Reports of hunger and loss of livelihood have dominated the media following the announcement of the lockdown of major cities in Nigeria on March 30th. Such is the implication of the measures imposed by the Government on a country characterized by a large informal economy, where earning a living primarily entails being outdoors. Consequently, this exposes a large portion of the population to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic and can also be connected to the exponential increase in cases.
Recounting the peculiarities of her predicament, Mrs Omotunde Oni, a 32-year-old mother and beneficiary of the SHAPE 2020 programme, explained that she might have been yet another victim of the scourge — “If not for the money I made from selling hand sanitizers, I would have had to beg for food during this lockdown”, she said.
Omotunde, a graduate of the recently concluded women empowerment program tagged SHAPE 2020, was one of the hundreds of women who made it into the highly coveted programme in Lagos, providing participants with an opportunity for technical skill acquisition, for subsequent conversion into a steady income. Courses organised include catering, make-up, fashion, hair & wig making, nail care, domestic essentials, event decoration & planning, amongst several other categories.
Considering an initial lack of excitement upon admission into the programme, Omotunde narrates with enthusiasm, her highly-valued advantage following successfully producing and delivering hundreds of domestic essentials comprising hand sanitizers and more, to customers across Lagos.
“I registered for the SHAPE 2020 programme without high expectations. A friend of mine posted a flier on her Whatsapp story and I reluctantly registered for the programme. Since I didn’t register on time, I was unable to get into my preferred fashion design class and I considered leaving the programme. I was advised to join the domestic essentials class and this decision turned out to be the best disappointment of my life”.
“Shortly after the demand for hand sanitizers increased in the markets, we learned how to make hand sanitizers in class and I decided to practice at home. On my way home, I stopped at the market and bought materials to make the products. Just as I was leaving, someone asked me if I could make hand sanitizers and when I said yes, she made an order for 50 bottles…this translated to my first profit from the skills acquired through the programme”.
“I continued to make hand sanitizers as well as liquid dishwashing and handwashing soaps as people kept buying them. After some time, I was able to get some people to buy the products in larger quantities’’.
“I have to admit that with the current lockdown in place, I would have had to beg to survive as my situation would have been precarious. The only way I have been able to sustain my family is from the profit I have made from this business”, Omotunde said.
“SHAPE 2020 has opened my eyes to business opportunities around me and to how this seemingly mundane skill can change my life and the lives of those around me. Now I am currently making business plans to take my products to the real market and become a major player in the industry”.
With funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Whitefield Foundation kicked off its SHAPE 2020 programme in February — a women empowerment platform focused on enhancing the lives of disadvantaged and unemployed women between the ages of 18yrs and 50yrs through the attainment of vocational skills. The programme saw the training of 770 local women while subsequently empowering 237 with technical skills and tools, of which 150 businesses have emerged so far.