‘Every woman should be business-minded’

Hajiya Sa’adatu Abdullahi is the Chief Executive Officer of Abuja-based Business Women Networking Limited. She spoke with Miriam Humbe on the need for women to get involved in businesses that will make them full employers of labour, saying government’s financial intervention policies are not impacting on the target populations Excerpts:
WHAT is Business Women Networking all about?
Business Women Networking Limited is an organisation purposely aimed to develop businesses but our primary targets are women. I said women because most of the things that we do are about helping women. That does not mean that we don’t also work with men. We do, but most of the areas we handle are just purposely for women.
How is your organisation impacting women and the society?
We are into business development. We have about three departments. These are the management department, marketing department and training departments. The management department goes into developing businesses of individuals and organisations. We also help other government agencies or private sector in branding, marketing, managing events and staffing. We do give staff on loan or for full employment. That is what we do for the management aspect. We can also manage your business. If you don’t have time, you give it to us, we put staff, we look after it and monitor the business for you and we can even set up the business for you.
If you have an idea, you come forward, we discuss; you put up a proposal and if you are looking for funds, we take it up for you and link you up with financial institutions that can help you get funds for your business. In the marketing aspect of it, we do things like sales promotion, branding your organisation including your logo, the slogan, business name, register it and ensure you start and do things that create awareness for people to know about your business. In the training department, we organise things like seminars, exhibitions and workshops all aimed at helping women and also men who come forward.
How do you source for your clients?
As you are, you are a woman. Every woman should be a business-minded person. That is why we set up this organisation because there are people who will feel like I don’t have the required knowledge in terms of education or a certificate to get a government job. You don’t need to be educated to succeed in business. You can do it if you have funds, no matter how small it is; if you come forward, we will be able to look at it and help you out because there are people, women especially who are sitting on millions but they don’t know how to invest. That is why we said from one on one consultation, we would be able to identify, from the questions we ask, and then say, why not go into this business. We get women individually, we get women from government agencies, we get women through people like you who go out and tell other women about what we do. When they come forward, we take it up from there.
What is your assessment of women participation in business activities in Nigeria?
You see, this thing is not a women issue per se. It is the country in general. Having been to other places around the world, and as a Nigerian, I know our attitude, I know our culture and how we take things. Some women are looking at it that they don’t have funds. But how can you get funds? There are so many funds available everywhere which we are not assessing. But nobody can just come and give you money by folding your hands and doing nothing. It doesn’t happen. They have to see what you can offer, because they want to know, how you will be able to repay them if they give you money.
So, these are most of the things that are keeping women away from embarking on business ventures, and we are not really hard working. There are so many businesses that you can do as a married woman from your husband’s house. If you talk, they will say Northerners are mostly in pudah. Yet even if you are in pudah, there is a business that you can do without having to go out, and you will make money, more than the people who go out. Just as in other sectors, women are still backward. But you need to seek us out first in order to find out what you can do.
Numerically speaking, how many women have your organisation trained so far?
We don’t count the numbers because when we do our trainings, they are usually based on individual participation. For example, the last one we had, we tagged it ‘Business Club and Healthy living’. Business club means if there is a business, you can just come forward to know how your business is doing. It could also mean what you can do to your business to make it grow, because at any forum, and at any situation, we have many women coming in. We don’t have a record stating exactly how many women attended, like say, 1000 women or so attended because that is not our target. Our policy is not to count the numbers but to make an impact. You can be the only one that attended our workshop or seminar. Apart from the seminars and workshops we organise, we also hold exhibitions. So we don’t usually count the numbers.
Looking at the industry, what areas of business do women seem to take particular interest?
Most women that we come across seem to be more interested in buying and selling. Most of them are like, you travel to Dubai or Senegal and buy fabrics to sell here or you have a boutique in the market and so on. They don’t seem to realise that there are other businesses that they can do. Even if you want to be involved in buying and selling, you can really do it without having to travel. And there are other businesses that are more rewarding than buying and selling, because buying and selling of goods do tie capital at times.
Also, such businesses are not employers of labour. So we want to train women and advice them to go into businesses that will turn them into employers of labour rather than being a sole owner of a business that will, at the end of the day, crumble. But if you become an employer of labour, you reduce the unemployment rate in the country.
Governments have over the years initiated programmes and policies for empowering women. As a politician, do you think these have worked?
Well, I have said it earlier that there are so many funds available which we don’t really know are available. Government intends to work hard to ensure that people are self-reliant, especially women, to help them go into business. But while the funds are available, they will tell you that they can only be given to those in production activities. If you ask, what is production? They will tell you, it is those who are making sachet water, those who are into farming and so on. But there are other businesses that can help reduce the unemployment rate in the country.
Right now, there are so many businesses tied around agro-allied industries and we are also training people in that area. For example, we can say that if you are a farmer, what are you going to do with your rice? Can you grind it or can you package it? We don’t tell women go into farming. That is not the area we are covering, but if you are a farmer and you want to market your rice, we can come in and show you what you can do to make your rice different from other rice. That’s the area that we come in but actually government is trying to do a lot.
The people that are being given the responsibility of disbursing the funds, whether she is a minister or as a director-general or whatever, they will look at it like, ‘oh I have my people.’ When the money is available, you as an individual, you will go there and they will tell you there is no money, whereas they have the money. They will sit down and have a meeting over it, how much is it, ‘okay, I am a director, this is my own, director general, this is your own, Assistant Director, this is your own and so forth.’ Then they will tell you, ‘go and distribute it to your people.’ The D-G will go and call her children, call her sisters and aunts to come. That is it; they make it a kind of family affair. Even the ‘YouWin’ programme, they say that people can go online and apply for it. How many people that actually go online to apply for it will have the influence of either the minister or a D-G or a governor or somebody up there?
All these people that have these funds are not the exact people that government is targeting. So it is not touching on the ordinary people that the funds are meant for. Government is trying but actually it does not make any impact.

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