Post Insurgency: Making Women Relevant Through Empowerment

Post Insurgency: Making Women Relevant Through Empowerment

One critical challenge of our time is the realisation that poverty has more adverse effects on women in the society than men.

  The perennial socio-political problems in the Northeast region of Nigeria have crippled the development of that area of the country. The major problems emanate from mass poverty, Illiteracy, widespread disease of public health importance and above all, insecurity of lives and property arising from the Boko Haram insurgency.

The importance of the role that women can and should play and have indeed been playing in promoting the wellbeing of society has never on doubt. This is because women comprise more than one half of the world’s human resources.  Therefore, the economic and social empowerment of women must be embarked upon with uncompromising determination if we are to address the issue of mass poverty with any measure of success in the northeast region of Nigeria.

Women empowerment through skills acquisition has been described by many as the recipe for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, thereby creating avenue for jobs and wealth creation. The right of women to be self-reliant and self-employed can be achieved through the acquisition of skills that are related to their environment. There are recommendations that there is need  the Government, Private Organizations, Stakeholders and Non-governmental Organization to develop special support programs, in partnership with women’s organizations, religious associations and health centers, for women victims of terrorism.

As part of effort to improve the means of livelihoods in households in North East, the Victims Support Funds, VSF, has empowered over 11,000 women, through its Women Economic Empowerment Program. VSF which is a Non-Governmental Organization, NGO has been established for the dignity and well beings of victims of insurgency and terrorism and assuring their future.

The program was aimed at improving the livelihood of women, particularly those who lost their husbands and breadwinners through insurgency. It has been reached by 77,000 people in different households from 2015 till date, and was meant to address the priority needs of affected women by training them in various skills with cash support to set up small businesses.

 Authorities speak

AljazirahNigeria in an exclusive interview with the Executive Director of VSF, Prof. Sunday Ochoche, explained that the Entrepreneur program and the economic empowerment is one of the flagship projects of the fund. The ED said the program which was launched in 2015, with a sum of 20,00Naira for 1,000 women has been scaled up to 30,000Naira and spread to reach 11, 000 women in different states. He noted the agriculture economic empowerment, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the northeast as part of its huge successes.

His word,’’ The Entrepreneur program is for women, it is just one of our flagship project that we started very early in the life of victims support fund where we have identified a number of women, identified the skill they have, and areas where they can make meaningful economic programs for themselves. They selected themselves and then we organised them into savings and loan association.

‘’We provided each of the women with the sum of 20, 000 Naira to do their business that was when we started in 2015. ’Today, we have close to 10,000 women on this programs and we have scaled up the grant to the women up to 30, 000naira. Additionally, the first group which we gave 20,000 to, have grown their businesses level which need to be scaled up, so they now go beyond the individual enterprise group enterprise,

 ‘’So, we are building community project, where the successful one has been brought together and provided with higher level capital for a higher level business engagement.  We may now consider bringing them together and buying a processing  machines for them , or even helping them to get a big warehouse where they can be storing their groundnut or their raw materials that they required, when the raw material are in season.

‘’There are many victims who have suffered in many directions but we are focusing on the most vulnerable and when you come to this, you will be looking more at of the widows, those who have lost their husband and have nobody to look after them.

Also some may not have lost their husband but their conditions have recognized and have been identified by their community and confirmed by us that they need to be helped. Our interventions are limited to victims of terrorism.

Further speaking, he disclosed that apart of the economic empowerment, agriculture project and the animal breeding, VSF has embarked on the rebuilding and renovation of public structures and social amenities that were destroyed by Boko Haram. He said the reconstruction will help in the restoration of basic social amenities which would help create an enabling environment for the people in the affected states.

The Executive Director noted that they have also engaged in the teacher retraining program, which will help significantly in refreshing of teachers before going back to classes. According to him, the fund has also launched a program for the support of school children in the north east. No fewer than 10,000 children are benefitting by providing all the books, writing materials, school bags, and desk furniture, to numbers of schools to help improve the learning environment.                  

Also, speaking to the Project coordinator, expressed that the program was targeted at women and Children because they are at the receiving end of the evil act of the terrorism. He said that this has made women take over the difficult task and responsibilities of the head of the household. He noted that over N160million has been spent so far by VSF on the women economic empowerment program in the North East, noting that every household in North East has an average of seven individuals.

He explained that with this, the fund has been able to reach out to 77,000 people across, Yobe, Adamawa and Borno State. According to him, the VSF livelihood and recurring strategy is a conceptual shift from dependence on humanitarian aid to self-reliance. He said that the fund is driving community recovery and facilitating the restoration of livelihood by guiding the victims to identifying productive and reproductive role.

He stressed that as part of complimenting ongoing effort and adding values to intervention already deployed by agencies, they bridged the gaps by providing the capital for the women to start their businesses. ‘’Insurgency has also cause the loss of means of livelihood. Women and Children have been at the receiving end on the evil. We meet the situation whereby women assumed the role of household heads, where husband was murdered by bokoharam and then the task to provide for households. To us, women became the important into the entry of households that was why we targeted our economic empowerment and interventions to reach the household through the women. Each household especially in North East, has average of 7 individual in 2015, we week with women victims of insurgency to identify critical area where they will be requiring VSF support. ’In 2015, we reached 1,000 women, through our women economic empowerment program. In 2016, we largely scale up to an additional 6,000 women proving cash support to ensure that the do their business and provided nutrition for the household and put their children back to school.

‘’Considering this again, in 2016 intervention, we decided to scale up and add 4, 000 women in 2017, the total number of women to 11,000. And what this mean for us is that 77,000 individuals have been reached in households across, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe state in 2017. Currently, we have three interrelated interventions, the women economic empowerment, agro based intervention and expanding delivery of small scales enterprises.

Beneficiaries comment

AljazirahNigeria  in a telephone interview with one of the beneficiaries, Gubio Fanna in Borno State commended VSF on the Women Economic Empowerment Program, saying it has really enhance means of livelihood in her households. Fanna who is into groundnut, coal and grinding business explained that she received the grant in 2016.

Speaking in Hausa language, she lamented that the economy of the country is affecting their businesses, while pleading for an advanced grinding and sieving machine. Her words: ‘’ we really appreciate VSF for this program; it has really help our family in surviving. My business is all about selling firewood, coal and grinding. But our business is not moving very well, because of the economy of the country.

‘’I want to tell everybody and government that we want an advanced grinding machine and also sewing machines. We will appreciate it because it will help us.”

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