The Columns

A Day in the Life: Nancy Stephen Johnson Opportunity Grant winner works on women’s empowerment initiatives in Abuja, Nigeria

— by on October 22nd, 2015

“I was exposed to the vast initiatives and projects being developed and implemented by the Ministry in order to aid and empower women who have been incapacitated and rendered miserable as result of the sexism rife in the patriarchal Nigerian society.”

Nancy StephenNancy Stephen

Nancy Stephen ’17
Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner
Intern at the Federal Ministry for Women Affairs and Social Development in Abuja, Nigeria

From mid-June through early August, I interned with the Federal Ministry for Women Affairs and Social Development (FMWASD) in Abuja, Nigeria. More specifically, I worked hand-in-hand with the Director of the Women and Gender Affairs (WGA) Department of the Ministry, Mrs. Esther Mshelia. Prior to my experience, I was almost certain that the Ministry did little to nothing to address encumbrances encountered by the average Nigerian female on a daily basis. However, my perception of FMWASD’s work changed during my internship. I was exposed to the vast initiatives and projects being developed and implemented by the Ministry in order to aid and empower women who have been incapacitated and rendered miserable as result of the sexism rife in the patriarchal Nigerian society.

Throughout the eight weeks I worked at FMWASD, my three areas of focus were physical abuse and sexual violence, women’s economic empowerment and women in politics. Of all the work I carried out in these three fields, I most especially enjoyed supporting the creation of a policy brief on reversing poverty trends in Nigeria through women’s empowerment initiatives. Creating this policy brief entailed research on past poverty initiatives adopted by the Nigerian government and their failures, and on the nexus between poverty and gender in Nigeria. It also required me to gain an understanding of the Ministry’s proposed Safety Net program to the federal government to eradicate poverty. The policy brief took one week to assemble, and the typical routine for working on the brief during that week was as follows:

Given the deadline assigned by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, working hours for the week were extended by an hour. Mrs. Esther Mshelia (DWGA) headed the creation of the policy brief. My colleagues and I worked individually for four hours on our assigned roles in preparing the brief, and then met at noon in the conference room to present our progress to one another. After that, it was back to the drawing board to amend unsatisfactory areas in our work. After compiling 10 pages of information, we had to convert it all into a three-page policy brief for presentation to the Presidency after approval from the Permanent Secretary. The conversion process involved seeking the input of some of the Ministry’s international partners, like UNDP and Action Aid.

Developing the brief was an amazing and informative experience that gave me the opportunity to discuss and even network with masterminds in the U.N. and other NGOs.

More about Nancy:

Hometown: Houston, TX / Abuja, Nigeria

Majors: Economics and French

Extracurricular Involvement:

Off-Campus Experiences:

Why did you apply for the Johnson Opportunity Grant? To acquire the necessary financial means to go back to Nigeria, where I spent most of my childhood, and serve in their Federal Ministry for Women Affairs and Social Development.

What was the most unexpected aspect of your grant experience? I never knew that I’d be working closely with members of UNDP, UNWomen, Action Aid and African Development Bank. It was a splendid surprise!

How does your work under the grant apply to your studies at W&L? As an Economics major, I would say it is related to the field of Development Economics.

Post-Graduation Plans: Either a Masters in Finance or a Masters in Development Studies.

Favorite W&L Memory: O-Week in Freshman year. It was the week I made my closest friends.

Favorite W&L Event: Young Alumni Weekend. It’s always great to see old friends again.

Favorite Lexington Landmark: A Sunday drive on back roads in Lexington can’t be beat. Also, no Wal-Mart parking lot in America has a better view.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? W&L offers so many awesome opportunities to students. It is up to you to fish them out and make the best out of them!