areas of economic access, sustainable livelihoods and education, including second chance education for women and girls.
“I will also encourage deeper engagement and deliberate focus on sustaining the council’s inaugural priority initiatives, which include:
“The National Policy Dialogue on Women’s Economic Empowerment, aimed at leveraging on diverse approaches and perspectives across the Federation to redefine our implementation of women economic empowerment programmes.”
He added that over the course of the dialogue stretching from Kebbi to Lagos, the Federal Government had engaged the perspectives of over 100,000 Nigerians to drive women economic empowerment.
Buhari expressed confidence that the Policy Dialogue would culminate in the launch of a transformative National Policy on Women Economic Empowerment in April 2023.
He added that the AGILE project had provided comprehensive support for the education and empowerment of more than 20 million young girls and women in the country.
The president also said that the NFWP-SU, which builds on the success of the first phase would provide greater opportunities for more women, especially those in rural areas.
“In Phase one of the project, Nigerian women across the six pilot states saved over 3.1 billion naira and received almost 10 billion naira in disbursements to support their livelihoods.
“I am proud that a lasting legacy of this administration is that the project will be scaled from six to at least seventeen states, and that up to 3.9 million women will benefit from the multidimensional aspects of the programme,’’ he added.
While commending efforts of stakeholders and development partners, the president urged all to redouble efforts in the push for gender equity and equality.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen explained that the council would provide strategic guidance, oversight, policy and support to the government on critical areas of support for women and girls in Nigeria.
Also, Malam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education, represented by Mr David Andrew, the Permanent Secretary, explained that the country had secured a 500 million dollar support from the World Bank to implement the AGILE project.
On her part, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said the projects would increase the sensitivity of all stakeholders and equip them with strategic skills to drive the initiatives at community levels.
Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Representative, stressed the need for economic and educational empowerment of women and girls to enable the government realise its mission of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
Ms Derr Awosike, Private sector co-chair of HLAC, maintained that empowering women to participate in economic lives was essential to building strong economies and establishing stable and just societies in Nigeria. (NAN)