Women in Nigeria are disproportionately affected by poverty, HIV/AIDS, gender based violence, sexual and reproductive rights abuse and limited access to information and basic health and legal services. Nigeria’s 80.2 million women and girls lack equality of opportunity and therefore have signiﬁcantly worse life chances than men/boys.
Economic independence is an important component of women’s empowerment yet women make up only 21% of the non-agricultural paid labour force of Nigeria. About six million young women and men enter the labour market each year but only 10% are able to secure a job in the formal sector, and just one third of these are women.
Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa and the majority of women are concentrated in casual, low-skilled, low paid informal sector employment. Only 7.2% of women own the land they farm, which limits their access to credit and constrains entrepreneurship and business activity. Only 15% of women have a bank account. Nigerian girls who enroll in school often leave school earlier than their male counterparts.
Like their heterosexual counterparts, many lesbian, bisexual, queer and other sexual minority women (LBSMW) in Nigeria face similar challenges to obtaining economic independence and improving their life chances. For this reason, they become mostly dependent on relatives for sustenance, turn to transactional relationships with men, or become involved in criminal activities. This more often than not robs them off their sense of autonomy, self-esteem and self-confidence, making it harder for them to accept their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, lead the lives they desire, and to challenge sexist and homophobic norms.
Financial Empowerment Workshops (FEW)
Our financial empowerment workshops are aimed at building and sustaining a pool of psychologically and financially empowered lesbian, bisexual, and queer women visibly challenging sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination in Nigeria. The workshops have covered topics such as personal branding – including CV development, personal SWOT analysis, understanding corporate cultures and how to navigate them, skills for the workplace, work ethics and etiquette; financial literacy skills including decision making choices about saving, spending, budgeting, investing and managing debts, financial planning, time management, business leadership, business entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship and goal setting.
In this disempowering context, there is a great need for interventions that strengthen LBSMW by psychologically empowering them and enhancing their capacity to become financially independent. This would enable them to support each other in living life on their own terms and in resisting and mitigating the effects of gender inequality and homophobia on themselves and other Nigerian women. We have conducted a variety of empowering activities including consciousness raising activities, online discussions and financial empowerment workshops (FEW).
Consciousness Raising Activities
We have conducted a series of consciousness raising activities and discussion (Body and Mind) series for young sexual minority women focusing on gender and sexuality related issues, cultural and religious beliefs and their effects on Nigerian women, domestic violence, marriage etc. We also have conducted a series of workshops (Becoming a woman workshop series) which were aimed at improving knowledge of sexuality, decreasing internalized sexism and homophobia and improving self-esteem and confidence of lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority women (LBSMW).