The toughest challenge that confronts female graduates in Nigeria today is the unemployment scourge. Until the economy began taking a battering, female graduates, in their thousands, were always hopeful of securing jobs, both in the private and public sectors, especially in feminine-like careers like broadcasting, administration, front office, human relations, sales and marketing and corporate affairs.
But with the economy so shrunk, salaried jobs hard to come by and women exposed to the ugly consequences, which include harassment in the quest for jobs, more and more female graduates are being compelled to embrace entrepreneurship.
As checks by Daily Trust revealed, the grim situation is driving educated women to start redefining the gender status in the business option. The latest report on global entrepreneurship released on January 12 by Babson College in Babson Park, Massachusetts and the London Business School discussed how men start many more businesses than women. The report says women have been on the whole less optimistic, have less confidence in their entrepreneurial skills and are more concerned about failures than men.
However, necessity is truly proving to be the mother of creativity, as Nigerian female graduates seek to rewrite the Babson College/London Business School report.
Rather than remain the traditional resource confined to homes, or knock on office doors everyday with their curriculum vitae seeking jobs, educated women are increasingly becoming an innovative part of the overall population, with the capacity to transform economies into thriving enterprises.
In commercial areas in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Enugu, the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and many other state capitals, educated women are setting up their own shops in as diverse areas as fashion design (tailoring), hair-dressing, makeup, soap-making and even footwear manufacturing. Many of them can also now be found engaged in farming, especially fish-farming and poultry.
Kabira Shehu, a graduate of Accounting from the University of Abuja, told Daily Trust how her dream while in school had been working with a reputable firm for about five years while scaling her ACCA professional examinations.
Kabira would later realise how dreams can remain just that – dreams. After she graduated, the only job she could get was a teaching job that was reluctant to pay her N7,000 per month. “I took the job pending when I would come across one that befits my educational status and profession, but after a year, none was forthcoming. Even the teaching job came with so many restrictions, rules and guidelines. At a point, I told myself I couldn’t take it anymore. That was when I decided to veer into buying and selling,” she said.
Kabira, who now sells ladies attires, said she started on a very small scale with just N10,000. Today, she has earned up to N150,000 gain from the business. What she has found more fulfilling is her independence.
“There is nothing like being an entrepreneur. If I had remained a teacher, I would have been stuck with a meagre N7,000 pay with no time to even source for other opportunities,” she said.
Nachanaa Kussiy, a Business Administration graduate, with specialisation in Marketing, opted for farming during her service year when the spectre of joblessness after service began haunting her. White collar jobs, she was always remembering, were hard to find.
“The reason why I went into entrepreneur (cassava farming) is because I wanted to be financially independent, to be useful to my society and also to be able to support myself and family.
“Being an entrepreneur gives me a great sense of belonging. Your certificate in your box will neither put food on your table nor clothes on your body. You have to use your mind and hands to do something reasonable that will earn you money. “Secondly, I believe the female folks are beginning to wake up to the fact that they have the ability to do more than what they thought was obtainable. The mentality then was to graduate, get a job, get married and have kids. There was no plan B,” she said.
Nachanaa didn’t actually plan to do farming when going into the service camp, “but when the opportunity arose while I was serving, I quickly grabbed it.” A smile lighting up her beautiful face, she quipped, “I feel proud and satisfied when people look for me to buy my produce. There is money in business. One good thing is that you always have money no matter how small. In fact, I have discovered that some female graduates who thought they were lucky to secure white collar jobs have been resigning to go into business. You may start little, but once you are established, even salary earners will come to you for soft loans because the end of the month always seems to be far from them.”
Blessing Moses was already a National Diploma graduate when she teamed up with her mother in the latter’s hair dressing business while she pursued her degree studies at the National Open University.
Blessing explained, “I like to be my own boss and that was why I learnt hair dressing from my mother. Being an entrepreneur brings about personal and national growth.”
Sharon Aaron, a Law graduate went into tailoring when she could not find a befitting job. The young barrister told our reporters that she had always envisioned herself defending clients in court, but upon graduating, every law office she applied for a job turned her back.
“My husband then advised me to learn tailoring, and that is what I have been using to support my family,” she said.
Our reporters also met Aisha Kpoki, a Master’s degree holder in Pharmaceutical Microbiology who narrated she attended many job interviews without success before venturing into the catering/event planning business.
“I had to resort to baking and selling cakes. When the business began gaining ground, I used the proceeds to expand by going into event planning. Now my business is much more lucrative than what many bankers out there earn,” she said.
Aisha Zakari, who combines a beverages shop and a laundry business, said she had to start a petty business because she could not secure a well-paying job after completing her National Certificate of Education studies.
“After training to be a qualified teacher, the only job I could secure was a N15,000 per month offer. Of course, I was not okay with that. That sum will not take care of me, let alone my family, so I rejected it. I borrowed N50,000 from my parents to start a laundry business. With the proceeds after a period of six months, I diversified into this beverages business. The businesses have been good. Sometimes, I make up to N50,000 a month, which is over three times the amount they offered to pay me. If I had accepted that salaried job, I may still be earning that amount till date.”
Aisha called on women to embrace entrepreneurship no matter how small-scale the take-off is, stressing that they would reap the benefit in the long run.