The writer, Vicky Wireko
The writer, Vicky Wireko

International Women’s Day: BOG’s sex-disaggregation initiative, affirmative action on my mind

Last Wednesday was celebrated globally as International Women’s Day.

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A day that nations, governments, organisations and groups tend to focus attention particularly on women and girls’ issues.  

And so the day was marked beautifully all over with all kinds of activities.  Interestingly, one is yet to see any reports, activities or discussions that may have taken place with reference to the age old Affirmative Action Bill that has been pending for some time.  One hopes it has not been shelved. 

All the same however, one other affirmative action that is imminent in the financial sector for women entrepreneurs is creating some buzz within me.  

Progressive action

That progressive action was announced last week by the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BOG), Dr Ernest Addison, at the launch of an Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) series in Accra.

An initiative of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the affirmative action, AFAWA, is meant to, among other things, open up to $3billion in finances for women in the small and medium scale enterprise space in Africa.   What better news to receive, at a time when women entrepreneurs are desirous of free access to financial support to move forward with their businesses.

Yes, celebrating women is very much in the air and so whether by accident or by plan, at the same launch of the affirmative finance action for women, BOG is said to have flung an initiative that is targeted at providing financing avenues for women in the small to medium scale enterprises.

Belated though that is, coming from an institution that is publicly seen as sensitive towards female progression, one finds the intended move by the central bank quite instructive.  

The active role and the leadership position of women in the banking sector of this country are without doubt.  So therefore, the difficulties faced by some business women in accessing funds from the bank sometimes come as a worry, making one doubt whether there is no one at the centre pushing for their cause.  

The good news is that though progressively, the position has changed a bit with access to bank financing and perhaps getting better with the years, the bold initiative by the BOG may influence the current situation even better.

Monthly reports

So, better late than never, the central bank, according to a story published by the Graphic Business in its Tuesday, March 7 issue, is asking banks in the country and other deposit-taking institutions to submit their monthly prudential reports on a sex-disaggregated basis. The online reporting of the details will better inform certain decisions when it comes to supporting women’s businesses.

As one understands, the directive is part of the efforts by the central bank to help address central data constraints on gender in the financial sector and obviously give some scientific and holistic understanding to help design policy and regulation, as well as products and services in the financial sector.

One only hopes that this new action will clearly define unrestricted bank support for enterprises run by women and that these hard working women would fully benefit from the AFAWA initiative which is meant to unlock up to $3billion in finances for women in the small and medium scale enterprise space in Africa.

Hope

The directive gives some glimmer of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel for small to medium scale women entrepreneurs who have difficulties in raising funding for their businesses.

As one focuses on the glimmer of hope the initiative brings, it is interesting to recall the past frustrations of women entrepreneurs in this country who stood up in 1975 for the establishment of the first Women’s World Banking in Ghana. 

Not until the UN declared 1975 as a decade for women, issues of fairness in the world of financing was nil for women in this country.  At the time, even though Ghanaian women were very much enterprise driven, access to financial capital was unavailable due to customary norms and practices.

Those were the days when one needed a property to guarantee a bank loan.  And of course, very few women owned properties as far back as then.  The financial independence of women came with efforts of entrepreneurs like Mrs Esther Ocloo, proprietor of Nkulenu Industries, to bring that freedom to women.  This was a time when there was many of her like in the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI).

History has it that it was after Mrs Ocloo and others returned in 1975 from a UN conference on Women held in Mexico where the idea of a Women’s World Banking was first mooted, that signs of financial support freedom arrived.

The setting up of the Women’s World Banking did inspire confidence in women’s borrowing but perhaps not to the level as one might have wished.  The AFAWA initiative of the AfDB launched last week therefore will carry the mantle further for women entrepreneurs.  

May our central bank run with the baton firmly in hand and flag up the cause of small to medium scale women entrepreneurs without weary. May it pursue and religiously monitor local banks for the sex-disaggregated reports they are pursuing and add more oil to the lighted fire. 

Writer’s E-mail: [email protected]

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