ABUJA Nigeria – Empowering women economically with means to generate or earn income has been identified as one of the major strategies to address issues of gender based violence.
This was revealed in a report released by TechnoServe Nigeria with funding support from the Ford Foundation, in Abuja.
The study which was conducted in three West African countries of Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal said empowering women will significantly improve their status and reduce their exposure to gender based violence.
The report which was based on the findings from a study conducted in three West African countries with over 1000 women were interviewed during survey, revealed that most women do not have confidence in the application of laws and government policies to get justice against gender based violence in the country.
While speaking about the study report, Country director for TechnoServe in Nigeria, Adesua Akinboro said the purpose of the research was, “to speak to women, stakeholders, communities, institutions of faith and culture in the three countries where the research was carried out and to understand what their perspectives are, what their thoughts were, and then what is going on in society.
She said, “the findings from this report were very interesting, because we found that when women are empowered in these communities, they have better earnings. They are better able to support their families, they are better able to support their spouses.
She said that TechnoServe as an organisation believes in seeking business solutions to poverty.
“So we know that there are a lot of very hard working men and women across the world and in Nigeria that is not an exception. There are a lot of very hard working men and women all over the country. And we believe very strongly in empowering these men and women to increase their incomes, to strengthen their businesses, to grow their businesses.
“And so that they can generate the incomes to pull themselves out of poverty. And we have a very strong gender desk . So in all our programming, we ensure that at least 40 percent of those that we are empowering are women,” she said.
Adesua explained that what informed the research funded by Ford Foundation, was that TechnoServe wanted to see if there is a nexus between empowering women economically, and gender based violence.
“Which means that when you empower women, does that increase their risk to being violated, or does that decrease the risk? Now of course, in the development field, especially international development, we have a principle that we call ‘do no harm’. So in the process of implementing your programming, you are not supposed to increase people’s risk to negative situations or negative coping mechanisms.
“And so if our work empowers women, we want to make sure that as were empowering women, we are not opening them to the risks associated with having money,” she said.
Ford Foundation’s Funke said: There were certain interesting trends discovered by the report.
She said in Ghana, for instance, the definition of an independent and empowered woman was very funny. According to her, people in Ghana talk about empowered women as those who are married, while those who are single were not. But in Nigeria, She said that was not the case.
Representative of Ford Foundation Olufunke Baruwa said, “The women and men in Nigeria who are respondents felt that a woman generally needs to have her own money, needs to be economically viable and empowered, needs to be able to take care of our own needs are not necessarily dependant on her man.
“What happens and what has shifted a little bit is that men become very uncomfortable because of the power shift and power dynamics that they feel.”
She further stated the primary focus of the study was not just to look at social norms, religious and cultural narratives that tacitly encourage gender based violence, but other factors that lead to gender based violence.
“What we were supporting TechnoServe to do, was to look at the interplay between gender based violence and women’s economic empowerment. You know, there are lots of anecdotal evidence around the woman’s independence, women having economic power, and those that cause some friction in the home for those who are married. And those who are not. Generally, people have adjudged that it’s one of the factors that leads gender based violence. So rather than relying on some of them, even though there are you know, lots of existing researches is just contributing to the body of knowledge and taking specifically case studies across these three regions, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal and look and interrogate the theory that GBV are one of the causative factors is women’s economic empowerment,” she said.
Speaking shortly after the public presentation of the report of the study in Abuja at the weekend, the leader of the research team, Dr. Daniel Abah said the survey showed that empowering women economically, and helping them to generate incomes and to pull themselves out of poverty, also reduced their exposure to gender violence.
“Yes, we found that the nexus between women’s economic empowerment and gender based violence (GBV) is complex and contextual in nature.”