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FEATURE STORYDecember 6, 2022

Their money, their rules: how rural women in Nigeria are improving their livelihoods through affinity groups

Rural Women in Nigeria

Members of the “Good Women” affinity group, Bale Ogunbayo, Ogun State.

Photo credit: ©Dayo Ibitoye/The World Bank.


  • Rural women are pooling resources to grow their businesses and Women Affinity Groups have helped more than 350,000 women improve their standards of living.
  • Women affinity groups across six states have saved over 2.6 billion naira ($6 million) for their collective use.
  • Training sessions in social, financial, and business skills are helping women access larger markets and improve their livelihoods.

We had our group cash-out yesterday and decided to use the balance to buy a piece of farmland. We have paid 50,000 naira as a deposit to the landowner, and the tillers are already clearing the land,” Victoria Aderupakun, a 54-year-old farmer and member of a Women Affinity Group established with the support of the Nigeria for Women Project, told her group in Bale Ogunbayo, a village in the Odeda Local Government Area of Ogun State, in southwest Nigeria.

The members applauded Victoria’s announcement as the new farmland will increase their cassava yield. They will also plant other cash crops such as cashew, oil palm, coconut, and rice.

At the close of the meeting, the women counted the remaining money in their social fund purse and handed it to Victoria, their group leader and finance officer. Increased income from the new farmland is expected to help their economic situation.

The training on financial education and business skills has helped the women to start and manage their businesses. Gender-based violence training also helps women live peacefully with their husbands.
Vivian Akatuobi
a Women Affinity Group facilitator in the Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State


In Osa Okwu village, a farming community in Abia State, eastern Nigeria, Chidinma Enyinnaya, a 42-year-old civil servant, was inspired to start cassava farming after attending a Women Affinity Group meeting. Her goal was to increase her income and create financial stability for her family. Thanks to the group’s support, Chidinma now grows cassava on a 250 square-meter farmland.

Victoria and Chidinma are among the many Nigerian women who have benefited from Women Affinity Groups. Over 16,000 groups serve more than 350,000 members in six states of Nigeria. They have been set up by the Nigeria for Women Project, a Government of Nigeria program financed by the World Bank with IDA resources. The groups enable women to pool resources, loan each other money from their joint savings and set up emergency funds. They also combine resources such as food and labor to support each other during hardship. 

Rural Women in Nigeria

Chidinma Eyinaya on her farm, Osa Okwu, Abia State.

Photo credit: ©Dayo Ibitoye/The World Bank.

Without access to finance, women are disproportionately excluded from the formal economy and struggle to earn and save money, expand their businesses, and lift their families out of poverty. The Nigeria for Women Project is helping fill this gap.

Women Affinity Groups make their own rules on how much they save, how much each member can borrow, the repayment period, and the loan administrative fee. Selection does not consider political, religious, or ethnic affiliation. All women above 18 are welcome. The groups practice rotational leadership, and each member is expected to participate in savings and credit. Profit is shared. The women also access additional funding as grants to start or expand their businesses. Some women previously participated in a lending system that failed because of the high-interest fees.

Thus far, members of Women Affinity Groups across Nigeria have saved 2.6 billion naira ($6 million).

Skills training for better livelihoods

The program is also offering targeted skills training so that women receive the tools for economic sustenance and business longevity.

Chidinma is one of 18 women in her affinity group. Soon after joining, she started saving between 200 naira and 1,000 naira weekly. During her second month, she sought a loan to acquire land to start cassava farming. She also bought fertilizer to boost her yield. Her land had a good harvest, and Chidinma repaid the loan from the sales of cassava. As her income increased, she was able to continue saving larger sums. Chidinma has also learned saving and investing basics, and she is now better equipped to grow her business into a very profitable venture.

“The training on financial education and business skills has helped the women to start and manage their businesses," says Vivian Akatuobi, a Women Affinity Group facilitator in the Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State: “Gender-based violence training also helps women live peacefully with their husbands.”

Women entrepreneurs in Nigeria face many obstacles in male-dominated professions like agriculture. In addition to gender biases, discriminatory policies, and other forms of harassment, women often have limited access to land, funding, networks, and the education available to men. Nigeria for Women is helping overcome these challenges and improve the standards of living in rural communities. 


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