Great Step Initiative (GSI) is a refugee-led community-based organisation (CBO) that supports Cameroonian Refugees living in Nigeria. It currently operates in Cross River and Taraba States with recent attempts to expand to Benue state. The ultimate goal of the organisation is to reach all Cameroonian refugees and their host communities.
CBO’s such as Great Step Initiative remain key partners for addressing both humanitarian and developmental gaps in both the settlements and the host communities. GSI implements all its programs to benefit both refugees and their Nigerian hosts and employ local human and material resources in the implementation of its programs. This approach taps into the agency of refugees and adopts local best practices that emanate from local solutions.
The work of GSI aligns with the thematic areas of the GCR in improving protection capacity, supporting education outcomes, meeting the health gaps which have been compounded by COVID-19, and creating economic opportunities for both refugees and the host communities.
A key highlight of the organisation’s achievement is the role it has played in responding to the COVID-19 crises that was at its peak in Nigeria early 2020 with underserved communities being the hardest hit.
GSI – A Key GCR Stakeholder
GSI currently has a core workforce of 14 (with 6 Nigerian nationals) and 120 community volunteers (with 37 Nigerian nationals). The organisation was founded in 2019 with the aim of supporting refugees through community-based approaches in four key thematic areas:
- Psychosocial counselling; to victims of trauma and abuse;
- Awareness and response to issues Gender Based Violence; primarily through identifying and supporting victims of rape, early marriages, and teenage pregnancies;
- Health and Sanitation, combined with income-generating activities; including the production of liquid soaps, production of face masks and reusable sanitary pads, and community clean-up and sensitization campaigns;
- Child protection including formation of MHM clubs and distribution of sanitation materials in schools.
Video: Imparting Lives For Greatness
As of 31 October 2021, there are 68,808 Cameroonian refugees registered across all refugee hosting states. Cameroonian refugees are primarily hosted in Cross River, Benue, Taraba and Akwa Ibom States. The refugees are distributed as follows; 38,563 are in Cross River, 10,963 in Benue and 17,656 are in Taraba while 1,570 are in Akwa Ibom, and 56 individuals in other states.
While some refugees live in settlements, over 50% live in host communities and share basic services, resources and social infrastructure with their Nigerian hosts. As such, all stakeholders have adopted the approach of supporting key developmental needs in the host communities such as in the areas of health, education, water and sanitation and economic empowerment.
Video: The Psychosocial Support Mechanism
Limited funding remains the critical gap affecting GSI’s program and reach. As most refugees are spread across several communities in four different states it is costly to reach many refugees, particularly those living out of the settlements. Whereas GSI has reached some refugees out of the settlements they have been greatly limited by funding to support host communities, especially those in hard-to-reach areas. A key factor that contributed significantly to the success of GSI’s activities in 2020 and 2021 is given to the fact that the organisation won the Refugee Innovation Award for USD 15,000. This has been their sole source of funding since inception and the funds have run out. Without additional funds to continue their important role in the communities it is expected and feared that the organisation would fold up. This is due to the very limited opportunities to raise/mobilize funding locally.