Yuletide: Organisation brings succour to IDP women, children 

A Non Government Organisation (NGO), Brainy Age Initiative (BAI), has made it a yearly responsibility to empower the less privileged women and children in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In this report,  ENE OSHABA focuses on this year’s outreach to over 60 women and 100 children as they prepare for the festivities.

The Brainy Age Initiative (BAI) is an empowerment based Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) for women, girls, and youths based in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Over the years, the organisation has empowered many women and children with training in skills acquisition, small start ups, food items, school needs for children, and listening ears to the downtrodden in the society.

The Founder, Henrietta Agboje, while speaking exclusively to Blueprint Weekend during the outreach to the New Kuchingoro Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) Camp in Abuja, disclosed that the support to less privileged women was a yearly activity of the organisation during the yuletide season.

She noted that the organisation, during its outreach last year, brought in trainers on different skills like baking, wig making, make-up artists, and sewing to empower the beneficiaries with skills that can be a means of living to enable them to be self-reliant and support their families.

“Support for women at the IDP Camp is a yearly thing we do since the past four years and we are happy to see that our efforts are not in vain, the women have different businesses they are doing and we even come to patronise them.

“This year, we brought them food items, clothes for women and children, and also cash to enable them to celebrate the Christmas season like everyone else,” she noted.

Women’s predicament

Mary Bitus, a 28-year-old mother of three, is a subsistence farmer; her husband also struggles to cater for his wife and three kids, including the youngest born just  four weeks ago.

They had lost their first child at the age of seven during the insurgency, which saw them leaving  their hometown.

“It is painful losing a child, I had done my best caring for him when he was alive, but I think he was stressed by the moving around we did. He was too small for such stress, but we needed a place that was safe since we could no longer reside in our community.

“It is unfortunate that we lost him when we had found this camp , though not very conducive, but at least we could sleep and wake up without fear of any attack, ” she said.

Mary, who recalled that dropped out of school in senior secondary school 2 because insecurity did not allow them to settle in the community, said she would have loved to have continued her education.

While narrating how her labour started during her pregnancy but she had to go through a Cesarean Section (CS) and the parents had to raise N250,000 to enable her go through the process, she expressed hope that her husband won’t get her pregnant again in the nearest future. She is concerned that more children would not be easy on her in the current economic situation.

Mary disclosed that she was privileged to have been trained on hair making last year and she was able to set up a saloon with the money she was given and now works in the saloon alongside farming to support her family.

Mary, who expressed gratitude to the Brainy Age Initiative for supporting her, noted that she was privileged to also receive financial support and clothing for her newborn baby.

“This NGO is good. Every year, they come here during the Christmas period to give us items, and I am so happy that I have benefitted from their kind gesture towards us,” she added.

However, the women leader at the camp, Hanatu Kataraya,  lamented the unhealthy living conditions in the camp, stating thay it was a constant reminder of the joy they had living peacefully and happily in their own communities.

Hanatu expressed the wish to leave the camp and return to her own village but said she was being held back because of the school her children were attending now.

“I wish to go back to the village but my children are going to school here but I can’t move them back to my village because most parents are still afraid to send their kids to school due to insecurity.

“You can see our living condition here in the rainy season. Our roofs lick because its trampoline and they are worn out. At times, you will see three or four people in a family down with sickness of fever or malaria, toilet infection and a whole lot more, it is not comfortable at all and not fair for people to feel that we are comfortable.

“What well meaning people bring to us is helpful but not that it caters to all our needs because some families are up to eight or 10 in number and what they bring here once is not enough and we continue to call on NGO’s, government and individuals to help us because life is difficult here.

“We want the government to move us out of this condition even if it is an incomplete building. We will appreciate it because I believe we have the right to live a more decent life because we are Nigerians

“If the government can restore peace back to our villages, we don’t mind going back because there is no place like home. For me, if I get support, I would like to go back to live in Borno state, where I hail from.

Hannatu said she visited her state Borno when she was sick to receive treatment but it was still not safe as gunshots was always heard in the air, boko haram is still operating and people only live in fear trusting in God for safety.

“I left Borno state to seek healthcare because the hospital bill here in Abuja is very high, so I went for local herbs . We still hear that boko Haram is very much in operation, and because I left my children here, I had to come back to Abuja, but my wish is to go back to my state.

“I am appealing to the new government to help us, the owners of this land are chasing us out of this place and we keep begging them , if government can provide a safe space for us we won’t mind leaving.

“Government should remember that we are citizens of Nigeria and we also have the right to employment. Most of our youth have completed their secondary school, and we do not have money to pay for employment or further their education.

“Since 2014 that we are here, no youth have gained any employment, and we are appealing that even if it is environmental jobs, we will be happy,” she said.

More lives touched

Speaking during the visit, the  Coordinator of Brainy Age Consult (BAC) Group, Onyinyechi Omeh, noted that this year a lot more women and children’s lives were impacted as they tried to increase the number of beneficiaries yearly to give more of them reasons to be hopeful and continue to live happily.

“We have empowered over 60 women and 100 children this year. For the children, we empowered them with school items such as textbooks, workbooks, school bags, shoes, and clothing.

“For the women we know how harsh the economy is and so we have brought them food items and clothes for Christmas. Some of them who have businesses we also gave them cash to boost their business, and hopefully, we will empower more women next time,” she assured.

“We also come back from time to time to check up on them just to ensure that they are engaging themselves with the skills they have acquired and happily sime of them have left the IDP camps and there is also some improvement in the lives of so many of them and their children,” she added.

Amplifying women’s voices 

Sharing her thoughts on the just concluded 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence which ended on December 10,  she maintained that the women and children at the camp have a right to life and the government should also be responsible for their well-being because they didn’t put themselves in the situation they are now.

According to her, the organization strategically chose the theme for this year’s outreach: “Amplifying women’s voices by igniting change – an Advocacy Against Gender-Based Violence and Social Change” as a call to the women to always speak out when they experience any form of violence so they can get help.

“These women were displaced from their communities and their search for safety brought them here but unfortunately they have been in this camp for long, they deserve a more decent living because they are citizens and should not be neglected,” she said.

“Our theme for this empowerment only stresses that it is important that they know that they have a voice as women and they should also learn to speak out if they want to be heard.

“As women, they should stand up for themselves especially and not just for only people around them because women will take care of everyone in the family and around them but pay less attention and care to themselves. They also have needs that should be met. It shouldn’t always be about others.

“We do this empowerment yearly because we understand that women deserve some care and I’m happy to say some of them have left the camp because they now have what to do and we also buy their products to support them. I must say that their lives are getting better.

We are teaching them to speak out and express themselves to get help and also encourage them to aim high for themselves, we are empowering them to take care of their own personal needs because Gender-Based Violence is still an issues and in slow progress because its a process but with more women being  enlightened on how to protect themselves is helpful in reducing the numbers,” she said.

Similarly, one of the resource persons is the head of school at Safe Hands School Abuja Mrs. Oluwatosin Oladipo urged the women to understand that they have a voice and not  see themselves as weaker vessels, she stressed the need for women to be economically empowered and not dependent on anyone asthat is the bane of the various forms of abuses and gender based violence in the society.

“Violence against women and girls is horrible and demeaning and women must understand that they have a voice and need to amplify their voices but they should also be very committed to earning a living and be able to take care of their needs.

Men, govt’ tasked 

Continuing, Oladipo noted that there is still a huge gap in bringing men to understand the effects of gender-based violence on the society, adding that while women are being thought preventive measures the enlightenment of men against violence should be prioritized because a lot of them especially at the grassroots are still ignorant.

“Women must not condone any form of violence, but men also need to be educated on the need to stop perpetrating violence on women. The government should also do more in addressing this issue of gender based violence by investing in more sensitisation especially to the men because women have been sensitised enough on how to prevent themselves and also to always speak out against gbv it is the men that should be sensitised now,” she said.

Another resource person; an Educator, Literacy and Character Consultant, Nguper Afiemo, emphasized that women need to imbibe character virtues noting that at the IDP Camp some of the women are endowed with knowledge and potentials and they are always willing to learn. She added that if they are given more opportunities, they will do better and contribute to the development of the country.

She noted that some of the women are still afraid to voice out because they don’t want to lose their homes and also do not have any tangible source of living.

“Women are still afraid to speak up for many reasons like losing their children, their families or the fact that they are not able to cater for themselves but they must understand that they have to speak up so that they can get help.

“I will call on the government to pay attention to their needs and deploy more resources towards providing these opportunities in skill acquisition and all round education including formal education will help these women and their children and the society in general,” she stressed.