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The role of NGOs in Africa: are they a force for good?

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Non-governmental organisations have become key actors in responding to poverty and related suffering. In Africa, NGOs play a leading role in providing health care and education.

The non-profit sector continues to grow rapidly in Africa and around the world. In South Africa alone, there are more than 100,000 registered non-profit organisations and in Kenya the number of NGOs grew by over 400% between 1997 and 2006. And for most observers, they seem to be well-intentioned actors who do a lot of good on the continent.

But NGOs also have their detractors who argue that they are receiving growing amounts of donor aid, but aren’t the most suitable actors for really improving people’s lives.

The cases made against the NGO sector

Some critics also insist that the neo-liberal policies advanced by powerful international actors have limited the influence of the state and that NGOs have benefited as a result.

Neo-liberalism is an approach that favours a smaller role for the state in the economic arena. Advocates believe that the market and other non-state actors provide better services than governments.

Since the 1980s, international financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, have forced indebted African states to reduce public expenditure. This has encouraged the flourishing of non-state actors like NGOs.

While both local and international NGOs have benefited from this move, African states have been less able to access international aid. This undermines their sovereignty and places African people at the mercy of donors.

NGOs are also criticised for their focus on technical solutions to poverty instead of the underlying issues. So, for example, an NGO might provide water tanks for the poor without addressing the power imbalances that resulted in some having water while others don’t.

Another criticism is that NGOs are more accountable to their funders than those they serve. Because they are largely dependent on funding, their projects are crafted in line with donor preferences instead of those they supposedly represent.

A final criticism relates to the fact that NGO workers tend to be foreigners or local elites. Instead of empowering local populations to organise themselves, NGOs provide employment and a sense of purpose for elites with degrees in subjects like development studies.

Can NGOs fix Africa’s problems?

There’s much truth to these criticisms. But does this mean that NGOs have no role to play in Africa’s struggle for poverty and injustice?

A recent collection of articles titled ‘NGOs and Social Justice in South Africa and Beyond’, which I edited, brings together the voices of NGO workers, academics and social activists to consider this question.

The contributors raise a range of interesting ideas like how radical change can still be achieved. Can profound changes be made while working within existing structures and organisations?

Firoze Manji, who has published widely on the topic of social justice, defines what freedom really means. He makes a distinction between “licensed freedoms” and “emancipatory freedoms”.

Licensed freedoms are achieved “within the system”. As such they improve lives but don’t dramatically change power dynamics. An example can be drawn from the apartheid era when activists convinced the state to make some concessions for black South Africans.

In contrast, emancipatory freedoms are about bringing about a new order. An example would be when people manage to defeat an oppressive state entirely.

Manji argues that NGOs empower people to attain licensed, rather than emancipatory, freedoms.

Pushing for social change

But NGO workers might rightfully argue that it isn’t so easy to distinguish between working within the system and working against it.

When an NGO teaches people to read, for example, this new ability might empower them to challenge things they had previously accepted. Learning this new skill might enable them to act in new, more empowering ways. So the achievement of a basic skill can enable populations to achieve emancipatory freedom.

Another example is brought out by Tshepo Madlingozi who is the advocacy adviser to the Khulumani support group in South Africa.

He shows how NGOs and social movements fighting for radical change have been able to use the courts to gain small victories.

Court victories are often hollow. For example, in the Grootboom case in South Africa Irene Grootboom won a court struggle against eviction, but ended up dying homeless eight years later.

But court struggles can draw attention to the plight of ordinary people and mobilise and unify those working towards certain radical goals.
In this way the use of “the system” – in this case the courts – can help support the struggle for emancipatory freedoms.

Ashley Westaway, manager of an education NGO and a contributor to the collection, makes a case for providing basic services and technical assistance as a means to give an organisation the credibility required to advocate for more radical, structural change.

Perhaps the correct approach may be to let go of the idea that choices within the NGO sector are limited to either maintaining the status quo or pushing for a revolution.

Perhaps, as is the case with some of the most dynamic NGOs, workers need to operate in the cracks of the current system in ways that challenge injustice and open the door to new possibilities. Other actors, such as governments and social movements, have very important roles to play, but this doesn’t mean that NGOs can’t contribute to pushing for social justice in Africa.The Conversation

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NGOs - SDGs

GSMA Report Reveals The Gender Gap In Mobile Internet Use Is Shrinking, Despite The COVID-19 Pandemic

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GSMA Report: An estimated 112 million more women started using mobile internet last year across low- and middle-income countries, despite the onset of COVID-19, according to the fourth annual GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report published today.

Nevertheless, 234 million fewer women than men access mobile internet. Moreover, the underlying gender gap in mobile ownership persists and is proving difficult to close.

Affordability, lack of literacy and digital skills, and lower awareness of mobile internet are critical and common barriers for women. Structural inequalities in society and discriminative social norms also remain a challenge. Even when women have the same levels of education, income, literacy, and employment as men, they are still less likely to own a mobile phone or use mobile internet.

The report further revealed that a record number of women in South Asia now use mobile internet services, helping shrink the gender gap to 15% from 19% last year in low- and middle-income countries.

The gains in South Asia, which had the most significant gender gap in 2019 with women 50% less likely than men to use mobile internet, masked the stagnation in other regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Women in both regions now face a similar gender gap in mobile internet use – 37% in Sub-Saharan Africa and 36% in South Asia.

Women were more likely than men to access the internet exclusively via mobile in almost all markets surveyed. In Kenya, for example, 63% of male internet users said they only used the internet via a mobile device compared to 79% of females. This reliance by women on mobile demonstrates the disproportionate benefit of increasing their access.

“If women are to become equal citizens in a more digital, post-COVID world, closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, of the GSMA. “I urge policymakers, the private sector and the international community to take note of the important findings laid out in the Mobile Gender Gap Report because only concerted action and collaboration will enable women and their families to reap the full benefits of connectivity.”

The GSMA introduced the Connected Women Commitment Initiative in 2016 to catalyse action to close the mobile gender gap. Mobile operators continued to make commitments during 2020, with 40 mobile operators across Africa, Asia and Latin America making formal commitments to accelerate digital and financial inclusion for women since 2016. These operators have already reached more than 40 million additional women with mobile internet or mobile money services.

The GSMA’s Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021 is available at: https://www.gsma.com/r/gender-gap/ 

Further information on the Connected Women Commitment Initiative can be found at: https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/connected-women/the-commitment/

 

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Sahara Foundation Launches Sahara Regenerator Technical Program (STRP) To Combat Climate Change, Boost Employment

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Sahara Foundation, the corporate citizenship vehicle of energy conglomerate, Sahara Group, has launched its inaugural Sahara Regenerator Technical Program (STRP) to promote capacity building among youths in Edo, Lagos and Rivers in Nigeria.

STRP will give beneficiaries a platform to develop technical skills in the installation and maintenance of meter and solar systems to enhance energy access, combat climate change and promote economic development in Nigeria.

With unemployment rate standing at 33.3% as of Q4 2020 and anticipated to hit 35% this year, experts say Nigeria needs to provide ample entrepreneurial opportunities for its teeming youth population.

Targeted at 120 youths with informal/minimal education, the project is also expected to help empower beneficiaries with resources to build sustainable businesses and ultimately become employers of labour.

Sahara Foundation will partner with leading African academy, the Energy Training Centre (ETC) and the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) to implement STRP.

According to Pearl Uzokwe, Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group, “the regenerator program comes at a crucial time where a gap exists in the technical skills needed to implement efforts aimed at providing clean energy through solar and bridging Nigeria’s significant metering gap. We are delighted at the opportunity to mould the next group of entrepreneurs in the power sector in line with Sahara Group’s vision to promote green energy and environmental sustainability.”

In 2020, Sahara Foundation revised its focus areas to two key pillars for all interventions going forward: Access to Energy and Promoting Sustainable Environments in alignment with our Group’s core vision.

Participants will develop competencies in the installation of single and three phase meters in residential and small commercial premises. The Solar PV Installation Technician program will train individuals to provide excellent service for residential and small commercial solar installations.

According to ETC’s Managing Director, Ibiene Okeleke, “ETC is excited to partner with Sahara Foundation in building capacity in their communities through these two programmes. The project will drive inclusive growth, poverty reduction through job creation and support the global energy transition mandate to provide cleaner forms of energy and aggressively reduce carbon emissions. We are proud to be associated with Sahara Foundation on this mission.”

Lande Abudu, REAN’s Executive Secretary stated that “having long recognised the importance of capacity building towards achieving universal access to energy, it is fitting that we combine efforts to enhance skills development in Nigeria. At REAN, we recognise the importance of collaborations and partnerships to reach shared goals. We are excited to work with Sahara Foundation and look forward to the positive outcomes that will certainly result from the programme.”

Applications for STRP will be open from June 11, 2021, to June 25, 2021 and can be submitted online or picked up and submitted at Sahara Group’s offices in the designated states. Interested participants can also visit www.ujanahub.com/strp and Sahara Foundation’s social media handle @iamsaharafdn for more information.

Source Sahara

 

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NASME Women Celebrates International Women’s Day 2021 with Empowered Women Event

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L-R Mrs Victoria Oluwasanya – immediate past Vice Chairman of NASME Lagos, Mr. Solomon Aderoju – immediate past Chairman NASME Lagos, Otunba (Mrs) Gbemi Oduntan – National Women Coordinator NASME, Sir. Prince Degun Agboade – National President- NASME, Dr. Adams Adebayo – Chairman NASME Lagos, Mrs Wumi Oluwadare – 2nd Vice Chairman NASME Lagos. (Source: NASME/Dr. Jumoke Kassim)

Every March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. An annual call to action for gender parity across the world. These actions range from marches and protests to advocacy and campaigns. This year’s International Women’s Day 2021 theme was tagged – “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” with the campaign theme #ChooseToChallenge.  On the 12th March 2021, the National Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (NASME) marked this year’s international women’s day 2021 with an event organised and coordinated by the NASME Women (Lagos WING).

Due to the global pandemic (COVID-19), the event took place both physically and virtually in line with the government COVID-19 safety protocol. The physical event was held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, Lagos while several guests joined virtually (Zoom) from different parts of the world. The NASME’s topic was on “Women, Family Law & Property Rights”.

Hajia Yinka Paramole-Shabi, the moderator for the day, commenced with an introduction of guests, speakers and how essential it was for NASME to have a women wing. The purpose of which is to have enviable women in business who can stand out among the male gender. She appreciated the support of the NASME president, a man that has been the backbone for the creation of the NASME Women Wing.

The Host and NASME Lagos Women Coordinator, Otunba (Mrs) Gbemi Oduntan in her opening speech explained why women should start challenging the status quo. She pointed out that women are not here to compete with their male counterpart. But are only demanding for a space on the table because it has been proven that what a man can do, a woman can do same, even much better. She believes 75% of what some women do these 3C’s jobs: Clearing, Cleaning and Chores that are not paid, because the world sees them as the weakest link. She gave some examples of women challenging the Status Quo in their respective industry. She mentioned Capt. Agbelusi who was one of the guests at their event in 2019 and her impact in the aviation industry. She concluded by saying “We need a gender balanced society” and left the audience with these three (3) parting words; Be prepared, Make sure your account is alright and Make the man know we are choosing to challenge.

NASME National President, Prince Degun Adeagbo in his speech extols the key roles women play at home, workplace and in the society at large. He said more women should choose to challenge the gender bias, inclusion and parity. He believes their aspirations can be achieved when women work together through different organisations as NASME and urged them to be a part of the community. Prince Degun admonished the Lagos women wing for their impact. On behalf of NASME, he appeals to the Government but at the federal and state to do everything possible to get more women involved in governance by lowering the bar. In future, he wants to see a woman become the President of NASME.

Mrs. Modupe Oyekunle is an industrialist and currently the National Coordinator of the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN). She shared her thoughts on why it is important to choose to challenge the status quo with emphasis on financial inclusion and diversity. Mrs. Oyekunle also spoke about the Passage of the bill on women national business agenda with 5 key focus areas; High rate of insecurity, Gender inequality, power and infrastructural facilities. She encouraged more women organization to work together in pursuit of the common set goals.

The Hon. Commissioner for Commerce, Industry & Cooperatives, Dr. Lola Akande was represented by Mrs. Oluwakemi Ogunmodede, a Director in the Ministry of commerce.

Mrs. Angela EMUWA, Chairman at Punch Nigeria Limited appreciated all the men supporting women who are challenging the status quo. She talked about the challenges and biases women face in the society. She emphasized on the role’s women play and why they should be given a space.

Dr. Adeyemi Agbelusi’s presentation was on the topic “Women, Family Law & Human Right” and how the law does not favour the women in our society. In terms of surrogacy, adoption, settlement after marriage divorce, Right & interest to property. He urged women to pay more attention to Cultural & financial intelligence before going into any kind of relationships.

Event Panelists

The NASME event ended with an award ceremony where two of its members were awarded a plaque and some cash to support their business.

The first awardee is Mrs. Adesanya Modupe Olusola who lost everything in her piggery business during the (COVID-19) lockdown, as a result of Swine Flu that killed all her pigs. She said the award came to her as a surprise and the fund will put her back on her feet and appreciates platforms such as the NASME that provides women with so many empowerment opportunities. According to her, one way women can choose to challenge is by challenging their children to do great things. She advises women in a male-dominated industry with this saying, “Whatever needs to be done needs to be done well.”

Mrs. Mitana Blessing Matthew, the second awardee is the co-Founder of Authentic Natural products (African cosmetic brands), a company she co-founded with her late husband. She appreciated the support from NASME and promised the fund will be used to boost her business.

The NASME International Women’s Day event is a true indication of women supporting women and we hope to see more collaborations and not competition among women in business in Africa.

NASME is the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses across all sectors of the economy, creating business opportunities as well as providing solutions to individual member’s challenges to ensure the success of every business venture in Nigeria. Their vision is to be the voice of Nigeria Entrepreneurs advocating for conducive environment while partnering with MSME promoters to ensure the emergence of large pool of viable technologically empowered MSMEs. NASME promotes the empowerment of Nigeria’s MSMEs as a means of achieving sustainable employment generation, economic growth and development in the country.

Kindly click to watch the full event here

To be a member or support what we do, kindly visit NASME Lagos

Priceless Women Initiatives founded Hon. Oyinda Adegoke

NASME Women… Upwardly mobile!

More Picture from the event

L-R: Mrs. Esther Ebeh, Ms. Oyelola Fadaini, Yeye Dupe Dada, Mrs. Matilda Taiwo & Ms. Yinka

 

 

Watch the full event here on YouTube NASME IWD2021 EVENT

 

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