Virtuous Women: Cultivating Hope in Nigeria
Virtuous Women (VW) is a Local Community Institution in Plateau State, North-Central Nigeria that was established in 2014. It is made up of Christian businesswomen creating impact in the world one business at a time. They aim to reflect Christlikeness in whatever they do, while adding value to lives and providing hope for those with whom they come in contact.
VW has 84 members, all in different businesses. Some members are in agriculture, including potato farming, poultry, fishery, piggery. Others are in service industries such as schools, laundry services, and boutiques. VW was interested in developing a business strategy that would enhance the financial growth of its members, and Virtuous Women Credit and Loan Cooperative Society was birthed. The Cooperative gives loans to members and non-members and currently has a loan portfolio of about $100,000.00.
During the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses were struggling and survival was the top priority, the VW women kept faith and hope alive. Some identified opportunities during this period and keyed into making them a reality.
One example is a VW woman named Mary. Mary is a widow who owned a clothing boutique. During the lockdown in Nigeria, her business was not as profitable as it had once been. However, she saw the opportunity in the food business and decided to take advantage of it.
Mary immediately purchased roughly 4,645sqm of land. She purchased basic equipment from Lagos State to start processing rice. She advertised and was able to hire staff. She started sourcing for her raw materials both within and out of State through referrals. Her current production capacity (for milled, destoned, and bagged rice) is half a truck (15 metric tons) monthly. She already has more demand than supply. Her marketing is done through her staff. She sends them out on the field with proposals and marketing materials and pays commissions to staff that close deals to encourage their efforts.
Mary currently supplies to popular supermarkets, boarding schools, and other businesses. She has received interest from several off-takers that are interested in supplies above what she can currently produce. Within just a few months, Mary has expanded her product line with four additional products. They are bean flour, acha (fonio or local pudding), maize flour, and adult formula (cereal). She has purchased one truck to lower her cost of acquiring raw materials for production. She is currently building a warehouse for storage of raw materials so that she is not affected much by seasonal price hikes in the market.
Mary has weathered the storms of 2020, and is succeeding because she identified a supply gap, and channeled energy and resources into meeting this need.
VW also has an NGO arm called the Virtuous Women of Hope Centre (‘The Centre’). It was established in June 2019 to empower women -- particularly widows and the less privileged -- and create impact on the local community. The Centre has been training widows in business and skills. To date, 76 widows and 21 youth have been trained. VW plans to train at least 60 women yearly. Recently, in November 2020, VW NGO got a grant from Victims Support Fund (VSF) to distribute food, hygiene, and safety items to households in Plateau State, and they did that successfully.
The Virtuous Women leadership and members have proven good stewardship of resources and acquired experience managing a loan portfolio in the most trying times possible. Their loan repayment was still 100% during the pandemic. This was possible for several reasons: the women kept in close communication with each other, and shared ideas about business resilience on their WhatsApp platform. Furthermore, they believe that their businesses were better off because their commitment to members’ welfare was repaid with loyalty. Finally, they feel that their businesses have been blessed because they care for widows and their communities.
We thank God for Virtuous Women and the impact they are creating in their community!