Women from some violence-prone communities in Nigeria on Tuesday testified to how a skill acquisition programme they attended has impacted their lives.
The three-month training was organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), in partnership with UN Women.
It was held in Abuja and Kaduna and taught the women skills including bead making, hairdressing, makeup, catering and tailoring.
NACA said the exercise was organised following concerns over the spread of HIV/AIDS and vulnerability of women to violence in conflict prone areas.
Some of the women attended the training which started last year shared their experiences with Premium Times at their graduation ceremony on Tuesday in Abuja.
Catherine Abah, who lost her husband during a religious crisis in Kaduna, said she acquired a new skill and also learnt how to live peacefully with people of other religions.
“I am a Christian. Due to the crisis between Moslems and Christians in our community, we now distance ourselves from Moslems in our community,” she told Premium Times.
“But during the training we were taught how to peacefully live together.
We visited a Moslem colleague who just had a baby, this is something we were not doing before,” Mrs Abah who learned catering said.
Janet Lot learnt how to make cream and other cosmetics products.
“I’ve already started the business and people are buying my cream. They are even requesting that I start making perfume,” she said.
NACA’s Director of Committee for Prevention and Utility, Alex Ogundipe, said the project aimed to improve the livelihood of women who became impoverished as a result of violence and conflict.
“These challenges can make women more vulnerable to HIV and other diseases, that is why we want to empower them. What this programme presents is improved skills and start-up seed money for these women.
“In the course of this project, we have seen that we don’t even need millions to train, empower, give voice and dignity to women. All we need is the right plan and partnership.
“It is a pilot project which has opened our eyes and we encourage other government agencies, NGOs to grab this opportunity to empower poor women. It builds there self-esteem. The skill set improves their confidence that they can do more with their lives.”
She said the beneficiaries were expected to train other women so “the skills will keep passing around.”
Patience Etoba, the national programme officer for UN WOMEN who expressed concern over the increase in the number of vulnerable women in conflict prone communities, said her organisation partnered with NACA on the project to improve the lives of such women.
She said women living with HIV/AIDS were among the 100 women selected for the training.
“We are not just looking for women vulnerable to HIV but those in violent areas. Some women sell their bodies just to get food. Survival has taken the dignity of womanhood in these communities and that is why we are doing this.
“Its good to empower women economically, socially and politically. Their voices become more audible when they have something in their pockets. The twist we brought to this project is that we are looking at poor vulnerable women living in conflict infested communities.
“The conflict situation in Nigeria has become pervasive and increasingly a lot of people are losing livelihood, so we are targeting women whose families have faced one form of conflict or the other. We want to uplift them.”
The women received certificates at the end of the ceremony.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, is a United Nations entity working for the empowerment of women. It became operational in January 2011.