By Gabriel Olawale
No fewer than 100 young girls and women in Magada Onimale, a community in Ibafo, Ogun State have been empowered by Hacey Health Initiative in area of business, financial management skills and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information with sponsorship from Access Bank Plc as part of the BACK ON TRACK program launcher in 2014.
The skills which also include management and basic accounting; production of liquid wash, disinfectants, soap making, and insecticide production; sexual reproductive health and rights.
Some were also enrolled into hairdressing, fashion designing, and photography, while ten women were given startup capital for the production of soap and insecticide. At the end of the program, two beneficiaries of the initiative since 2017 were given sewing machines to start their businesses, as they had just graduated from Fashion Schools.
Speaking on the importance of empowering and improving access of girls to SRHR services at the event, the Executive Director of HACEY Health Initiative, Rhoda Robinson, explained that efforts towards improving the quality of lives of women should be seen as a priority and improved.
According to Rhoda, “when young girls and women are taught skills to help them become productive, it means they become active contributory members to their families and communities, helping them break the cycle of poverty as well as increase life outcomes for their children”.
One of the beneficiaries of the project Agboola Oluwaseun who just graduated from fashion school appreciated the efforts of HACEY for empowering her with a skill that would enable her fend for herself as he is an orphan.
It is apt to note that globally, labour productivity has increased and unemployment is back to pre-financial crisis levels. However, the global economy is growing at a slower rate. More progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, particularly for women, reduce informal employment and the gender pay gap and promote safe and secure working environments to create decent work for all (United Nations SDG8).
“As gender gap remains particularly wide in terms of accessibility to health, education participation in the planning process and employment in Nigeria, many girls and women continue to be trapped in the cycle of poverty therefore limiting their ability to live to their full potential.
Research has shown that over 50 percent of Nigerian women especially those resident in the rural areas are yet to attain a stable threshold for personal well-being aimed at achieving gainful economic activity.
The need to empower women, especially the poor rural women is fundamental to economic development in Nigeria. This gradually brings them out of the vicious cycle of poverty. Therefore, empowering women via skills training and microfinance interventions will empower and stimulate women to achieve food security and foster national development,” Rhoda added.
Launched in 2014, the HACEY Health Initiative’s BACK ON TRACK program empowers disadvantaged young girls and women by helping them learn vocational skills; assists and supports them in setting up businesses; as well as provide them with key information on sexual and reproductive health and rights so they can make a better life for themselves and increase the possibility of them getting back on track towards a productive life and make better life choices.
This program targets girls aged 16-29 who do not have the skills and knowledge required to earn a living. Studies have shown that girls within the aforementioned age bracket tend to engage in risky behaviors as an alternative to fending for their daily needs.
In some cases, these girls end up engaging in street hawking prostitution and illegal use of drugs. The Back on Track program engages community leaders to identify the beneficiaries based on specific requirements. Since the inception of the project, it has empowered over 500 women to learn skills and start-up businesses.