Welfare of women, particularly the vulnerable ones who are single mothers or divorced wives got a boost recently when the management of the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) through its ‘NBCEMPOWERHER’ programme, in collaboration with Karis and Eleos Hand of Hope Foundation, trained 200 women in five skills acquisition, and empowered 25 of them with start-up kits to boost their socio-economic wellbeing.
The venue was the Main Hall of Olukeye Community at Asejire in the Egbeda Local Government Area of Oyo State where dignitaries including the state’s Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Social Inclusion, the Community Head (Baale), clerics and beneficiaries converged to celebrate and appreciate NBC for discharging such a laudable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the needy women within the community.
The 25 beneficiaries were trained in the areas of shoe and bag making, baking/ confectionery, household cleaning products, adire/batik textile designs, as well as, beautification.
In attendance at the programme were the Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Social Inclusion, Alhaja Kafilat Omolabake Olajuwon, who was represented by the Acting Director, Women Programmes: Mrs Ilori Oladele Funmilayo who was at the event in company with the Assistant Director Women’s Programmes, Mrs Ronke Igein and the Commissioner’s Personal Assistant, Mrs Sekinat Yusuf. Others included: the NBC Manager Mr. Adegoke Joseph, as well as, representatives of the WEMA Bank that collaborated with the NBC and offered Sara Gender Loan to three of the women. Baale of Olukeye community in the Asejire area,
Chief Lateef Bakare, who was accompanied by other chiefs and their wives; Pastor Samuel Olufemi, as well as, Chief Gbadamosi Fatai (the Akogun of Olukeye) who offered opening and closing prayers. Bukola Bamiduro, the Executive Director of Karis and Eleos Foundation, an organisation that caters for women that are marginalised and the girl-children that are out of school, noted that the partners were carrying out the intervention to empower the women gender and the girl-child.
“That is one of the things we are doing today; empowering them, using skills acquisition as the tool to make sure women are empowered not just financially, but also in the global world, giving them a global standard of the business they were trained on.
So we don’t just sign off our programme and go straight to the practical; we go through the business classes. How do they manage their funds, their customers; how to retain them, how to position yourself for loans, grants and the rest of it; and how those already trained can keep their books and records. “So, when you have your records, the books are readily available for investors to go through because investors are more particular about figures and numbers.
These are the business classes we take them through and then into the practicals using the global standard. On the sponsorship of the empowerment programme, she said: “This empowerment is being sponsored by the Nigerian Bottling Company.
Last year, NBC, the bottlers of Coca- Cola, celebrated her 70th anniversary of doing business in Nigeria and as a means of giving back to the society, they want to train 1,000 women across eight states where they have their plants, and Asejire being one of them, is where we are empowering.
So over 200 women were trained and 25 across the skills are going to be getting empowered. So it is just a way for them to say we are giving back to the Asejire community and all other communities where they have their plants.
“What we told the beneficiaries is that they don’t need so much to start a business. All you need is yourself and your determination. So we are just trying to support what the governments are doing. We can’t do everything, and in fact we don’t have that capacity yet.
We just pray that we will have more companies, investors and sponsors so we will be able to support more women in starting their business. But with what they have been trained with, they can start their business.”
Speaking on what can be done to reduce poverty in the country, Bamiduro said: “To help reduce the poverty rate in our country is by having people make policies to support small business owners. You know you sleep and you wake up and hear these policies, especially with businesses that have to do with importing raw materials.
Look at how much the dollar rate is now, how many businesses can we say are still thriving from January till this moment? So policies need to be changed and be flexible enough to support small business owners. “In the same vein, providing the right tools and infrastructures in terms of having adequate electricity supply is another way of tackling the poverty rate in the country. It will help small business owners into producing more rather than running on diesel and fuel.
Security too is one major issue because people don’t want to travel to do business. “We reside in Lagos but it took us a lot of courage to come to Oyo State because we have heard a lot of stories about people travelling and being kidnapped. So the enabling environment will make business thrive. But the top of it is policies. When we have good policies, businesses will bounce back,” she said.
Advising the multinational companies and organisations operating in the country to all emulate the NBC’s gesture, Bamiduro said: “I know we have quite a number of multinationals and international companies giving back to the society, but then we crave for more opportunities.
Also, what I want to say about what NBC is doing is that they are looking at people at the lowest pyramid, so other multinationals shouldn’t just look at those that are digitized. Fine, the world is being digitalized, but we still have people at the bottom of the pyramid, so they shouldn’t shy away from people like that too. Organisations like ours need their support to reach out to these deserved people. “Government shouldn’t see us as competitors but as collaborators and partners to support what they are already doing.
And they should provide that platform where we can meet and discuss a way forward on what we can do to help the people at the low pyramid, the marginalised, those we feel that they can earn a living that probably can’t do anything,” she appealed.
In her speech themed: “The Role of Women in Nation Building”, the Women’s Affairs Commissioner said: “In Africa, the vulnerable conditions of women are more critical, given lingering gender inequalities, domestic violence, lack of social protection, among other issues that exacerbate injustice and privation.
These and many more limit their ability to reach their full potential. “Women are mothers, shapers of character, mentors and the brain box behind their children, husbands, family members and anybody that comes to their part,” noting therefore that they need to be empowered and enabled to live and enjoy meaningful life style.
Speaking on behalf of the NBC Ltd (a member of Coca-Cola Hellenic Group), its Director, (Community Affairs Manager), Mr. Jerome Oyebamiji, said that the empowerment gesture, “is our little way of impacting people in the society. We specifically empower women because they are the ones that nurture us. 90 per cent of our dealers are women.
50 per cent of our management position is envisaged but we have 30 per cent now. We did this in Lagos and after Oyo, we are going to the six other locations.
“We encourage our beneficiaries to replicate what they have learnt and trained on, in order to benefit others who were not lucky to be empowered today”. The 25 beneficiaries through their leaders expressed great delight at the opportunity afforded them, promising to use the start-up kits given to them judiciously to benefit themselves, share with others not lucky to be empowered, and their society at large.