Press Release -NETRIGHT to Host the Biggest Feminist Conference in Ghana

A group photograph of resource persons at the National Policy Dialogue

As part of its efforts to promote women’s economic rights and security in Ghana, NETRIGHT in partnership with the Graca Machel Trust and Crossroads International held a national policy dialogue on the theme ‘Gendered COVID-19 Impacts on Women-owned Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and Women’s Financial Inclusion in a Digital Economy’ in Accra. Stakeholders assessed the impact of COVID-19 on women-owned businesses and provided and provided key recommendations to inform policy direction on eliminating barriers that inhibit their growth.

Representing the Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawamia as the keynote speaker, the Minister for Public Enterprise, and Member of Parliament of Effia constituency in the Western Region, Hon. Joseph Cudjoe urged stakeholders to leverage technology by finding innovative ways to enhance women’s businesses. He called on NETRIGHT to “work with data platforms to find markets to enable women to transact their business.” Hon Cudjoe suggested that signing agreement with government agencies such as Ghana Post would enable women to have access to its micro-grant insurance products to boost their small-scale businesses.

In her remarks, the 2nd Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Mrs. Elsie Addo Awadzi, noted that, there is a huge gap on women’s access to financial support. She added that many interventions to alleviate the hardship on women and men in the post-COVID-19 period tended to benefit men. This is due to the fact that many women lack the requisite skills and technical know-how to access such grants. An example is the lack of sufficient knowledge on the use of digital service platforms such as mobile money to transact business. Explaining how gaps on women’s access to financial services can be bridged, the 2nd Deputy Governor urged stakeholders to find efficient ways to promote women’s entrepreneurial skills at an early stage of engaging with them.

The Interim Country Manager for Crossroads International, Gifty Volimkarime Kuug on her part said, “we do realize that digital innovation is one of the components that women are very disadvantaged and excluded and in selecting our partners for our 2022 to 2027 women economic empowerment programme, we were very deliberate in our search, and we are happy to have NETRIGHT as one of our partners in implementing this project.”

During the opening session of the dialogue, presentations were made as follows:

  • ‘COVID-19 measures and its gendered impact on women’s livelihoods” by Prof. Abena D Oduro of the Department of Economics at the University of Ghana”
  • “Prospects and challenges for women’s financial inclusion in promoting an inclusive digital economy” by Mrs. Clarrisa Kudowor, the Assistant Director of Payment System at the Bank of Ghana.

The presentations which were based on research on post- COVID-19 impact on women-owned businesses, showed that increased household chores took away time women could have spent on business activities. Those who adopted innovative options such as the use of social media platforms to do business, could also not thrive due to lack of funds to promote their businesses online and poor internet connectivity.

It was recommended that women can effectively participate in labour programmes, if they are relieved of the burden of care and excessive household chores. Also, addressing the challenge with internet connectivity by designing Digital Financial Services (DFS) that solve problems for women and continuous financial literacy to build their capabilities and autonomy is urgent.

 A panel discussion moderated by Prof. Emerita Takyiwaa Manuh, featured two women entrepreneurs who shared how COVID-19 impacted their work. The Executive Director of Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM), Fati Abigail Abdulai pointed out that several women lost their start-up capital, mentioning single mothers who had no support systems as the worst affected.

The other panellist, Mabel Simpson, the CEO of mSimps, a creative enterprise, on her part indicated that she had to diversify into the making of nose masks and increased production by engaging other seamstresses who had fallen out of business during the lockdown period. According to the two speakers, although they applied for the state’s Corona Virus Alleviation Programme – Business Support Scheme (CAP-BuSS), they were not successful.

The Coordinating Director (Technical) at the Ministry of Finance, Eva Mends pointed out that the pandemic has shown that many women are poverty-stricken and need support. She noted that Ghana as a country needs to boost its value addition to reduce the rate of importation of goods.

The NETRIGHT Convenor, Prof. Akosua Darkwah, said the last Mastercard Index for women entrepreneurs showed that about “40% of our women are entrepreneurs and yet we do not see the full benefit of the work that they do, they are not able to grow their enterprises in the way that they should, in the ways that will generate income for not just themselves but their families as a whole, that was the situation even before COVID, now that COVID has hit us, we are going to hear about how that has made the situation even worse.”

Prof. Darkwah reiterated NETRIGHT’s commitment to reaching out to more women to ensure that they earn adequate incomes from their businesses.  She indicated that NETRIGHT and its partners will continue to deepen advocacy on women’s financial inclusion by engaging the state to implement important policy recommendations which would be generated from the dialogue to improve women’s lives adding that “if our women’s lives improve, all of us improve as well.”

The dialogue brought together over fifty stakeholders drawn from women-owned enterprises, government and private sector institutions, financial institutions, civil society organizations, academia, trade unions and associations as well as women’s rights organizations (WROs) across Ghana.