My desire is to reduce maternal, child mortality – Hadiza Gana Mohammed 

Hadiza Gana Mohammed is the founder of the Hina-Gana Foundation, a humanitarian non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In this interview with ENE OSHABA, she shares her passion for saving lives and her recent project to help pregnant women to have safe births.

Tell us more about your ‘birth a child’ programme; what inspired this?

Yes, the birth a child programme is the newest initiative of the Hina Gana Foundation where we took it upon ourselves to support indigent pregnant women with birth kits. I extended support to over 100 indigent pregnant women and widows from the six area councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with delivery kits recently. This is part of efforts to help reduce maternal and child mortality in the country and it is the second edition of “Birth a Child Programme” in Gwagwalada. It is just my little way of assisting poor pregnant women and widows.

The “Birth a Child Programme” was conceived to prevent deaths of innocent babies during delivery, because some women cannot afford basic kits and sometimes endanger the babies and themselves.

Women work very hard to make the children grow with good upbringing; some women cannot spend for themselves but can go the extra mile to give their children.

We noticed that most women in the grassroots don’t have the basic necessities to give birth to a child so this is a show of love to the innocent child.

We take care of street children and try to ensure they are enrolled into school to get some education but during one of my outreaches, I witnessed a pregnant woman who died in my presence while trying to birth a child.

During the delivery there was nothing like hand gloves or pads nor a single delivery kit and it was from that day I decided that I was going to involve pregnant women because no woman deserves to die while giving birth.

Many parents who are struggling to survive tend to give birth to more children; hence, they lack the resources to raise them. Do you speak to them about the need to birth only kids they can care for?

It is unfortunate that this happens, but not all pregnant women give birth and can’t take care of them, like in my just concluded programme where I was able to give delivery kits to 100 pregnant women. I found out that a lot of them lost their husbands, some of them things got difficult for them because their husbands have one issue or the other. In the society we are today, everyone is feeling the heat; we are just surviving by the Grace of God.

So, some pregnant women just find themselves in a position that they can’t abort the child. And imagine someone who is struggling to make ends meet get married, you don’t expect the man to be looking at the woman, he will want a child of his own because that child might live a different life from his. The best we can do is to assist, but we can’t stop pregnancies from happening.

The federal government is advising citizens to go for family planning. What is your take on this as a northern Nigerian citizen considering the harsh economic state of the country?

Family planning is a good idea if the government can make provisions for free tests; that is a woman can go to the hospital and get tested for the best family planning for her body system and still get the family planning done free of charge without spending a penny. It will go a long way to help our women.

To be sincere, women are trying; a lot of women are going through a lot and still striving to ensure their children get the basics of life which includes education. When you go to foreign countries, a lot of policies are in favor of women, but here in Nigeria, we are on our own.

No one cares about what u r facing and even family members don’t care. You will see a woman dying in silence and that is why the cases of depression are on the increase. Women are forced to take any situation they find themselves in to satisfy society norms, but I am glad women are beginning to get exposed, when a man gets a woman pregnant and she gives birth to the child and still struggles to feed and take care of the child, a time will come she will fight back.

A woman prefers to struggle to any lengths so her children will not become an element of pity. God bless all the responsible women in the world. In the time we are today, any woman that folds her legs and watches without getting a skill is on a mission to self destruction.

What is your education background and the motivation for setting up the foundation?

I obtained my primary school education at LEA, Nyanya, secondary education at GSS, Bwari, in Abuja. I got my first degree at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, and a post-graduate diploma in education at the University of Maiduguri. I am the founder of Hina Gana Foundation – an organisation I started at the age of 19 during my university days. 

Hina Gana foundation is an NGO that focuses on street children, orphans, widows, pregnant women and prisoners. My passion is to continue saving the street children as my heart yearns to see them live more decent lives. What gives me joy is seeing the less privileged feel loved and hopeful for a better future.

It’s a privilege that God is using me to give them hope, show them love and kindness. Hina Gana Foundation is a foundation with passionate individuals who are willing to sacrifice their all to ensure they give undiluted love to everyone around them. 

As the Founder I also ensure I build this passion of giving and kindness in my team members because the more passionate people we have around the saner our society will become.

Looking at you one may never think you would be involved in this kind of charity work…

It’s just passion; like I said earlier I had started distributing items to street children when I was 19 because it gives me joy to do so, and each year I try to increase the number of people I reach and this has been consistent for years.

My work has inspired a lot and gained me recognition both home and abroad. I have received numerous awards among which are: Most deserving humanitarian in Nigeria, 2023 African most outstanding women in leadership 2022, Currently I’m the Humanitarian personality of the year 2023 at miles Canada magazine.

My dream was to become a lawyer because I am always standing for anyone who is cheated in one way or the other, but the course was not available then in the university I attended and as God has destined I’m still impacting lives and this is what I have always wanted.

During fasting periods, I always cook and share with children and women and other needy people in the society.

God keeps me going. I don’t know how he does it, but I am being directed and controlled by God. This is because sometimes I see what I am supposed to do in my dreams.

Most times people approach me and ask me to direct them towards how they can own an Ngo. I usually look surprised because all I have been doing I was never directed by anyone, I just go as the spirit leads, I run my NGo in my own way because it’s just a gifted passion, no matter how pressured and stressed I am, when it’s comes to humanitarian works, I don’t feel lazy. 

Most times, especially during fasting, I am usually admitted twice before the end of fasting because I go to the market myself, cook a bag or half myself, package myself, and go out for distribution too. After collapsing twice, I had to employ one person but am always assisting from start to finish because alone she can’t do it with ease. Sometimes I ask myself, why are you stressing and doing too much? Till date I can’t find answers to that. And looking around my life, I am one individual that loves unconditionally, except one deals with me.

I love humans more than myself. A lot of individuals have abused it, but I still find myself loving over and over again. My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest. I am just a passionate person. And that passion is what has taken me far.

How have you evolved over the years; you should have spent a lot of money? 

I was running an NGO without knowing I was doing that, I was sharing food with neighbors during my school days, after my graduation, I started cooking every Friday to share, each time I don’t have money, I will make kunu ayya like 50 pieces and share.

One day, I posted it on my WhatsApp status and people started asking me if I am selling it. I told them no, it’s for sharing, as time goes on, people started reposting and I started posting on Facebook, I got offered to volunteer for an NGO, before u know it, am already volunteering in four NGOs, and I put in all my efforts each time they have an outreach, and most times I don’t go empty handed I always make contributions. I was doing all these and still doing my usual Friday food sharing, I never thought of owning an NGO, I just feel good each time I see someone smile because of me I feel a kind of inner satisfaction.

If I have N1, 000 as my only available amount, when one comes with his/her problems, before I think of myself, I will solve the person’s problem first. Sometimes I cry seeing how people take advantage of my not being able to say NO but again God is always with me, I have never been stranded financially, God always sees to it before I plead. Humanitarian is what I was born for; I am for the street children till I take my last breath InshaAllah.

Any challenges? 

YES! A lot of people hide under the umbrella of humanity; some have abused the privilege hence making people with passion not easily recognised. Something happened in 2018 during an outreach of an NGO I was volunteering for; that day was the day I told myself “Hina you are unique, ur purpose of giving is different from theirs” from that day, I decided to stay on my own and be giving the little I can to people. Gradually a lot of my friends were encouraging me to turn my outreach programmes into an NGO, to them “you will prosper in this because you are born for this” because of the encouragement, I approached a friend to register it for me and that was how I sat down and came up with the name Hina Gana Foundation. These are combinations of my initials. 

How do you get funds to carry out your activities and outreaches? 

I don’t source for funds, I am just doing my thing within my capacity, and there are few individuals who love what I am doing and approach me to support me with what they can. Normally I feed 100 street children every Friday and I feed 300-500 street children every day from the beginning of fasting to the end of fasting.

In 2019, during coronavirus, all the people supporting me couldn’t help me to carry out my daily feeding for the month of Ramadan. I reached out to them and there was no positive response because of how the country was at that time, fasting was approaching and even a bag of rice was not available, everyone was holding back because they didn’t want to spend. 

On the first day of fasting, I sat down and imagined how the street children would feel not seeing me bringing food as usual before they break off the fasting. I had some cash I saved up, it was meant for my rent which will be due by the following month, I went to the ATM machine and withdrew 80,000 and cooked for the first day, I continued till I emptied the whole money I saved up, but believe me I was not sad. I did not even imagine the consequences; as I was sharing the food, people advised me to stop going close to the street children because I could contact Coronavirus, but till date, I never had a symptom of any virus, but people who were advising contacted the virus. Seeing the number of people in critical condition, I will start going extreme to source for funding InshaAllah.

I have not approached any agency for funding, in fact I have not involved any, I have been feeding street children for over five years, I have fed approximately 30, 000 to 40, 000 street children all by myself without the funding of any agency. But seeing that I was born for this, I will do my best to ensure I start reaching out to government agencies.

The whole idea is letting the child have a taste of a good meal from time to time. You know what it feels like eating sweet joloff rice with chicken; sometimes I add juice to it. But as it is now, I pray and hope to get the necessary support and collaboration from government, organisations and international bodies, so that I can have a place where I can keep them, feed them good meals, educate them and also teach them skills. With God my dream is close.

Violence against women and children has persisted; what is your take on this?

Women are always seen as the fragile ones and what we shoulder emotionally, physically, psychologically and emotionally are beyond all human expectations. So if a woman can stay strong despite all odds, then there is no reason to be discriminated against in society.

There is a video of a learned man brutalising his wife recently and it is beyond imagination that an educated man will behave this way in this 21st century. Worse off is the fact that the global 16 days of activism against gender based violence just ended. There should be no excuses in using violence for any woman. Gone are the days we are mute, not anymore and I think if the government implements laws against this menace it will be drastically reduced if not totally eradicated.

What would you advise the government on humanitarian response considering the harsh economic situation? 

 A lot is happening in this world, people are seriously in need of support and help, the government should try as much as they can to reach out to the people whose situation is crucial by using some NGOs who are willing to help. The government should be able to distinguish between NGOs who are passionate to help people without looking at the benefit. When you are giving out to help individuals, the only benefit is God’s blessings and unending protection.