"Help! I’m A Jobless School Drop-out, Widow, Orphan But Ready To Earn Legitimate Income"
The above caption came from a regional publication, TODAY'S NEWS NOW (TNN), that went done memory lane, showing my little contributions to humanity. I had used my phone to write a beautiful story on my return from the village, where I went to share skills with women of Esekwe community in Boki local government area, Cross River State, Nigeria. We shared skills on how to process the locust bean seeds into "dawadawa", ready to eat. I used my phone to type the story and just when I pressed " send", on my WORLD PULSE Page, the poor network challenge set in. I lost the whole story that took me up to three hours to compile. I felt terrible. I cried. I consoled myself with a positive mental thinking that it would be somewhere to find where I search the WORLD PULSE. I did but, sadly, the story was gone. I was so demoralized bit I thought it wise to try Google and then, I ran into this story that a news paper had written on my Empowerment Journey. So I thought I should share it on WORLD PULSE, while working on rewriting on the progress of my EMPOWERMENT WALK. Here, we go, as the story begins with a heart touching poser;
"Who will put smiles on her face?" She got married at age 13 and had to drop out of secondary school after she lost her parents. Some 17 years ago, she lost her husband with whom they had three children. Her name is Jennifer Eja Ejomot. She cried out to a social worker, Florence Kekong, whose NGO, Everyday Concern, is making efforts to turn things around for her. TNN got interested in Jennifer's travails and decided to dig deep.
The story of 39-year-old Jennifer Eja Ejomot is touching. She got married when she was just 13 years old. Rough and tough times in her growing up days forced her accept a man into her life at that teenage age. For obvious reasons, she could not complete her secondary education. Before losing her husband some 17 years ago, she had given birth to three children who are now at the mercies of well wishers, as she can barely feed them from proceeds of her water leaf farming.
Jennifer hails from Adadama village in Abi Local Government of Cross River State. But she had to relocate to Calabar, the state capital apparently because of a face-off between her village and the Ikwo people of Ebonyi State.
She spends almost all day in her small water leaf farm, hoping against hope, as she waters the vegetables and harvests them for sale, to be able to feed her children. In the course of interacting with her, Jennifer kept talking about her dream: how she desires to own a large plot of land to farm, how she desires to be involved in large scale trading, how she would like to go back to school, how she would like to train and feed her children without having to sell her pride and dignity. She narrated how she would leave her home around 5.30 in the morning everyday to water her water leaves farm and return home about 7pm. This has been her routine in the last eight years. And she does it with so much passion, believing that someday, her story will change. She did not forget to ask for help, just as she has been asking all those who come across her way.
Jennifer said she wishes to continue to farm vegetables and hopefully, progress into buying and selling yams and garri on a large scale and would be glad if good spirited people could come to her aid. She lamented that she could not access soft loans to make her dream of selling foodstuff come true, as many people were still owing her from the first attempt she made through a soft loan she once collected.
Kekong, in an interview, said she decided to look Jennifer's way because “our organization, Everyday Concern (EC), is planting a seed in humanity. This seed will grow and there would be many fruits and flowers. What this means in simple terms is that, EC is providing a safe space for the disadvantaged and largely marginalized girls and women to get an education and information on how to share skills and work together to realise the need to fulfil their full potentials without disadvantage".
Kekong, an Empowered Change Maker and World Pulse Global Citizen journalist, believes in mobilizing women and young girls into a cohesive network that offers them opportunities and tools to build empowered households and communities.
"Ours is a community-driven assets-building and social change communication Charity, so we believe strongly that our involvement with the communities must begin with concern individuals willing to work together to share skills in changing lives in the rural communities. We have chosen the rural communities of Boki and Ogoja local government areas of Cross River State as pilot locations, for testing of the concept and expansion of activities to other rural communities across the State.”
According to her, the organization has registered five multipurpose cooperative societies for the Women and Children Integration Network (WaCnet), one of them positioned as, "Offer of Joy and Opportunity Multipurpose Cooperative Societies (OJO-WaCnet)", building capacities of women and girls in enterprise and nutrition. The setting up of these societies was informed by the belief that economic empowerment is a critical aspect of any significant push to make women full and equal participants in their communities. Strengthening the economic roles of women is also critical to redirecting poverty, improving health and education outcomes, as well as, achieving other broad development goals.
“Members of these societies have been trained on the cultivation, production and marketing of protein-rich food and vegetables that include sweet potatoes, carotene cassava, beans, water leaves, pumpkins, garden eggs, cucumber, tomato and mushrooms, including locust beans popularly known as, " Dawadawa" in Hausa, "Iru" in Yoruba, "Ogiri" in Igbo and of course, "Konerre" in Boki languages.
“Not leaving out the girl child, EC promotes skills sharing by pairing the activities of the Girl Growing UP Well Agenda (GGUWA) with the women's Cooperative Societies, given the fact that, women need to work together with girls, so as to understand their situations better, as made difficult now by emerging development trends. GGUWA is basically a programme where empowered Grassroots Media Women Coordinators volunteer to dedicate their time during weekends, market days and school holidays to educate women and young girls on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), Sexuality, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and other basic healthcare including water and sanitation.
"GGUWA", the Executive Director explained further, "creates a new and potentially powerful opportunity for girls who want to make a difference personally, as a whole, also, enabling them to bring a new perspective and enhanced skills back to their way of life in the communities.
“Currently, EC is educating parents and guardians who send their children to hawk on the streets on the dangers of street hawking.
GGUWA head, Angel Flora Michaels who is also Senior Prefect of Joseddy High School, Abakpa, Ogoja, has been training other girls on beads making and other self-help and lifesaving schemes that are helping more girls to stay in school because they sell the beads to raise funds for their activities and trainings, and to a larger extent, are able to afford their school needs, while the women on their part, sell their locust beans, to power the generator for their free computer training.