When I launched my "Empowerment Walk: One Woman, One Girl at a Time", strategy, I knew that I was not on this walk alone. Evidence was when I discussed my intention and implementation plan with my World Pulse Motivator and Inspiration, Sister Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale. She assured me with initial kick-off funds. Along side my trusted friend, Cecilia Ofum, a retired Nurse and Cross River State Coordinator of people living positively with HIV/AIDS, we set off for Boki. It turned out to be a huge success. Martina Ejah, the first poor Widow was empowered to start a small business of selling locust beans (Dawadawa). World Pulse sisters took the led in commending these effects and gave me great encouragement
The project began to record a huge success as an enthusiastic Olutosin further registered her support to include the sale of bush mango (Ogbono) for empowerment of another poor Widow in the same locality of Esekwe Erue.
Though I knew that more and more people would join me in this project, little did I know it would get the tremendous support it is receiving right now. Barely three months into the "Walk" (That is, between the months of March and June, 2018), the One Woman, One Girl at-a-Time strategy has impressively progressed into empowering a total number of 16 Widows and two girls who have dropped out of school for different reasons. A welcome Initiative that bears dignity and hope for the Nigerian women.
As the "Walk" continues to create ripple effects across the Nigerian nation and double the impact of goodwill, more and more good people are already triggered into offering the simple service to Humanity. The Walk is simple. You don't have to have money to start. All you need is unquenchable passion for making life fit for living for all human kind.
The "Walk" which was designed to begin in Boki as a tested pilot location for possible expansion of empowerment opportunities to more Widows in the other communities of the State, is rather, taking a different but a welcome shape. The good is spreading fast to other States as well, due to its acceptability. This is as a result of the result-oriented strategies I adopted to integrate interested individuals, irrespective of gender and place of of origin, into the "Walk".
Formulating strategies that seek to redress vulnerability is key and apt in today's competitive world. Empowering women an girls should not be an option but a necessity. They are the nation's greatest assets. They possess great potentials with significant resilience and resourcefulness that we cannot over look, but tap, if we are to provide long-term solution to poverty and it's attendant woes. This explains further why I make the question, "What can you do for Nigeria's poor women...?" a frontline poser, whenever an opportunity arises for the celebration of women in any form.
Now, the world over, is preparing for the 2018 celebration of Widows Day. With the theme; " Invisible Women, Invisible Problems", the question is for you and I, and all of us- What can you do to make women who have been invisible in your community or workplace for a long time, visible now that opportunities are being open to them for a grab?
Yes! World Pulse sisters are applauding and commending my genuine efforts. I am truly encouraged. But I would be more encouraged and happy if these women whose issues I am working hard to bring to public glare, are also, able to read all that I write about them and are also, able to speak for themselves and other women, just like we are doing in the World Pulse platform. These impoverished women live under harsh conditions made worst by their information-poor positions that they find themselves. Madam Martina Ejah was only able to see her photograph on the newspaper but she couldn't read all that I wrote about her. She depends on the information the interpreter would give to her. Sad indeed.
There has to be way out of this challenge. I initiated another strategy- to bring passionate people to work together to take information and education for to the doorsteps of grassroots people. I formed the World Pulse Grassroots Women Journalists in Nigeria(WP-GWJiN) with the strategic goal of mass mobilizing interested literate persons to volunteer to take information, education and communication to the doorsteps of the disadvantaged people. Nay, women and girls in the rural areas. WP-GWJiN can be described as, "A-hard-copy kind of tool that churns out information from the World Pulse online community and provides the off-line kind of services that can step-down information, education, communication and training to the rural populace. Through this cohesive network, Volunteers working in the heart of the communities can share their stories with the rural people and encourage them to work together to share skills to identify and choose the best ways available for the empowerment of most vulnerable women and girls in their respective localities.
WP-GWJiN views vulnerability as a huge challenge that can be redressed by positioning Volunteers to work as Agents of Change. The aim is to provide a gradual scale-down and eventual elimination of vulnerability in the communities.
This was how AbdulRaheem Disiru, a World Pulse brother of mine, met an already existing platform that is providing a safe space for him to put into reality, his dream of working to enhance the lives of Widows and orphans, including destitutes in Nigeria. Our World Pulse Encourager, JLanghus connected AbduRaheem and I, when she discovered that this gentleman with a good heart, was looking for a Collaborator for his Foundation that he is creating for Widows and Orphans. As we got talking and sharing ideas and details on how we both are working to achieve the desire to change the plight of the vulnerable, I discovered that AbdulRaheem is truly a committed young man with high sensitive empathy and passion for life. And like JLanghus said to me, " Hopefully, you will both get smiling out of the Collaboration". That is exactly what is happening now. Thanks to JLanghus for the great push.
AbdulRaheem and I are seriously engaging other members of the WP-GWJIN in the Empowerment Walk that that is gradually making an entrance into the different States. On his part, Abdul, as I prefer to call him, has picked three Widows from our pilot location of Boki, to begin to fulfill his empowerment promise. These lucky Widows would be joining Widows in Lafia, Nassarawa State to celebrate this year's day of Widows.
This explains in details how the Empowerment Walk that began with just one woman, has dramatically shot up to 16 women benefiting. One of the Widows here, would still be benefitting from Olutosin's offer of adding bush mango to the business.
Our activities attracted our group members who are beginning to also, initiate programs that embrace empowerment in all its ramifications. Veronica Ogbole, a seasoned Journalist with capabilities in gender-sensitive reporting, is the Chief organizer of the event slated to appreciate/celebrate the bravery of Widows on 23rd June, 2018. A Widow, herself, Ogbole is collaborating with WP-GWJIN, with support from the Lafia Catholic Church Deanery, to empower 12 Widows from the six Parishes of the Church. She wants to start the locust beans business for the 12 Widows. She is asking Widows from Cross River who have the skills produce the desired quantity to be donated to the Lafia Widows to begin their small businesses. A giant stride for our Widows. These Widows, who had hitherto, been invisible, would finally become visible as World Pulse would be uniting their voices and raise them to be heard globally. BRAVO! World Pulse. Great thing is that the event would afford rural Widows of Boki who have never travelled out of their locality, opportunities to visit another State, interact and cross-fertilize ideas with other Widows and personalities who would be gracing the occasion. They would interact and share stories with each other. It is expected that at the end of the event, they would have initiated forward+looking strategies that would promote friendship and trade between the two States.
Ahead of the celebration, another good Sister and also a member of the WP-GWJIN, Justina Eteng, in her magnanimity, donated fairly-used clothes to be donated to the two school drop-outs-Mary Asi Akwagiobe and Mercy Bisong.
It is pertinent to ignite people's desire to look at the empowerment of the most vulnerable as an urgent action to be taken now. This informed our first advocacy meeting to the Traditional Monarch of Ugep in Yakurr local government area of Cross River State. The visit to His Majesty, Obol Ofem Ubangha Ubana was to create awareness of our activities and seek for support of our program activities. Ugep is the most populous native village in the State and second most populated, after Ibadan in Nigeria. The unreported cases of sexual abuse of women and girls are still very high. We are investigating a case put before us that a day is set aside for raping of women who are found on the streets on days forbidden for any woman who has not reached menopause to be found outside the homes. We have done a follow-up visit after the advocacy visit to the Monarch. We would resume our visit to the locality after the Lafia event.
All in all, 16 women and 2 girls would be proud beneficiaries (18) of my Empowerment Walk in just three months. On my part, I have included Jennifer Ejah Ejemot to be one of these beneficiaries. Her case become most sorrowful in recent times when she was faced with the challenge of seeing her two young children, boy and girl go through two major operations that cost so much money.
It is true that these Widows have suffered in so many ways but I am bent on making them to get up. I will not allow their plight to continue. Their destiny will not be determined by either the roadblocks in their paths or the deliberate efforts of family and community members imposing traditional ugly practices on them. These challenges will not keep them down as long as I embark on this "Empowerment Walk". My Walk is set to turn their ugly situations into stepping stones for them to move upwards and forward, ever. Amen.