Stories of Impact – Real Women, Real Lives, Real Growth – The Nation Newspaper
Book Title: Stories of Impact – Real Women, Real Lives, Real Growth – A Photo Book
Author: Grooming Centre
Place of Publication: Nigeria
Number of Pages: 132
Project Group: Grooming People for Better Livelihood Centre
Reviewer: Helen Bassey-Osijo
The photobook aptly titled: “Stories of Impact – Real Women, Real Lives, Real Growth,” is about the business growth, impact, and contribution of small and medium enterprises (SME) women, to the economic growth of Nigeria and how that translates to the quality of lives of families and friends of these women. I got attracted to this photobook from the cover, which ties in with the reference to the women in different communities sharing their real stories with pictures. I became eager to read about the real growth I expected would be showcased within the book. I was also keen to find out if the simplicity of the woman on the cover would reflect the language of the photobook, devoid of development-speak.
The photobook beckons the reader to journey with the 30 women entrepreneurs who are everyday people. The stories of their courage, resilience, grit, and skills, in the face of various challenges, tell us what women, who own small enterprises across Nigeria must grapple with to make a living. We go with these women from being the economically active poor to recording successes and impacts worthy of being made into the stories that celebrate them and inspire many others to travel the same path. The fact that the photobook documents these women as being prudent with the resources provided by the Grooming Centre, even as they strive to balance business and family life, is commendable.
One of the clear strengths of the photobook is the use of action pictures taken in the real setting of fieldwork, with the women small entrepreneurs in their places of business. For the reader, the testimonials from these women are pointers to the real lives, real challenges and real victories of women like the fish traders at Awoyaya community in Lagos State; the beadmakers, the women in Sango, Ogun State roasting cowhides to supply ponmo for cooking and the Lokoja, Kogi State mother and daughter in their grains shops. From the photobook, we can put faces to names of the women whose impact stories we read. Women like Alice Ogbonna, the woman farmer in Omuma, Abia State, used the microfinance loan from the Grooming Centre to expand her farming and supply of commonly used vegetables and garden eggs. We read of and get to see Blessing Fanu, the wholesales lady in Karu, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory. Olaitan Okubena the clothing store owner in Kubwa Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, and Augustina Njoku and her bridal accessories and wedding decorations business owner in Nkpor, Anambra State.
The inclusion of well-researched information on the subject matter of women in small and medium enterprises and poor access to finance brings home the harsh reality of doing business in Nigeria as a woman. The fact regarding the UN statistics that about 73 per cent of female business owners in Nigeria have never accessed loans helps one to appreciate the disbursement of the successful loan carried out by the Grooming Centre. They began in January 2007 and ran for 12 years, starting with a loan amount of N15,000 and increasing to N12,000 by 2019.
The content of the photobook would be best appreciated by community development organisations focusing on small and medium scale women entrepreneurs and how they have overcome the hurdles that have excluded them from access to finance for their businesses. This exclusion had previously stunted the economic growth of these small and medium scale businesswomen, keeping them in the poverty cycle. For a community development practitioner like me, the photobook served up a good number of success stories that could easily be the starting point for a new project phase with lessons learnt derived from the testimonies of the women entrepreneurs. The beautiful stories, interspersed with the plethora of action pictures in living colour make the photobook a user-friendly resource material for the development worker, the library and the NGOs targeting women community groups for improvement.
I particularly like the fact that the theme of real, runs through the photos; no dolling up of the farmer’s hands holding the plant; the photo tells the story of those hardworking hands as is. The success stories of the experiences of these women have been recorded in their original local languages and pidgin English before being translated. The essence of the local languages has been preserved.
Bassey-Osijo is a Media Development professional who has worked for over 20 years in local and international media. She has also worked for over 10 years in the development sector, leading technical work in the application of Market Systems Development (Making Markets Work for the Poor) in the media market.