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Creating Sustainable Jobs for Rural Women and Youth in Nigeria

By Babajide Oluwase

· Africa,Social Entrep,Women,Youth

Back in 2014, as a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving in Kwara State, Nigeria, Glory Chinenye Oguegbu had wondered why many people in her host community were languishing in hunger and abject poverty in the midst of plenty cassava which is a staple food. Then the quest for a new narrative changed everything afterwards.

“It all started during the mandatory National Youth Service Corps at age 23, I conducted a successful economic growth and empowerment program for 200 widows and 24 orphans in a small community that had cassava in abundance,” she said. “I constructed a large scale cassava processing factory which enabled the women process large quantities of cassava for sale in bulk sizes. It gave the women a source of livelihood and enabled them afford the school fees of their children.”

Glory engaging women at a cassava processing factory in Kwara State, Nigeria.

Photo from Glory's Facebook page

Her work received a recognition from the state government who mentioned that it will be replicated across the state of Kwara. It was a complete community make-over which had ripple effect on the entire community of about 2,500. Oguegbu organized for nearby markets to purchase the processed cassava, locally known as ‘garri’ from the women to sell in retail and make good financial returns. “The extreme success of the program made me realize how much economic impact can be achieved if a community is empowered using their own inherent resources and hence led to the beginning of Glow Initiative.”

To sustain the impact accomplished and replicate across various Nigerian communities, Oguegbu founded Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment, a non-profit organization initiated to boost the economic development of communities by harnessing and enhancing their in-born resources and economic potentials to create jobs and provide a means of livelihood, ultimately reducing poverty and supporting economic growth.

In a bid to reduce poverty and create sustainable jobs for teeming women and youth population in Nigeria, she is working in partnership with InstaSolar Energy LLC headquartered in USA to set up community centers to promote clean water, energy and education. Her organization recently conducted needs assessment research in various communities and selected 5 most economically disadvantaged villages to establish solar centers and train residents. When up and running, the project is projected to serve +5,000 people with access to clean water, clean energy and environmental literacy.

Glory speaking at the University of Delaware (USA) Energy Conference in 2016.

Photo from Glory's Facebook page

Oguegbu’s dedication and passion has improved the wellbeing of hundreds of people across Nigerian communities and fetched her over 10 local and international awards and recognitions – including President Barack Obama's Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders; Nigerian Energy Champion; and receiving a prestigious speaker invitation to speak at the University of Delaware Energy Conference in 2016.

Similar to many other laudable organizations/initiatives globally, one of the major challenges has been directly related to unavailability of capital to conveniently fund projects. “We have a number of people who are willing to learn a certain skill but due to the fact that we do not have funds to cover their training they have not been able to,” Oguegbu said. “Also we’ve had the problem of indifference behavior by people. A lot of people are indifference to the subject of renewable energy and climate change. This makes our task a bit difficult and to solve it, we wrote 4 books to specifically address each strata of the society in a way and manner that will enable easy comprehension”.

To solve the problems highlighted through Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment, they work and partner with other organizations to identify communities enriched with economic resources and provide training for SMEs creation along the existing value chain. They also provide mentorship to the trainees to enable them succeed right from the idea stage.

Based on the organization’s current model of raising funds mostly through grants by charity, foundations and impact investors, revenues are unpredictable, and this calls for more strategic models that guarantee sustainability, most especially for the sustainable growth of the organization. Oguegbu and her team understand that if revenues keep fluctuating and are also tied to the dictates of grant organizations, there might be little chance to innovate with new products and also have a consistent impact pattern. This is why it is important to consider corporate offerings as a spin-off of the organization.

Agri-Smart Training Program, by Glow Initiative for Economic Empower.

Photo from Glory's Facebook Page

By 2018, Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment intends to generate at least 40% of its revenues on an annual basis from corporate services including but not limited to Consulting for companies, governments and NGOs on Green Growth, Renewable Energy and Climate Education; Training workshops for companies and organizations on production of renewable energy technology; Massive continuous sale of published books to the public; Sale and marketing of renewable energy products; Training conferences for Geography teachers in secondary schools and University lecturers in Environmental science departments; and above all, Increase collaborations and partnerships with for-profit organizations.

Moving forward, Oguegbu believes that the future is bright if Nigerians can get the full importance of renewable energy technology. “The problem is that majority of Nigerians are unaware that not all renewable energy products are expensive. Small applications exist that are very affordable and can serve the basic needs of businesses and households,” enthusiastic Oguegbu said. She opined that adopting renewable energy solutions would be encouraging if the government can set up a Renewable Energy Fund to provide capital especially for young people who want to go into renewable energy businesses. “This will go a long way to encourage other persons to join the bandwagon.”

For the daring young lady, she is tirelessly working with her team to build an organization with a sustainable model that others will look up to in the near future. Her plan is to continue to strengthen their engagement with the public on promoting renewable energy technology and resources, and to be the voice leading positive change in this sector in decades to come.

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