The women of the Yeyedulo company community in Tufo district, Gurara local government area in Niger state, have set themselves the goal of drilling a well that will provide them with clean water for domestic use.
For the women, the grueling daily walk to the creek is an experience they want to change in their lives and put an end to for themselves, the younger generation, and the community at large.
For many years, families in the Yeyedulo business community have struggled to make a living from their various small-scale trades. These women may have been included in one or more economic empowerment projects scheduled to be implemented by the federal or state government, but none have improved their lives.
This situation has pushed them, therefore, to group together in an association calling itself Women Affinity Group (WAG), a group focused on the sole objective of promoting the economic and social well-being of women without special political ties. For them, life must be better, as they gradually channel their social capital into wealth.
Women, in particular, in trying to contribute to the economic growth of their family, have always engaged in one trade or another, all of which are carried out on a small scale, such as farming, rice bran, and the preparation and sale of rice. of local condiments. among others.
Therefore, the lack of available resources and access to basic financial skills has led women to adopt a new concept of self-development advocated by the World Bank-supported Nigeria for Women Program.
“There are days that we have to eat only once a day. Other times, we can’t cook because there may not be money to buy local oil or condiments to flavor our meals,” said Victoria Ibrahim, president of the rural affinity group.
Victoria’s story is a common one in many rural communities in Nigeria, where the federal government has said it is determined to lift 100 million people out of poverty. She represents part of the 41% of rural Nigerian women, who are in the business basically to survive.
While in this circle of deprivation, the federal government, in alliance with the World Bank, activated programs to eliminate extreme poverty, in line with goal one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Labeled the “Nigeria for Women Project” NFWP, the initiative, a special purpose vehicle to bring real empowerment to Nigerian women, runs in six states across the federation. It adopted a work template, and in two years, it has raised over N1 billion cash assets from these rural entrepreneurs, from the rural working poor who are gradually escaping extreme poverty.
Grace Kakau, a Behavior Change officer who is part of the programme, said that “the women have gradually turned their normal income into fruitful savings”, which has helped turn their economic lives around.
Speaking later, she said that “the women have implemented the various business skills they have learned from the program promoted by the World Bank and the federal government through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs; today, they are better than months ago.”
Speaking through an interpreter, Ms. Victoria Ibrahim, who leads the women’s group, said: “The program seemed to have been designed with us in mind. We can meet with my son’s school books. He no longer goes to school in torn uniforms and we can eat a decent meal.”
Under the World Bank program, women are ordered to self-select according to their economic and social status. They are woven into an affinity group with a minimum of fifteen and a maximum of twenty-five people to make weekly savings. It comprises personal savings and social fund contributions, interest-free loans that attract service charges and are redistributed among members at the end of a given cycle, pegged within nine months upwards to a full year.
According to the information available from the training manual, the pilot stage program targets a total of 324,000 women beneficiaries in total, grouped into 21,600 groups.
The five-year pilot programs have now entered their third year with six states in the pilot scheme. These were chosen based on geopolitical zone and include: Taraba, (north-east), Ogun, (south-west) Kebbi, (north-west) Abia, (south-east) Niger, (north-central) and AkwaIbom for south-south.
Allahnanan Simeon, is the secretary of the association. She said that “we are happy to have this type of meeting. She has brought us closer beyond the assistance greetings that end at the end of the words. When we meet at the creek to wash or fetch water, we care more about each other, the gathering has spawned a deeper community body between us,” she said.
Allahnanan recounted his efforts and how his living conditions improved as he advanced in his trade selling rice. She said: “She only had 20 measures (unmarked rice mudus). I got a loan of N5,000, after some time I got another loan of N20,000, because I was dedicated to the business. Today I can boast of selling a bag of rice. The program has eliminated the problem of total lack between us.”
These real life stories are what the program wants to replicate in the more than 8,000 neighborhoods in Nigeria to end extreme poverty, said Ruth Mshelia, National Coordinator of the Nigeria for Women Program.
The Niger state government has already demonstrated its commitment to the pilot program in some local governments in the state and has complied with matching funds from the World Bank to provide grants to women and their group, when they submit a viable proposal.
The state has also begun disbursing grants for successful business proposals. Grants range from a minimum of N20,000 to a maximum of N60,000. These grants are for individual members of the various women’s groups under the program.
The program has 875 beneficiary women already authorized for subsidies. The number is expected to rise as the board authorizes more applications for the empowerment scheme.