Women’s empowerment, giving the equal rights to finances, inheritance, and ownership, creates local and national gains. This is a philosophy Esther Nenadi Usman stands by, and something she tried to implement during her tenure as the former finance minister from the southern Kaduna state in Nigeria. As Senator Nenadi Esther, she focused on the economic and financial empowerment of women in Kaduna and beyond. She aimed to encourage equitable gender participation, thereby breaking through the economic, legal, and socio-cultural constraints put in their way. As a minister, she drove policy changes forward, ensuring more women had the opportunity to become involved in viable enterprises.
A Better World According to Nenadi Esther Usman
Mrs. Usman was clear on what should be done to ensure greater women participation and empowerment. This included:
- Ensuring incentive programs were put in place to ensure women can become involved in new enterprises. Nenadi achieved this by demonstrating the social and business advantages of women’s participation.
- Ensuring women could form partnerships with various support agencies and financial institutions. Esther understood that, because of lack of education, women often did not – yet – have the necessary business acumen. She wants to ensure resources are shared in related sectors, therefore, so these skills can be increased.
- Ensuring startup businesses have safety nets and support so that they are less likely to fail. Esther Usman put various survey and monitoring procedures in place to ensure this.
- Making the government, at all levels, more accountable for women’s empowerment. Nenadi Esther put systems in place that highlighted both deficiencies and achievements at government level to ensure the system can evolve constructively.
- Increasing women’s enrollment at all levels in schools, thereby ensuring women have the knowledge required to build themselves up. Esther Nenadi Usman specifically allocated new budgets to ensure vocational and continuing education became more accessible to women.
- Sponsoring more workshops and seminars in the rural parts of Nigeria, thereby ensuring women have the ability to access them and learn how to set up their own businesses as relevant to the area in which they live.
- Creating storage facilities and processing plants in partnership with women businesses and governments, thereby ensuring farm product in particular can easily be stored.
- Formally instituting women groups and cooperatives, thereby ensuring women can share their knowledge and experience with each other, something they have done informally throughout the ages.
- Mandating commercial banks to ensure loans that are more gender-friendly are implemented.
- Ensuring women have exposure to new forms of technology, thereby ensuring they can continue to grow.
According to Esther, women in Nigeria should go back to their roots. Traditionally, women built huge networks with other women from neighboring tribes and villages, sharing and trading resources to further all the surrounding communities. This is a skill women are born with, and it is one that should be recognized and built on and that should be more formalized. Nigerian women have it in them to become empowered and Esther Nenadi is at the forefront of achieving that.