Economically Empowering Households in Nigeria

 {Okechukwu Onyezue/MSH}Karimu Muazu and her groundnut oil businessOkechukwu Onyezue/MSH

Despite decades of progress and efforts made to improve the status of women and children in Nigeria, inequality and poverty persist. In many households in northern Nigeria, women are the caregivers. However, without a steady source of income, they can barely provide for their families. An orphans and vulnerable children program, organized by the USAID-funded Prevention Organizational Systems AIDS Care and Treatment (Pro-ACT) project, implemented by MSH, provides integrated services to such vulnerable households, including HIV-infected and affected households.

In Gotomo, Argungu Local Government Area in Kebbi State, Pro-ACT worked with a grantee civil society organization (Kungiyar Tallafin Mata Development Initiative) to conduct an assessment during home visits in 2015. All households assessed fell into the most vulnerable category. The caregivers — all women — who qualified and enrolled in the program received basic training on household economic strengthening: ways to reduce their families' economic vulnerability, generate income, and provide for basic family needs.

A total of 95 household caregivers in Gotomo graduated from the orphan and vulnerable children program in April 2016. A re-assessment conducted after graduation placed all the households in the vulnerable category, marking an improvement from the pre-intervention assessment, which had placed these households in the most vulnerable category.

Balkisu Musa is a 28-year-old mother. Before Pro-ACT's intervention, Musa had no source of income and could hardly provide for herself and her malnourished son. During regular home visits by community volunteers, Musa was counseled and encouraged to engage in income generating activities. She joined a village savings and loans association called Nagge Dadi (meaning "cow is sweet and it brings luck"), and she started making contributions. After six months, she collected a loan of 10,000 naira (around $32) from the village savings and loan to start a business. She bought two goats and a small ram. After six months, she sold the ram for 25,000 naira (around $79), bought a tailoring machine for 15,000 naira (around $48), and used the remaining money to buy more livestock. Today, Musa is a seamstress and rears livestock as a business. Her son is no longer malnourished.

Karima Muazu, 25, is a caregiver of three boys. Muazu had no source of income, her family could barely feed themselves, and her children had dropped out of school. The household was assessed and enrolled in Pro-ACT's vulnerable children program through the Kungiyar Tallafin Mata Development Initiative, where she later joined the Sana Sa'a savings and loans association. After acquiring the skills she needed in generating income through the household economic strengthening program, Muazu applied for and obtained a loan of 5,000 naira (about $16) and bought one jar of groundnut oil for retailing. Muazu now sells five to eight jars of groundnut oil per month for 52,000 naira (about $165) and also sells some other food items.

"The business has been a source of income for my household, my children are back in school, and I can afford their medical bills," said Muazu.