John Dada sent news today about Kazanka Comfort, who was for many years the general secretary of Fantsuam Foundation's micro-finance programme and involved in all other programmes. He wrote:
VSO/CUSO have sponsored Comfort to a Women leaders course in Canada and this has been followed by a week of speaking tour
The event series, called Women Leaders in the Developing World, starts in Ottawa on May 21.
These details are from the website:
Women: The Face of Potential in the Developing World
In too many countries, women bear the brunt of poverty’s burden. But if the face of poverty is often female, so too is the face of potential. Leaders from Cuso International’s overseas partner groups will talk about why you cannot tackle poverty without putting women at the centre of development. (more at Women Leaders in the Developing World)
Kazanka Comfort: Gender equality and poverty reduction in Nigeria
Comfort has written about her work in an article that was published in The Ottawa Citizen". She wrote:
I live in the northern, rural area of Nigeria. In 2004, I built a wireless internet service there to help women and youth tackle poverty and improve their lives using microfinance and information and community technology (ICT) services. It’s called the Fantsuam Foundation and offers the first rural computer literacy program, thus empowering women in rural communities to work their way out of poverty.
Our “customers” are typically owners of agro-based micro- and small- businesses. Access to finance is one of the major hurdles faced by rural entrepreneurs. The Foundation provides access to microloans, which the women pay over an agreed period of time. The relative isolation of the Fantsuam host communities made it necessary to explore affordable communication facilities. The “Community Communication Centre” at Fantsuam Foundation is the first rural internet service in the region. However its rural location deprived it of access to reliable grid power. This led to the use of solar and the low-power computers in the Academy. The Academy has enabled Fantsuam Foundation to provide computer literacy for its rural youth; from basic skills up to Cisco certification level. The Foundation is now leading a consortium of rural-based tertiary institutions to negotiate cheaper tariffs for their broadband internet access.
The Fantsuam Foundation microfinance service goes much beyond the lending and repayment of loans. We also engage with the entire communities in addressing issues of
- Social protection
- Environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices
- Support groups for HIV/AIDS
- Home-based care for the elderly, and
In this way, the Fantsuam model of microfinance is integrated to a whole set of complimentary services. Each of the services is as a result of needs identified by the host communities.
Access to the internet and mobile telephony provides a life-line to Fantsuam Foundation, making it possible to access resources and opportunities. For example, it was the access to internet that has made it possible for me to be here in Canada. We use the internet to give youth access to career opportunities. We also search the internet for information of relevance to the ‘value chain’ of our primary agricultural producers.
For us, information and communication technology has indeed been a boost to our efforts to fight rural poverty in northern Nigeria.
Gender inequality reduction in Nigeria:
The present Nigerian Government is the first in Nigeria’s political history to have women on the Federal Executive Council holding the important portfolios of Finance, Communication, Aviation and Petroleum Resources are more. Such high profile appointments indicate a trend in which women are beginning to be recognized and given their rightful roles in the society. Showing the 35% of women representation in political positions.
Poverty alleviation in Nigeria:
It is ironic that as Nigeria’s income from petroleum resources has grown over the years, the poverty level among women and children has worsened. These are largely due to inadequacies of political leadership . The increasing gap between the rich and poor is at the root of the rising tension and out-bursts of ethnic and religious violence.
Canada and Cuso’s role to assist in reducing gender inequality and poverty:
There is yet to be a critical mass of the Nigerian population who actively engage in the political process, and demand high levels of accountability from their elected representatives. I see an opportunity for Canada and CUSO to support civil society entities like NGOs, in raising public awareness in areas of civic responsibility, participating in the development, implementation and monitoring of the national and local government budgets, promoting transparency and accountability in governance, protecting the rights of women, children and the elderly.