On the 8th of March 2018, International Women's Day (IWD), I was one of the stakeholders at the interactive session hosted by UNWomen in Abuja. There were representatives of women in agriculture in both rural and urban areas. The urban women were represented by Dr. Angel Adelaja of 'Fresh Direct' - Nigeria. She uses hydroponics (soil-less farming) to provide organic farm produce. The pilot project is in Abuja. Angel discussed the challenges of technology based agriculture in an urban setting. However, a number of challenges cut across rural and urban areas as regards women farmers:
*Lack of access to finance and credit as a result of difficult 'conditions' by banks.
*Lack of safe spaces for women in ungoverned rural and urban areas.
*Dearth of experiential (continuous) learning for women in agriculture.
*Need for more employment and entrepreneurship models for women in agriculture.
*Adequate healthcare for women, including those living with HIV/AIDS.
*Need to review the Land Use Act which puts women at a disadvantage.
*Lack of easy access to farm inputs.
*Budgets of States and Federal Government that are not passed on schedule constitute a major challenge, since farming is time specific.
*Agriculture is a vital part of the Sustainable Development goals and since a large number of women are engaged in the sector, they need support.
Aisha Babangida, daughter of former first lady, Maryam Babangida, exponent of the Better Life for Rural Women (BLRW) programme, alluded to the fact that when her mother was first lady she ensured there were at least 280,000? cottage industries in the country. She then asked the rhetorical question: 'What happened to all these cottage industries?'
Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, an activist for the emancipation of women, said 'everyday should be IWD, not just March 8'. Mrs. Dayo Benjamins-Laniyi, delectable 'voicepreneur', talked about the bonding of women across rural and urban areas.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on SDGs, Mrs. Adefulire, gave a ray of hope as regards the availability of affordable tractors for women. She said a foreign firm had been contacted which could manufacture these tractors in Nigeria. Economies of scale could reduce the price of such tractors.
The following gave inspiring speeches at the event:
*Ms. Comfort Lamptey - UNWomen Country Representaive
*Representative of Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development - Senator Aisha Alhassan
*SA to the President on SDGs - Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire
*UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria - Edward Kallon
*UNFPA Resident Representative - Dr. Diene Keita
Waje, celebrity artiste, sang many emotional songs eulogising the entrepreneurial spirit of the African woman at the well-attended post Policy Dialogue cocktail and photo exhibition by the Association of Female Artists in Nigeria. The take home is that women in urban and rural areas contribute immensely to the Nigerian economy even beyond agriculture. Women need all the support they can get...