• Sunday, April 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

National strategic council member shows how MAN can promote women in manufacturing

National strategic council member shows how MAN can promote women in manufacturing

A female entrepreneur, manufacturer, and education investor has made a case for the setting up of a desk for women in the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).

Ekama Emilia Akpan, one-time chapter chairman for Rivers/Bayelsa and former national vice president of MAN for the easto, said time has come for a desk to be set up for women in the association.

In an exclusive interview with BusinessDay in Port Harcourt, Akpan said women feel shy to identify with MAN, but urged the association to create a unit and programmes loaded with training and other incentives that can attract women.

She said the women can grow and rank equal with men through soft packages and education with skills and value boost.

The investor and CEO of Showers Group of Companies including International Group of Schools said women must be mobilised and trained on record keeping and on value chain management to reduce exploitation and cheating. “Middlemen are exploiting the women.

“The middlemen are merely sustaining poverty in the society and among women. Women would need to grow in how they manage their businesses. If the merchants know that the women know the real value of their products, they would not cheat them.”

She said once the women exceed the micro level, they should be made to access training at medium business level and from there to export business. “Packaging training will come with its technicalities. Most Nigerian products are rejected abroad whether deliberately or not, truth is that our people hardly know international packaging standards and certifications.

“So, making women to participate in businesses is good. Women are smart. Empowering women helps men at home. An empowered woman assists the husband.”

She said MAN is still struggling with how to help women. “They say let everybody operate at equal standards. We agree but what has been done to give them (women) training, short term education; have you made the school to know what the women should learn to be strong in the business space?”

She said most women stop after secondary school level but wondered what education women have acquired to compete in business. “We hear the government is building entrepreneurship schools. That is good. Women should be encouraged to go there.”

She advised that for MAN to be accepted globally, they must have a policy on promoting women in manufacturing, else, anywhere they go in the world, they would ask them; where are the women, or you do not want women?

“They will think MAN is not serious. We must reflect nature which made humanity into man and woman. Any nation that has become successful and organised has recognised women. Go to Denmark, Finland, etc.

“I have been discussing the need for the government to be aware of what has been missing in the economy; women. It is about the lack of recognition of their contribution to the economy, or what they can contribute more to the growth of the economy. Women are many in the SME segment. The more we start talking about it, the better.”

Akpan said there is need for every arm of government to start taking women in business seriously. “If you train one woman, she will influence her community and family. Women have a huge role to play. Women are almost half of the population. That is the fact of creation. So, why is government neglecting women, always including them as mere symbolism.”

To liberate Nigeria, she advised, the government must mobilise women. “When the population increases to up to 250 million, how do we intend to handle it?

“Nigeria is recording high poverty rate because women have not been integrated into the economic subway. I thank God the FG has given the men some paternity leave of few weeks. Men should be given many weeks to help nurse the baby so they can appreciate what it takes to nurse a baby.”

On the handicaps facing women, she said most women prefer trading. “It is time we had a body of manufacturers who can speak about adding value to products and selling at higher price and know the kinds of products that can be sold outside the country.’

Akpan said there are no many women that have the courage to join MAN. Women think men perceive them to be incompetent. “In WIMBIZ (Women in business), they have what they call sub-members. They are those members that may not have much money to pay those membership fees. They are allowed to operate at levels not for full members.

“They are allowed into trainings, mentorship, etc. There is nano enterprise made up of wife, husband and child. It means government recognises this level. So, if we say it does not matter in MAN, we would be making a mistake. They should allow women at small levels to come in. They can be given a special level; less fees, less meetings, etc, but participate in subsidised trainings so they can grow their businesses until the time they can become full time members.

“They say they have places for such people like NASSI but I beg to disagree because that type of discrimination should not have arisen if we had one body that can manage all the bodies. NASSI and NASME are no manufacturers but traders.”

She said manufacturing has become very technical. “If you have machines that are highly automated, you need some training to manage them. Selling online requires training. MAN is there to enhance the economy. So, that means they have to help the women to grow.”