Mrs. Chichi Ezenwokike is the founder, Tomorrow’s Women Development Organisation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that focuses on grassroot women, youth and children.
Ezenwokike, who is a former Vice Chairman of Ekwusigo local government area of Anambra state, has a Diploma in Journalism, BA in History and International Studies, PGD in Education and Masters in International Relations and Strategic Studies. The mother of four – two males and two females – is a PDP member, author, fashion designer and consultant in the Federal Ministry of Education.
In this chat with ENE OSANG, she maintains that 50% gender equity is not visible because men are ahead of women. She also condemns political crises, saying it is not safe for democracy
What inspired you into NGO work?
The major problem in Nigeria is poverty and women are most hit by this everyday in trying to ensure there is food on the table for their families, if you don’t touch the life of a woman, you have not touched the life of a nation but breeding a woman is breeding a family and nation at large.
If you look around you will see that the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer so, if there are no organisations like ours to talk and bridge the gap and do works that will benefit the grassroot and underprivileged people their problems will keep emanating.
How do you get funds to manage the NGO?
It is difficult now and I must say it is very difficult but we get funds from the United Nations Organisation, philanthropists, individual donors through membership donations because we have members all over the states and the FCT. Whenever we want to plan a programme we call for meetings and we get assistance before we organise programmes.
How many women have you empowered so far?
We work state by state and the empowerment depends on where we are at a particular time, I can’t give you the statistics of women who have benefited from our empowerment programmes but we have touched so many lives because we started since 2001. And I see us getting international recognition because we are working hard because we have passion for community projects, grassroots mobilisation etc
You published a book recently, what is the book about?
Yes and that is my second publication, my first book is titled ‘grassroot area of Nigeria while the second one is ‘The role of the orphan in transforming the Nigerian Child’.
The latest publication is about how an orphan can rise to become a prominent person in the society, I named the book “the role of orphanage in transforming the Nigerian child. There are a lot of orphanage homes around but some people said they now operate like NGO’s and make money out of it, but I say it is not true. If you have that calling you are will know you are meant to help a less privileged person, because there is always a difference between an orphanage child and a child reared in a home so, those who have orphanage homes should know their calling is from God and do that with passion because the children will turn prominent people tomorrow and I also mentioned names of prominent people today that were orphans before. It is because some NGO’s are not faithful to the work they do that government thinks its a waste channel to support them but there are also genuine ones who really needs to be supported.
For example I source fund locally to carry out some activities even for the book I published I sourced fund locally. The book is a must read for all because it can transform once life to begin to care for orphanages.
What did you study in school?
I studied history and International studies in my first degree and my Masters I did International Relations and Strategic studies; I have a diploma certificate in Journalism and also a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Education.
What do you do for a living?
I run an NGO like I mentioned before, I am a politician and I am one time Vice Chairperson of Ekwusigo local government area of Anambra state. I am an author with two books to my credit, I am a fashion designer into tailoring and bridal gown and accessories and I am a consultant at the federal ministry of education.
How do you manage work and the home front?
I got married early so I gave birth early. They are all graduates now so you can see they are adults and can fend for themselves so I don’t have a problem with managing work and family because my husband and I are a new couple again.
How would you assess women development since the past 100 years?
Basically and frankly speaking Nigerian women are good people, they strive hard to survive, they are home makers, intelligent, husband supporters and I give kudos to government for empowering Nigerian women you can see many women have been given leadership positions today and we have hope for a brighter future.
Do you think 50/50 gender equity is achievable?
50/50 affirmative action for now is not achievable; I don’t cry foul rather we should work hard to achieve 35% before we talk about 50/50.
Nigerian men are not women-friendly per say so talking about 50/50 will be like dragging a dragon so let’s not talk about that now because we are growing and Nigeria will grow up to that. Men are ahead of us in finance, intellectual and so many other areas so we can’t drag to be equal with them.
Does the ministry of women affairs support NGO like yours who reach the grassroots?
The ministry has problem with planning because they do not have enough so cannot support NGO’s, even if they do it is only meagre.
I think the best way ministry of women affairs can support NGO’s is to help them source funds globally. I know a particular ministry that did that and it really helped the NGO’s take care of community projects.
As a former local government vice Chairman, how would you describe the relationship between government and the people in grassroot?
Local governments see to the affairs of local level but state governments don’t release funds meant for them and they has to release funds to them so they can work effectively. The numbers of people who visit local government chairmen are even bigger than that of the President because they are closer to the people and they touch mores lives but let allocations to local council be released to them so they can work effectively.
What is your take on the last Anambra gubernatorial election?
Many people complained about INEC not working credibly during the election as expected, even in my local government because I am from Ekwusigo local government but got married to an Aniocha local government man. The election has come and gone and somebody has been declared winner.
Some people complained of been disenfranchised are you saying they should accept the situation like that?
That is a normal issue in election and politics. If I am PDP member and I am disenfranchised I would also cry out loud same will happen if I am an APC member.
What I am saying is that we should bury our hatchet because in election everybody wants to win but it is only one person that can be declared winner.
For the sake of peace to reign let us join hand to support the incoming governor, Willie Obiano so that the state will work well irrespective of party affiliation, peace to reign and development to thrive.
A lot of people have gone to court to challenge Obiano as some said he did double registration, or that he rigged the election but my sister leave that story because the issue of going to court is prominent but Nigerians should learn to accept winners because others would also go to court if they were winners.
I don’t like when you fight and keep fighting, this will make you waste your money, time and all that because you may end up not winning the case after your service but you would have spent so much by then.
But Peter Obi went to court and won over Ngige?
Yes he won because of the crises on ground at that moment and PDP was divided and that division is still rocking them so that was why it was possible for him. Peter Obi’s ascendance was as a result of crises in Anambra state PDP.
What is your take on the current crises in PDP?
It is alarming but it is not only PDP that experience crises other parties do too. The thing is that whenever it is time for transition, there is room for trouble, cross carpeting and amendment. Watch what I am saying today in the next six months everything will calm down.
Are all these crises safe for Nigeria’s democracy?
Crises is not safe for democracy because it will not make governance safe and in that state of anarchy citizens will be hungry, angry and die as a result of violence so it is not safe. We all clamour for democracy and so we should allow it stay, if something happens to our democracy I won’t be happy.
In Nigeria people jostle for position because everybody wants to lead so if you are in a party where you are already known and you cross over to another party it would take sometime before you get to the top position in that party because you are a new person in that party.
On a second thought, in politics people disagree to agree but if you are in one house and you are not taken care of, you can look for greener pasture elsewhere. However the best way is for you to remain and contribute your own quota to safe life, unless you are the owner of the party else when you go to a new party you are a new comer and cannot be made a king and this is not conducive for democracy. Take note that people also cross carpet from APC to PDP.
Do you think INEC will conduct free and fair election considering what happened in Anambra state?
With what happened in Anambra state, there is room for INEC to be more cohesive in their job. The INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega should reorganise his house and money should be voted for them to conduct electronic voting system and their staff should be well trained because the Anambra state election crises was caused by INEC staff.
What is your advice for women?
Nigerian women are enlightened and hardworking now, my advice for them is they should keep striving and should not allow anything discourage them from getting to the top.