•The World Bank team during the visit to Abia Information Commissioner, Chief John Okiyi Kalu
Abia State has been selected among the six Nigerian states to benefit from a pilot $100 million World Bank project aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of Nigeria women tagged “Nigeria for Women”.
This was disclosed during a courtesy visit by a World Bank team, led by Social Development Specialist, Rosa Maria Martin, to Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, at Government Gouse Umuahia.
The Commissioner, who assured the World Bank Group of the state government’s commitment towards the successful execution of the project, informed the team that Abia women are great entrepreneurs like their male counterparts and are already organised in natural groups that make access easy.
The Commissioner urged the World Bank team to consider supporting Akwete women of Akwete-Ndoki in Ukwa East Local Government Area of the state to increase their output and access international market with their hand woven and high quality akwete textile materials.
The Commissioner, who described Aba as the innovation capital of Nigeria, stated that the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation were evenly distributed in male and female Abia State indigenes, and stated that the World Bank support was coming at a good time when the government of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is aggressively promoting “Made in Aba” brands to promote local enterprises and craftsmanship.
According to Kalu, “if you empower Abia women, you have empowered Abia State as our women are major stakeholders in the development programmes of the government and contribute immensely to the development of the family unit and Abia society in general. The government of Abia State will fully support programmes aimed at increasing the social and economic capital of the great women of Abia State.”
Continuing, he said that with the second-to-non highly skilled human capital available in the state and the people’s “can-do-spirit”. the state was the best place to start the pilot scheme of the Nigeria for women project.
In their remarks, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Ugoeze Kate Onyemachi, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. (Mrs.) Nnenna Chikezie, disclosed that the World Bank Group, working in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, was in the state on advocacy and programme review visit.
According to the Commissioner, “The team came in preparation for the Nigeria For Women Project, a World Bank Assisted project aimed at improving the lives of Nigeria women.”
Dr Chikezie informed that the team has visited many communities in the three geopolitical zones of the state to interact first hand with the state;s women groups as Abia state had been selected as the only state in the South East zone to benefit from the pilot scheme.
Earlier in her speech, the Social Development Specialist of the World Bank, Rosa Maria Martins, said that Abia State was one of the six states selected for the project from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and confirmed that Abia women showed great enthusiasm with the project and expressed belief that the project will be a huge success in Abia State and lead to rapid expansion to accommodate other Nigerian states.
She informed that a total of 100 million Dollars was earmarked for the project in Nigeria and that the team was making progress in the State, especially with the information gathered so far in the communities and applauded the state government for the strong support showed to the World Bank team.
Also speaking, the World Bank Gender Consultant for Nigeria, Mrs Wumi Dada, said the project seeks to help women build their own social capital so as to improve their livelihood. She said the project was designed to respond to the needs of Abia women and girls, adding that Abia State women seem to have gone ahead by already associating in easy to identify groups and added that she sees the State to be forerunners of the project in Nigeria.
The Gender Consultant also described the people of Abia State as accommodating and hospitable vowing to share her pleasant experiences in Abia with others.