Sunday, 28th May 2023

Interrogating Real Women, Real Growth

By Guardian Nigeria
17 April 2022   |   2:40 am
You walk by them daily: Women hard at work in their shops, farms, and market stalls. Dressed in Ankara, adire, or plain cotton, they administer their trades with dedication


Book Title: Stories Of Impact: Real Women. Real Lives. Real Growth
Published In 2019, Nigeria.
Publishers: Grooming Centre
Reviewer: Joy Ege-Essien

You walk by them daily: Women hard at work in their shops, farms, and market stalls. Dressed in Ankara, adire, or plain cotton, they administer their trades with dedication. These women and their victories are the primary subject of Stories of Impact: Real Women. Real Lives. Real Growth. Stories of impact is a beautiful photo book that explores the relationship between these women and the Grooming Centre.

A picture it is said, tells stories that a 1000-words might not tell. The photos in this 132-page book paint a portrait of the relationship between these women and an innovative non-governmental organisation named Grooming Centre (Grooming People for Better Livelihood Centre). Framed by a preface and an afterword the book showcases Grooming Centre’s philosophy of financial inclusion and empowerment as well as its efforts at living up to its corporate social responsibility.

Stories of Impact entranced me in several ways. Firstly, the subjects are authentic; real women in their natural environment (not pretend businesswomen as seen in adverts on television). One shot which was taken against a bright seafront (Pg. 94) resonated with me. Furthermore, the women’s stories, interwoven with Grooming Centre’s cooperative and disbursement processes, which are tailored to meet the needs of its members with “products targeted at the different stages of business growth” (pg. 35) were a lesson in smart life choices and the rewards of perseverance.

The pace of the book is moderate, and fluid, much like a gentle stream, on which layers of the success underpin Grooming centres holistic effect on its members with some profiles rising in their community, empowering other women as they hone their leadership skills. Still, others can improve their families’ fortunes and create a succession plan for their businesses.

The writer(s)’ chose a style and language unencumbered with jargon and complex expressions. Even in the chapters that reveal details of Grooming Centre’s vision and mission, the language is devoid of financial jargon; rather these facts are presented simply, making this knowledge readily accessible to all readers. The writer(s)’ tone is warm, and magnetic in its simplicity. Grooming Centre’s members speak candidly about their experiences; some sharing personal setbacks without flinching.

Though the goal is to promote Grooming Centre’s work, the stories shared by the women signpost the organisation’s achievements subtly. One woman shares how the health talks, for instance, caused her to be mindful about self-care, while the other talks about how she has educated her children. Still, another share about the interaction with the organisation’s credit officers who are professional and motivational towards the women.

In the end, some questions came up. Would a brief history of the Grooming Centre give readers a robust picture? The Grooming Centre longs to highlight successes. Yet, perhaps, a minute nod to its history and teething problems may offer readers a wider vista.

This book (published in Nigeria, 2019) is great for seeking inspiration. It is pleasurable reading for anyone who believes in hope.

It will appeal to a wide audience: stakeholders in community development, young people starting in life, decision-makers in government, community development or the non-governmental sector. As a resource, scholars will find it a healthy base for research and international aid organisations will also find it useful.

As I finished reading, I felt some pride for these unpretentious, resilient women, combined with wonder at the motivational attitude of Grooming Centre’s staff filled my heart with warm hope for our country. I would give the book a rating of 8 out of 10 stars.

Ege-Essien is a veteran journalist who lives in the UK

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