As ethical-based finance grows in economies like Nigeria, there has been increasing calls for women to actively participate and explore the opportunities and activities in the non-interest finance market (including banking).
Dr. Shukurat Bello, Senior Lecturer, Dangote Business School and Sub-Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences at Bayero University Kano, speaking on the Islamic finance weekly program focused on ‘Women in Business and Ethical Finance’, explained the various opportunities for women.
In a WebTV program monitored in Lagos, she first described ethical business practices as business conduct where the business owner or the managers consciously avoid things that will negatively affect society. According to her, ethical businesses give priority to areas like waste disposal, pollution control, a clean environment, water, and sanitation.
On women in business, she said women care a lot about their families, the environment and society. According to her, many of the women-owned businesses are into practices that are beneficial to society.
She asserted that women are participating actively in ethical businesses such as the food business and are playing key roles in moving global businesses forward.
“Women always want to do the best and women leading organization are better according to statistics”, she said.
Speaking further on the food business, Dr. Shukurat expressed concerns that industry players are only apprehensive about Halal and the ingredients used but not asking questions about the process involved in this business or addressing other issues such as child labour.
On Islamic businesses, Islamic finance and ethical frameworks, she said Islamic business practices is determined by Shariah/Islamic Law as it stipulates what is right, wrong, and contrary to Islamic finance in Nigeria, while covering activities in the social, environmental and governance space; though the impact of this is yet to be felt in the society.
She stressed the need for more awareness on the modalities of venturing into ethical businesses. In addition, she harped on the need for cleanliness, hygiene and safety in the use of products, while advocating for increased regulation and certification for the Halal Industry. Dr. Shukurat also noted that when there are more women on the board of companies, things get better including corporate governance and ethical issues.
Speaking on the challenge women face, she mentioned sexual harassment, gender discrimination and issues of welfare, adding that in some cases women are not allowed to go for maternity or antenatal checks in some companies which are part of the things that affect employees particularly women.
On access to ethical credit, she explained that ethical financing drives economies worldwide and the same goes for Nigeria. Speaking further, she noted that banks are looking into alternative finance, and urged financial institutions, service providers, and NGOs to create more enlightenment, particularly for women in the rural area in order to facilitate increased access to funds which remains a challenge for women in business. She expressed optimism that there will be a rise in ethical retail credit to women in the coming years due to the ongoing awareness campaigns embarked on by different associations.
On how more women can benefit from capacity building and learning sessions in the market, she said there are so many ways women can gain knowledge such as enrolling for short courses in the university. She also added that women can enrol for a diploma in Islamic finance and get Islamic finance certification.
She believes a lot needs to be done apart to enlighten the public about critical non-interest finance areas such as Islamic microfinance, Islamic microinsurance (Takaful) and wealth management; adding that there is a need for more retail businesses that are ethically minded, with support from consultants, researchers, and development experts.
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