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Gaining respect and financial stability: stories from Nigerian women

Posted on: Friday, November 26th, 2021

Women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria are at least twice as likely as other women and girls to experience rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence. Economic dependency, lack of access to education, negative community attitudes and lack of support in society are all factors that contribute to this higher risk.

Together with Disability Rights Advocacy Centre (DRAC) in Nigeria, we’re supporting over 700 women with disabilities to increase their economic independence, giving them greater control over their lives and reducing their chances of experiencing violence or abuse.

As part of our Break the Cycle project, funded through the UK Aid Direct scheme, we’re setting up Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) to help women start their own businesses and cover expenses like school fees for their children, food and medical bills. Keep reading to hear from some of women who have joined these groups.

“I can now afford to support my children’s hospital bills and I am more involved in taking decisions in my household. Some of my friends now are interested in joining the VSLA too. As my business grows, I save more money.” – Amina

Wheelchair user, Amina, in front of her house, displaying the items she sells.

“I am a grandmother with six children and I have never regretted joining the VSLA… Before joining the VSLA, I use to trade in foodstuffs like maggi (seasoning cubes), salt, palm oil and so on. Now that I am part of the VSLA, I give thanks to God because I was able to get my first loan from the association after saving in the association as a member. I took my first loan of seven thousand naira (£12), it really helped my business grow because I was able to expand. I now buy in bulk and sell on more items like spaghetti, rice, and palm oil.

I give moral support to my household and I am more involved in taking decisions when it comes to what to buy in the house. From what I sell, we take the profit to support the family. I have seen how benefiting it is to take loan from the VSLA as my business grows, I pay back the previous loan collected by me and I request for a new one.

Joining the VSLA is an experience worth sharing with friends, I thank God for my life today because the changes that have occurred in my life since joining the VSLA are very clear.”

Lawal has faced discrimination from her family because of her physical disability. The VSLA group has not only taught her how to manage and grow her income, it has also built her confidence. Now she is listened to by her family and community and her relationships have improved – she says: “Money stops nonsense!”

Lawal with her son in the newly-opened barber’s salon

She took out loans from her local VSLA three times, which were used to invest in a joint new business with her son: a barber salon. She was able to buy equipment for the salon and a generator. Now, the business is growing and Lawal is a big part of its success.

Through her VSLA membership, Lawal was also able pay school fees for her other children – investing in their future.

“Joining the VSLA have really assisted me to support my family, I can proudly tell you that three of my children are in secondary school and they are fully sponsored by me.” – Hajiya

Hajiya showing some of the items she sells now her business has expanded.

I am a widow with five children. Joining the VSLA in my community gave me more opportunities… I started my pure water business attached with other household items where I hawk the items to make a living for myself and family. As the business grew, I was able to get a small space to sell. Before joining the VSLA I was not able to save money easily as I had nowhere to save my money, so I easily spent the little I made.

Joining the VSLA really gave me more opportunity to save more money, accounting for it and not spending it. As I learned the modalities of what has been taught during our VSLA meetings, I was able to save more money than before… The first loan I took from the VSLA was to start my clothes business and it really worked, now I also sell women clothes of all types…

I am glad to tell you that joining the VSLA has really helped me to support my family when it comes to buying household items, paying of hospital bills and taking care of my family. I am happy to inform you that when this [first 12-month savings]cycle ends, and the new cycle begins, I will be the first to join because I have seen the benefits of being a member of a VSLA group.”

Khadijat is chairperson of the Kauna VSLA and she has a visual impairment. Khadijat took out a loan of 10,000 naira (£17), which she invested it in her grain business.  She buys and sells on guinea corn, soya bean, cereals and groundnut. She made a profit of 15,000 naira (£26).

Khadijat stood at home, with her sacks of grain

Before Khadijat joined the VSLA, she could not offer any form of financial support to her household and it was a challenge for the family to pay the school fees for her children. Since taking out a loan form the VSLA group, and investing it, she’s been able to support her family and she recently enrolled one of her children in a tailoring school.

Khadijat is now involved in decision-making for her household and she continues to run her business both at home and in the local market, due to the growth and success she’s had.

“Joining the VSLA gave me more ideas as discussions centred around how we can improve in our business. Now I share ideas with my husband on decisions in our home.” – Hafsat

Hafsat sat down outside her home, holding some clothes she sells.

“I am grateful to God for being part of the Progressive Village Savings and Loan Association. Joining the association has really transformed my life. Before I joined, I was selling hijabs and I started saving with the little I make. I was encouraged to take a loan as my savings grew.

The first loan I took really improved and expanded my business. I was happy because this was exactly what I needed… The loan improved my lifestyle as I am able to support my household in buying foodstuffs and other items needed in the house. I get more involved in taking decisions in the family.

I can get more items to add to the petty trading I am doing, as I plan to take out another loan once I am done servicing the current one. I now sell earrings, and children’s and adult’s shoes. As business is booming I can now contribute to payment of my children’s school fees.”

Learn more about our Break the Cycle project in Nigeria in this Q&A with Irene Ojiugo, Executive Director at Disability Rights Advocacy Centre (open in new tab).

Images: 1st – Khadijat and her daughter Jamila, who was enrolled into tailoring school. 2nd – Wheelchair user, Amina, in front of her house – displaying the items she sells. 3rd – Lawal with her son in the newly-opened barber’s salon. 4th – Hajiya showing some of the items she sells now her business has expanded. 5th – Khadijat stood at home, with her sacks of grain. 6th – Hafsat displaying the clothes she sells.