Tendai Rupapa recently in NEW YORK, United States
FIRST Ladies have a crucial role to play in preserving the value chain of girls, women and economic empowerment which are being destroyed by men through early marriages and gender-based violence.
This was said by African Development Bank (AfDB) president Dr Akinwumi Adesina while addressing a conference of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) and its partners on the sidelines of the 74th Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, who is passionate about women empowerment, is the vice president of OAFLAD.
Amai Mnangagwa has been going around the country rolling out economic empowerment projects for women and young girls especially those in marginalised communities.
She is also on record expressing concern over rampant child marriages in the country and calling for stakeholders to come up with practical solutions.
The AfDB boss, whose bank is rolling out funds for women in partnership with OAFLAD, decried the surge in child marriages across Africa.
“Across Africa, 125 million girls and young women today are being married before the age of 18. One in 10 girls marries before their 15th birthday.
“They miss out on education and start the cycle of dependence and disempowerment as they are subjugated, not empowered and this affects them and their children. They become trapped in a lifetime of constraint tto their potential and the vicious cycle goes on,” he said.
Education, Dr Adesina emphasised, was the best antidote against child marriage.
“The longer the girl child stays in school, the higher her chances of economic achievement in life just like you our dear First Ladies. We must end all forms of child marriages and here is to men ‘marry your own age mates and leave our girls alone’.
“Let’s be clear, women run Africa and if you want to notice it simply go to the farm and you will notice that over 75 percent of workers are women. Go to any market, majority of traders are women yet they are marginalised when it comes to finance to grow their businesses. There is existence of financial gap of $42 billion between males and females.”
Dr Adesina said it was harder for women to access financing, though there was evidence that they were more reliable when it comes to repayment of debts.
The financial system in Africa, the AfDB president noted, was biased against women and children and that is why his bank has launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa called AFAWA.
“AFAWA is establishing a US$300 million dollar re-shelling facility to release lending for women by all financial institutions in Africa. It will help to leverage US$3 billion directly for women businesses on the continent. AFAWA has just received US$16 billion from the initiative of US government and also from the World Bank and I am also delighted to inform you that at the G7 meeting in France President (Emmanuel) Macron joined African Heads of State to raise for AFAWA US$251 million. AFAWA will provide technical assistance to women businesses, to prepare bankable business plans, and also assist financial institutions to make their systems friendly for women and their businesses. AFAWA will be a systematic way to transform how financial institutions deal with women.”
Dr Adesina said his bank will set up the AFAWA index that will rate and rank all African financial institutions in Africa based on their volume of lending to women, interests rates they charge and their impact on women.