IWD 2024: We are committed to women empowerment, says MTN Foundation

In commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024, MTN Foundation, the Corporate Social Responsibility division of MTN Nigeria, has reaffirmed its dedication to advancing women’s empowerment and fostering women entrepreneurship through its “Y’ellopreneur Initiative.”

Odunayo Sanya, the Executive Director of the MTN Foundation, announced that 1,000 female entrepreneurs will directly benefit from investments totalling N600 million during the official launch of Phase 2 of the Y’ellopreneur initiative at the telecom company’s headquarters in Lagos.She disclosed that the application process for the program, which officially commenced on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, and is expected to conclude on March 30, 2024, is tailored to target female entrepreneurs in medium-sized enterprises with a minimum SSCE education background, demonstrating passion and commitment to self-employment.

Eligible applicants should have been running an existing business for two years or more, particularly in circular economy sectors such as manufacturing, processing, agriculture, ICT/digital services, waste management, and energy generation, with a focus on businesses that predominantly source their raw materials locally.

She said: “The programme initiative seeks to contribute to the reduction in women’s unemployment and advance women’s development in “entrepreneurship” through capacity building to enhance their entrepreneurial abilities and establish some of the Female Entrepreneurs with small business loans/grants and advisory support services for sustainability.”Sanya explained that the second phase of the initiative will see the sum of N450 million being made available at N3 million each for the top 150 qualified Y’ellopreneurs to access equipment loans at a 2.5 percent flat interest rate. And upon full repayment of the loan, the sum of N112,500,000 will be refunded to them as Grants.
According to her, continued involvement of women in entrepreneurship and business management will help in providing income for their family/home, in turn contributing to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.“The initiative will contribute to bridging the entrepreneurship skills gap and push for women’s self-employment in alignment with the Federal Government’s development agenda, as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 17,” the Foundation’s Executive Director added.
Minister of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Lagos state, Cecilia Bolaji Dada expressed delight and optimism in the partnership while emphasizing the state government’s dedication to poverty reduction among women and others.She said: “For us as a ministry, we do everything possible to reduce the level of poverty in Lagos state and improve the socio-economic development of not just women but also men and everybody who wants to get out of poverty in the state. Having listened to Odunayo Sanya, it’s clear that most of the things she talked about are things that we also do as a ministry. The difference is that ours is on-site and not virtual.
“We have about 20 skills acquisition centres where about 19 skills are being taught free of charge and since 2019, over 21,000 students have graduated from these schools.”Dada explained how most beneficiaries begin making money even while the training is still ongoing. According to her, those who learn the art of make-up and gele tying are encouraged to go out four days in the week: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to event to offer their services to customers and in turn are able to make as much as N10,000 daily and about N200,000 monthly which some gainfully employed graduates are unable to make.She also expressed hope that most of the recipients for phase two will be from Lagos State while appreciating the MTN foundation for the initiative as well as its support over the years towards the state’s skills acquisition centres.

Dada added: “I want to congratulate you once again for being partners in progress and in the reduction of poverty and hunger in Nigeria.”Founder of Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR), Amina Oyagbola during her speech, demonstrated that the Y’ellopreneur initiative resonates with the objective of this year’s International Women Day (IWD) celebration theme tagged: “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress”, aimed at tackling economic disempowerment, with “Inspire Inclusion” as the campaign theme.I think this is a fantastic initiative by the MTN Foundation. It’s an initiative whose time has come”, she said.“It’s a catalytic initiative. And I’m so delighted to have been given the opportunity to be here because one way in which the economic challenges that Nigeria has, can be solved is through initiatives like this. Gone are the days when how many companies can employ how many people? We’re a huge population.“So, it’s only through entrepreneurship that we can really create jobs. And one low-hanging fruit, really is the woman. This is why the IWD theme this year talks about inspiring inclusion and investing in women, which is what this project is all about; they’re truly investing in women.”The MTN Y’ellopreneur project, she emphasised, will have a catalytic effect, encouraging others to join the programme and contribute to solving economic problems.Addressing the challenges that hinder the growth of women in businesses in Nigeria, Oyagbola highlighted the importance of partnership stating: “The solution to most problems in the world is partnership and I think the MTN Foundation philosophy has showcased the power of partnership.“Even the Y’ellopreneur is a partnership work. They didn’t sit down and say they believe they know everything, no. They identified all the critical partners, Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDCs) and others across the board to ensure that the module that they’ve designed is effective and impactful.WISCAR boss further canvassed for Public Private Partnerships (PPP), insisting it’s the only means to effectively tackle economic challenges.“So, for me, I think Public Private Partnerships (PPP) is the way. So public sector, government, private sector, MTN Foundation, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR) and others that exist alongside other technical partners. Because everybody brings their own unique strength, and knowledge to the table.“And through that mechanism, collectively; you make a collective impact and you scale to be able to power forward. And that really is the way to go because if you want to go fast, you go alone. But if you must go far, then you have to go with people,” she added.

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