Nigeria: NPO Targets Women, Girls in New Initiative

Against the backdrop of the low number of women with access to financial empowerment, healthcare and quality education in the country, a global not-for-profit social enterprise, Centre for Health Sciences Training, Research and Development (CHESTRAD) is launching a new programme that will tackle this need.

Called ‘Tariro’, a South African word for ‘hope’, the programme is “a health and financial inclusion programme, which gives and expands the access of children, girls and women to financial and health products and services,” said CEO of CHESTRAD Global, Lola Dare at a recent zoom press briefing.

The chairman of the African led non-profit organisation, Bimbola Ogunkelu said that Tariro is motivated by the visible economic inequalities between men and women. He observed that women in Nigeria have lesser job opportunities, earn less and save less, thus “limiting their capacity to support themselves, children and families.”

National statistics show that Nigeria loses 145 women of childbearing age every day due to pregnancy-related complications and an estimated 20 per cent (10 million) of the world’s out-of-school children are in Nigeria, 60 per cent (six million) of who are girls. Also, women represent between 60-79 per cent of Nigeria’s rural labour force.

Dare noted that the ongoing pandemic was blind to issues about women, particularly in gender-based domestic violence against women.

She revealed that the rate of domestic violence against women spiked during the lockdown.

“One of the things we have observed during COVID-19 is an increase in gender and domestic violence. In motor parks and market areas, the rate of gender-based violence against women increased during COVID-19 by 58 per cent.”

She continued: “The plight of women is worse now in the pandemic. COVID-19 is actually gender-blind and has ignored women. And so, women have had their small SMEs totally collapsed, a woman cannot afford to purchase health care for herself or children. She cannot put them in school or contribute to household income.”

Under Tariro, 500,000 women in urban slums in Lagos will have access to qualitative services in health, nutrition, and early learning. Through these women, an additional two million children can have access to these services.

To achieve these goals, Dare noted that multi-service Tariro Centres (TC) will be established in urban slums in Lagos, starting with Ikota (Eti-Osa), Iba (Ojo) and Olowogbowo (Lagos island) communities.

Although the project is kicking off in Lagos, Ibrahim Yisa, a member of the organisation said that the programme will be extended to other parts of the country, particularly the northern region where indices of development are very low.

The organisation is deploying cutting edge technology to offer these services to women. According to Kola Lasaki of Soft Alliances, one of the key partners of the project, the company will deploy one of their solutions called Soft Speed to offer financial services. “This will take care of loans and grants to women. There is also the health recording management solution where the health services will be rendered. We also have nutrition and academic performance monitoring to ensure that early nutrition and learning is monitored.”

To access all of these services across different platforms, however, will require the women to go through the registration portal where they will be given a smartcard that will contain all their data.

The smartcard known as Tariro Card will enable sexually abused women to report their predators anonymously.

“One of the key things we need to do with gender-based violence is also to engage men,” said Dare. “Many of the gatekeepers in motor parks and markets are men. We are working to ensure that we integrate into our mobilisation efforts the capacity for women to first, report and be heard. Secondly, Lagos State is trailblazing in having a law against domestic violence in Nigeria but many women are not aware of how to access this door. So we will educate women and girls on who to call and use our system to access the state’s hotline for such cases.”

Dare also acknowledged the role the General Manager of Lagos State Health Management Agency (LASHMA) Emmanuella Zambia played in increasing the number of vulnerable women that can benefit from Tariro’s project.

“Initially, we wanted to work with women from ages 15 to 49 but Dr Zamba insisted that we have to reach across the spectrum of potential violence so we agreed to increase our age group from ages 10 to 65.”

“With our experience in Lagos, we knew that Tariro could reach a wider network of women and we didn’t want to leave anyone behind. It’s something that Lagos state is passionate about and there are ongoing discussions to reach some level of funding or access to finance for these vulnerable women,” said Zamba.

LASHMA will provide access to inpatient basic and secondary services thereby contributing to both state and national goals of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and other health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The organisation is aware that most of the women in urban slums do not have access to mobile phones. In this regard, Dare disclosed that as a member of the Game Changers Women Network, a UK based organisation that is committed to equipping women with phones to drive financial inclusion, that they will be empowering every woman and girl under 15 years with mobile phones once the criteria to access a free phone is established.

Dare pointed out that the criteria for accessing the financial services are market-specific and community driven.

“We do not choose who gets the loan but the community based on their priorities.”

She added that the NPO is considering eco-friendly investments whereby plastics stored in drainages in motor parks and markets can be recycled and the women can benefit from it. Apart from the plastics, the initiative also aims to reduce food waste in markets.

CHESTRAD hopes to achieve all its set goals by 2023 through its sustainability plans that include impact investment and philanthropic giving.

Credit: All Africa

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