How FirstGem Empowered Women Amidst Recession

At a time when some households, firms and agencies were scrambling for funds to combat the recessive state of the Nigerian economy, a unique product aptly designed by First Bank of Nigeria Limited, called FirstGem, has helped some Nigerian women actualise their dreams through easily accessible funds to start up and to expand their businesses. A perusal into the nature, benefits and characteristics of the banking product unveiled some intriguing facts.


FirstGem which marked it’s first year anniversary recently, having kicked off in October 2016, is a product suite that cuts across women from 18 years and above irrespective of location and social status, providing an opportunity for women to create a savings plan and culture that guarantees them safety in the future; which enables them to save towards a specific target.

The product:

In a bid to overcome the challenges women face with asset ownership as collateral to back up loan accessibility for business development and expansion, FirstBank saw the need to create a value-enhancing culture that will enable women build their businesses and careers to credible and acceptable standards that would ensure reliability and dependency for the home front, society and economy at large.

This culture stemmed from the line of thought explained by Mrs. Ibukun Awosika who said: “Women tend to make their own resources a consumable resource for the family”.

She explained that most women channel their income to the day to day running of the home, and even when their resources are built into the family’s acquisition of an asset that may guarantee access for greater wealth, this access is denied because the asset may not be registered in the woman’s name.

These challenges birthed the FirstGem and according to Awosika, the last one year of FirstGem being launched has brought amazing results.

More than 170,000 women have lined up for the product; and we have been amazed at what these women have been able to achieve, Awosika enthused.

The results brought to reality an increase in the number of women involved in driving socio-economic change through different areas of human endeavours in the 21st century. FirstBank thus considered these women in diverse careers and businesses and their contribution to the Bank’s bottom line and the nation’s GDP on the long run, to come up with FirstGem thereby solidifying its support to provide access to the required funds for value enhancement at a minimal interest rate.

The values:

Investment Enabler: One of the core values of the product is that it enables women to create wealth for themselves and their families from various investment platforms offered through the product such as different trust products, short-term financial derivatives, money market funds, etc.

Soft loans access: Another value is the avenue creation for women to have access to soft loans (access to BOI Funds) at single-digit interest rates to support their aspirations and economic development in their different fields of endeavour.

A notable discovery was that FirstGem offer opportunities for women and girls to have access to financial tools and resources they require to achieve security and prosperity and enhances women’s lifestyle needs.

Retail store discounts: More interesting is the fact that First Gem account holders enjoy tremendous discounts from retails stores and lifestyle improvement outfits in strategic partnership with FirstBank.

The anniversary:

To mark an eventful year, the bank held a conference themed: “Positioning for Business and Financial success,” on 5th December, at the Harbor Point, Wilmot Point Close, in Victoria Island Lagos.

The conference was an avenue for networking and for financial Advisers, Real estate tycoons, brand executives to educate women about investing, saving as well as spending.

The product uniquely tied to the female gender alone as explained by the product manager, Mrs Adebimpe, is for the empowerment and support of Nigerian women to attain and maximize their potentials by making them their own bosses.

Adebimpe revealed that by being an account holder, series of training and workshops have been conducted for women in different regions in Nigeria, including Benue, Osun, Abia, Enugu, Edo state etc, with over 10,000 women fully financially trained.

The attendees were treated to series of lectures which was rounded off by Awosika. In her words “only a crazy businessman takes half his resource and locks it up without full utilization of that asset’’

Awosika advised that every woman that is Nigerian is a major asset for Nigeria, but only if we fully utilize the value of that woman.

She said our productivity as a nation would always be low if we are relying on only the men and a few women to produce for 100% of the population”.

In her remarks, she stated how most of her biggest successes in life has been as a wife in her husband’s house even though she got married at the early stage of her business, so being married or single shouldn’t be a barrier to generating wealth.

Awosika encouraged all women to add value to the progress of their homes because in all religions the husband and wife becomes one.

The business mogul advised attendees to teach their children about money after they have been educated themselves. “You can’t teach your children what you do not know.”

She encouraged all women to start the savings culture no matter how little and stay through, because “to earn respect in your household, you have to be an asset”.

Taking it one notch higher, Awosika made everyone present to decide what their financial goal for 2018 would be and write it down. She encouraged participants to make sure they worked towards it. And closed with the popular quote which says “If you plan for nothing you achieve nothing.”

The testimonials

In the course of the conference, the DAILY TIMES had the privilege to listen to some of the testimonials from account holders and chat with conference attendees, here is what they had to say.

Mrs Olaniyi is a first-timer, who owns a school in Lagos Mainland. Olaniyi told the Daily Times that having a First Gem account has made it easy for her to access loans.

She encouraged other women business owners to cling on to the opportunity the FirstGem account offers. she added that she had applied to many other banks for business expansion funds which have turned our unsuccessful until she keyed into the FirstGem account.

According to Olaniyi, “the opportunity the product offers to business owners is immeasurable. It goes a long way to change lives”, she said

The success story of Proprietor, Temple School, Mrs Shirley Okharedia, was aired at the conference. According to Mrs Shirley, her growth and success are all thanks to First Bank.

“In 2004, I started my school with just 7 pupils with my income, it grew to 100 students in 2007. I then started a journey with First Bank and have over 800 students and three different school branches. I am grateful because FirstBank did not despise my little beginning of 100 students at the time I applied for the loan but even helped me grow. FirstBank found the location where the secondary school is built and purchased it for me and also purchased the first school buses the school has got.”

Other attendees such as the CEO of IDB beauty, Kemi Dada, representative of AOL solicitors, Kunbi Majekodunmi, and others lauded the efforts of the bank, describing the product as an eye opener, and an enlightening opportunity to invest in.

The campaign

The bank has spared no expense in trying to create awareness around the product.

Taking a cue from former UN Secretary General who said “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”, FirstBank in living true to this testimonial and in recognition of the impact of women’s contribution to economic development, has taken the vision of FirstGem to different women empowerment programs across different cities and states of the Federation via international conferences, seminars, workshops, roadshows, etc. Some of the events supported and leveraged by FirstGem within the past one year include:

i. Oyo State Women Empowerment Programme, organised by the First Lady of Oyo State to expose women of Oyo State to various opportunities in trade and commerce, savings and investments, food and agriculture, fashion, tourism, education, and lots of other economic empowerment initiatives. ii. Southern States Governors Wives’ Forum hosted by the First Lady of Abia State – a gathering that galvanized women from all the 17 Southern States to create awareness and consciousness in women as economy change agents to move in and take their place in the global scheme of things, iii.Benue State Women Empowerment Programme in Makurdi, Benue State; iv. Mentoring Women to Posterity held at Enugu, Enugu State; v. The Girl Entrepreneur – a book review held at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State – all of these events and roadshows speak to one singular global course – women development and empowerment. vi. OAU International Law Students Women Conference – A 2-day entrepreneurship workshop on Women empowerment and financial all-inclusiveness powered by FirstGem.

The benefits:

With FirstGem, female customers can access support funds for their total financial wellbeing, free business advisory to meet their economic needs and aspirations, specialized trainings on business development initiatives, regular information and insight on business opportunities in various sectors and industries as well as tremendous discounts at merchant outlets that offer lifestyle products and services amongst other benefits.

FirstGem comes in variants of Savings and Current accounts and it is designed to benefit women professionals, entrepreneurs, SMEs, women in paid employment as well as low income earners, traders and artisans.

With FirstGem, there is something for every woman.

Culled from Daily Times 

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