Zainab Ahmed

As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the 2019 International Women’s Day, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has sought the inclusion of women in policy making and adequate representation in the extractive industry.

Mrs Ahmed who made the assertion in Abuja noted that women posses great but unutilized potential which could transform the extractive industry despite their huge number that could revolutionise the entire value chain in the industry.

According a statement by her Media and Communications Adviser, Paul Abechi, on Saturday, the government needs to develop policies, regulatory frameworks and programmes that “target women, so as to remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent them from participating fully in, and benefiting economically from, the extractives sector.”

The International Women’s Day, IWD, was marked globally on Friday with the theme, #BalanceforBetter, which the United Nations Organisation, UNO, began celebrating since 1975.

She said: “Evidence shows that gender-neutral policies are often applied ways that exclude and disenfranchise women stakeholders and other vulnerable communities. Governments need to develop policies, regulatory frameworks and programmes that target women, so as to remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent them from participating fully in, and benefitting economically from, the extractives sector.

“Women must have a seat at the table to participate in decision-making in the sector more generally, as well as to contribute to the development of gender-inclusive strategies more specifically. They must also be given the support and tools with which to participate, and women’s views must be taken into account at the project and community levels.

“By empowering women and ensuring their full participation in leadership and decision-making roles, we can ensure (1) increased transparency and accountability at all levels; (2) more inclusive partnerships at the community level, leading to better protection for the most vulnerable; and (3) stronger emphasis on addressing the industry’s environmental impact.

“A gender-balanced and inclusive approach to the extractives sector will empower women economically, resulting in stronger economies overall. According to the World Bank, extractives companies with women in leadership positions see 5-20% more profit and more robust corporate governance and transparency.

“It is important to promote the participation of women-owned small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in the extractives industry through inclusive financing structures and improved access to information and opportunity across the industry value chain.

“Supporting women in the extractives sector will lead to improved and more sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes, and move us all one step closer to realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Mrs Ahmed however expressed concerns over what she described the extractives sector as “traditionally male-dominated industry, the extractives sector has been particularly susceptible to gender bias and systematic discrimination across its value chain. Women are underrepresented at all levels, particularly in national and international leadership roles.”

She further stated that, “In shaping the sector and they are less likely to benefit economically. There is also an insufficient pipeline of women and girls with the necessary educational background and work experience to enter the sector. At the project level, women are often not consulted by governments and companies during community engagements, in part due to structural barriers such as lack of information.

“These challenges are amplified by a general lack of policies and regulatory frameworks aimed at identifying and protecting the rights of women and ensuring equal representation and access across the sector.”

She also emphasized and stated that, “The lack of credible and readily available data – particularly disaggregated data – means that governments, companies and other stakeholders are limited in their ability to make informed decisions and develop gender-responsive policies, programmes and budgets to tackle inequalities.”

“Data disclosure is critical to improving gender inclusion because it provides governments, companies and other stakeholders with information needed to identify areas where women are disproportionately underrepresented or marginalised. Only then can they respond with the necessary interventions.

“It also ensures transparency and accountability and allows for citizens to engage with issues affecting the inclusion of women and other vulnerable communities. For example, requiring companies to disclose employment statistics disaggregated by gender would help inform more inclusive hiring practices.

“As we consider the importance of data disclosure, we must also ensure that women are given equal opportunities to access data, and that data is disaggregated along gender lines where possible. This will ensure greater transparency and accountability in line with the principles of the EITI.”

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