ILORIN, NIGERIA: When she wrote her final examinations and completed the requirements for an accounting degree in 2019, 26-year-old Tolulope Adeleke was ecstatic and thought a lucrative white-collar job would follow soon after.
Two years later, Adeleke was still battling unemployment and frustration was fast setting in until April, 2021, when a neighbour told her about an organisation that helps jobless women and girls acquire skills for self-sustenance.
Recounting the experience, Adeleke said she decided to learn tailoring from the organisation, “I was not even around when the organisation visited coca-cola, my area in Ilorin. I heard all the gist from someone who got the form and explained everything to me,” Adeleke told The SolutionsPaper.
“I followed her to the house of the organisation’s lead and fortunately, I was also considered . I was given a form to fill so I chose tailoring,” she said.
Yearly, higher institutions churn out thousands of graduates and the indices for unemployment continue to rise. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 53% of Nigeria’s 151 million youths are unemployed. NBS data also shows that women are the worst hit, with 35.2 % of females unemployed.
Enter Girls2Women Initiative
Girls2Women initiative implements programmes to improve the welfare of women and girls in underserved communities, with a focus on empowerment and skills acquisition. Through a training that lasts 6 to 12 weeks, interested women and girls are taught vocational skills, including graphics design, bead making, event decoration, gift box making, tailoring, make-up artistry and catering decorations.
The founder of Girls2Women Initiative, Mrs. Omolara Tawakalitul Alabi explains that the organisation is founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to equal opportunity.
“It was noted that a lot of women and girls are being marginalised because of their financial status and this is what our organisation looks into. We believe in all women and girls having access to equal opportunities without any hindrance,” she said.
The process starts with getting the consent of the traditional leaders of the target community and ensuring that available members of the community are also given notice about its mission.
Interested women and girls are made to fill out a form for details about their personal information, their preferred skills and commitment to the training. The training sessions are usually held in the approved venue of the community at least twice weekly. Also, trainees and their guardians are made to sign a consent form, to ensure full participation.
Since its inception in 2016, the organisation has been able to reach 9 rural communities in Osun and Kwara states where approximately 1000 female individuals have been trained.
One of these beneficiaries is 28-year-old Bimbo Olutayo, a graduate of the University of Ilorin who had always been interested in learning event decoration but was limited by finances. She learnt about the organisation in October 2021 during one of their outreaches in her community— Amoyo, a town in Kwara state.
“We had the training for eight weeks, and after that, they linked us to a professional in event decoration where we had another three months internship before we got certified “ she said.
Relying on Donors Threaten Sustainability
According to Olutayo, only five people in her training group got financial support from Girls2Women Initiative to set up their businesses. Mrs. Alabi explains that the organisation relies solely on donors’ funding which leaves them with limited financial resources to help beneficiaries set up businesses after they have undergone the necessary training.
Aside from limited post-training empowerment, other challenges Girls2Women Initiative faces include lack of cooperation from target communities
“Definitely, more than once, it’s not always a bed of roses. We’ve had communities tell us no mainly because of their cultures and traditions and sometimes some use religious sentiments. If the host community is not welcoming and unwilling to work with us then the project may not even fly to start with,” Mrs. Alabi said.
“We’ve had a community head tell us that we are not welcome because we are trying to educate their women especially against the men and in the community women are seen as property that is not permitted to go against its owner. Sometimes it’s about other differences that could not be settled.”
Adeleke, who now lives in Lagos, is using the skill she learnt from the initiative to support her family asserted that the opportunity to learn a skill and eventually build a business with it was life changing.
“You know, as a salary earner before the end of the month your salary would have finished, the skill is a lifesaver. The [little] money I get to make dresses for people and colleagues is a great opportunity that I will never forget.”
Lead Editor: Zainab Oyiza Adetola
Copy Editor: Precious Ewuji