At the heart of empowering a nation and developing communities is women empowerment, letting them express their opinions as individuals. Studies and research carried out by organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Africa Development Bank continue to assert this by adopting gender-based strategies in a bid to eradicate poverty and improve the economy of a nation.
Empowering women by granting them access to vast opportunities and information will not only lead to personal development for women but also the development of the communities and societies they operate in.
Access Bank remains at the forefront of women empowerment by leveraging on the ‘W’ initiative as a channel. The Bank pioneered women banking in Nigeria with the establishment of the Gender Empowerment Movement (GEM) in 2006 which later evolved into the ‘W’ Initiative, officially created in 2014. Such dedication to women empowerment has led to over 35% of its customer that are women.
The ‘W’ Initiative is a robust plan to provide women with banking solutions tailored to meet their diverse career and lifestyle requirements. It is a virtual community that aims to inspire and connect women to opportunities nationally and internationally, as well as give them a rewarding banking experience. In simpler terms, the ‘W’ Initiative is the home for everything Access Bank offers women and is open to all women irrespective of who they bank with.
No doubt, the Bank has been committed to championing female empowerment, with a focus on information sharing, capacity building, and increased access to finance to grow and expand their businesses.
Specifically, the ‘W’ Academy, a program under the ‘W’ initiative focuses on capacity building sessions, In Vitro Fertilization opportunities, networking programs among others. This platform is anchored on addressing gaps in gender financing and technological skills among women while bridging business and managerial skills gap among thousands of female entrepreneurs through workshops and events.
As a young woman focused on personal development, or as a business owner looking to contribute positively to the economy or one whose primary concern is providing comfort for her family, the ‘W’ community provides women with timely updates on developments that affect their personal and family lives, careers, and businesses.
One major challenge women in Africa face is access to loans and variety of financial assistance to help expand and improve their businesses. To address this, Access Bank created the ‘W’ Power loan, a scheme designed to bridge the financing gaps for women in business and provides business support services and visibility for these businesses. Since its launch in July 2018, over 60 loans have been approved valued at over N1 billion for financing expansion of operations, acquisition of fixed/capital assets, and working capital requirement.
Speaking on the Bank’s dedication to empowering the female gender, The Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, explained that the importance of creating an environment where women thrive both personally and in business cannot be overemphasized.
Noting that the role of women in nation-building could not be under-estimated. Wigwe observed that women formed a strategic focus for the Bank. “From the very beginning, at the heart of our strategy is support for women, helping them and connecting them to global opportunities. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed as evidenced by our numerous awards and recognition in the area of female empowerment,” he said.
With the numerous cultural and financial barriers women face, Access Bank continues to create platforms and solutions where women can fully harness their potential. Having trained over 75,000 women, in 81 locations across 19 states in Nigeria in finance, education, SMEs, event planning and many others, this financial institution continues to reinforce its dedication to enabling women to thrive in their various fields.
The Bank is a proud recipient of the National Women in Finance Magazine Outstanding Banking Initiative Awards for 2015, the Global Banking Alliance (GBA) Women’s Market Champion Award for the same year, Global Banking Alliance Highest Engagement Award in 2017, CBN Excellence in Women Economic Empowerment Award in 2017 and 2019, Women in Marketing and Communications Female Friendly Bank of the Year Award in 2018, National Council for Women Society Nigeria Dedication to Women Entrepreneurship Award for 2018, among others.