The annual Widows Outreach organised by the Women Awareness for Sustainable Empowerment Initiative took place today at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Alausa Ikeja with the Executive Director, Ms. Ify Onyegbule calling for more collaboration in the empowerment of widows across Nigeria.
Find her full speech below.
Good morning Ladies and the gentlemen amongst us, it is a delight to be here at the WASEI Widows Outreach, an event that we have held every year from 2008 since the Women Awareness For Sustainable Empowerment Initiative was born.
It has always been a gathering of women who share the pain of losing a spouse but our modus operandi have always been to rise above the pain.
Since we started, about 150 women have been empowered to start small or what we call petty businesses because we realized that an empowered woman has a voice and can think straight in varying degrees when taking or making decisions.
When the Women Awareness for Sustainable Empowerment Initiative Started, the aim at that time was to reach vulnerable women and girls in the society and seek ways to get them empowered so that they are able aspire and reach their full potential.
The plight of widows came on our front burner when a group of 5 women sent me a message in 2009 while I was still working with a Radio and TV station in Lagos and they cried out lamenting about how tough life had been to them, 2 of them shared the gory details of how their husbands passed and it just clicked at that time that this is a category of women who should not be left to wallow in pain and poverty.
So we started that year and the subsequent years, with a woman I will forever be grateful to, Mrs Omolola Oyesanya who was Chairperson at the Ikosi Isheri LCDA, she was truly supportive of the cause and I call her a mother because that heart of compassion was always at work each time our proposal reached her table. There was also Mrs Adejoke Orelope Adefulire who now works as a Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, that’s another woman who always gave me the listening ear and supported me in the work I was doing with women.
There was a short break at the point where I had to step aside to take on the huge responsibility of managing Radio Stations in Ogun and Rivers states respectively but returned fully to the responsibility when my husband passed as a result of kidney disease. So it is wise for me to say that I know or I understand the pain that most women in this room feel but as I always say, you need to move beyond the pain and discover ways to gain from your pain, many pastors will talk about turning your pain to gain, it is about making that decision of either sinking or sailing but I chose to sail because in life, only the almighty decides what situation He Wants you to go through!
Last year we had a gathering like this where a group of women also gathered with a common cause, “to find help” just to stay above water, we met with them, talked and made enquiries. After the programme, we reached out to a few who had some petty businesses and they got a boost, something that they are happy about as we speak.
Just so we don’t keep having the same persons turn up each time we have a little something to hand out, we make sure it is those we have in the database that are invited but I believe there are new faces here today.
I am not even qualified to talk about widowhood and that is why I see the women here today from the point of view that they are women who need a hand in pushing their businesses further or even starting out small!
While preparing to go to bed last night, I read the post of a beautiful young woman who explained how to start a small business of making plantain chips with N5,000 and she had jolted a good number of persons to reality with the explanation of how possible that it. I tell you what, she inspired me also because plantain chips is one snack I never let out of my sight and it made sense to me how much chips I can get from the 5 pieces of N1000 note.
Women we need to think outside the box, quit putting yourselves in a cage, the mind sometimes is a cage and it locks you in, telling you that you cannot do it!
I cannot feel what you feel because our pains are different, yes we feel it but locking up and feeling pity for yourselves will never put food on your table, for those who have children, remember you have mouths to feed and your responsibility just doubled because if you had your partner with you, the responsibility will be less heavy so you have to wake up and smell the coffee, it is tough, I hate to confess that but we can see the reality around us, the economy is biting so hard.
While many widows cry out against neglect, hunger and poverty, others are bemoaning and lamenting the fact that they have not been paid salaries and many pensioners don’t even know where the next meal will come from!
I call on all the women here today who are still hesitant about getting their lives back on track, to wake up and do something, you cannot afford to be lazy or idle because your children look up to you and you must take care of yourself so that you can think straight and care for your children.
A new year beckons and a wise woman must have made her plans about what to do so that when the means touches these hands, they can manage whatever it is that comes in.
I specially want to thank everyone who sent in their “widows mite” to ensure that this programme was not postponed or even cancelled because I contemplated it but the spirit said do it, no matter what the challenge is and I have learned not to disobey that conviction.
I have been blessed by women, many of them have supported my cause in my 19 years of talking about the family and specifically the woman so I fail to identify with that cliché that Women are their own Enemies!!!
These are narratives that many push to create friction amongst women.
I want to say thank you to Olori Ranti Ajayi whose foundation specifically reached out to us, there is also a particular mother who would always pick my call or even call back or return my texts when I do her a message, the 1st Lady of Enugu state, Her Excellency, Mrs Monica Ugwuanyi and others who simply want to remain anonymous.
To the men to supported to see that we are here in this hall today at this event, we say thank you and we will not relent in our efforts at reaching out to widows.
Today is here, today, this minute is what we know because the next minute is something we cannot predict so we have to be grateful for what we have and where we are today.
Thanks to every who made out time to be here. Relax and enjoy the moment.