Empowerment has to do with improving the capacity and the chances of individuals, groups and communities to take control of their circumstances, exercise power and achieve their own goals individually or collectively. Economic empowerment focuses on supporting and empowering the less privileged and most vulnerable members of the society, through imparting skills, knowledge and/or resources that will allow them overcome obstacles and ultimately help them develop themselves and make a positive impact on the society.
It can be adduced that women are the most vulnerable despite the important role they play as key members of the society; they are powerful agents of change being loving wives, caring mothers, home keepers as well as competent managers at the work place. It can therefore be safely said that they are the backbone of every society.
For women to be empowered therefore, they have to enjoy their rights to control and benefit from resources, assets, income and their own time. Empowering women is a direct way of promoting the economic and social lives of a nation. Women who are empowered provide solutions to poverty, poor health in their families and their communities.
They become the voice for the voiceless and make demands on government for health care and social entitlements. Furthermore, skills acquisition is the best option for empowering women who did not have the opportunity to go to school.
In view of the importance attached to women empowerment, coupled with the need to improve the condition of women, Wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari took a bold step by advocating the need for women empowerment, she matched her words with action by training them in various skills to start up businesses. It is her belief that women empowerment needs to be given more prominence; as such, she is not only supporting but actively involved in advocating to women to explore the opportunity of being financially independent. Mrs. Buhari holds the view that small scale businesses are key to eradicating poverty.
Mrs. Aisha Buhari has entrenched women empowerment as one of the components of her Future Assured Programme; with the belief that the health and wellbeing of women and their children largely depends on how empowered they are. The first part of the communication chain is to create awareness among women on the importance of self-reliance and the need for them to engage in income generating activities.
The second is to mobilize government, the private and voluntary sectors to see the need to reach and change the lives of more women through injecting into them the spirit of enterprise and income generation.
Because business peculiarities exist, each business environment is assessed for the most competitive of businesses that the women can engage in. So far, Future Assured has organized trainings in many states of the country and continues to do so.
In September 2016, Mrs. Buhari flagged off a training programme for 200 women in Katsina state. The training was a collaboration between Future Assured and the National Directorate of Employment. The 200 women were selected from all local government areas of Katsina state to benefit from the exercise. These women have graduated and are now running their businesses and putting their acquired skills to practice.
In November 2016, Mrs. Buhari flagged off the second phase of her training on income generating activities in Lagos state. 2200 women benefited from the programme. The training was sponsored by Future Assured Programme in collaboration with the Office of the Sustainable Development Goals. Lagos women were trained on Event Management, interior decoration, cosmetology, beads stringing, shoes and bag production, gele tying.
In Kano, 2200 women were empowered with various skills. The women were trained in fashion design, catering, leather work, household cleaning, cosmetics and spice production. Due to the large number of women participants, two centers were established to achieve maximum result. The women were randomly selected from different local governments, and trained based on their own choice of vocation. Five hundred other youths were trained in Kano some months later, in paint production, barbing, pedicure and leatherwork.
In the case of Kwara state, the skill acquisition and empowerment programme was designed for women and youth of the area. 1000 women and youth were drawn from 16 local government areas. Mrs. Buhari charged the youth to make maximum use of the opportunity given to them.
About 1000 women and youth benefitted from Aisha Buhari skill acquisition and empowerment programme in Bauchi state. Both women and youth were trained in various skills such as baking, insecticide, production, body perfume, baking, tie and dye.
Another aspect of empowerment in which Her Excellency had made tremendous contribution is in the area of agricultural business. Beyond advocacy for women to be more involved and to try and access facilities from lending institutions, she acquired 20 rice mills and 67 fish driers for use by women farmers across the country.
The acquired equipment formed the first tranche of what will be distributed nationwide, and were in the custody of the wives of the governors of the beneficiary states. Women farmers were told to access and use the equipment for free.
Empowerment does not end with skills development. Mrs. Buhari realized the need to expand her horizon of support by giving revenue generating instruments to people so that they stand on their feet and employ staff of their own.
Under this empowerment drive, she had distributed hundreds of tricycles (Keke NAPEP), milling machines, spaghetti makers, sewing machines and embroidery machines. These have been distributed across many states so far.
Some others were supported with cash to boost their businesses. These include suya sellers, tea vendors, kulikuli producers, sugarcane sellers and vegetable sellers.
The wife of the President is confident that Nigerian women when given the opportunity will enhance the economic wellbeing of their families as well as economic growth of the country. Therefore, she is always ready to give the support needed to uplift their lives and that of their children.
Aisha Bunu works with the wife of the President.