Whenever and wherever the annals of women empowerment programmes are being presented in Nigeria, a special place will be reserved for Development Exchange Centre, DEC, Nigeria.
DEC is an organisation that sets out to create space for women, helping them to develop and become people who add value to the society while still effectively playing their roles as responsible wives and mothers.
The organisation lends credence to this by ensuring that all its programmes and projects have direct and sustainable impact on the lives of girls and women.
The genesis of the birth of DEC came as a result of a research conducted by the Adult and Non-Formal Education Agency, ANFEA, in the old Bauchi State, in partnership with the Canadian University Services Overseas, CUSO, which was also a technical aid support to the state government in the 1980s.
The research revealed that women, particularly those in the rural areas, were greatly disadvantaged in both social and economic terms, due to issues that relate to high level of illiteracy, poverty, over dependence on men and other cultural and religious beliefs that do not allow them to utilise their talents.
To address the problems identified by the research and enhance the capacity of women in Nigeria, DEC was established in 1987, but legally registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 1997, and started operations as a resource centre for sharing and exchange of developmental information with women.
Twenty-seven years down the line, DEC has transformed and grown to become a model of what a true women empowerment organisation should be, addressing both economic and social issues that affect women through provision of microfinance services, adult literacy training and facilitation of good governance, water, sanitation, health, among others, for women in the country.
Speaking on this transformation and how the organisation’s microfinance services started, Mrs. Titi Yakubu, Executive Director, DEC, said: “When we started, we were doing what we call seed grant, where we would buy the materials of whatever trade our members were involved in and give them to use. They, in turn, will pay back what was given to them in kind which we would then give to the other groups. It was later that some of them said they wanted us to support them by giving individuals within the group smaller grants that will be guaranteed by the group to ensure that people will pay back. And that was what gave birth to our microfinance services. We didn’t have the money then but we started with N13,800, sharing it among three groups of women.”
Today, that initial seed of N13,800 has grown to over N2 billion as capital and has attracted over 100,000 clients who are 100 per cent women.
Also, on realising that a large segment of its members were illiterates and that this inability to read and write inhibits their businesses and capacity to contribute to the society, DEC introduced an adult literacy programme that helps teach them to read, write and do some basic business calculations.
The adult literacy programme now trains about 400 women annually and has graduated more than 4000 women since inception, most of who have got employment in their communities or gone back to school to further their education.
“Women are demanding for this adult literacy training,” said, Yakubu. She said further “we have seen women who as a result of this adult literacy programme are now participating actively in politics, adding a voice and becoming champions in voicing out women’s needs in their communities.”
Another of DEC’s programmes that have been particularly impactful is its ability to facilitate water and sanitation projects to needy communities through its development partners. Today, DEC has served more than 30 communities, which, based on the average number of dwellers in those communities, suggests it has reached about 500,000 people who now have access to water and sanitation.
As a leading women empowerment organisation in the country, DEC has also trained, mentored and stood as a guarantor for some other NGOs in the North to become viable institutions that can also help drive development from the grassroots. “This is strategic for us because we believe that if there are many organisations that are well-trained to empower women, it will have a large effect on the society,” added Yakubu.
These remarkable accomplishments of DEC have however not gone unnoticed as more renowned organisations such as the Ford Foundation, UNDP/Nigeria, MicroStart Project, Novib/Oxfam Netherlands, Church Development Service, Development and Peace, Water Aid Nigeria, Action Aid Nigeria, are now partnering it as development partners. This is a testament to the level of credibility that DEC enjoys.
Taking into cognisant that efficient management of data and information will greatly enhance the operations of the organisation, DEC has commissioned a consultant to help implement a robust Management Information System that will help, either the management or the board, to consolidate, assess performance, and make decisions that will drive the organisation forward.
DEC’s belief in women’s ability to transform a nation is not in doubt. Yakubu particularly emphasised: “Women are hard working and can give a lot to the society. Remember, the woman is the agent of change. It is the woman that impacts the first teaching to the child: how he eats; how he goes to the toilet; how he relates with people and so on. Whatever a child becomes in life – good or bad – she has a contributing factor. So, if there is anybody that needs all-round education, it is the woman.”
Not deterred by the persistent security challenges in the North, Yakubu sees a future where DEC will be globally recognised as a leading organisation in raising and liberating many women from poverty and making more women to be more empowered.Follow Us on Social Media