Empowering Nigerian women through microloans

Jeru Barnabas is one of 800 women who received microfinance loans through the Empower Her project, a ministry of The United Methodist Church in Nigeria. Photo by the Rev. Ande Emmanuel.
Jeru Barnabas is one of 800 women who received microfinance loans through the Empower Her project, a ministry of The United Methodist Church in Nigeria. Photo by the Rev. Ande Emmanuel.

The United Methodist Church in Nigeria, through a life-changing project called “Empower Her,” is helping women start small businesses to provide for their families. The initiative operates throughout the four annual conferences within the Nigeria Episcopal Area.

Recently, Joyce Madanga, program coordinator, received reports and distributed credit to 100 new beneficiaries in Jalingo.

“The Empower Her project in Nigeria is alive,” she said, “and has recorded tremendous impact in the lives of many women, relieving them from poverty stage to a level of independency and self-esteem. 

“This project started with only few women, but today, we have more than 1,500 women in our record who were impacted. We always receive their success stories. This year, we have added about 800 women … 200 women from each region covered by The United Methodist Church.”

Empower Her was the brainchild of the Iowa Nigeria Partnership, which started more than 10 years ago. The program was established to provide microloans for women who have good business ideas but lack the capital to begin. Most are rural women who have no means of income to support themselves and their families. They rely on their husbands and other family members to care for their daily needs. A $66,261 grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief supported the program. 

Thanks to Empower Her, these women are now engaged in various businesses and are earning a profit for themselves and their families. The women receive loans from the project and invest the money, mostly buying and selling groceries such as rice, beans, spices, salads, pasta, noodles, palm oil, peanuts, vegetables and smoked fish.

They are allowed to pay back the loans with 2.5-percent interest within 10 months. The interest is reinvested in the program to provide opportunities to other beneficiaries.

This empowerment venture is not limited to women in The United Methodist Church. Women from other denominations and faith groups are welcome to participate.

Jerusha McBride is a widow with seven children.

“With this program,” she said, “I am able to start a small-scale business of buying and selling fish at the village market. Every day, I make profit of 15 percent of whatever I invested into the business. Saving from this profit enables me to pay back and take care of my children.”

Another participant is Kesunga Paul, a member of the Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria. “I am very much happy today,” she commented, “to be a beneficiary of this good program The United Methodist Church initiated. I saw the light of Jesus Christ in what The United Methodist Church is doing. I am happy that this project has brought transformation in my life. I don’t need to depend on someone else to care for my basic needs.”

Barnabas Jeru, who is from the Church of the Brethren, said, “I heard about Empower Her from a United Methodist pastor who is my neighbor. It is a good story, and I came out to apply. I am glad today I am one of the beneficiaries of this life-changing project. God bless The United Methodist Church.”

“This program is part of the gospel ministry of love for one’s neighbor,” said Driver Jalo, council on ministries director for the Southern Nigeria Conference. “As Christ loves us, we share love with people by meeting their needs within the communities where we live together.”

Emmanuel is a communicator for the Nigeria Episcopal Area.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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