The list is quite long, but by April 28, 2022, they will become household names. They are like Alice Ogbonna, Blessing Idowu Fanu, Olaitan Okubena, Elizabeth Ezuma, Augustina Njoku, Chinelo John, Ifeoma Nweje, Scholastica Ugwuanyi, Joy Chukwudi, Maria Ojor, Chinasa Okwudifele, Adetola Ariyo, Teni Abdullahi, Blessing Akinwale, Folashade Adekunle, Vivian Akponna, Victoria Sule, Felicia Kenbi, Rebecca Afolabi, Joy Onyekaba, Patricia Macaulay, Esther Okoh, Adrat Oluwa, Ibrahim Bola, Awawu Ishola, Elizabeth Nwaeke, Bukky Moshood, Aishat Ojebisi, Moyinoluwa Marcus and Tina Uju. These are real women who have lived real lives and whose lives are experiencing real growth. They have moved from poverty to a sustainable life. And these are my heroes.
Their lives were documented in a 132-page hardcover photo book titled, Stories of Impact: Real Women, Real Lives, Real Growth. The photo book is the work of Grooming People for Better Livelihood Center (Grooming Centre), a microfinance institution (MFI) that has been in business since 2006. Since then, they have positively intervened in the lives of over 700,000 women who accessed microfinance from the Grooming Center. Because it would be difficult to document all 700,000, the MFI chose to capture the stories of these 30 as a glimpse into the lives of the many people who have had life-changing experiences through these loans. favorable conditions.
In the book, Grooming Center explains, “We currently have over 700,000 members, and we believe each one is worth celebrating. While it’s impossible to tell all of their stories, we’ve chosen to start by telling the stories of 30 women who, in their daily ways, are visionaries chasing dreams, building businesses and changing lives – their own lives. and that of others. They come from different backgrounds and varying levels of formal education, but they are all business savvy and hard working. As you read their stories, you will find that they overcame various challenges – professional or personal crises – in the process of creating and sustaining their businesses. Despite this, their success is worth celebrating, and providing them with resources to overcome challenges is why Grooming Center was designed in the first place.
Grooming Center attempts to address the issue of economic growth and poverty reduction through financial inclusion and access to credit. Most of the Nigerian population, especially women, do not have access to loans. The statistics are worrying. Quoting a UN report, the Center says: “In Nigeria, where the ease of doing business is low but improving, documentation, collateral requirements and other barriers hamper inclusion and access. for many people, especially women, 73% of who have never had access to loans.
Although the book is the Grooming Centre’s display tool, the heroes are indeed the 30 women who, through determination and enterprise, rose from despair to hope – success stories that would be told for a long time.
There is the story of Augustina Njoku, a caterer and decorator, who plies her trade in Nkpor, Anambra State. She has been in business for over 10 years. In 2014, she accessed a loan from Grooming Center. The loan helped her expand her business, which now means she has to move to places like Asaba and Owerri to work due to her growing reputation.
In her words: “When I go to a wedding and see all the decorations I’ve made or see a bride I’ve dressed, I’m filled with pride and joy because that’s my job. , and it’s original. I’m not copying anywhere else. I love it when people start asking, “Who did this?” and I’m like, “It’s me.” And then I get more numbers from phone and potential customers. I also love when my customers give me good feedback; it makes me so happy.”
Another story is that of Chinasa Mary Okwudifele. She is a drinks wholesaler based in Ikpoba, Benin. Chinasa started the business when she retired from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). But the company has struggled. She could not finance the business with her pension, which she described as “peanuts”. Then came the Grooming Center. According to her:
“With Grooming, I was able to make a comeback. I had access to loans and that really boosted the business. I’ve been at Grooming for two years and I’m a leader now. I believe that with the help of Grooming, I will eventually have my own vehicle to supply my drinks and become a distributor.
Felicia Kenbi, a businesswoman, lives in Alakuko, Ogun State. She runs a hire-purchase business of motorbike taxis (okada), provides charcoal and sells food. She has been a trader for over 40 years. Ten years ago, she got a loan from Grooming Center of N20,000. Then she organized other women to join her, and they formed a small group.
Kenbi’s business grew. She says: “I started buying motorbikes and tricycles and distributing them. I’ve seen progress and haven’t experienced any setbacks since becoming a Grooming member. I currently have five motorcycles on lease. Usually I buy one, find someone who is interested in riding it, and they pay me weekly out of their profits. I like that they pay the day before our meetings so I can use it for my loan repayment. Once they are done paying, the bike is theirs.
Remarkably, she thrives on helping others in their affairs.
“Whenever someone comes up to me to tell me they have challenges or need a job, I rent a new store, buy some merchandise and tell them to shop there. trade. They sell and they give me part of the profits every week. They have their winnings and I have mine. About four of the people I did this for grew up to open their own stores. They can now fend for themselves. »
Felicia Kenbi has her sights set on the future: “My vision is that I will continue to have multiple businesses that I can pass on to others, to my children and to other people. My life has changed for the better. I brag about what Grooming has done for me. I took these loans and succeeded, and even my children are members of Grooming – they bought land and built houses and they live in peace. I say it wherever grooming is best. They never put me in debt and it was never difficult for me to repay. My life is beautiful and my family too.
•Omolola Itayemi is a journalist. She lives in Lagos