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Microfinance access not enough to empower women -Oputu

By The Citizen
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The Managing Director, Bank of Industry, Dr. Evelyn Oputu, has said increased access to microfinance will not necessarily empower women.

She said this in Lagos while delivering a keynote address at the LAPO Microfinance Bank 2013 Conference, which had the theme, 'Financial inclusion and female empowerment'.

Oputu, said for women to be empowered, fundamental or micro economic growth issues must be addressed.

'There are many issues that are fundamental that we need to address not just because of the environment. It is not just about the money,' she said.

According to her, it is one thing to have access to a variety of products, but it is another thing for the client to use them.

The BOI MD, who said financial inclusion was multi-dimensional, stressed that a lot had to be done to achieve financial inclusion for women.

She said the financial illiteracy level needed to be addressed as many women were currently incapable of using new technology meant to enhance their businesses and the process of accessing funds.

She added 'If we do not break those vital and cultural norms that ensure that women are trapped no matter how much money you throw at them, we will remain down.'

While stressing that the nation stood to gain a lot if its women were empowered, Oputu praised LAPO Microfinance Bank for the efforts it had  made to encourage female entrepreneurs.

She said, 'Usually, when a woman creates a little income it changes lives; it changes the life of the children - they have better health and they go to school. So, generally the life of the community improves, which is why I really applaud what LAPO has done.'

The Chief Executive Officer, LAPO Microfinance Bank, Mr. Godwin Ehigiamusoe, explained that the institution was designed to provide financial and social empowerment services to address challenges of material deprivation, poor health and social exclusion, respectively.

Ehigiamusoe, who disclosed that the bank had successfully disbursed $1bn in loans over the years with a client base over one million, said it would continue to work towards the expansion of its business.

He said, 'In the next few years, we will see LAPO pushing for greater outreach in line with our core belief that meaningful poverty alleviation can only take place if a large number of the poor is reached.'

In the course of the conference, the bank gave out scholarships to both secondary school pupils and university students. It also honored its oldest serving employee and presented awards to four of its clients.