By Justina Auta
Mrs Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs, on Thursday urged women entrepreneurs to upgrade their skills and acquire all required documentations for procurement processes participation in private and public institutions.
Tallen made the call at a high-level policy dialogue and exhibition in Abuja to promote the application of Gender-Responsive Procurement practices in public and private organisations.
The theme of the event is, “Strengthening the Capacity of Local MSMEs/Manufacturers to Produce High-quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and Healthcare-related Products.’’
The minister stressed the need for women entrepreneurs to upgrade their skills and have the necessary documents to meet with the required standard needed to engage in procurement processes like their male counterparts.
“All the procurement in ministries must be gender sensitive. But at the same time, women must meet all the standards, we should not lower the standard because we want to favour women. Women are more than able,’’ she said.
She described women as catalysts in the growth and development of any country, adding that, “in Nigeria, women account for 41 per cent of the ownership of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) represented by 23 million female entrepreneurs.
“This has placed Nigeria among other sovereign States with a significantly high number of female entrepreneurs globally,‘’ she said.
She, however, noted that women-owned businesses are mostly Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), saying “women had the potentials to expand in scope, diversify supply chains, grow the economy as well as simultaneously improve the lives of women and girls in Nigeria.”
Tallen said despite governments’ efforts to support and empower women in MSMEs, access and participation in some of these procurement opportunities has remained challenging.
“These challenges are hinged upon the fact that procurement institutions, policies and practices are gender neutral and dominated by men.
“As such, there is huge gender disparity when it comes to access procurement information by women-owned businesses.
“Even when a business owned by a woman eventually makes it to the bidding process, they have limited social and financial capital to compete effectively,’’ she said.
The minister said the event was with the collaboration of UN Women and other partners to promote gender responsive procurement practices in the Government and Private sector by prioritising women-owned MSMEs.
Ms Beatrice Eyong, UN Women Country Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAS, said 63 women entrepreneurs were trained on producing PPEs to international standard,business mentorship and branding to manage large skill production to cushion the effects of COVID-19.
Eyong noted that there are challenges of ready market for women entrepreneurs products, urging stakeholders to include women in the procurement processes of their organizations.
“Address knowledge gaps among procurement officers on how to apply gender responsive procurement strategies and increase the participation of women entrepreneurs in the procurement space of both private and public organizations.
“We implore you to buy from women today, as it not only ensures the diversification of your supplier base and reduces supply chain risks, but you would also be contributing to the attainment of the SDGs,’’ she said.
Also, Mrs Angela Ajala, National Coordinator, Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN), said women participation in public procurement will contribute to women empowerment and gender inclusivity.
Ajala added that cultural and traditional practices, discriminatory and contextual issues, less access capital and resources have put women entrepreneurs at a disadvantage in procurement processes.
She advised women entrepreneurs to be deliberate, intentional and get the capacity training to be able to meet the needs and requirements for procurement processes.
“They should not lower standards for us because we are women. If we need to be competitive, then all the boxes must be ticked,’’ she said.
Other highlights of the day was a panel discussion, presentation on gender responsive procurement and exhibition of various finished products manufactured by trained women MSMEs. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Vincent Obi