Nigeria and 188 other countries signed and adopted the Beijing Declaration – an important global policy on gender equality, in 1995. The Beijing Declaration is widely regarded as the most ambitious plan for the empowerment of women and gender equality ever conceived. Its program establishes strategic objectives and measures to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in many areas such as violence against women, education and poverty eradication.
A review of Nigeria’s progress towards gender equality over the past 26 years shows some progress, albeit disappointing. According to the United Nations, women and girls, who make up more than half of Nigeria’s population, lack adequate access or opportunities to reach their full potential. The marginalization of women in economic, social and political development remains a global phenomenon, and is exacerbated in underdeveloped countries. Despite the adoption of international and national laws such as the 2006 National Gender Policy, inequality persists in Nigeria due to a variety of cultural and structural barriers. These factors have limited the engagement of women in all aspects of life, with far-reaching consequences for the development of human resources and, consequently, the economic development of Nigeria.
Nigeria is now widely known as the poverty capital of the world, with 92 million of its 200 million people living in extreme poverty, overtaking India (with a population of 1.3 billion). Even more disheartening is the fact that northern Nigeria has an average poverty rate of 67.8% and is comparatively higher than other parts of the country, making it the poverty capital of the country.
The North faces many challenges ranging from education, poverty, insecurity, youth unemployment and gender disparities, culminating in its current underdevelopment. While these social tensions are a problem across the country, they are particularly deep in northern Nigeria. According to the national census carried out in 2006 and recent official estimates determined by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2016, Kano is the largest state in Nigeria in terms of population. Kano State is the second largest industrial center after Lagos State in Nigeria and the largest in northern Nigeria with textiles, tannery, footwear, enamels, ceramics, furniture and other industries. Even if Kano has developed a diversified economy, asserting itself as an industrial and agricultural center, it is not exempt from the social tensions mentioned above.
The state of education in Kano and the North in general is precarious, and the current approach to education is not assertive enough to encourage young people to attend school because of poverty and poverty. insurgency remains an urgent challenge. This development has rendered millions of young people in northern Nigeria uncompetitive in the labor market and deprived the region of the skilled human capital essential for its development. Government data from UNICEF also shows that only about 4 in 10 girls in northeast Nigeria attend primary school, mainly due to factors such as poverty and lack of access to opportunities.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report (WEF (World Economic Forum) 2015), gender equality, or the lack of it, has important economic and social implications. The Global Gender Gap Index ranks countries based on the calculated gender gap in four key areas: health, education, economy and politics. Nigeria ranked 112th out of 145 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report, which found gender differences in reproductive health, empowerment and labor market participation.
The Kano State government has in recent times made a concerted effort to reverse the disturbing trend that large numbers of its young people are denied access to education and employment opportunities. However, it has become evident that a public-private partnership is needed to create an intervention that will promote positive change.
To this end, the Coca-Cola Foundation, in partnership with the Whitefield Foundation, launched a skills acquisition program called “Project EQUIP” – to empower women and youth and integrate them into a growth trajectory that would create a positive effect on the society in which they live. The EQUIP project is in line with Coca-Cola’s vision to improve the livelihoods of women, youth, families and surrounding communities.
Coca-Cola Nigeria, along with its bottling partner, Nigerian Bottling Company, has worked with numerous partners for decades to implement initiatives to provide business skills training, mentoring networks, financial services and other active in underserved communities through its philanthropic arm, The Coca. -Cola Foundation. The Project EQUIP initiative exemplifies the company’s dedication to the cause as it supports sustainable development goals targeting hunger, poverty, gender equality, decent work and sustained economic growth.
The EQUIP project will empower 60,000 women and youth in five key regions, including 20,000 in Kano. The initiative will take an integrative and hybrid approach to empowering youth and women to teach transformative skills and knowledge, improve living standards in target communities, show and lead participants to new avenues of economic recovery and growth.
Empowering women involves increased advocacy and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels, from the household to international institutions. It also includes equal access and control over productive resources, decent work and control over their own time, life and body. The Coca-Cola System in Nigeria is committed to making this a testament to women in northern Nigeria and other parts of the country.
Saadia Madsbjerg, President of the Coca-Cola Foundation, put it succinctly: “Achieving equality and empowering women has broad ripple effects that positively affect society”. Coca-Cola Nigeria bridges the digital divide, which disproportionately affects the rural and disadvantaged, by bridging equality and connecting women and youth to quality education and opportunities. Equality for women is one of the most effective ways to lift people and nations out of poverty, fight climate change and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Economies grow when more women work, and empowering women promotes productivity, diversifies the economy, and improves income equality, among other positive development outcomes.
The EQUIP project will transform 60,000 people into participating members of society, enabling long-term economic transformation and growth, as well as a higher standard of living and quality of life.