Anawim Microloans In Action

 Sister Oresoa sits with members of the Sacred Heart Borrowing Group as they prepare to receive their loans

Sister Oresoa sits with members of the Sacred Heart Borrowing Group as they prepare to receive their loans

At the beginning of August, thirty-six women in Gwagwalada, Nigeria received interest-free loans of $150, $200, or $250 from Anawim Home. These women represented graduates of the Anawim skills building classes, former residents of Anawim Home, and local women in the community with a need to support their families. For many, this was their first ever opportunity to take control of their lives and to improve the future for their children. 

 Graduates of Anawim Skills Building Classes show off their skills prior to receiving their loans.

Graduates of Anawim Skills Building Classes show off their skills prior to receiving their loans.

In the months leading up to the loan distribution, these women worked with Franka Adah, the Anawim project lead, and other Anawim staff members to develop their business plans, choose their trusted ‘borrowing groups,’ determine the sum of money they would need to request, and plan their repayment schedule.

 Franca Adah works with loan recipients on their business and repayment plans prior to loan distribution day.

Franca Adah works with loan recipients on their business and repayment plans prior to loan distribution day.

 A young muslim woman receives her loan. While Anawim is a Catholic organization, they do not discriminate with regard to whom they offer assistance. 

A young muslim woman receives her loan. While Anawim is a Catholic organization, they do not discriminate with regard to whom they offer assistance. 

The women joined into four self-selected borrowing groups. Members of each group trust one another and have familiarized themselves with each other’s businesses plans. At the borrowing group meetings, in addition to providing their monthly repayment installments, group members discuss the challenges and triumphs of their businesses and provide thoughtful support to one another. The women are also encouraged to discuss their savings practices at these meetings and to continually plan for the future.

 Borrowing Group Members waiting to receive their loans. Borrowing groups support each other in their business endeavors and in their monthly loan repayments.

Borrowing Group Members waiting to receive their loans. Borrowing groups support each other in their business endeavors and in their monthly loan repayments.

Thus far, each woman has completed her September 2015 repayment installment without a hitch. These ladies are expected to finish repaying their loan to Anawim in July of 2016. All funds will then be directly loaned out to the 2016/2017 group of Anawim Microloan recipients.

All funds for the Anawim Microloan Project were provided by the Hope for West Africa Foundation. Sara Kennedy, president of the HFWA board, provided project planning and oversight assistance.

International Women's Day and Anawim!

Today marks the 104th International Women’s Day.  Under this year’s theme, Making it Happen, governments, organizations and individuals celebrate the social achievements of women and come together to advocate for the future of women’s health and economic stability and rights.

For us at HFWA, Anawim Home provides a perfect embodiment of the spirit of Making it Happen. In addition to their other outreaches, Anawim Sisters and staff put enormous energy into their programs for women in the two West African countries in which they work.

In Nigeria, where the general population faces an unemployment rate of 21.1% and the female unemployment rate it 24.9%, young women especially struggle to make a living.* While women do make up 42.8% of the workforce, in 2013, 70% of Nigerians living below the poverty line were female.**

 Learning to Knit

Learning to Knit

Sister Oresoa and the staff at Anawim Home have made it their mission to address the issues that have thrust people into poverty. Their non-judgmental fellowship with Nigerian women living in brothels, the housing and social support they provide for pregnant young women and young mothers who have been abandoned to them, their monthly health talk events and their daily clinical care all demonstrate a determined dedication to the West African woman and mother.

Anawim not only supports women in their immediate crises, but also works to help each woman ensure a sustainable future for herself and her family. Anawim provides vocational training to any woman who is willing to work.  Providing sewing, knitting, cooking, music and hair salon skills training courses in both Kaduna and Abuja, Nigeria, these sisters and staff have afforded employable skills to hundreds of Nigerian women in need. HFWA is excited to announce that we are working with Anawim to develop a pilot microloan program in which 45 of these ladies, gathered into four 'trust' groups will receive loans to begin building their businesses. As they pay back their loans, all funds will go directly into the skills building program. Stay tuned to learn more about the exciting developments!

 Cooking students on graduation day!

Cooking students on graduation day!

 Graduated sewing students with their creations!

Graduated sewing students with their creations!

 

*Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics. National Manpower Stock and Employment Generation Survey, 2010

**Tinuke. M. Fapohunda. Women and Poverty Alleviation in Lagos, Nigeria. British Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences,January 2012, Vol. 3 (2) 87

True Nigeria

Last week, three bombs detonated in Jos, the Nigerian city where one of our partners, the Faith Alive Foundation, is located. Here in Baltimore, the attacks made it into the press. They showed up on my BBC news app and in the NPR broadcast on my radio. Indeed Nigeria has been in the international news almost daily for the past month. Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for thousands of deaths since 2009, has become a household name, and when I mention Nigeria in conversations, people shake their heads in sadness over the kidnapped girls from Chibok or the 470+ Nigerian civilians killed in other attacks since the day the the girls were taken from their school.

I do not have answers. I am not part of US or Nigerian intelligence agencies. I don’t know the clear motivation behind those responsible for terrorizing their fellow Nigerians, whether religious or political, and I don’t know how to stop them. What I do know is that this cannot become one more situation where people are reduced to mere statistics or where a population is defined solely by the actions of a few.

I was in Abuja on April 14th; I woke up to the news that over 70 people were killed in a bomb at the Nyanya bus terminal in Abuja and went to bed with the news thatover 200 girls in Chibok were kidnepped. Over the past 5 years, I have placed more calls and written more emails than I care remember to friends in areas that were recently attacked. I've had travel plans changed and work delayed due to safety concerns of moving about the country. Still, the Nigeria I know is not Boko Haram. Nigeria is the people, places and moments that do not make the international news. 

Jos is the capital city of Plateau State, where the climate is temperate and the produce is amazing. Terminus Market, which was bombed a week ago is where people barter over fruits and vegetables, clothes and random goods. Its where I purchased super glue to fix my broken sandal. The people of Jos are the Muslim and Christian women who sit side by side in the hospital waiting room, they are Jane, who first taught me how to do HIV counseling and testing, and they are Dr.s Chris and Mercy Isichei who both work full time at Jos University Teaching Hospital while providing their salaries and services to Faith Alive, the large free hospital Dr. Chris started and runs.

Abuja is the city that stands in the picturesque shadow of Aso Rock as well as the National Mosque and National Church of Nigeria, and of course, the Abuja Football stadium. The people of Abuja are my brilliant colleagues who work late into the evenings to ensure patients get the services they need. They are friends who take me dancing because they think it is funny when I try, they are the ladies who grill the best fish ever at Mogadishu Barracks, and the sisters and residents of Anawim Home, another partner of HFWA, where Sister Oresoa and her nuns offer care, dignity and respect to anyone in need. 

Lagos is home to exciting young entrepreneurs and international powerhouse companies, and Kano is home to a largely Muslim population that has only ever gone out of its way to make this white foreigner feel welcome. Kaduna is where I saw my first Durbar, as well as the only place where I witnessed a group of nuns' solemn profession of vows.

When presented with news of a conflict thousands of miles away, it is at times hard not to generalize a population or to reduce individuals into statistics. In doing so however, we stand perilously close to apathy. I am reminded every day, especially with each breaking news update on my phone and blog post on my facebook feed, that the people of Nigeria should not be defined by Boko Haram (nor the corruption or internet scams of which we are all aware). Nigerians are 174 million incredibly diverse and wonderful individuals who live, work, love, worship and relax exactly like those of us across the world. While my heart breaks with each report of violence and unrest, Nigerians to me can never be reduced to mere statistics. They are friends and colleagues who inspire, encourage, amuse, guide, and occasionally frustrate me in the precise manner that a family would. Above all however, they are individual people. And that reason, more than any other, has taught me to understand that apathy - in any conflict situation - is an impossibility.

Sara