We could`nt stop talking about this marvel
We could`nt stop talking about this marvel

It is a sunny Saturday morning in Sogunro, a slum on the waterfront of the Lagos Lagoon. Described as the Venice of Africa, this fishing village is built on stilts above the Lagoon. The flair of the busy women traders paddling with poise along the canal is strong enough to take our minds off the fear of losing balance on our not so stable canoe, as it glides through the reeking black waters. I can`t swim but I don`t   care about the depth of the water underneath. My colleague Smeeta shows no iota of fear. Waste, environmental pollution and health hazards are lurking so strongly in the atmosphere but even stronger is the urge to have a firsthand experience of the work done by our guide, World Pulse Community Leader, Vweta Chadwick in this relegated and unknown Slum.

 Unclad and half-dressed kids shout greetings from one shanty to the other. They get even louder at the sight of my colleague Smeeta “Oyibo”!!!!!!!, a popular way of referring to a white person in Nigeria. Smeeta is Indian but the kids see her as white. We are told by Vweta that kids as young as a year old in this community are able to swim. They learn how to swim before they can walk.

 

With the aid of canoes, women vendors ply from place to place around the canal selling assorted items, creating a mobile market on water. The sight of a woman breastfeeding a baby while paddling a canoe loaded with cooked food for sale nearly throws me off the canoe! Vweta smiles and keeps taking pictures of Smeeta and myself in our marvel.

 

Sogunro has a population of over 3000. Rows of raised bamboo buildings with canoes anchored around depict a people in harmony with nature.  Where all I fathom are health hazards, residents see a treasure-trove. They are clearly unperturbed by the slush around them. Groups of fifteen families are entitled to one community toilet. Waste water, excrement, kitchen waste, polythene bags and plastic bottles  go directly into the lagoon. I leave aftermaths of heavy rains in this community to your imagination.

 

“This is where our ancestors lived, we love being here," says the community head, Chief Abraham Mesu. "We are fishermen and cannot live anywhere else. We must live on water.’’ Chief Mesu traces the origin of his people from Old Dahomey, now the Benin Republic, as far back as the 1890`s.There is no government presence in this vicinity, which is plagued by over fishing, population explosion and the absence of roads. Chief Mesu says they are in dire need of a hospital. He appeals to the government and NGOs to come to their aid.

Ahouansou Hausiwenne is a Traditional Birth Attendant in  Sogunro. There are no hospitals, so she also attends to the health needs of the people. She is one of the 27 traditional birth attendants who recently received training from Project ASHA, founded and led by World Pulse Community Leader, Vweta Chadwick. Hausiwenne says many of the women do not come for ante-natal consultation. They only show up at her clinic when it`s time for their babies to be born and sometimes they have complications that she cannot handle. When a case is too difficult for her, they have to rush the woman by canoe and then transfer to a car to  get to the nearest hospital.

Although not voiced by any of the birth attendants we have talked to, I can smell high rates of infant and maternal mortality in this community where one woman has an average of seven children. One of our guides tells me that when the babies die they are tossed into the water beneath.  Project ASHA provided 27 of these birth attendants with sterile kits and training to ensure proper hygiene during delivery. The feedback from those we have visited indicates that the training was extremely helpful and the kits were put to good use. Hausiwenne gives a broad warm smile when Vweta tells her  Project Asha will soon open a cyber café for her and other women to connect with the wider world and tell their stories.

Speaking with about 40 teenage girls in the Community, we discover that majority of them have never been anywhere out of this slum and have never seen a computer. Teenage pregnancy is at its peak here. Most of the girls are unable to read and write, do not know their ages and have had no form of education or training. Unlike their parents, they are eager to leave Sugonro. They want a better life and for most of them that means life out of the slums. One of them walks up to Vweta and says “Aunty I will go away with you right now if you want to take me with you”. Three of World Pulse Nigeria leaders, Busayo,Olanike and Aramide who have braved this trip by crossing a very delicate bridge unable to hide their surprise when a  very young  looking  mother of a 6 months old baby is unable to tell her age.The woman leader of the community is calling on the government, NGOs and good willed individuals to help provide education to the girls of Sogunro.

I describe the founder of Project ASHA, former VOF graduate, Vweta Chadwick as an embodiment of what World Pulse is all about. Thanks to her participation in the VOF training, she has been able to rebuild her self-confidence and gather the courage to use her voice as a tool for empowerment. A voice that was once silenced by a surgery and harsh cultural realities. This voice is changing the lives of thousands of people in the little known and abandoned Sogunro Community, thanks to the power of technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Dear Leina,

Your article spoke to me. I really love how you drew me into the lives and struggles of the people in Sogunro Community. In 15 minutes, I feel like I know them and can feel what they feel, thanks to your powerful narrative.

Young girls and women should not live like this, cut off from health services, education, and the basic amenities of life. I am really proud of Vweta for braving the reeking black waters and doing what she can for this community. World Pulse at the grassroots is definitely something worth focusing on as well.

Slowly but surely, the shackles will come off.

Stay Amazing!

Ola.

Founder, Girl Pride Circle

olaoluwaabagun@ymail.com

We all die. The goal is not to live forever, but to create something that will.

Thanks for your sweet words dear  Olaoluwa.More grease to you as you keep making the voices of girls louder.Kudos to our darling Vweta for shinning a light on the people of Sugonro!

 

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

What an amazing recounting of your visit, Leina, and the incredible work of Vweta Chadwick! I felt like I was there with you as I read your words. I look forward to hearing so much more. To Vweta and all the others involved in Project ASHA, keep up your incredible work. This community deserves more!

In support, Sarah

Dear Sarah,thanks for your ever present support.Your good work makes it possible for women like Vweta to break their barriers and shine forth. Hugs, Leina

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Hello Leina,

Thank you for sharing your experiences and observations! I really enjoyed reading about them! However, it was also horrible to read about the hundreds and maybe thousands of girls living in slums who are also illiterate. It's so nice to hear about the impact that Project ASHA is having I can't wait to hear more about your work in the near future.

With love,

Helen Ng

Thanks a million dear Helen.These girls have hope thanks to the  existence of World Pulse and the courage of Vweta!

 

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Thank you so much sister Leina for this sharing.

You rightly said it. I have been in Lagos but have not heard of Sogunro community. How vast is our Lagos, inhabiting people of different cultures and backgrounds. I can imagine from your story how difficult living might be for the girls in Sogunro community. Difficult life has always been a driving force to teenage pregnancy in Nigeria. Thanks to my sister Vweta for the great works through the Project Asha. 

Warm regards,

Celine

Thanks for sharing dear sis Celine,I keep saying that it would`nt have been typical of World Pulse to leave Lagos without touching Sogunro.Our mission is to reach such people and thanks to Vweta this was made possible through her work with Project ASHA.

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Dearest sis Leina. Hand claps and a standing ovation and some cheers in Bali haha. There are no two ways to describe women empowerment more than this offline trip to the slums in Nigeria.World Pulse has done so many great this but I think this offline/rural women visit initiative it the greatest.

That has been my wish to see more of World Pulse offline and in such communities, because in all those women and girls ly so much untapped potential. And how beautiful it was for you to meet them with your love , warmth and always cheerful nature.I could see the love and joy on Smeeta's face which spoke volumes. Vweta,o my God she is too much. Bravo Bravo to you Mme Leina and Smeeta with all the sisters in Nigeria for starting this offline initiative. This will certainly have such tremendous impact in the lives of rural women. Well done sisters.

And Darling did I say your writing style is superb? Wow. Am proud.

kujamac

Awww thanks my sweet sis, you are right, these people deserve our attention.What if you and I were in the place  of these little girls?We will be longing for someone to do something for us.Let`s be that someone.Can you imagine?Vweta just told me today that the same day we left a woman died while bringing forth a baby?That hit me so hard.Action Time!

Much Love,

Leina

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Hello leina still digesting the horrible picture of people's living conditions your write up painted in my mind. Chaiiii it is a shame for a country full of natural resources like even the fish which could be exploited to better every life.

Thanks to World Pulse and its community members this area will experience something different. I greatly applaud the computer and eventual literacy plan vweta and her team have for this community with the support of world pulse. I am certain if will lead to a high level of exposure to issues around the world which empower people of the community faster.

Congratulations World Pulse sisters who made it there for it is a wonderful outreach venture for rural communities. It is rewarding to reach where laws, policies and state leaders have almost forgotten to empower people. Kudos great change makers

Masalien's

My dearest sis Masalien`s I am yet to recover from the images I saw in this place.Words can not fully paint the picture.I cry for these precious lives.They are so close to affluence yet they cannot even afford the basics of life.Ah!My heart bleeds. Much Love sis Leina

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Dear Rock star, Super Duper amazing, trailblazing, pathfinding Leina,

Words of gratitude fail me. I could never have captured this story as beautifully as you did.

I and the entire Project ASHA team are honoured to have had World Pulse visit. Sogunro is one of those communities situatated close enough to high income areas that they can see what financial means and will can do, but located too far to experience the benefits of a responsive and just government. Often, the only times they are remembered are during festivities and elections - when they are gifted food items and relief materials. These may solve their immediate problem, but it never addresses the reason for the problem in the first place.

Your visiting and conversing with them left an indelible impression in both their and our heart. They send their love.

Sadly, that same day, just after we left, a woman in her mid 30s died during childbirth. The baby was her 7th. All the more reason we need to intensify our intervention and draw the world attention to the plight of women and girls in this community.

The girls are very excited about the digital literacy lab and are more excited about coming on board World Pulse.

Thank you again.

 

In Solidarity,

Vweta

In Solidarity,

Vweta.

"Working towards a just and equitable world for all women, without recourse to status."

My God!Vweta I am yet to come to terms with the news of this woman`s demise.That was a slap to my face and a big question.World Pulse did`nt  just stop by to tell a story we came to change the story.Let`s talk more.

Thanks for the fabulous work you are doing for these lives dear.

Hugs,

Leina

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Leina,

I am BLOWN AWAY! You have transported me back to that place sitting in that canoe with you and Vweta and thinking to myself, how the heck did I end up here?? I must have done something right in my previous life because I surely haven't earned it in this one.

Spending that week with you and our team in Lagos was my finest week in my life. Between watching you transform a crowd with your storytelling and inspiring others, to Vweta's superwoman powers of not just managing Project Asha but our blogger/social media guru to Busayo, Olanike, Aramide, Carolyn - I was blown away.

It is ALL of you that make World Pulse. Thank YOU for your gift of including me in this journey. And I am excited that you all have started something pretty powerful - so I am fastening my seat belt!!

Sending you much love,

Smeeta

Smeeta, your presence ignites the fire in us.You love your job,your passion cannot be ignored.Lagos was a blast and one of the finest weeks in my life.Nothing fuels my engine like seeing women catching World Pulse's vision and running with it.These women are answers to many deep issues of our time.They have been hidden in the cave of culture and we must go grap them! Much Love, Leina

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Leina, 

Thank you for continuing to bring stories to the forefront.  I am saddened I was not able to accompany World Pulse on your trip to Lagos, but I knew you and your team would not only have an impact on the women of Lagos but that you would bring back stories such that we can learn and take action to change stories!  

Hugs!  Looking forward to catching up with you soon.

Marne 

Dear Leina,

It's wonderful knowing you visited Lagos and grateful for your experience.

We have so many other suburbs like Sogunro inhabited by the fisher men. The situation is pathetic and it's not been easy to assist these people because if they are asked to relocate for development, most time they don't listen, they don't want to move from what they call ancestral home.

Sincerely, they need education and the will to accept help.

Few years back, some slums were submerged and inhabitants relocated but they refused to move and came back, claiming their forefathers lived in the area. CNN carried the news and LAGOS State government build blocks of houses to shelter the displaced but most of them went back.

Honestly, I feel very sad for these people and their lack of knowledge or exposure.

It's my hope that government would hear the clarion call and do something to help.

Welcome.

AYABA

Thanks for the words of encouragement and all you do to make the lives of women better dear Beth.

Much Love,

Leina

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina

Just completed reading this awesome article.  I'm sitting here at the World Pulse office in Portland, OR, USA.   I am here as a member of the World Pulse Board.  A small group of women leaders from all over the world committed to serving the World Pulse staff and community.   What an honor and priviledge to be of service to this amazing community of leaders!! 

In love and service to life and all that brings life,

Lana Holmes

http://www.lanaholmes.com/

https://www.worldpulse.com/fr/about-us/board#BOD

Thank you dear Lana,what an honor  to see your join forces with us towards a better world for women.

Much Love,

Leina

"I don`t just want to tell stories,I want to change stories"

Chi Yvonne Leina