The Federal Government has disbursed over N362 million to 6,475 Abia women under the Nigeria for Women Project (NFWP) in the state.
The Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Ude Chukwu, said this yesterday during NFWP Media Roundtable in Umuahia.
The meeting was organised by the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, in conjunction with Aries Concept Nigeria Ltd. – a NFWP’s Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) firm.
The deputy governor, who is the Chairman, State Steering Committee for the project, also said that Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu had approved N100 million for the project, in addition to the initial N50 million counterpart fund by Abia.
He said that the state, selected from the South-East for the pilot scheme, was the first in the federation to subscribe to the programme, with the payment of its counterpart fund.
According to him, the additional fund further demonstrated Abia’s commitment to the full implementation and success of the programme.
Chukwu further said that the state showed keen interest in the project right from its inception because it was targeted at improving the wellbeing of women.
He described the roundtable as imperative to forge effective partnership with the media to ensure the full realisation of the project objective in the state.
He, therefore, appealed to the media to assist in sensitising Abia women about the project and need for them to join.
He thanked the Federal Government and World Bank for introducing the project.
He promised that the State Government was poised to always collaborate with relevant agencies of the Federal Government to fund and ensure the success of the project and other similar initiatives in the state.
He commended the beneficiaries for their interest and commitment toward achieving the objectives of the project.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Rose Urenta, described the project as “an innovative way of solving the myriads of challenges facing women”.
Urenta said that the project “is being implemented to bring out the best in Nigerian women, who have enormous capacity to solve issues.
“The project is being carried out to help women look inwards for solution to financial challenges.
“It also provides the necessary capacity to maximise available resources for better life and livelihood.
“As at today, women now have a sense of belonging as they can now address some of their problems without waiting for their spouses or help from somebody.
The commissioner also said that the project had put smiles on the faces of so many women in the pilot LGAs.
She said that the project had “been a unifying force for women, inculcating in them the spirit of self-esteem, boldness, culture of savings and friendship”, among the members of the Women Affinity Group (WAG).
The state Project Coordinator, Mrs Georgina Agbagha, said that the state had so far registered 54,000 individual beneficiaries grouped into 3,600 WAGs.
Agbagha said that the WAGs had generated over N1.96 million as loan funds through savings from their weekly contributions, administrative charges and fines.
She said that the project was being implemented in 178 communities in three pilot LGAs of Obingwa, Isialangwa North and Ohafia, through building social capital, livelihood, innovations and partnership as well as project management, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
She further said that 62,000 beneficiaries had been successfully trained in “Introduction to savings and credit”, “Financial Education”, “Business skills” and “Gender and Life Skills”.
Agbagha said that 70 champions had been identified and inaugurated at the state and LG levels.
“These champions are credible, trustworthy, influential and prominent individuals, such as state actors, teachers, religious and community leaders.
“They support and disseminate BCC messages, such as ‘Women are the catalysts to their families’ wellbeing’, ‘Women are esidential to family growth and positive change in social norms’,” Agbagha said.
She said that the state had sent an expression of interest to the Federal Ministry of Woman Affairs and Social Development to expand the project to all the 17 LGAs.
She said that the ministry had replied to the application and that the state was working to meet the stipulated conditions.
She listed the challenges facing the project implementation to include insecurity, especially the sit-at-home order, discrepancies in the names of some WAG members on their bank account details and skepticism about genuineness of the project in some communities.
The Project Team Lead, Mr Bankole Ebisemiju, and the Communication and Knowledge Management Officer for Aries Concept Nigeria Ltd., Mr Triumph Ekhosayator, said the company would assist the state to formulate short, medium and long term communication strategies for behavioural change to make the project acceptable to the Abia Women.
The 100 million U.S dollar-project is a five year programme (2018 – 2023), being financed by the International Development Association.