By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
Senior Special Assistant to Nigeria’s President on Administration and Women Affairs and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Dr. Hajo Sani OON and the Rwandan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Yamina Karitanyi, have bagged awards during this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD). The awards were in recognition of their contributions to the advancement of women within their spheres of influence.
In celebrating the achievements of the two esteemed women, Dr. Hajo Sani received the inaugural “Markets4Development Literary Award” for the socio-economic and political empowerment of women, while Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi received the inaugural “Markets4Development Award for the UK-Based Africa Diplomat of the Year.”
Announcing the awards recipients at a virtual interactive session to commemorate the IWD, the host and moderator for the event Ms Ndidi Njoku, an international finance and development specialist and CEO of United Kingdom -based organisation Markets4Development, said empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps are key to attaining the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals- particularly Goals 5 and 8 – to achieve gender equality and to promote full and productive employment and decent work for all. Ndidi highlighted a McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report which concluded that advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth.
In her keynote address at the March 9 event, Dr. Sani who is due to publish a new book titled, “Women in the New Era” – a compendium of essays by selected resource experts on different aspects of women’s development – said there is a need for collective action in driving gender parity against socio-economic challenges.
She noted that the theme of this year’s IWD, Choose-to-Challenge, was apt in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, which she said had affected the economic productivity of women.
“I have chosen to continue to challenge the impediments to women empowerment and the education of the girl-child with particular focus on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the success so far. We need strong and renewed partnerships at all levels by creating strategies to respond to the challenges arising from the pandemic, including those that pose as a threat to the attainment of women’s economic leadership and empowerment.”
In combating the issue of women’s empowerment, Dr Sani made a case for better support for rural women who mostly occupy the lower level of the economy, as they are the often most marginalised in terms of socio-economic empowerment.
“Rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. However, limited access to credit, healthcare and education are among the many challenges they face, which are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change.”
She added: “Empowering them is key, not only to the wellbeing of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.”
Dr Sani observed that “One of the major constraints of empowerment of the rural woman is lack of capital or access to financial facility in form of loan from financial institutions,” a situation which she lamented.
In her own Keynote message, Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi, the High Commissioner for the Republic of Rwanda to the United Kingdom, and non-resident Ambassador to Ireland underscored her country’s impressive strides in gender equality and women’s participation and empowerment with statistics.
“Currently Rwanda has the highest number of women in parliament in the whole world, with women occupying 64% of the seats; with gender parity – meaning an equal number of girls and boys, in both primary and secondary schools – all across the country,” Ambassador Karitanyi, said
Prior to her posting to the United Kingdom, the fluent English, French, Kinyarwanda and Swahili-speaking diplomat held the Tourism and Conservation portfolios at the Rwanda Development Board – a Government agency mandated with fast-tracking economic development.
Under her leadership, the Tourism and Conservation Board developed programmes to improve tourism, including the reintroduction of lions in Akagera National Park.
In 2012, Karitanyi, who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Studies from Buffalo State College, USA, and an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology, USA, was appointed High Commissioner to Kenya in which role she significantly improved trade and diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Other speakers at the event included Chantelė Carrington, the COO of PwC’s African Business Group UK, Amma Gyampo, Co-Founder, ScaleUp Africa and recent TedxAccra Speaker, and Sonia Jordan-Kirwan, Manager, Gender Equality and Woman’s Economic Empowerment, CDC Group.