Project led by York professor seeks to empower Nigerian communities

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), in collaboration with Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA),- has committed $1 million to help improve the well-being of Nigerian women by strengthening social work education and practice. Atkinson Professor Uzo Anucha is heading up the international project alongside faculty and researchers from York’s School of Social Work, the University of Windsor, the University of British Columbia and the University of Benin in Nigeria.

Right: Professor Uzo Anucha (right) with Patrick Erah, a member of the Nigerian project team

"Thanks to AUCC and CIDA, York’s School of Social Work has the opportunity not only to contribute to Nigeria’s stride towards greater gender equality, but also to learn new ways of working with women and other equality seeking groups in Canada," said Anucha. "This international collaboration will allow us to develop new, shared frameworks for understanding the status of all women, while contributing directly to women empowerment and gender equality in Nigerian communities."

Nigerian women face gender-based status differences that create difficulties for them in three main areas: vulnerability to poverty through reduced access to, and control over, property and financial assets; increased exposure to risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs; and, sexual exploitation through trafficking. The project will ensure that social workers trained in Nigeria are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to address and help diminish the prevalence of these gender-based issues.

"Social work, with its long tradition of empowering and working with marginalized people through multi-level interventions and collaborations with community-based organizations, is well positioned to contribute significantly to women empowerment and gender equality in Nigeria," said Anucha. "It is our hope that we will contribute to the progress that grassroots-level organizations have made, while establishing a new standard of social work education and practice that will benefit women, their families and their communities."

Key project activities include the development and piloting of a graduate program in social work at the University of Benin, led by Atkinson Professor Narda Razak, director of York’s Graduate Program in Social Work; designing and delivering in-service professional training and upgrading for potential field supervisors; and working with the Nigerian Association of Social Workers in lobbying government officials to pass legislation governing the profession.

The project also aims to establish a social work centre at Benin with computers for online education. Patrick Erah, a member of the Nigerian project team, recently visited York University to tour Atkinson’s e-learning facilities. Though the centre will adapt aspects of knowledge and skills developed in Canada and the West, it will also create new models for education and learning that are both locally and culturally responsive.

For more information on the project, contact Uzo Anucha at