“I Can Make It!” The Story of Bridget, a Nigerian Mother

Forty-year-old Bridget Egesi has been the sole caretaker of her five children since her husband’s death in 2008. Until recently, Bridget pieced together an income by washing laundry, cleaning her neighbors’ cars and working as a security guard. Unfortunately, these menial jobs did not always pay enough to provide for her children’s basic needs, and Bridget had to withdraw them from school to save on school fees.

Since 2009, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and Africare have implemented Community-Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CUBS), a USAID project in Nigeria with funding through PEPFAR. Many women in the project area care for their own children as well as others whose parents have passed away, so in 2012, CUBS launched a component to help women understand how to better care for the children in their charge. Bridget Egesi is one of these women. Through workshops held in conjunction with locally-run community-based organizations, CUBS taught Bridget and 1,049 other caregivers about children’s health and emotional needs. Partnering with the Nigeria AIDS Intervention Organization, CUBS also taught the caregivers how to start a business, track their incomes and expenses, and regularly save.

Motivated by the training and mindful of her community’s needs as well as her experience as a nurse, Bridget decided to open a pharmacy. CUBS helped Bridget write a business plan and submit it to a village savings group called Esusu. Impressed with Bridget’s well-developed plan and budget, Esusu gave her a start-up loan of 40,000 naira (US $250), with which she rented a building and obtained a pharmacy license. Within 12 months, she had opened her pharmacy.

Bridget’s business now generates enough income for her to purchase adequate food and clothing for her children, and send all five of them to school. Plus, with a minimum daily profit of 3,000 naira (US $19), Bridget has already repaid 80% of her loan!

“CUBS has made me realize that I can make it! The income-generating skills training I received helped me to save and plan properly for myself, my family and business… [I’ve also learned to] build relationships with people who [can support] my vision and dreams,” said Bridget.

Since the project started in 2009, CUBS has worked with local organizations to provide income-generating skills training for 12,500 household heads. These caregivers now have improved skills and means to provide for the 40,000 orphans and vulnerable children in their care.

In preparation for the project’s conclusion later this year, CUBS is partnering with training centers in each of the project-supported states to sustain and expand the caregiver trainings. CUBS is also working with two microfinance banks that will continue providing loans to caregivers interested in opening or expanding small businesses.

With strategic grassroots guidance from CUBS, Bridget placed herself on a road to prosperity. Her success came from her own business plan and with local seed money, and now she can help others to do the same – like her neighbors and of course, her children. This is sustainable development, and this is how countless mothers like Bridget can make it too!

Gilbert Ojiakor, Africare Delta State Program Officer
Farzaneh Foroozan, MSH Nigeria Communications Intern
Franklin Onofekohwo, Nigeria AIDS Intervention Organization Program Officer