By: Aydan Olcer, Global Sustainability Commitments and Communications Manager, The Coca-Cola Company

Elizabeth, a mother, is an ENGINE program participant. ‘Everything is possible if you believe you can do it,’ she says.

“Before [ENGINE], I didn't know how to plan a business and how to save, but now I think I know more about it. Before I could not speak with confidence, but now I can speak boldly.” -- ENGINE participant from Lagos, Nigeria

Education and access to education are the pillars for both social and economic development all over the world.

Education creates communities that thrive and prosper.

In four states across northern Nigeria, more than 65 percent of the population is unable to read. Only one in four girls attend secondary school.

That is why in 2013, The Coca-Cola Company and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) joined forces to launch the Educating Nigerian Girls in New Enterprises (ENGINE) program.

This partnership has worked vigorously with marginalized girls, age 16 to 19, to help improve their educational opportunities and translate them into real economic advantages and positive social choices.

As of March 2017, ENGINE had engaged more than 21,000 girls in Kano, Kaduna, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos.

Much can be said about ENGINE, but it is explained best through the experiences of the girls who have actively participated in the program. The ENGINE video below shares personal accounts and real life stories:

Why Education?

ENGINE targeted both girls who were attending school and those who did not to have prior access to education. ENGINE’s biggest success is the transformational change created in the lives of the participating girls through learning, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship training. Overall, 86 percent of girls enrolled were stayed in the program until the end. Since 2013, ENGINE has established over 200 learning spaces where young women meet for academic support and entrepreneurship training sessions over a nine-month period across cycles.

The project supported more than 10,000 out-of-school girls to start and expand their businesses of choice; 4,871 of the 7,128 girls who completed the nine-month sessions maintained passing grades.

Some striking results of the ENGINE program based on the program Endline Report are;

  • 94% of participating girls display improved confidence.
  • Up to half of ENGINE beneficiaries have started a business or benefitted from start-up or expansion funds. The savings groups formed during the program, not only promoted savings and financial management, but also afforded girls the opportunity to practice leadership skills. Nearly 1,000 saving groups were formed during the life of the project.
  • ENGINE’s financial literacy curriculum will be incorporated across all of the government schools in Kano.
  • More than 10,000 girls were linked to employment, with 6,000 of these girls joining the Coca-Cola value chain. This was made possible in collaboration with the Nigeria Bottling Company.
  • One-hundred percent of gatekeepers and community members agree that girls learning a new skill or getting a secondary education is important.
  • Approximately thirteen percent of the program’s participant (2,807 girls) have autonomy in their personal life, signified by having their voices heard within their household and increased self-confidence and leadership skills. Furthermore, 3,181 girls linked to different income-generating opportunities reported financial independence and control over their incomes.

The girls who were not in school increased their business acumen via access to seed grants, linked to business education and mentorship. As a result they became self-reliant.

Funmilayo Akintunde, also known as Gold, participated in the program in Lagos. “They taught us how to use little money to start our business, how to talk to our customers, how to save our money and how to manage the business so that the business will not crash," she said.

Access to finance is another barrier in empowerment. To overcome this, in partnership with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), ENGINE participants were registered for electronic identity cards.

We Can’t Do this Alone: A Consortium of Partners

The ENGINE program was made possible by a consortium of partners, each contributing their unique resources, expertise and will. As a result of this collective effort the program was able to impact lives for better.

Together, The Coca-Cola Company and Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK Government have invested over £7 million in the implementation of ENGINE. The investment comes as part of the UK Government’s Girls’ Education Challenge and The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 initiative, which seeks to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million female entrepreneurs across the global Coca-Cola value chain by 2020. Nigerian Bottling Company was a key partner in the consortium, providing business training, assets and mentoring to women to establish business ventures. Over 6,000 girls now run Coca-Cola businesses as retailers.

Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid agency, led the implementation of ENGINE with support from Girl Effect Nigeria, d.light solar social enterprise, Action Health Incorporated (AHI), Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP) and Society for Women Development and the Empowerment of Nigeria (SWODEN). ENGINE program was evaluated by both The Khana Group and Preston Healthcare Consulting. The program received further funding from Nike Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and MasterCard Worldwide.

The innovative public-private partnership approach maximized ENGINE program success. From the beginning, ENGINE was well supported by the Nigerian government and private and civil society organizations. These groups committed cash and in-kind funds by providing free classrooms for girls to hold learning sessions across project schools, free formal bank account openings, and registration for electronic identification cards. ENGINE was supported by the Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Education, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Access Bank Plc and Airtel Telecommunications.

Looking ahead, there is still a lot to be done in the space of education and women’s empowerment. With ENGINE, through a consortiums of unique partners each bringing their own strength and expertise we have proven that we can do this. Together with our partners, we are committed to continue enabling the economic empowerment of women all over the world.