Since 2014, millions of people in northeast Nigeria have been robbed of peace, prosperity and the lives they once knew. The Boko Haram insurgency, coupled with the Nigerian military’s counter-insurgency efforts, has led to a severe humanitarian crisis in the region. The conflict has left 8.5 million people in need of emergency assistance, including over 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). At least 1.4 million of these IDPs live in the northeast’s Borno state in sub-standard informal settlements and resource-strapped host communities. Displacement, and its burden on host communities, has resulted in critically low levels of essential services and opportunities to sustain livelihoods.
FHI 360 humanitarian response professionals are providing gender-based violence (GBV), health care, water and sanitation services to the most vulnerable populations currently living in two Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Borno State. Specifically, in GBV, FHI 360 has set up safe spaces which deliver case management and group psychosocial support. FHI 360 case workers provide referrals to survivors of GBV for life-saving medical care and legal services based on their needs and wishes at FHI 360 operated safe spaces. The project further engages community members and traditional leaders in dialogue to increase knowledge on the negative consequences of GBV and advocate for support and non-stigmatization of survivors. This program is supported by local experts in gender, health, livelihoods, and security.
Through daily engagement with affected communities since project launch in January 2017, FHI 360’s response team has identified many IDPs as survivors of GBV, and that such women remain especially vulnerable. The need for livelihood opportunities, especially for female-headed households, is both imminent and crucial to bridging the gap between northeast Nigerians’ current dire circumstances and the peaceful, prosperous lives these communities seek.
Through focus group discussions conducted during the beneficiary feedback phase, FHI 360 staff have spoken to women about the many different areas in which they worked. This included making and selling food stuffs, embroidering, tailoring, working as hair dressers, farming, operating small businesses, and many other endeavors. In Borno State, men typically control all financial resources; thus women with husbands who would fund their wives had the advantage of access to initial investment for small businesses in the past. Many households are now female-headed due to the conflict, placing these women in a more vulnerable state, often lacking income and fully reliant on aid from humanitarian agencies. Female-headed households with no income are at a higher risk in a crisis setting of sexual exploitation or of engaging in transactional sex to meet family needs. Moreover, lack of resources and services undermines peace by increasing tension between men and women and IDPs and host communities, exacerbating risks of violence and abuse.
In a report by the Women’s Refugee Commission, evidence shows that when programs provide alternatives to dangerous livelihood strategies, they can decrease the overall GBV risk for the affected groups. Providing economic paths for these women through skills trainings in livelihoods and income-generating activities can offer them hope, financial security, and stability long-term. Livelihood opportunities can help increase self-confidence and feelings of empowerment and provide a bridge to prosperity when GBV-affected IDP women return to their homes in the future. They can also provide alternative opportunities to women who are at risk of falling into illicit activities to generate income, thus improve peace and security in vulnerable communities.
Although livelihood opportunities are vital for the recovery of individuals and communities post-conflict, there is a significant need to develop models that work better to deliver these services. A recent study by the Migration Policy Institute, “Building Livelihood Opportunities for Refugee Populations” identified barriers to effective livelihoods programming for refugees and displaced persons. Many programs do not use assessments of the local context, so the target population cannot use the skills they are trained in, nor do the skills match the capacity or knowledge of the community. A human-centered design process can serve as a mechanism to place the decision-making power back in the hands of the beneficiaries – the women in Borno state – who are most in need of these services.
Human-centered design has been practiced in low-resource and post-conflict settings around the world to create innovative solutions and services to the challenges of global poverty. This approach has scaled sexual and reproductive health service delivery, increased women’s safety in accessing water points, improved uptake of sanitation practices, and resulted in many other social innovations in a variety of settings. The tools and techniques of human-centered design level the playing field between the donor and the beneficiary by putting them together in the drivers’ seat to co-design a program. Through this approach, FHI 360 will facilitate the co-design process to build a livelihoods program that is created, and ultimately owned by the women, to lay the scaffolding of a bridge to better, more peaceful and prosperous lives.
GOALS & OBJECTIVES:
Goal: To equip GBV survivors in Borno state with the resources and skills to co-design livelihoods programs for themselves, ultimately providing these women with pathways to prosperity in the short-term and peace in the long-term.
- Co-create livelihood programs with women affected by GBV through an interactive, human-centered design process;
- Impart the requisite skills and training identified through the process that will enable the women to build livelihoods and prosper;
- Facilitate understanding, reconciliation and relationship-building between women through the group-format identified as key in beneficiary feedback to promote social support, unity, and long-term peace.