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Junior Achievement Nigeria and Union Bank Demonstrates Continued Commitment to UN SDG5

…records 8 years of Impact with LEAD Camp Partnership

Gender inequality represents a major threat to economic global development as world organizations confess its ability to hinder a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable human existence. Gender discrimination is considered to have an enormous impact on nations’ capability to achieve economic growth, while its psychological effects — low self-esteem, stress, and trauma — on affected individuals make it one of the world’s most critical challenges to conquer.

Across the globe, women and girls are, unfortunately, still identified as the most marginalised gender, with rampant subjection to a range of issues including pay gap, sexual and domestic violence, lack of access to education or positions of leadership, early marriage, genital mutilation, and many more. Women, under these debilitating conditions, are prone to poverty, oppression, and violence.

According to a report by UN Women, in 2020, the number of employed women declined by 54 million. This is despite the fact that they, compared to their male counterparts, have fewer opportunities to land high-paying jobs. Hence it is unsurprising that they are also generally at greater risk of falling into poverty, as evidenced by the statistics that nearly 60 percent of women work in the informal economy and an estimated 435 million women and girls globally live in extreme poverty.

Gender-based violence is perhaps the gravest violation of basic human rights in the world as of the 21st century. The UN Women reports that one in five women and girls between the ages of 15 – 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence within 12 months, while another 200 million-plus women and girls in 30 countries have been subjected to female genital mutilation. In exercising their rights to choose when and who to marry, women and girls are again at a grave disadvantage. At least 750 million women and girls in the world were married before the age of 18, the UN Women says.

These alarming data indicate the world is far from balancing the scale in allowing women and girls to maximally exercise their fundamental human rights and enjoy equal access to opportunities in society. With progress in establishing an equal world of rights and opportunities for all gender still at a snail’s pace and posing a great obstacle for many nations, achieving gender parity has expectedly taken centre stage in the global efforts towards sustainable development goals.

This explains why the United Nations, in its efforts towards a sustainable world in 2030, dedicates Goal 5 of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieving gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls.

“Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large,” the organisation says, as it tasks member nations to adopt unique strategies to combat the challenge.

In Africa, the challenge of gender inequality is even more prevalent. It is projected that achieving gender parity on the continent could take at least a century, and as such, tackling the challenge head-on to meet the UN’s standard by 2030 would require the collective, strategic, and relentless efforts of governments, the public and private organisations, and individuals. It would also require a deep understanding of the socio-economic and socio-political benefits equal gender treatment presents for the continent’s growth. Gender equality in the labour market, for instance, if achieved, could add $1 trillion to Africa’s collective GDP by 2025, while the continued existence of a disparity could also cost the continent nearly $700 billion within the same timeframe.

Fortunately, in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, deliberate efforts to reduce gender inequality for societal and national growth have kicked into gear by well-meaning organisations with a focus on educating, empowering, and liberating women and girls.

Non-profit organisations such as Junior Achievement of Nigeria, and Union Bank – Nigeria’s foremost financial institution, have devoted a significant part of their sustainable development mission to ensuring young girls and women have unrestricted opportunities to thrive in society. Both organisations have, for eight years, forged a strategic partnership to advance the LEAD Camp intervention program, a long-running initiative to inspire and empower young girls to become high-achieving women leaders in society.

With LEAD Camp, young girls are taken through a camp-style program where they benefit from a series of activities that address critical areas including career development, financial literacy, general health and wellness, and sexual reproductive health. During the program, participating girls learn from some of the most outstanding and illustrious women across the globe, courtesy of Junior Achievement of Nigeria’s association with its global counterpart, Junior Achievement Worldwide.

Junior Achievement Nigeria’s Executive Director, Foluso Gbadamosi says of the program, “The LEAD Camp is to demonstrate that regardless of their socio-economic status, background or career path they choose to take young girls and women, can be successful with the right guidance, mindset, skill sets and network. And we will continue to inspire and provide them with a world of possibilities to thrive excellently.”

Signifying its success in advancing women’s cause in the country, the program, now in its 21st year, has played a significant role in developing and advancing the career of over 1,000 girls in Nigeria, churning notable and influential alumni such as Nkechi Eze- Balogun, Founder of Asoebi Bella; Oduolayinka Osunloye, Youth Advisor at IREX; Oyin Olugbile-Adewale, Founder, Parisian Consult; among others.

The LEAD Camp program’s latest edition — the eighth collaboration between Junior Achievement of Nigeria and Union Bank — was recently held in July with participation from over 300 girls. The week-long event was used to provide guidance and improve the skill sets of the girls in areas of financial literacy, entrepreneurship, technology, creative arts, and entertainment. Development sessions in the program included coding, understanding sexual abuse, and personal hygiene, while the participants also received mentorship from respectable and high-ranking women in the country’s private and public sectors.

“This partnership reinforces our commitment to the push for gender equality and our focus on supporting the girl child. We are proud to see the impact of the programme on the young girls across the country, and we commend the efforts of the JAN team who work tirelessly to impact them,” Union Bank’s Brand and Marketing Officer Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem says.

The success of initiatives like LEAD Camp is a critical indicator of the progress and growth Africa and Nigeria can attain if more public and private organisations, independent societal bodies, and future-forward individuals would play similar active roles in ensuring women and girls enjoy a level playing field in society.

For nations on the continent determined to achieve the United Nations’ gender parity target in less than a decade, Junior Achievement Nigeria and Union Bank have laid a blueprint worthy of emulation. And this portends hope that the dream of a gender-equal world can indeed become a reality in no distant time.

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