No less than 150 indigent women in Monkey Village, a shantytown in Lagos State benefited from an empowerment programme organised by the Centre for Children’s Health, Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a non-governmental organisation (NGO). EVELYN OSAGIE reports.
Esther Alex Bassey lives in Monkey Village, a slum in Lagos. She, with others in her category, could barely make ends meet with the proceeds from the petty trade she is into.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not made things easier. And when she taught there is no hope in hell for a better life, the Centre for Children’s Health, Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) restored her waning hope.
Bassey is one of the 150 beneficiaries of CEE-HOPE Empowered Mothers for Development Actions (EM-MODAS) project.
Committed to the empowerment of women in poor and marginalised communities where its focus is on children’s welfare, the NGO recently launched a project.
The initiative, according to CEE-HOPE, will empower women with the right information and economic resources for maximum development of their children and wards.
The pilot phase of the project was launched in Monkey Village, Opebi Lagos, where over 30 women beneficiaries were selected from different communities. The first phase, the organisers say, will target 150 women from across five states.
According to them, the beneficiaries would also be provided with grants to either start new businesses or grow their current businesses.
The Executive Director, CEE-HOPE, Betty Abah, explained that as an NGO committed to child rights, it is believed that if women are empowered, their children will be the core beneficiaries.
“With EM-MODAS, the women beneficiaries will be in an advantageous position to sustain the school, health and overall well-being of their children.
We have realised that it may be taxing to effectively and sustainably empower children when their families are severely economically disempowered. We empower children to enable them to stay in school by providing scholarships and educational materials.
“However, we realised that if we want the children to be fully empowered, we need to support their mothers too,” she said.
According to her, women are the choice for direct empowerment because they are the cooks, health educators, water bearers, caregivers and in some cases, breadwinners in homes.
“When you empower a mother (with the right information and economic resources), you sufficiently empower a child. EM-MODAS would help in equipping mothers with education on child health, protection and hygiene in order to boost their incomes with grants for better sustainability. The main condition for beneficiaries is to ensure the support is used to retain their children in school,” she stated.
Executive Director of Media Concern for Women and Children (MEDIACON), Dr Princess Olufemi-Kayode, who spoke to the women on child protection, explained that protecting children is paramount and that includes protection against sexual harassment.
“Child protection is beyond giving birth to a child just for the fun of it. You need to know how to properly take care of your children,” she noted; while urging them to relate with their children as friends.
“Build a cordial relationship with your children so that they can listen and communicate with you freely. You have to be your child’s friend,” she advised.
Founder of Advocacy for Widows’ Empowerment Foundation (ADEF), Mr Willie Workman Oga explained that empowerment is crucial for women because it will enable them to cater for their children and to also attain some level of financial independence. While promising that his organisation would support widows in the host community, he advised them to strive for acquisitions of skills and financial independence in case of unforeseen circumstances.
“It is important for women to be empowered; we should imbibe the entrepreneurship and skills acquisition culture. We should also instil these cultures in our children.”
Dr. Monday Michael Ashibogwu spoke to the women on business management, sharing tips on how to grow their businesses and manage the grants that would be provided for them.
He spoke on the importance of savings which would help them to grow their businesses. He also enlightened the women on how to understand the difference between profit and capital which would guide them in managing the business grants appropriately.
An environmentalist and sanitation/hygiene promoter, Dr Kelechi Okezie of Neighbourhood Environment Watch, Ebonyi State taught them effective sanitation and hygiene practices in order to reduce the burden of falling sick owing to poor hygiene practices.
According to him, their health and development are linked to hygiene practices. He also touched on effective washing of hands, ending open defecation, on menstrual hygiene practices and water safety, among others.
According to the organisers, the beneficiaries would be provided with grants to either start new businesses or grow their existing ones.
Bimbo Oshobe, a community mobiliser and savings expert, educated the women on the benefits of saving. She will help coordinate the women across the various communities on the savings programme which is an integral part of the scheme.
Madam Bassey commended CEE-HOPE Nigeria for the initiative which she described as timely.
She said: “This is quite laudable and I am so grateful for this opportunity because nobody could have done this for us. The greatest support we could have gotten is a loan for our businesses and the interests and conditions for repayment will be quite challenging for us. It discourages us from applying.
“The programme was very interesting and very enlightening, said Deborah Onyegbuna from Surulere area of Lagos.
“I learnt from the business class some of the tips on financial management which was quite rewarding. We were taught to be disciplined, to have delayed gratification in managing our business money. I also learnt how to prevent child rape.”
Adesewa Owolade, 40, a caterer and hairdresser at Monkey Village was grateful for the information she acquired.
“I learnt a lot about hygiene and sanitation and how to manage my business finance. I also look forward to the grant so that I can use it to boost my business,” she said.