What spurred you into this project, collating data for women entrepreneurs in the North?
A grant was presented to us by the US embassy to do this. We applied for grant to train women entrepreneurs in agriculture,i.e African Women Entrepreneurship Programme (AWEP) Nigeria Green Gold Project. You know agriculture is green gold so that is where we started off. Due to some reasons, the US embassy said we should do this project of collating the data of women entrepreneurs in the North. So, we believe this can be a stepping stone to the training of women. We need to have the data to know that there are women to be trained in this area anyway.
What method are you using to collate this data?
We have a technology company, hardware technology, that we are working with. They provided us an application which we download onto our phones. It already has the form so we capture information, take the photograph of the person with the phone, then ask them the questions and then send. Once you send, it goes to the back end. So as you are collating we see from whatever state you are.
So, do you have to go to those localities?
We have to go to the places because you have to take photographs of the people. At the moment we are in 10 states. We are still working on about eight more states. We have coordinators in the states but due to lack of funding, some of them are yet to kick off. We have to provide phones for them, because some don’t have the phones that are needed for this application. We have to provide them with logistics too.
We have state coordinators in every state and we have field officers in the local government areas. That is about 370 local government areas but they have not even kicked off yet because we have not been able to operate the way we want to. But that is the job of the state coordinators and field officers to see that the women can answer the questions on the form. And most of the questions need only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Like do you have children? E.g. What kind of business are you doing? What is your address? Are you financially literate?The coordinators help the women capture the information properly. So we go to the localities. We are working with NGOs, and it is easier when you are approaching groups.
For instance, we have a cooperative of women planting tomatoes, those into rice farming, hair dressers association etc. We talk to the leaders of these cooperatives to buy into this project and then the leaders deliver all the women on that platform. We talk to churches and they give the various groups of women there that are entrepreneurs. So, that way you know you have genuine people who need the intervention.
AWEP is also a member of the Association of Nigerian Business Women Network. It’s an umbrella body of associations of 18 women entrepreneurial groups/networks.
So we told them this is what we are doing,that we have to capture women entrepreneurs in the North:both high and low; both the farmer, the rural women, the ones in the city, so long as you are an entrepreneur, we need you on the data base.
All the women working with us are volunteers. We had to resort to a physical form because if you get to a place where you have 200 women and it’s just you, it will be difficult to capture all at once. So we distribute the 200 forms in that situation, then as they are submitting, you take the pictures of the individuals and phone number. So when she goes back home, she fills the details of the person on the form to the phone. There is a way it will merge because the app is done to merge phone numbers and pictures.
Ideally in every centre there should be like 10 coordinators but we have only one in the state.
What have you discovered doing this project?
That there are many women that are in obscurity; that there are a lot of women who need intervention but because there is lack of data, they are unable to get assistance;a lot of genuine groups working hard and looking for people to help them in training and are not getting help.
Also, the issue of information;so many of them do not know about intervention that they can get. So we educate these women, that if you don’t put your name down and are captured, you lose out because people who want to give intervention need data; that they lose nothing by bringing their information.
We are in about 10 states in the North already. We are in Gombe, Taraba, Yobe , Borno, Katsina, Bauchi, Abuja, Plateau, Kwara and Kaduna.
Are you just in the state capitals or local governments?
We are in the state capitals but only because we are depending on volunteers.So for anybody who has contacts in the local government, like Yobe and Plateau they branch out to the local governments. But we have a network in all the local governments. We are not able to put them to action because of financial constraints.
What number have you got so far?
So far, we have captured about 10,000.
How many people do you have doing this job?
We have the 10 coordinator and then the coordinators have volunteers. Some people have five volunteers while others are all by themselves.
From our initial budget, we need about 400 people and now we are not up to 50 working on the project. But we are talking to more people to buy into this project.
How long is this going to be?
We will submit our final report in July 2017. We will do our best and our best will be to touch different areas that are yet to be touched. We do our best based on the situation we find ourselves. We don’t have five per cent of the budget for the project. But we have adopted this as our corporate social responsibility (CSR). We have become very passionate about what we are doing.
What do the women stand to gain by this project you are doing?
It is common knowledge that without data, it is very hard to intervene in any situation. Even in your home, if you do not know how many people you are feeding, how do you shop? Any country that is properly run has a data it can work with. And we have absolute trust in the US embassy which has awarded us this grant to do this job. The embassy normally doesn’t offer grant for collating data but what they offer is intervention and they told us that at our meeting. So for them to be doing this, that means there is intervention to come. Be it in the area of training, machinery assistance, assistance for women in farming or production. But without data, they cannot help you.
Apart from intervention that can come from the US embassy, many women entrepreneurs are coming into our network . We have women amongst us who are producing an item and are looking on to other women to supply the raw material for the businesses. So amongst us, businesses will thrive.
We are looking for women in the rural areas who are doing XYZ. They also will benefit from us as an organisation. All the leaders of these groups are coming on board, the African Women Entrepreneurship Network and they are coming into a huge network that will help build everybody and make us stronger. And the benefit outweighs all the problems we are facing.
So the grant is from the US embassy, there is no support from Nigerian government?
None from the Nigerian government yet but we are allowed to seek for help and we have started doing that. We have sent letters out for sponsorship. We have some response from Globacom. They said they will come on board but we are yet to receive any support from them yet. But we have had two meetings with them. They say they will come on board the project.
There are plans to go to other parts of the country, but it will depend on how successful we are with this one.
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