Interview conducted by Sarah Squires, Communications Officer, Generations For Peace

Because of your generosity, the #IWantToBe Empowering Women for Peace campaign finally reached the $7000 mark! Thank you for always believing in our volunteers and the value of this programme. We could not have done this without you all.

Over the weekend, we caught up with several volunteers in Nigeria to see how things are going, and of course to share a very important update with them! After absorbing the wonderful news, this is what they had to say!

First of all, well done to the whole team – we are so proud of you! What message would you like to share with everyone who has supported the campaign along the way?

Jelilat: We would like to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to the success of this crowdfunding campaign. This will be put to good use and it is going to touch people’s lives in a positive way. It will bring about wonderful and sustainable changes in the women’s lives, and also in their communities.

Eric: The big word here would definitely be ‘thank you’ on behalf of the women in Kaduna State. We believe the extended community also benefits from the programme, so you can be rest assured that the money, time, and resources donated will never be in vain.

Joy: We really want to thank the many people who have supported this campaign. We want to say that Kaduna, Nigeria is very grateful. The money contributed will touch not only the lives of people in Kaduna, but also other states. If you change the life of one woman, it can help change the lives of more women in her community. Thank you – there are so many good things to come.

As the campaign comes to a close, can you share a few of the programme’s successes?

Joy: The biggest success of the programme is teaching the women skills that they have taken the time to learn. For example, in one of the sessions the women were shown how to start a poultry farming business. Because of the advice provided, two women from two different communities were able to create a poultry farming business. So for me, the biggest success has been imparting skills to women who want to start their own business with what they have learned.

Eric: There is a line that divides the north from the south, the Muslims from the Christians. But as a result of the programme, and the relationship between communities, the women even communicate outside the programme. They broke a barrier that was there and they interact freely now.

Jelilat: A lot of the women did not believe they had the right to walk up to a community head to voice their issues. But now these women have easy access to stakeholders and traditional leaders in their communities.

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Kaduna, Nigeria

Have there been any challenges along the way?

Eric: Since it is an issue of empowerment, there is a mindset that the women are going to receive a huge sum of money. So changing their minds to help them understand that Generations For Peace is not an organisation that gives money was a serious challenge – it takes time. Before each session started, we reminded them that this is not about getting money, but rather building their capacity so they can access funds.

Joy: We always had a consistent number of women, but sometimes the women would change in the middle of the programme and they would send a relative to the next meeting. Also, some of the women moved, and as a result, someone else would replace them. We tried to help the participants understand that we would not be able to effectively monitor the programme if different women continued to represent their communities each time.

What have you learned as a result of the programme?

Joy: I was able to work with these women, gain access to their communities, interact with them, and meet their community heads. There is a bond between us. We know the issues they are facing and we can visit the communities to really understand what is happening there. We are even able to do additional programmes outside the Generations For Peace programme that tackle issues such as gender-based violence. This is because of the relationship we built with these women. It has been a platform that empowered me and really made me feel like I have done something in my field of work.

Jelilat: I had never really worked with women before, so this programme helped me because I worked with women from diverse cultures and religions. Also, as a younger woman, it helped me learn how to relate to women who are older than me and women who come from different backgrounds. That was the biggest lesson I learned from the programme.

So, what is next?

Eric: As a result of our last participatory evaluation, the women have asked for the expansion and replication of the programme, so bringing in new communities is next! The women who were involved in the recent programme will be running community initiatives in their respective communities for future programming.

Kaduna, Nigeria

There are so many people who want to volunteer, but are not sure where to start. Do you have any words of encouragement for them?

Jelilat: I would say take little baby steps. You have to walk before you can run. For now, forget the big picture – do not be scared. With time, even those little baby steps will go a long way towards creating a significant change!

Joy: You can do it, just take the first step. Do not doubt yourself – you have potential. Try to push forward and do it!

Eric: No matter how small it seems, one effort can go a long way in changing your neighbour’s life. Just do the thing that you know how to do – the thing you feel you have inside. Is it that you can talk to someone or support them? Do something, just do something. It goes a long way towards changing the world!

A few final words from Comfort (programme participant) and Idris (community leader)!

Comfort: As a northern woman, I grew up believing that women have no place or say when it comes to community decision making. However, that notion has changed since my involvement in the programme. We (Unguwan Romi women) carried out an advocacy event to engage the traditional leaders and stakeholders in our community, and to discuss issues that affect women and youth in the community. This event helped build my self-confidence, and it also provided me with the skills needed to be involved in community decision making!

Idris: One woman (among three women) who participated in the programme was made part of a committee that was set up to distribute fertilizer in my community. I was amazed at how smoothly the process ran and how inclusive it was. I believe it was a result of the only woman in the committee. I now know we need more women!

Although the campaign is over, you can still stay up-to-date by subscribing to our newsletter, and following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s continue to empower each other to create a global community of change-makers across the world!

Once again, thank you so much from all of us here at Generations For Peace!