‘Jonathan’s govt failed to arrest VVF among women’ | 6 things we learned from Okonjo-Iweala

Former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that former president Goodluck Jonathan worked towards ensuring gender parity in Nigeria, and succeeded in creating 10,000 jobs in the process.

Okonjo-Iweala, who has faced severe criticism since Jonathan lost the 2015 presidential election, stated this while addressing finance ministers across the world at an event organized by the World Bank.

Here are 6 things to note from her speech, which was titled:‘Why Should Finance Ministers Care About Gender Equality?‘

1) Budgetary incentive was offered to ministries for working with more women

“The president was supportive. We came up with the idea to work with the World Bank Group and the UK aid agency, DFID. And we designed a system whereby, through the budget, if a ministry delivered certain additional results for girls and women—over and above its targets—it would receive additional budget as an incentive.

We offered this to the cabinet on a voluntary basis and five ministries initially signed up: agriculture, health, water, communication technology, and public works. The ministry of women’s affairs agreed to monitor and evaluate progress, and our colleagues, partners, and the donor community agreed to support our initiative.”


2) Former President Jonathan was booed by the National Assembly for supporting gender equality

“We kicked off with a small amount, US$21 million dollars, to see if this would work. When the president announced it in parliament, he was booed by male parliamentarians and cheered by female MPs, but it passed.


3) The ministry of agriculture acheived spectacular results in working with women

“Our ministry of agriculture was eager to boost productivity from a very low level, subsistence, to a high level. And if 70 percent of your workforce is in agriculture, and most of them are women, then women surely need access to the right inputs.

“Very quickly, the minister of agriculture, who is now President of the African Development Bank, designed a system of electronic wallets—getting the middleman out of the graft-prone distribution of inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides. We said, ‘If you get an additional number of women to use these wallets, your ministry will get additional budget.’

The results were spectacular: 2.5 million women began using electronic wallets, far more than anticipated.”


4) The ministry of health under Jonathan failed to arrest the problem of VVF among women

“Our health ministry was concerned about vesico-vaginal fistula, a debilitating and degrading condition we weren’t able to address quickly or widely enough. Our initiative prompted an additional 3,000 surgeries to repair it.”


5) Other ways the Jonathan administration leveraged the budget to achieved gender equality

“Our ministry of water resources developed a system for women to manage health and sanitation centers in their communities, which just won a prize in the 2016 World Water Exhibition. Our ministry of Public Works began to train women as subcontractors in procurement. This was critical and absolutely unprecedented.

Those are just a few examples of how we were able to leverage the budget to advance gender equality. If you incentivie fellow ministers, they will deliver. This will empower more women and get more resources into their hands.”


6) With the aid of World Bank, the Jonathan administration produced more female entrepreneurs

“We developed a program for women entrepreneurs. A World Bank team supported us, and again we achieved spectacular results. We used a portion of the budget to incentivize young entrepreneurs, 40 and younger, who would register their businesses, get peer learning and mentoring, and a grant if they won a business planning competition.

“In the first round, only 17 percent of the applicants were women. But more than 50 percent of small and medium-sized firms in Nigeria are run by women. So we held a second round just for women, setting aside about US$8 million dollars. About 64,000 thousand people applied. We ultimately selected 1,200 women to receive grants of US$10,000 to US$90,000—and they created about 10,000 new jobs.

“These programs are helping women and men at the grassroots. They’re targeting our poorest and most vulnerable people. Our results in Nigeria should remind everyone what a vital role Finance Ministers can play to level the playing field and create truly equal opportunity for all.”

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