Working to improve gender equality in Nigeria
In Nigeria, gender inequality remains a critical challenge. The statistics tell a sobering story of how prevalent gender-based violence is in this country of 220 million people: one-quarter of girls experience sexual violence. Nigeria has the highest number of child brides worldwide and one of the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies worldwide.
Cuso International volunteer Jacque Karungi wants to change these statistics. As a Gender Analyst, she works with local communities in Calabar, a port city near the Cameroon border, to address gender inequality and human rights violations.
“My work as a Cuso International volunteer is contributing to positive global change that will go a long way to help in reducing poverty and inequality,” Jacque said.
Since starting her placement, Jacque has worked with 45 survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV) to equip them with livelihood skills and improve their economic situation. The women she’s helped receive starter packs containing basic tools that allow them to pursue careers that match their skillset. For example, women trained in hairdressing are given salon equipment including a portable sink and those trained in make-up artistry are given makeup kits.
“When I began to learn the training on shoemaking, my relatives and close friends laughed at me and were almost discouraging me. After one month, I started making some money from sales and I am happy,” said one participant, Edak.*
Jacque has also helped to provide 50 Cameroonian refugee women and girls with dignity kits. These kits include reusable sanitary pads, detergent, bars of soap, underwear, a bucket with a lid, shaving sticks and a mat.
Around the world, volunteers like Jacque deliver on-the-ground-assistance through the Cuso International program SHARE which aims to improve the economic and/or social well-being of the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable people, particularly women and girls, in developing countries, with a view to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
“My goal is to be a change agent supporting communities to identify their opportunities and challenges, helping them believe in themselves and looking for sustainable answers for long-lasting change,” Jacque said.
Through her placement with the United Nations Population Fund, a Cuso International partner, Jacque is gaining new skills that she intends to apply to her future career in international development. Her long-term goal is to work as a GBV program manager with the UN, leading GBV interventions and advocating on issues related to refugee protection at a national and international level. She’s already gained experience at the state level through her volunteer work, providing technical support to government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to advocate for strengthening and implementing existing laws against GBV and for enacting new laws.
“Whereas my background is in nutrition, I have had the opportunity to broaden my skillset,” she said. “I have learnt how to design and manage programs and projects that prevent and respond to gender-based violence and harmful practices in both the development and humanitarian context.”
*Name has been changed to protect the person’s identity.