Business & Investment

Grooming Centre’s stories of impact: Profiling the humans of development

Title: Stories of Impact: Real Women, Real Lives, Real Impact

Author: Grooming Centre

Publisher: Grooming Centre

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 129

Genre: Photobook

ISBN: 978-978-991-9925

A book review of the photobook, Stories of Impact: Real Women, Real Lives, Real Impact was launched at the Grooming Centre Hall, Ejigbo, Lagos on Thursday, 28 April 2022. On the occasion, the book was reviewed by Senior Fellow, Yale University and Founder, The School of Politics, Policy and Governance, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili.

Knowingly, it comes from a place of genuine interest in people, and it shows throughout the pages and so I just really want to congratulate you for these two peripheral things to the book review. But of course, these are things that are important in any book review.

The book, Stories of Impact: Real Women, Real Lives, Really Good, is a picture book but before you quickly imagine that a picture book is a mere piece of hatch-ons of pictures, think again. Because this book is anything but a hatch-on. This book is a book that tells the story of development that is done at the micro-level with real impact. And so, the title of this book is appropriate because the greatest problem of development, as we have seen within the development sector has been poor impact; it is established by evidence, that aid resources that are flown to a continent like Africa, have not been effective enough to achieve the kind of impact that the quantum of resources should by now have achieved.

This book is therefore not just an ordinary picture book, it is a book that dares to claim a stand in the bookshops of development books by placing the real human beings that are the humans of development on its pages with pride.

This book is broken into five chapters; after a preface that was written with a very simple statement. Many of our members testified that the loans they receive from the Centre are a lifeline used to scale their businesses, increase their income, and improve their personal lives. This preface that was written by the founder of the Grooming Centre, Dr. Godwin Nwabunka is a statement that summarizes what we normally call outcomes in the development agenda.

That this book can stake a claim to the fact that despite the challenges and the barriers to moving people from poverty to income earners in a style of existence, the Grooming Centre could articulate at least thirty cases out of the teeming numbers of cases of people, particularly women who have had access to their resources to walk the tragedies of poverty, is indeed worthy of everybody’s celebration.

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From the preface, the book moves on to the first chapter, and in the first chapter of the book, you open up to the picture of the very amazing Mrs.Alice Ogbonna. Mrs. Ogbonna speaks of the Grooming Centre in a way that represents often more than 60% of women who are supported in micro activities when she said, “Grooming Centres loans are good and profitable. I use my profits to finish raising some of my children. They all went to secondary school and are now running their individual businesses”.

Mrs Ogbonna is an exemplification of what we know about women. Women have been found to spend more than 70% – 80% of their income on educating their children, providing access to health for family, and showing that the household income supports everyone’s growth.

Women have often been found to spend more than 50% of their income on other people besides anything that matters to them in the big journey.

So to that extent, when you read the story of Mrs. Ogbonna and you read this personating story of a woman farmer whose supply of ugwu, waterleaf, nsaowu and garden eggs to traders has enabled her to build not just people who now have foundational literacy and numeracy skills, which are established in development as the necessary foundation that can predict whether an individual would make it in life, then you begin to understand how powerful the vision of the Grooming Centre is.

For every one Mrs Ogbonna, there are at least 500,000 others that seek to find this kind of support annually.

To that extent, therefore, Mrs. Ogbonna represents a very good model for what governments must learn in the kind of work that Centres like the Grooming Centre do for development. The SDGs can only be achieved when we recognize the fact that by enabling her children to have access to education, to quality education of the kind that has subject them to be ready to become entrepreneurs also.

What Mrs. Ogbonna and people like her that have been beneficiaries of the resources from the Grooming Centre show us is that development is not too mysterious to be tackled.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us applaud the likes of Mrs. Ogbonna that may be sitting in that hall with you. as I moved on and I saw many of the women – many of the women that followed Mrs. Ogbonna in the first chapter of the book, then I saw Mrs. Olaitan Okubena, I looked at Mrs. Olaitan Okubena and Mrs. Olaitan said that she was introduced to the Grooming Centre by a neighbour 15 years ago, and after on, she had some movement issues in the family and in the process, she had to close down a particular business, and when it was time for her to reopen a business, she got introduced again to the Grooming Centre.

In the story of Mrs. Okubena about the Grooming Centre, one immediately learns about sustainability. Sustainability is an important factor in businesses run by women. Evidence shows that most businesses run by women, do not survive beyond year three. And a major part of the reasons that the businesses of women fail, is the problem that the Grooming Centre is solving.

So, sustainability is a pattern that is very important for the economic growth and development of any society, to the extent that the Grooming Centre is helping to solve that, to that extent must their work be applauded.

In Mrs. Okubena’s statement of having first heard of the Grooming Centre 15 years ago, and yet afterwards heard about it and reconnected into the resources of the Grooming Centre’s and already is thriving based on an organisation that she had first learnt about 15 years ago, it tells us something also about the sustainability of the Grooming Centre itself. The Grooming Centre, by its successful business label, has refused to die like other fly-by-night organizations that we have seen in the business of access to microfinance.

Ladies and gentlemen, you may want to clap for the team of people that have run the organisation known as the Grooming Centre, because it will take us too long to complete this review if I went about it in the way that I desired to, what I have done is quickly move to the next chapter of the book; Chapter Two; which talks about changing lives sustainably, as though it did not even see that in the previous chapter, lives were already sustainably changed. Would you say that the lives of all these women, Mrs. John, the woman who so loved selling clothes, that the opportunity to get her loan quickly made her so successful with just ₦40,000? Mrs. John can be put in this book as one who has been doing business now for 10 years and has two shops. The Grooming centre knows how to make people grow; they don’t just groom, they help these businesses to grow. That is one thing that I saw in this book, and it made me sober.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this chapter two, the Grooming Centre says that its goal is to use its products and services to change the lives of members sustainably, and we have already spoken to that. However, one thing that is very important for us to know is that sustainability is a function of intelligence. That’s what you see in chapter two of this book. Starting with Mrs. Ifeoma Nwaeje, you read through the story of Mrs. Ifeoma Nwaeje who has not only become successful but became successful because of her mother, Mrs. Ogbonna in the earlier chapter, then you understand intergenerational equity.

Mrs Ogbonna said, “I will not leave it with I alone, I must make sure that my daughter and everyone connected to me would get the opportunity of success.” And you know in development, what we have found is that the moment a woman is given access to knowledge, you can be guaranteed that the community will become knowledgeable. That is powerful. It is a powerful thing because development is a function of the quick spread of knowledge. By ensuring that women like Mrs. Ogbonna, understand the power of knowledge and how to transfer it from themselves to their daughters, they have fulfilled one of the things that we have seen, which is that the more women are educated in a society, the faster the economic growth of that society will happen. The Grooming Centre, well done on being an important mover of the objective that we have in education.

Then I saw Mrs. Maria Ojor, who is a provision store and bar owner in Delta State. Mrs. Ojor said, “I was born in Ghana, and I lived there until I moved to Nigeria”. She said, “My father sold rice and beans and my mum sold provisions. They were business people. I started this provision store with ₦20,000. I started with a loan of ₦40,000. Now I have risen higher.

One of the things we have found when we have looked at issues of financial inclusion is that for some reason, the financial acumen of women is out of this world. You know, a woman can sell cold to Newcastle. We normally use that as a saying because Newcastle is in the land of cold. So, if you can sell cold to them, then there is something about you that is out of this world. That is the story of why a woman would start a business with a loan of ₦40,000 and stand on the pages of such an impressive book of pictures – a book of stories of impact, looking like a billionaire. That is what runs through the tread of the kind of confidence that small businesses and access to finance through the Grooming Centre has achieved in the lives of hundreds of 1000s of women.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am impressed by the work that the team at the Grooming Centre has done for Chinasa Okwudifele; the work that they have done for Adetola Ariyo, the fashion designer in Ipaja. When you look at the pictures of these women in Chapter Two, you’ll see women who could be business entrepreneurs in any capital city of the world. There is something that productivity does to women; it empowers them to a place of absolute confidence and for the women on the pages of this book, confidence more than any other thing is a unifying factor.

Ladies and gentlemen, in Chapter Three of the book, the authors of the book introduced us to a woman that I loved reading her story, Teni Abdullahi, the millet seller in Lokoja, Kogi State. Her story reminded me very much of the story of my mother. My mom was just 46 years old when our father died; I am the oldest, and I had just finished my Masters, just gotten married, and our father died. I still had my younger brother who was pretty much right in his teens at that time, and my mom who had always been such an incredible woman of enterprise. I just thought of the life that she had given to us together with her husband, by being like any of the women on the pages of this book.

You know my mother, nwanyi aka mako Chukwu, my mother, Cecilia Ujubonu; had it not been for her dedication to her business skills, it would have been impossible for my father, a super-honest public servant, to have been able to survive the corruption that already existed in the Nigerian public sector at that time.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s look beyond the ordinary economic role that these women play, we’ll be shocked by the dynamics of what happens in the home just because of the additional income that comes from a mother. Based on this additional income, our society is saved from a lot of social crises. We cannot but thank the Grooming Centre for the work of ensuring that social crises that afflict both the adults as well as children are at least reduced in the nearly 700,000 active loans that currently exist in the books of the Grooming Centre.

When I read, “I lost my husband about three years ago, but this business has helped me send my children to school, two of them are in federal universities”, Teni Abdullahi. I said, wow, I wish my mother were here to read Teni’s story. I am glad that I can read it on her behalf. I just want to celebrate the greatness that took Teni Abdullahi from ₦30,000 to ₦50,000 to ₦70,000 to ₦150,000 and a place today where Teni Abdullahi can take even much more and expand the scope of her business.

I go to chapter four quickly, and then I round up with a few sentences on chapter five.

In chapter four, I look at the story of – I did all my markets so that I will be remembering the faces of these women as I do the speech. Yes, this is the story of Mrs. Akponna – the woman trader in Woji, Port Harcourt. She said, “Nigerian women are ready to work, but many of them struggle from lack of support. I don’t think Nigeria respect women. I’ve seen women crying because the government demolished their shops just like that. I wish the government would either give them notice or look into these women into why these women have to sell on the roadside in the first place”.

I loved her story because not only are these women an important segment of the society for Grooming Centre, but I think that even more, Grooming Centre has a whole community of women, that it now must provide policy knowledge and political literacy to a person like Mrs. Akponna, has used her voice to demand accountability.

The Grooming Centre must realise that beyond the economic empowerment of these women, making sure that they understand their power as citizens is an important dynamic that would enlarge their access, not just to microfinance, but to a business environment that supports their higher productivity. I pray that you will realise how important this aspect is and that you will understand that it is a true partnership. Grooming Centre doesn’t have to do it. It just simply needs to connect with existing bodies that do it. Ier, as a partner of yours, knows exactly how to ensure that this community of women that you have gathered, will become a vibrant voice for the actualisation of a democratisation process, because therein lies a greater scale of achievement of not just the Grooming Centre, but many more women in our country that have no access, like the ones we are reviewing today.

My final chapter: the CSR for the greater good. Well, what better CSR can a corporation do, than to understand the business model that has worked at the Grooming Centre? What I see is in reading the pages of the women in this book from Chapter One to Chapter Five of it, I say to you, that the Grooming Centre is one of the solutions for any organization that seeks to do CSR in the right kind of way. Not CSR that offers fish for people to eat, but the CSR that gives people the access to how to become the cultivators of fish.

I end on the note that this book brings to the fore, a very important piece of information that we have concerning the issues in development and it is this; it is that for all societies globally, what we found is that 70% of businesses run by women, do not have access to finance and that this major failure to finance businesses that are run by women, cause the world economic growth of at least 2% annually. This can change.

The Grooming Centre is pointing the way to us. The key thing that must happen is for there to be a measurement and evaluation of the impact beyond the storybook. I believe that part two of this book would be based on very rigorous M&E frameworks – frameworks that will follow the successful start-ups and establish the common denominators to enable scale. Why is that scale important? That scale is important because ladies and gentlemen, what Nigeria suffers from is the feminisation of poverty. With the feminisation of poverty, you cannot address it in sporadic ways. Even if we had five more Grooming Centres, it would not be sufficient, it would not even be the basis for the kind of transformation that we want to see. But it is the seed that shows us how to grow a big pile. Therefore, I want to ask that the necessary policymakers that must learn of the success documented in this book must get copies of this book.

And so, on my own, I plan to send this book to many policymakers that I believe should read it. Partnership is key. I want more partners to reach out to the Grooming Centre. I want people in the development world to learn of the work of the Grooming Centre and my interest will be to publicise your work, especially to publicise the women that have become good friends of mine by my reading their stories in this book.

I thank you for the opportunity of spending time with you all. God bless you.

Grooming Centre’s stories of impact: Profiling the humans of development
https://businessday.ng/news/article/grooming-centres-stories-of-impact-profiling-the-humans-of-development/ Grooming Centre’s stories of impact: Profiling the humans of development

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