Improving Standard of Living for Rural Women
Nestlé Nigeria, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies in Africa, is changing the narrative for more rural women traders in Nigeria to find themselves, build financial security and improve their standard of life. With the launch of the fifth phase of the Nestlé Empowering Rural Women in Nigeria, it has equipped 250 women in Port Harcourt, Osun, Enugu, Abuja and Bauchi States, with a goal to reach 300 women across Nigeria by the end of 2022. Rebecca Ejifoma reports on the impact of that drive
The drive to attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) like gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth for a well-rounded nation has continued to give Nestlé Nigeria, a food and beverage manufacturing company, an edge. This is because the firm understands the fringe benefits of investing in women’s economic empowerment.
Therefore, in line with its vision, Nestlé Nigeria and her implementation partners, FDConsults empowered 250 women traders from across Nigeria to intensify their take-home pay. First, the project took off the ground last August in North Central Nigeria, Abuja, with the induction of the first 50 women beneficiaries from Abuja-Kubwa, Nyanya and Gwagwalada.
Then in November of the same year, it progressed to the Southwest and impacted 50 women selected from Oshogbo, Ede and Ilesha in Osun State. And in February this year, 50 women from Nsukka and Obollo-Afo axis of Enugu State in the Southeast benefited and advanced to the Northeast where it empowered another 50 women in Bauchi State. They were equipped with requisite skills including merchandise, bookkeeping and marketing.
Voices of Beneficiaries
For Mrs Joyce Nwaiwo, one of the beneficiaries in Port Harcourt, her joy knew no bounds following the new skills acquired. She expressed, “I feel so happy about this opportunity. I still cannot believe that this is true, because it is just like a dream. I want to say a big thank you to Nestlé.”
For another beneficiary, Mrs Hairat Bashiru, in Oshogbo, the Osun State capital, this has eased her financial despair, as she sent gratitude to Nestle. “I want to thank Nestlé for doing a lot for my family. I am so happy that I was selected to participate in this program. The grant will increase my business and income which will enable me to improve my standard of living and that of my family.”
Mrs Peace Eze is another fulfilled beneficiary in Obollo-Afor, Enugu State. In her words, “I am very happy to have been selected to benefit from this programme. I am going home with good news. With what we were taught today, I now have the knowledge to support my business to grow.”
According to Eze, Nestlé also provides them with goods as a push. “With the help of the goods that Nestlé is also giving to us, I have everything I need to make my business succeed. I thank Nestlé for this important initiative. It will help all the women benefiting from the programme a lot.”
These women among the others will receive grants valued at 300 per cent of their monthly sales in the form of Nestlé’s products. They will also participate in training and mentorship programmes which will enable them to scale up their businesses, thereby increasing their household incomes.
While Nestlé Nigeria is not reneging on its promise to expand the Nestlé Empowering Rural Women in Nigeria Project to reach more women in other parts of the country, the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Nestlé Nigeria, Victoria Uwadoka chipped in, “The project aims to help these women to attain opportunities within their market. Before they were selected, there was an analysis done on the potential of their markets and we found out that they were not able to scale because they didn’t have enough funds to buy more products.”
Because the women were oblivious to merchandising, customer service, bookkeeping and marketing skills, “We took them in for training to give them an overview of all those areas of doing business then we placed them with mentors and coaches for three months to help them display the behaviours they have learnt”. Uwadoka expressed, “It’s amazing because some have made over 400 per cent of what they were doing.”
Demonstrating trust in the recipients, Nestlé Nigeria’s Commercial Manager, Mr Khaled Ramadan said, “We are happy to fulfil our promise.”
While these women are currently carving a niche for themselves from the training and mentorship, the commercial manager highlighted that they have recorded faster turnover, increased revenue and stronger visibility of their outlets within their locations. “We are, therefore, confident that these additional 50 selected retailers in South-South will also reap the full benefits of the support we are providing through training, mentorship and grants,” says Ramadan.
Taking a cue from Ramadan, the Head of Partnerships and Training at FDConsults, Mr Phranklin Audu, hinted “The Nestlé Empowering Rural Women project is such an amazing initiative. The progress and growth recorded by the women in the several states where the project is already ongoing are quite refreshing to see.
“We are talking about visible growth. Grade-C retailers are moving up the distribution ladder and more importantly, these women are doing more sales turnovers thereby earning higher incomes for themselves. We must commend the visioners of this project and the entire project team for staying true to the cause.”
The Nestlé Empowering Rural Women in Nigeria Project is designed to help rural women retailers scale up their businesses and sustain the new level of up to three times the size of their existing businesses. It is one of the Creating Shared Value initiatives that Nestlé deploys to help build thriving communities by improving livelihoods.
To reach 300 women across Nigeria before the end of this year, the training and mentorship elements of the project are provided by FDConsults who have a track record of helping rural dwellers access information and skills to accelerate their standard of life. Each beneficiary retailer is linked to a mentor for one-on-one guidance and consistent support over three months to ensure their success.
Fulfilling UN SDG Mantra
Empowering women, according to Nestlé, is a key part of its approach in line with the UN’s SDG 5. Its goal is to ensure women feel supported, valued and respected. This is because Nestlé has been working to balance the gender makeup of its workforce, and is actively creating a gender-balanced leadership by increasing the proportion of women in managerial positions, including its most senior executive posts.
Today, the food manufacturing company is proud that its Gender Balance Acceleration Plan aims to mushroom the proportion of women in its top 200 senior executive posts. Outside its operations, in the agricultural communities that cultivate and process its raw materials, Nestlé is also working to change the economic, social and cultural outlook for women through a host of different programs that aim to teach the skills required to increase farms’ productivity, build better businesses and improve livelihoods.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) Nestlé was recognised in 2022 for the fourth consecutive year. This is as Nestlé achieved an overall score of 78 per cent up from 68 per cent the previous year and above the index average score of 71 per cent.
That is why Nestlé Nigeria continues to forge ahead in its empowerment project. “We have reached 250 women so far,” Uwadoka confirmed. “For security reasons, we should target another region while we await things to stabilise.” This is as it hopes to sew up the project with the last batch of 50 women by November 2022, thereby providing women tickets to better lives.
The Nestlé Empowering Rural Women in Nigeria Project is designed to help rural women retailers scale up their businesses and sustain the new level of up to three times the size of their existing businesses. It is one of the Creating Shared Value initiatives that Nestlé deploys to help build thriving communities by improving livelihoods