The Federal Minister in-charge of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zainab Maina, has lauded MTN Foundation, the Corporate Social Responsibility initiative of MTN Nigeria, for empowerment of Nigerians, especially the widows, reports NaijaAgroNet.
Hajia Maina gave this commendation at the presentation of tools of trade to beneficiary widows, under the Foundation's new initiative for empowering widows tagged, MTNF Widows Empowerment Scheme, in Abuja.
NaijaAgroNet gathered that the Widows Empowerment Scheme by MTN Foundation is being managed by Growing Businesses Foundation and aimed at empowering widows who have existing businesses, across the six geo-political zones of the country.
Also, Hajia Maina urged that such positive intervention be emulated by other organisations, especially in telecommunications sector. Stressing that widows comprise a significant proportion of women, ranging from 7 to 16 per cent of all adult women, noting that it is regrettable that this significant section of the population is neglected in the society, especially due to their state of widowhood and the various traditional laws and customs which work against them, thus preventing them from gaining access to resources that will better their lot.
"Nigeria should abide by the United Nations' declaration during the 2013 International Widows Day which states that 'all widows should be protected by the rights established in the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and other international human rights treaties. Equal opportunity bill and violence against persons bill presently receiving attention at the National Assembly would greatly benefit widows, when passed into law," she said.
Equally speaking, a Director of MTN Foundation, Mr. Dennis Okoro, said the scheme was the result of a stakeholder's workshop held in October 2011, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
Pointing out that the workshop highlighted areas of need for widows in communities and discussed ways of empowering them to meet those needs, eventually an Expression of Interest (EoI) was declared and five states, including Imo, Taraba, Lagos, Rivers and Sokoto, in addition to the Federal Capital Territory, representing the six geo-political zones of the country, were selected.
“After an analysis of the needs assessment forms, 226 widows were selected to benefit from the scheme,” he asserted.
Okoro further disclosed that adopting a micro-finance model, the successful beneficiaries were trained on business management skills and to be mentored by two microfinance institutions, namely the Lift Above Poverty (LAPO) and Development Exchange Centre (DEC) to ensure sustainability of the project.
Additionally, he said, beneficiaries were later presented with tools of trade to boost their existing business ventures as interest-free loans, explaining that the loans were expected to be repaid over a 10 month period, with a two month moratorium.
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Photo: Hajia Zainab Maina