Micro credit facilities means the provision of little amount of money to someone to start a new trade or improve on an existing one.
Sustainable development means such approaches to development that even though they are embarked upon now, yet does not jeopardize the chances of future generations in attaining their own developmental goals.
Rural women covers all women leaving in places where the yardstick for measuring development like well established markets, good hospitals, high rising buildings, good schools, good roads, electricity and pipe borne water are not available. Usually in this part of the world, cities and seats of power are in urban or semi-urban centres. Other places are rural, and this is where most people including women live.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (2005), people are counted poor when their standard of living falls below minimum acceptable threshold like food, energy in take, dollar per day or generally subjective measures to welfare on survival.
Poverty wears a multitude of faces and has numerous dimensions. It threatens all aspects of people’s lives by depriving them of the capabilities needed to survive, develop and thrive. It entrenches or widens socio-economic and gender disparities that prevent women from enjoying equal opportunities and undermines protective family and community environments, leaving women and young girls vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, violence, discrimination and stigmatization.
Measures to Reduce Poverty:
Nigeria has taken some measures to reduce the poverty level through various schemes; in the areas of provision of basic needs like health services, education, water supply, food, minimum nutrition requirements and housing among others. These were done but have not really affected the lives of the poor to improve their state of living. Programmes like National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP), Small Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIS) and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) etc have been initiated to provide credit facilities to grass root poor persons to improve their standard of living.
As at 2001, Central Bank of Nigeria survey shows that bulk of credit beneficiaries were women, as most of the Micro Finance Institutions began with some Non Governmental Organizations that have the promotion of women’s welfare as the basis for their establishment.
The rural smallholder is the epicenter of extreme poverty and hunger. Families of which women are usually the breadwinners face a vicious cycle of vulnerability, diseases and environmental degradation. These rural women are the bench mark of socio-economic status in community. They make sure that the livelihood of the family is either improved or maintained because they are responsible for the upbringing of world’s children. Poverty on the side of these women generally results in the physical and social underdevelopment of their children which in future affect economic and social development of a Nation.
Rural Women As Good Managers:
A good manager is always one that knows how and when to plan, execute the plan and achieve results. These are features seen in rural women. They try to maximize the little available resources resulting to achieve feeding their families. In light of this, according to the micro-credit summit campaign, experience shows that women are good credit risk takers of which they invest their income towards the well being of their families and also they have a higher social status achieved within the home whenever they are able to provide income for the family.
We are living at a time in history when the responsibility for the stewardship of humanity and the planet is shifting from Men to Women. We must combine home economics approach with income generating activities which are relevant and useful to women. As we face the challenges of the future, it is clear that Women’s wisdom, values and voices are sorely needed. In the present chaotic world, only women can handle any difficulty with patience and perseverance. The talent, patience, inner strength, power of tolerance, insight, efficiency of a responsible and good woman helps in the governance of a country and its overall progress.
Studies have shown that African women often did more than half the agricultural work, in one case as much as 80%, and that they also played an important role in trade. Rural women in Africa with their rural activities such as farming, micro scale form of business like petty trade are known to be home builders and an avenue of rural development; Women August meetings contributions and launching in the Eastern part of Nigeria has made remarkable impact in rural development like building of community town halls, renovation of community schools, renovation of community markets, electricity, borehole water supply etc. Our rural women have been endowed with wonderful potentials that can aid development if well harnessed. “Empower a Woman, and you have empowered a Nation”. Studies have shown that poverty in the rural areas affects women severely hence the saying that “poverty has the face of a woman”, but I am saying that, if empowered, the hand that rolls the engine (a woman’s hand) creates the wealth.
Wealth is created by people, both rich and poor on different types of approaches. Researchers have shown that micro credit facilities, if well managed can lift rural women to enviable developmental heights; that are of course sustainable. This paper therefore is a powerful wake-up call. It is an appeal to all Policy makers and Implementers as well as Civil Society Organizations, who usually are at the reach of rural women; to redirect strategies for sustainable development in order to better capture the socio-economic and institutional complexities of rural lives (women) and peoples’ aspirations. Government and Fund providers need more than in the past, to ponder how micro credit facilities can contribute to achievement of the ultimate objective of sustainable development. Women, once economically empowered assist in the achievement of Millennium Development Goals:-
-Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger.
-Achieve Universal Basic Education.
-Promote Gender Equality and Women Empowerment.
-Reduce Child Mortality.
-Improve Maternal Health.
-Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases.
-Ensure Environmental Sustainability.
-Develop Global Partnership for Development.
Empowerment through Skills Training: It is one thing to provide micro credit and another to utilize it well.
– You must have a skill and willingness to deliver.
– People that are willing should come together as a cluster.
– The cluster should be registered as a cooperative society.
– The cooperative should be functional and active to assist its members.
The cooperative should be able to organize its members for training on different skills like; fish farming, bead making, tie and die, dress making, confectionaries, modeling, all season vegetable cultivation, poultry, snail farming etc. Business nuggets on petty trading, Branding and Packaging will not be left out. Having done the above, micro credit will be provided to the trained women who are grouped according to their skills. The cooperative women’s capacities should be developed on fund management, how to market their products, how to save money with banks, how to repay debt and how to manage when loans are repaid.
This will involve the PEP approach: Participation, Empowerment and Partnership. The government will participate by providing funds, Non Governmental Organizations will participate by managing rural women and funds and the rural women (empowered) will participate by utilizing the resources well and these forms a formidable partnership for sustainable development. The micro-credit facility would be made to be revolving among cooperative members and admits more people so that ownership and partnership exists.
Unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks like inequality, discrimination, favoritism and unnecessary reforms that hinder women from accessing micro-credit facilities and in turn create poverty should be dismantled. Insufficient coordination, excessive policy conditionality and the likes should be removed.
We are blessed with hard working rural women, reputable NGOs, and listening Government, I wonder why we will not succeed if we can think of micro-credit to rural women as one of the tools for sustainable development.
It is my humble submission that the government should make micro-credit facilities available to rural women.
Women create wealth; they should be encouraged to manage the wealth they create so that Poverty would be reduced to its barest minimum.
Sources of Credit Facilities:
-Thrift Banking (Esusu)
-Micro Finance Institutes (MFIs)
-Micro Finance Banks (MFBs)
-International and National NGOs
Types of MFBs
-All workers Micro Finance Bank
-All Community Banks
-Lapo Micro Finance Bank
-Chikum Micro Finance Bank etc.