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Into work and out of poverty: how education empowers women in Nigeria

Beth Rochford, Communications Intern

 A young Nigerian woman, Ujunwa, studying hospitality  at one of Wonder's projects at Lantana College, Enugu.

For young women like Ujunwa, coming from a low-income background in Nigeria can have many life-altering consequences: “My father sells provisions in the village while my mother sells pap (corn meal). They do not earn much from their sales and so people expected my father to resort to giving me out for an early marriage.” With an ill mother and a partially blind father, Ujunwa’s family were forced to spend what little savings they have on hospital bills, leaving little options for Ujunwa’s education.

 

However thanks to her Wonder Foundation scholarship to study hospitality at Lantana College, Ujunwa is able to continue her education through high-quality skills-based training and gain employment in Enugu’s growing hospitality sector. This enables her to contribute to the family finances and help with her parents’ medical issues. She is just one example of the ways in which young Nigerian women can be empowered through education and demonstrate a valuable capacity as members of the workforce.

 

In the current climate, education is more important than ever for young women like Ujunwa. The ongoing conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military has resulted in many deaths and human rights abuses, including the kidnapping of young girls and the use of child soldiers.  One of the fallouts of the fighting is an increase in the number of widowed women who, without a formal education or a profitable skill set, have few ways of supporting themselves or their families.

 

Many NGOs and charities are working alongside local efforts to combat this humanitarian crisis, providing food for widows and their families, as well as grants to help them set up small businesses. But for long-term resilience and progress across the country, education and skill building are essential. When young Nigerian women and girls are given greater access to education, it can empower them to actively enter the workforce. With viable skills, they can financially support themselves and even their families. Schools such as Lantana College do critical work to empower Nigerian women in this way through vocational training.

 

Accessing education and building a skill set is vital for entry into the workforce, yet many young Nigerian women are unable to access education past the secondary level, which can make them more vulnerable to early marriage, involuntary domestic servitude, and even  trafficking. A World Bank report on Nigerian girls’ access to schools and jobs shows that unlike men, women’s chances of entering waged work do not increase with age and even if they manage to find employment, Nigerian women are invariably paid less than men.

 

With 53% of Nigerians living below the international poverty line, enabling the female workforce is a key element of the country’s development. To break the cycle of poverty and prevent humanitarian crises such as the one faced by Nigerian widows, girls need greater access to education and skill building. Wonder Foundation’s partners in Nigeria help tackle this issue by offering education to young girls and women, leading to long-term change for them and their families. The work of Lantana College, Orisun Outreach and Abidagba Clinic help provide young women with the chance to gain valuable skills, learn about health and nutrition, and set off on their own path to success. For Ujunwa, her scholarship to study hospitality at Lantana College is empowering: “thanks to the scholarship I was granted, I can continue my education in Lantana and help my family solve some of their financial problems.”

 

Through projects such as these, Wonder’s partners help young girls and women in Nigeria to access education, build upon their skill set and enter the workforce, in turn enabling them to support themselves, their family, and their community.