By Innocent Eteng
Following reports of multiple taxation and associated harassment of women at their business places by government task forces, security operatives and unidentified sources, NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) has taken to sensitizing women on business-enabling environment.
Titled “Promoting a Business Enabling Environment for Women in the Informal Sector In Rivers State”, the event came yesterday at Obio Akpor Local Government Council in Port Harcourt.
Women were told how to channel their complaints should they be harassed. Toyin Odobo, an executive member of NNEW in Rivers State said part of it is working with radio and television stations for business women to direct complaints.
“For example, this year, we had Ehidiana of Wave FM in our meetings. She offered to be a champion advocate. She has a Saturday programme for market women. We brought her on board and she is part of us. She gave her phone number and contacts. So if anybody knows of any harassment, it is just a call away,” Odobo said.
Odobo also said it becomes easier because the sensitization is sequel to NNEW’s advocacy calls to government, legislative assemblies and security agencies to put measures in place that would protect women at their informal market places.
“We have had different advocacy visits to those in power. We have had advocacy visits to regulators and those in different circles and we are sure that they would respond soon. “We are sure that government has heeded to our plight. We are still expecting them to do more,” she added.
On her part, Debbie Effiong, anchor person of a cluster organisation to NNEW, Arise for Gender and Childhood Intitiative (ARISE), said another channel for women to get a business-enabling environment is a “sales space platform” handled by legal practitioners.
Effiong, who is also a legal practitioner, said complaints received via the platform would then be given a legal push on behalf of the harassed trader.
“Part of what we are doing, apart from putting policies in place, is, we are creating a platform where the traders can actually channel complaints of acts of harassment to. As legal practitioners and people who are doing the necessary follow up, we can take up the matter and then push for action,” Effiong said.
She further said the need to fight for a free business environment for women becomes necessary because: “women are critical stakeholders when it comes to the home. A lot of us here are products of multiple businesses that our mothers ran.
“It was from there they fed the family. It was from there they trained some of us. Because we know that this is one critical area of concern, we cannot overlook it and that is why this action is in place.”
A trader at the event, Glory Hwusionu, said she is excited at the NNEW initiative because she has been a victim of harassment from those selling tickets at the Mile Three Market in Port Harcourt where she trades. She said at the market, some days she pays as many as four different groups parading as tax collectors and ticket sellers.
“There is this set of boys that use to collect money and when you don’t give them immediately they ask you, they would scatter your goods. My last experience was very, very bad to me and uncalled for.
“The boy just beat me up and tore my dress. He was just telling me ‘give me ticket money’, and that was when I was already packing by my goods by 7pm. Immediately, he carried my goods and started flinging them. I am happy with this NNEW initiative and sensitisation. I believe it would help us,” 40-year-old Hwusionu said.
NNEW is a project of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA). It has the objective of promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship among women.