“Attending GWIM 62 birthed many new things, with one good outcome cascading into another,” said Dr. Tinuade Abimbola Oyebode, an OB/GYN based in Jos, Nigeria.
Tinuade attended Plan’s Global Women in Management (GWIM 62) workshop in Cape Town, South Africa in August 2015, hoping to build on her considerable experience in capacity building, advocacy, and HIV/AIDS prevention and holistic care. During the workshop, Tinuade improved her personal leadership, organizational management, business planning, and communication skills, learning while sharing best practices with 25 other women leaders over the course of a month. During the workshop, her fellow participants voted her as a person they saw offering significant leadership to women. Buoyed by this vote of confidence and the new knowledge and skills acquired at GWIM, Tinuade decided to realize a long-held dream of founding her own organization, Jubilee Sisters Development Initiative (JSDI), through which she could focus exclusively on working with and empowering women living with HIV/AIDS.
Later that year, Plan offered eligible alumni and their organizations the opportunity to apply for a small grant of up to $10,000. Tinuade applied, and to her surprise, was awarded the grant. Her project aimed to increase economic opportunities for HIV-positive women in Plateau State, Nigeria, through support-group networking, skills acquisition, and business training. As a doctor and community health advocate, she had witnessed firsthand how investing in women’s economic potential can impact the health and well-being of families and entire communities.
For the grant, JSDI partnered with the Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ASWHAN), a national support group network to which less than 10 percent of women living with HIV/AIDS belonged, despite being recognized by the government as the official body of females living with HIV in Nigeria. Over the course of the 10-month project, JSDI recruited an additional 450 members to the project, reviving and substantially growing a support network for the most marginalized women in the region. The organization trained members in business skills, financial literacy, and vocational skills, such as tailoring and catering. Members also formally registered as a cooperative society so they could access loans for business development through the network instead of traditional channels.
The beneficiaries reported that the training and subsequent income-generating opportunities have “transformed” their lives. At the end of the grant period, JSDI identified several lessons learned they would suggest incorporating into future projects:
- As a new organization, partnering with an established organization or network on a project can be mutually beneficial—the more seasoned partner’s reputation, network, institutional knowledge, and best practices are an obvious asset to a newer organization.
- Gender must be considered at every stage in the project cycle. For instance, offering childcare was critical to the participation of many of the women in the events and trainings.
- Reexamining presumed barriers to participation or engagement and adjusting the project accordingly. For instance, proximity was less of a barrier than anticipated while language and literacy were considerable hurdles. These challenges were overcome by translating the curriculum into the local language and tailoring it to an appropriate literacy level to ensure universal comprehension.
- To ensure the intended beneficiaries are receiving accurate information about opportunities, it can be best to defer to group or community leaders who understand the “terrain” to identify the most effective communication channels and target audiences.
- It is worth the effort to be creative about stretching and leveraging resources to maximize impact of funding (e.g. using a convenient space for multiple purposes to increase the number of beneficiaries).
Tinuade’s “good outcomes” continue to multiply. She was awarded a Chevening Scholarship through the UK government and is now completing a degree in gender and development at the University of Sussex, while continuing to work with JSDI and ASWHAN.