Nne Bassey Abraham, CEO of Our Ladies Development Centre (OLADEC) in Nigeria, says although women constitute nearly half of Akwa Ibom state’s 3.9 million residents, they’ve traditionally had little or no voice in local governing.
Abraham, through Counterpart’s Global Women in Management program (GWIM) realized that empowering women is more than simply encouraging them to take interest in policymaking, it’s also about engaging public officials, key partners and stakeholders in women’s development initiatives.
Involving stakeholders and garnering support from allies significantly enhances any development effort’s success, she learned. Following her participation in the 2005 GWIM workshop in Washington, she learned how to advocate and enhance her communication skills, and she has made local government outreach and liaison work an integral part of her focus in Nigeria as president and CEO of OLADEC.
Using communication skills she refined at GWIM, she advocates and informs state and other elected officials about women’s entrepreneurship skills training. She sends a letter to the governor and local representatives for every new development or announcement and micro-loans. This approach convinced officials to support her work on women’s empowerment and Abraham hopes to turn those encouraging words into financial support very soon.
She succeeded in persuading the local government to allow women to participate in the exportation of agricultural products through cooperative society registration certificates, instead of limited liability companies alone. OLADEC was the first participant and was granted export license.
In addition, she has strengthened her organization’s emphasis on grassroots mobilization. OLADEC has helped more than 10,000 women and youth who are supporting the community in Akwa Ibom, and 20,000 in the largely rural northern Nigerian states.
Abraham’s organization is positively changing people’s lives. She is ensuring that at least one woman from each of the state’s 2,250 villages attends bimonthly local policymaking meetings. So far, roughly 6,000 women in the network attend local meetings regularly and have launched youth groups to help build their vocational and advocacy skills. More than 4,000 young Nigerians are taking part.
One of her new programming ideas implemented since her GWIM training is “Lift Me Up.” The pilot anti-poverty program identifies women with demonstrated needs and helps them secure the training, land and finances to work towards self-sufficiency.
With start-up loans of $200, women invest in farmland and animals such as poultry, pigs, fish and sea snails. The women learn how to grow crops and raise animals for their own consumption and for sale. The goal is to raise the annual income of each participant to at least $1,300.
As Abraham continues to complement her income-generation projects with public policy workshops and support, she’s helping Nigerians do more than raise money. She’s teaching them to make their voices heard, and be involved in financial inclusion, including owning and running effective bank accounts and mobile banking programs that generate income for rural women and youths, such as point-of-sale terminals.
In March 2007, the organization registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission to expand its activities nationwide. The OLADEC network’s members includes NGOs, community-based organizations, and other organizations throughout Nigeria. In 2006, the network became the first micro-finance institution to support women. Abraham became the president of the Association of Non-Bank Micro Finance Institutions Akwa Ibom State chapter, the General Secretary South-South zone and later the National General Secretary of the Association. Her organization OLADEC signed a mobile Banking Partnership with the then FINBANK.
GWIM is proud of its alumna like Abraham who become leaders in local development efforts around the world. Managed and implemented by Counterpart International, GWIM is funded by ExxonMobil Foundation.
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