I am not sure I really wanted to be a social worker or a development specialist. Back in school, professional courses like Law, Medicine, Architecting and so were the big names. I just chuckled as I mentioned the word ‘Professional’.
So looking back at over 12 years in this field, working across different thematic areas, serving in local and international NGOs, I have come to realize that sometimes destiny just happens, not really by our own calculation but by the divine.
From a little project that was focused on children safety in the FCT, I have metamorphosed to working on projects focused on the girl child, disability, youths and women groups.
What I have learnt within this year in this sector is that in order to succeed, you need to build and maximize goodwill. This goodwill is built with integrity, sincerity and transparency of actions, team work and role sharing between the benefactor and the beneficiary/ies to mention but a few.
Also, you need to build rich networks in your thematic area. Within the sector that you operate, it is important to identify stakeholders with high influence and high interest and engage them throughout the process. You need to be comfortable to build partnerships. Those days of thinking “people will steal my idea or outshine me”, is long gone. If you want to change narratives or give voice to your cause, distinctive partnerships are very important.
Of my many experiences working in this sector, I’d love to reference my recent experience working with a group of women to achieve the first National evaluation on a piece of legislation meant to protect women, girls and other vulnerable groups.
The Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law has been in existence in Nigeria since 2005 but many states did not see the need to adopt same as they felt it was a women focused law. On this particular project, we focused on supporting parliaments in selected states to pass this bill into law and also to stir up discussions around issues of gender equality using evidence-based indicators.
The VAPP law is so important because it covers core areas of women’s challenges including: abandonment, rape, battery, and financial, emotional and political violence. Despite its importance, many states in Nigeria failed to domesticate same.
In order to succeed and change this course, our project team, identified key actors that can steer up this conversation, involved beneficiary states in all planning and role sharing, deployed every other strategy mentioned above and viola! the number of states which adopted the law (as at the time of project commencement) sprung up from 18 to about 30 states.
The highpoint for me and the reason for sharing this is that strong causes within the development sector require strong and strategic partnerships. One needs to draw up a chess board and fill in all the right pieces. Before I forget the project in question won an impact and innovation award in our organization out of 13 countries who were also implementing the same project, and yours truly was so honored to be the programme coordinator for Nigeria.