Many of the women in Women for Women International – Nigeria’s program live in isolated rural communities whose economies are based upon a limited number of agricultural products. Forming a cooperative, in this context, helps prevent too many women from starting the same type of business. It also builds a strong network of community support for cooperative members and helps them to stretch their personal resources further. Habiba Nakande, a member of the Godiya Women cooperative, said: “The formation of cooperatives to us is a good long-term investment, which is going to help us.” While cooperatives are not the sole source of income for most of their members, they provide women with a practical way to supplement their income.
In the third month of the sponsorship program, Women for Women International – Nigeria, introduces program participants to the nuts and bolts of cooperatives. They help women to identify potentially profitable business areas, navigate the legal process to officially register as a cooperative business, open a bank account and locate trainers to help them develop the technical and business skills they will need. Once the cooperatives are formed, they continue to receive advice and support from the organization.
There are many different types of cooperatives, including a group that makes batik products, one that leases a well and sells water and another that produces soap. Women in the program are pleased with the opportunity that being in a cooperative provides them. In the words of Hauwa Aminu, another member of Godiya Women: “Being in the cooperative makes me feel very secure and successful in business and in life.”
The poultry farming cooperatives also do very well. One group of 18 former program participants has formed an egg-production cooperative to supplement other incomes. Their chickens lay about 60 eggs a day. These sell for about fourteen cents an egg. That's about $128 a month in gross revenue. Subtract feed at $13 a bag each week and monthly rent of $22 a month, and that leaves $54 to be split 18 ways-- $3 for each women in the group. The group is pleased with this early income and only hope to see it increase as their cooperative grows.
Meet WfWI - Nigeria graduate Roseline Oluchi Ugwu. In addition to learning a vocational skill so they can start a small business, like a poultry farm, participants in WfWI's programs learn valuable business skills and recieve rights awareness training, so they can not only earn an income from their business, but use that income to help themselves and their families thrive.
Roseline Oluchi Ugwu is one of the participants of women for women program in Nrobo. She has one child (a girl) as well as two adopted boys.
Her father died while her mother was three months pregnant with her. She had 6 sibilings. She never went to school. The girls in the family did not attend school because her mother perceived education at that time as a waste of time and resources for females, but her brothers were allowed to attend school.
Roseling was not happy with a whole lot of things- giving birth to only one child, her husband leaving her for another woman and also the fact that she had no money and no work.
Enrolling in the WfWI program helped her see new opportunities. Training on "Understanding Financial Household Management, Household Savings, Goal Setting and Opportunities for Income Generation" motivated her to be serious with her business and she was able to find additional business opportunities like selling oranges, frying garri out of cassava, harvesting and selling of palm products that gave her an additional income.
She commended her facilitator on the way she treated the topic on "women's rights and law, women and household decision making as well as ownership and interhitance." She saved her sponsorship funds and other money from her daily and monthly income to be able to achieve her goal of building a house.
Roseline realized that women can own land and went to her husband’s people and requested a piece of land. Her request was granted; a piece of land was given to her and out of her savings and other money she borrowed started building a mud house of 3 bedrooms with veranda.
Says Roseline, "Women for women has made me proud, I am a changed person”.
Meet Evelyn Ejike. Thirty-six years old, Evelyn is married and has 5 children.
Before she joined Women for Women International, she has a shop were she sells provisions. Her weekly income was N1000 which was not enough to take care for her family needs. In 2011 her landlord increased the shop rent to N25,000 per year. This maked it impossible to make ends meet. This happened at the same time her husband was jobless thereby leaving the burden of family upkeep on her shoulders.
A key turning point in her life came when she was enrolled in Women for Women program in 2011. Her esteem and confidence was greatly impacted by the information she received in the Life-skill training class. Business training exposed her to basics for successful management of small businesses. With the new knowledge about business, it was not difficult for her to do an evaluation of her present petty trading business. The discovery that her small business was not profitable motivated her to start thinking about other sources of generating income. She became interested in poultry production and she elected the poultry production tract for her vocational training at WfWI.
Guided by the information she received during training on financing a business, she and four other women organized themselves into a business group and approached their bank, Ifeanyichukwu Microfinance Bank for loan. Ifeanyichukwu Microfinance bank is the bank with which the women in Mgbowo opened individual bank accounts for sponsorship disbursement. Their application was granted.
With the help of her husband, she built a small poultry house capable of housing 100 birds from used and improvised building materials. Evelyn said she used the loan with the money she saved from the sponsorship fund to start poultry production in October 2012 and produced the first batch of birds. With the success she made in the first production, she paid her loan. After sales and payment of the loan, she booked and stocked another batch of 100 birds which are now in the second week of brooding. She plans to sell the birds when they are ready.
Evelyn hopes to expand to layers production when her production capital increases. The demand for poultry eggs is on the high side and she hopes to have a bigger farm that can accommodate at least 500 laying birds.
Meet WfWI - Nigeria praticipant Roseline. Roseline lives in Mgbidi. A 45 year old mother of seven, Roseline is subject to an unfair tradition in Nigeria by which she is forced to remain an unwed mother and have children in her parent’s name and remain in their home. She lived her whole life believing that as a woman, she was worth less than a man, and that the ideas, opinions, and voices of women were of less value than those of men. In WfWI-Nigeria's year-long training program, in addition to learning a marketable, income generating skill like poultry farming, Roseline also learned about her rights. WfWI-Nigeria’s program instilled in her a renewed sense of confidence and the understanding that women are equal to men. Now she is focused on ensuring that all her children – her sons and daughters alike – are given an education and opportunities she was never afforded.
In Nigeria, religious codes and family traditions that subject women to unequal treatment tend to outweigh national laws asserting gender equality. Despite the 1999 Constitution which gives equal rights to all regardless of gender, Nigeria’s decentralized legal system has resulted in inequitable treatment of women on a state-by-state basis. In Enugu State, where Women for Women International-Nigeria’s offices are located, women are learning for the first time that they are in fact equal to men, that their ideas and beliefs are of equal value, and that the education of their daughters is as important to that of their sons.
For Roseline Nwamaka Anukwa, a 45-year old mother of seven and participant in the Women for Women International-Nigeria program (WfWI-Nigeria), these lessons have been eye-opening and exciting. The environment in which she was raised taught her from a young age that her opinions and contributions to society were of lesser importance than those of the men in her village. Roseline is subject to an age-old tradition in Nigeria that limits her freedom as a woman and a mother. As the sole living child of her parents, she has been forced by her family to remain at home unmarried, a common custom for the eldest daughter in a family or, in Roseline’s case, as the only survivor of her many siblings. She is not allowed to marry and she has never had the joy of falling in love.
“I never got married,” she says. “All my siblings died and my parents compelled me to stay home and have children in their name. Impliedly, I am never to get married to any man but I can have affairs, get pregnant, but the child will bear my father’s name.”
As a result, Roseline’s body was no longer treated as her own. She belonged to her parents, and to the men who impregnated her without worry of commitment or marriage. “I have had many male bedmates who took advantage of me and my situation. Once I get pregnant, the men disappear. I go through the pregnancy period and delivery…all alone.”
After three months in the WfWI program, Roseline said: “What I have learnt from Women for Women can neither be quantified nor measured. I learnt how to write my name and this is what I never dreamt of in my whole life. I learnt that a man and a woman have equal right in the family.”
The unfair treatment Roseline has undergone throughout her life is difficult to undo; despite what she has learned, she is still not treated as an equal within her own family. But what she has learned this year will ensure that her own fate is not repeated among her children. Her three daughters have all been educated – two have finished primary school and one is still enrolled. She speaks of her childhood and of the barriers to education she faced. “When I was young, girls do not go to school. Parents believed that…when girls have good education, they do not respect their husbands and so many men will be afraid of seeking their hands in marriage.”
Her favorite lessons have been on equality of men and women, and in raising her boys and girls. “This lesson opened my eyes to start correcting the mistakes I have made in the way I have trained my children. I assign more [chores] to my daughters thinking that I am preparing them well to serve their husbands and to be good housewives, not knowing that I am limiting them in life. … I can’t stop telling people around me, both men and women, about equality in raising boys and girls!”
Roseline’s life has undergone many changes in the three months since she began as a participant in WfWI-Nigeria’s program. She can now write her name, something she has longed for all her life. “I can identify the letters that make up my name and whenever I see them even if it is in a crowd; I will make people around to realize that this letter is the beginning of Roseline, Nwamaka or Anukwa.” She has also learned more about the importance and influence of her own opinions that her voice can and should be as loud as any of her fellow citizens of Nigeria. Roseline has only ever voted once. “Actually, I have never bothered going to vote again for years because I felt it is for politicians alone,” she said. “Obviously in the upcoming election, I will be at the forefront because I learnt from Women for Women that I have the right to chose who leads me.” There is a renewed confidence within Roseline. She now speaks up in large crowds, whether it is among men or women. “I feel younger as a pupil every Thursday when I dress up to go for our manual classes.”
Roseline is not alone in these feelings. Upon graduating from WfWI-Nigeria’s program, 96% of participants have reported that they have a greater understanding of their rights. There is a great sense of unity among all the participants through their shared experiences as survivors of conflict and their collective gain in confidence. “Women for Women made me realize that I am not alone in the race, ”Roseline said.
There is great hope for the future of gender equality in Nigeria when women like Roseline have the strength and the courage to empower and educate the next generation of Nigerian women like her three daughters. When she was asked if she believed girls should go to school, she said “Capital Yes! … I said this because families that sent their female children to school when we were young stand out in my community now. They live comfortable lives and their daughters work in big offices in the city.” Roseline has such pride for women who are able to achieve these accomplishments. She finds great joy in the prospect that her own daughters might too have “big offices in the city.” But for Roseline, it is not as much about the big office as it is the respect that comes with it. “Indeed,” Roseline wisely adds, “Knowledge is Power!”
WfWI's Poultry Marketing Initative is part of a comprehensive training program WfWI offers to participants. Read on for an update on the entire program from WfWI-Nigeria Country Director Ngozi Eze.
It is heart warming to write to you once again. I hope all is well with your families and friends and life is treating you beautifully. Over the last several months, we have taken part in a major expansion and have enrolled more. Thanks to a fantastic increase in sponsors over the last several months, we are able to provide our services to so many more women who truly need it.
While enrolling participants in the Edem community in Enugu State, we discovered the community suffered an outbreak of tuberculosis. When some of the participants were asked how a family member passed away, they would usually attribute it to “being poisoned,” even though their family members had died from the disease. In order to address this misconception, we have now added more information to our rights awareness training about the prevention and care of tuberculosis, using a curriculum developed by the Ministry of Health. The information includes eating a balanced diet, keeping a healthy immune system and sleeping in well-ventilated rooms. In Jos, where our satellite office is located in the northern part of the country, we have been able to combine both the Muslim and Christian women into one classroom for workshops. Because of the religious conflict that has plagued the northern region of Nigeria, we previously had to have the women meet at two different locations. Initially, there was fear and suspicion on the minds of the participants, due to the violence that broke out in 2001. To their surprise, they were greeted by the people of the community. For some, it was like a reunion with their long lost friends whom they had not seen since the conflict. We are of the belief that with this new arrangement, we will be part of the peace-building process and we will continue to advocate for the peaceful coexistence of the two groups through our non-discriminatory stance, as well as through our rights awareness, leadership and skills training programs. Currently, 360 participants are participating in skills training, including soap-making, batik or “tie-dye” production, business skills training and knitting. We are also encouraging our participants to form groups and register as business cooperatives to use their new skills, as well as open bank accounts. Once a group registers as a cooperative, they are an “official organization” and therefore are entitled to benefits by the government in regards to taxation and interest rates. Although the registration and banking is a cumbersome process, as many villages do not have local banks, we believe that this will promote sound income-generation activities once they graduate from the program. One participant, Antonia, was a peasant farmer and sometimes sold tobacco on a small scale before joining our program. Her husband left her in the village and went to live in Enugu and married another woman. She was very sad and upset at having to care for her children alone. She lives in one room in her father-in-law’s house with a zinc roof and pit toilet. Apart from benefiting from the rights awareness training classes which enabled her to interact with other women, during the program she learned how to make shoes and repair them and she now specializes in slippers – a business she now runs from her home. She also sells basic provisions, such as drinks and condiments, from her home. Emotionally, she says she is much happier as she can now meet her children’s needs. She and her children still live in her father-in-law’s house. Her future goal is to improve on her shoemaking skills and become renowned in her village. She told us, “This organization has not only given me more money by teaching me to become a shoemaker, it has also helped to make me happy and reduce my constant thinking and worries.”Till I write again, the participants and staff of the Nigeria office send you many thanks for all that you do.We wish you peace, love and lots of blessings.Sincerely,Ngozi EzeCountry DirectorWomen for Women International -- Nigeria.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.
Online Marketing Coordinator