Over 300 widows in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State will be empowered in various skills come August 31, 2019 by a non-governmental organisation, under the auspices of ‘Handmaid Widows Initiative’.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Tide last Saturday during its monthly meetings to cater for the widows in Port Harcourt, the visioneer, Handmaid Widows’ Initiative, Chief Grace Opara, stated that over 40 women have been trained already in various empowerment skills and that by August 31, over 300 will be trained making a total of 340 widows trained within a year of the inception of her initiative.
Opara said that the training of 300 widows in August would be part of the ways her initiative would want to mark the 2019 World International Widows’ Day which is yearly celebrated on June 23.
Explaining the theme for this year: ‘Towards Progress For Widows,’ she said her initiative has decided to go beyond giving widows food stuff, to empowering them in various skills such as tailoring, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), hair dressing, catering, liquid soup, Izal, insecticides, cream production, petty trading, among others, so they would be able to put food on their tables.
She appealled to well meaning individuals and philanthropists to partner with her initiative so as to put more smiles on the faces of widows and the down-trodden in the society.
Also speaking, the Coordinator, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mrs Loreta Ahuokpeme, noted that widows in the society deserve equal treatments in their late husbands’ homes.
Ahuokpeme warned that it was time the society stopped all the harmful traditional practices meted out on women after the death of their husbands.
She maintained that her organisation would like to partner with the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and other legal organisations such as the International Federation of Women Lawyers FIDA, Gender And Development Action GADA and Africa Women Lawyers Association in Nigeria (AWLAN).
Earlier, the President of Handmaid Widows Initiative, Mrs Favour Elechi, narrated how her late husband’s family abandoned her and six children, adding that most nights when there were nothing for them to eat, she had to pray over water and all of them drank and slept.
Elechi thanked God for the day she encountered the Handmaid Visioneer, Chief Grace Opara, explaining that hunger ceased from that day till date in her family as she has been trained in various skills that are putting food on her table.
NGO Gives Hope To Widows
It was another opportunity to put smiles on the faces of widows especially the very indigent in Rivers State as the Handmaid Skills Acquisition Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, organised an empowerment programme tagged ‘Widows Hope 2019’.
The programme, which hosted a collection of widows, vulnerable youths, orphans and the less-privileged from different states of the federation, took place at TII Ama Galaxy Centre-Port Harcourt, recently with the theme, “Make Widows Matter”.
Highlight of the occasion was the empowerment of over 300 indigent widows with equipment ranging from grinding, sewing machines, gas cookers, food roasting apparatus with which to start life while others left with various relief materials.
The convener/visioner, Chief Grace Opara, told journalists that helping the less privileged; the widows, the orphans, the downtrodden, and giving them hope where there seems to be no hope, is a mandate she received from God.
According to her, she does this by providing them with means of sustainable livelihood which she sources from corporate support and well meaning Nigerians.
Chief Opara who declared her NGO’s main goal as ‘sustainability’, expressed delight in seeing smiles on the faces of the widows, orphans and less privileged in attendance. ‘When I see the challenges they pass through, being raised as an orphan, I can’t help going the extra mile to make them happy’ She said.
The visioner said, so far, over 500 indigent widows and physically challenged from different communities, have been empowered with one life sustaining material or the other, said her widows skills centre trains them on catering, tailoring, hair dressing, ICT, shoe/bag making and Nylon production, sustaining material or the other. She thus advised beneficiaries to ensure that materials released to them are optimally utilized so the aim of the initiative could be actualized.
On the attitude of some beneficiaries of such gesture, she said that her team monitors beneficiaries by following them up to ensure that the empowerment materials are effectively utilized so as to achieve the purpose for which they are empowered. “We have files containing their addresses. through these addresses, we were able to discover that some of them are not even indigent in the first place, they can take care of them selves. So this time, we decided to concentrate on the poor of the poorest.” She revealed.
In his reaction, the Royal father of the day, the Paramount ruler, Mgbuesilaru Community, HRH, Eze Ejike Princewill Wali, (MRSCTR, JP) expressed delight with the gesture demonstrated by Mrs Opara.
Describing her as a woman with a heart of gold he encouraged her to keep it up, while charging beneficiaries to justify the essence of the exercise.
Meanwhile, the Handmaid Initiative targets at the less-privileged widows and the vulnerable, indigent widows and their children as well as the elderly.
We Need Blueprint On Women Development – Dr Thom -Manuel
Former Publicity Secretary of National Council of Women. Societies(NCWS), Dr. Nimi Thom-Manuel, has called for a blueprint for women development.
In an exclusive interview with The Tide, Dr. Tom-Manuel said over the years, there has been decline in women’s participation in politics and governance.
She stated that apart from former President Goodluck Jonathan who involved women in governance, the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has put women in backwaters.
“Now, we have two or three women in the cabinet unlike before when we had about 12. We had Okonjo -Iweala , we had Akunyili and other first brains in their various careers, “ Tom Manuel said.
Pointing out that lack of a deliberate policy to empower women has led to poor inclusion of women in governance and politics. She blamed the situation on poor policy framework, recalling that the Beijing Conference laid the foundation for inclusion of women in governance.
As far as she was concerned the Affirmative Action provided the blueprint for evolving programmes and policies for women world all over.
“When I was the publicity secretary of NCWS under the leadership of Hajia Laila Dogonyaro, we participated in the Bienjing Conference and made presentations for Nigeria. Unfortunately, what we proposed were not adopted here, if not by now we would have gotten up to 40 per cent of women in governance.
“ For me , I don’t beleive in 30 per cent. It should be 50-50 though in this kind of society, it’s difficult, but women should push their way up,” Tom-Manuel maiantained.
Part of the current handicap she explained comes from education. Highlighting education as one way women could compete in leadership positions, she used herself as an example as she currently serves on the board of the Rivers State Housing and Property Development Authority.
As far she is concerned there is no end to knowledge and to her lies the power to change society, as she challenged the womenfolk to acquire more knowledge.
Further stressing on the role of women in governance ,the woman activist reasoned that there is a gradual decline in women’s participation in politics citing the case of Rivers State.
“ Today there is only one woman amongst 32-member Assembly, so what can she do?
“ We used to have four before and I thought that by now they would have exceeded that figure unfortunately it’s not so. But I thank our governor, Nyesom Wike, for what he has done at the local level where all the vice chairpersons are women, “ she emphasised.
Thom-Manuel submitted that women have huge role to play to stabilise the polity, “ Women leaders have a lot of role to play now. They could be mediators, managers and entrepreneurs. “
Another area she wants women to be alert and arm themselves is in choosing their mates and spouses. She believes that education and exposure play key roles in choosing one’s spouse.
Thom -Manuel attributed the rising divorce rate to male chauvinism and the failure of many women to choose their spouses based on educational and emotional similarities.
She stated that many women in the quest to settle down overlook such factors which later destroy the marriage due to fear from the males that their women are much exposed and educated.
“ If you and your spouse are educated, and operate on the same emotional and psychological level, then it will be difficult for your husband to see your success as a threat.
Dr. Thom-Manuel studied in England. She had her first degree in Botany from London University and she came back to Nigeria in 1974. On her return she took up a brief teaching job with the state government. But she went back to London for more studies after her short stint in teaching.
She returned to London and did a Post Graduate Diploma in International Journalism in Newcastle University. On completion she came back and took up job with the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation and rose to become Woman Editor within 14 years of her service.
She voluntarily retired and went back to the school to start a fresh undergraduate programme to read Mass communication at the then Rivers State University of Science and Technology. She went further to do her Masters at University of Port Harcourt in Political Science and later a doctor of philosophy in International Relations from the same university.
Ibinabo Ogolo & Kevin Nengia
Foundation Graduates 200 Trainees
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of F&S Catering Foundation, Mrs Faith Stephen, has said that in a bid to meet the requirements of the 21st century skills acquisition programme, her organisation will now include lecture notes, video lectures, video practicals, discussions, quiz, among others in its curriculum.
Mrs. Stephen made this declaration at the graduation ceremony of the foundation’s skills acquisition trainees held at the Omega Power Ministries (OPM) Worldwide, Okoloma –Afam, Rivers State.
According to her, every practical will be professionally captured for future trainees on their smart phones through the mobile application. This process, she said would commence in October with skills practical, using the modern, all in- one equipment with full accessories.
She added that information technology appreciation and application would be introduced by the foundation into the skills training and other innovative approaches which would be applied in the repositioning agenda.
Stephen enjoined the trainees to loose their moral compass in the course of discharging their duties in the entrepreneurial sector. She urged them to prepare to be accountable for everything they do as well as expecting their client’s participation in decision.
She, also changed the graduants to be prepared to devote their professional energies not only to their clients’ needs, but also to the entrepreneurial needs of the society, emphasising the need to make good use of limited resources.
In her words: “Never stop learning skills for your fruitful tomorrow. Always remember to practise what skill you have acquired and effectively put it into good use”.
Meanwhile, the Foundation in partnership with the Omega Power Ministries (OPM) Worldwide, Okoloma-Afam, has trained over 300 persons freely on various skills such as baking, cooking and venue decoration, among others.
Some of the graduants who spoke to The Tide, appreciated God, the General Overseer of Omega Power Ministries (OPM) Worldwide, Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere and the Foundation for initiating a free skills acquisition for them and for the honor done them.
Describing the experience as a survival strategy, they urged other prospective trainees to embrace the opportunity for their good.
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