A community-based organization in Enugu State, Iyom Umuevu Njoku Eji Women has raised alarm over the high level of poverty among rural women and girls.
Programme Officer of the organization, Mrs. Ijeoma Nwatu, who spoke to journalists during one of its outreach programmes in Obinagu Akpugo, in Nkanu West local Government Area of Enugu State, said poverty had led several teenagers into an avoidable immoral lifestyle.
She said several young girls had been lured into premarital sex with things as cheap as a plate of indomie and a bottle of soft drink.
She disclosed that the programme, which is a Women Voices and Leadership Project, with sponsorship from Global Affairs Canada, ActionAid Nigeria and in partnership with WACOL, was centred on fighting gender-based violence and eliminating poverty.
“We have had the first batch of the programme; it is a continuation of ongoing women voices and leadership projects in Nigeria, it was actually made to be a four-year programme.
“We have two programmes- skills acquisition and training. The training was on liquid soap, air freshener, detergent, jik, among others, and the target population is women and young girls, the vulnerable groups, to empower women,” she disclosed.
She added that “there was also training on how to trade and access micro credit.
“After the empowerment and they desire to get some small loan to go on with the business, there is help on how to go about it and how to manage the trade. It is not just starting the trade, you need to apply some skill in order not to mismanage your money
“Based on the training, if they want to access capital on their own, they can form a small cooperative group, where they can contribute and give to one person and it will be rotating, but the association on its own has also promised that as we come to the next batch, they are willing to empower the serious ones even if it is just for a token
“We are already working on some loan facilities on the side of the government.”
On the level of poverty among the rural women, Njoku said, “It is nothing to write home about; poverty is the main problem in rural communities; it is a reality, it is horrible in my community.
“It has led to a whole lot of issues that you cannot even start to enumerate; it has led to unwanted pregnancy, for a bottle of coke and a plate of indomie, a young girl could just be messed up by a man who promised to give her that; it is that bad.
“People are going through a whole lot, women are not being empowered; women are being marginalized; so poverty is an issue, especially among women and girls.”
Many women and girls who benefited from the project lauded the organization for changing their lives, stating that it was the first of its kind.