On July 10th I posted a need onour resource page, asking for financial support to enable us organise a skill acquisition program for our adolescent mothers at Ijegun,Ikotun, Lagos. The date scheduled for the training was July 27th. After our first summit on 11th June, it became obvious that these young moms needed serious financial boost to sustain their families. Basically, some of them have had to put up with runaway husbands while others are stuck with husbands that are equally jobless or earning very low income, hence they are unable to fend for their wives and children. In fact, one of them had even returned to her mother's house as the man could not feed her and her three children.
So, we thought it best to start with some training on basic skills to enable them engage in petty trade and earn little income to keep body and soul together. Somehow, we couldn’t get financial help anywhere. Our organisation’s account was in red because there was no money there.
I thought of postponing the program but our trainer – Jumoke Dalmeida (a widow who serves as volunteer with us) kept calling and asking for money to buy the materials needed for the practical training. She was very passionate about helping these teenage mothers and had offered to train them for free. Not wanting to discourage her, l decided to borrow some money and send to her on July 25th to at least buy few things. I concluded that even if we couldn’t get money to empower the young mothers with start-up kits, we could train them on the technical know-how and hope that they get the resources to start somehow.
Our dear Olamide Etti, now President of the Adolescent Mothers’ Club had gone out with fliers to invite pregnant teens in the community. Unfortunately many of them turned down her invitation. Their reason? They needed money and cannot come for any training if the organizers will not give them money for food and upkeep. Quite unfortunate I must say!
So, rather than the expected twenty participants, we had nine young mothers and four adults (resource persons) in attendance. It was indeed a very practical and exciting session for all. We started with getting the stories of these adolescent mothers through a questionnaire a dear sister Oluwatobiloba and I had drafted to collate stories since many of them would not write in English, having dropped out of school. Trust me, the stories we got were so touching and thought-provoking. There is no doubt that these women have been through great storms.
Thereafter, I spoke briefly and encouraged them to take the giant leap and dare to be economically empowered instead of begging for bread or being a liability. Then, my friend, Janet Ikeoluwa spoke on the need for personal hygiene as an enhancer and gateway to wellness.
Thereafter, Jumoke took us through the process on how to make bar soap for washing of clothes and doing regular house chores. She encouraged that with as little as $ 30 (Thirty Dollars), each person can get all the start-up kits and chemicals to produce and sell bar soap. She further encouraged that if one person cannot afford all, two people can team up and contribute $15 (Fifteen dollars) each to start the business.
After the first round of soap production, one of the young mothers was allowed to mix the ingredients for another round of production and to the amazement of all, she demonstrated how well she had learnt from our trainer.
Our products came out so lovely. The young moms left happy and resolved to go out and look for money to start the business. Each one had a piece of soap to take home.
I am hopeful that they will make true their promise. I am also praying that help will come for them to get the cash needed to start the business; that our efforts will not be in vain and that the knowledge garnered will not be wasted while these young women remain impoverished and powerless.