The mother’s congress, popularly known as August Meeting, is officially recognized in Igboland as a time when Igbo women in the diaspora and different parts of the federation return to their indigenous communities. It is a time earmarked for community development. Women embark on different community projects such as healthcare outreaches and sensitization.
Beyond community development, this meeting has provided an opportunity for these women to tackle more pressing issues that affect women such as conflict management, human development, and women’s inclusion in politics. Over the years, the August Meeting has been a viable avenue for community impact.
In a bid to show solidarity in projecting and supporting the roles women play in family and community development, South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) through her Sister Guardian Initiative (SGI) project will visit 5 communities where it is currently working to sensitize women during their August Meeting. These communities are Umuode, Ibute-Nze, Awha, Afa, and Ezi-Nze.
The first of this trip was to Umuode community. The women were sensitized on the importance of women’s rights, how to handle violence against women and children, and political inclusion. Emphasizing representation and active participation in decision-making in the home and community.
A research carried out by the United Nations in Nigeria shows that 30 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 have experienced sexual abuse. Victims also have difficulty accessing healthcare as there are few referral centers around. Fear of stigma and discrimination has also made it difficult for women to report these issues.
This is one of such reasons SSDO established the SGI. It offers a safe space where abused women can seek counseling, safety, and support.
The Sister Guardian Initiative is a flagship aimed at reducing violence against women at the community level. It taps into existing based women community groups to identify women willing to stand in the gap (Sister Guardians) and advocate for other women facing different abuse.
The beauty of the group is the unique setup that enables it to tackle different violence-based issues. Sister Guardian provides immediate support such as safety, referral, and mediation with husbands and families. The group also has a working relationship with the village rulers, police, and courthouses. This gives the group its potency.
The women were also enlightened about female genital mutilation and its physiological and psychological effect. There were also facilitators from the organization on ground to train the women on leadership, advocacy, and economic empowerment.
The Project lead also used this opportunity to introduce the Sister Guardians executives to the August Meeting. This will facilitate easy access to the group.
“The primary reason violence goes unreported is because of the stigma and discrimination the women suffer. Introducing the SGI executives to the community helps the women know the right individuals to meet,” she says.
“Another reason women do not speak about violence is that they solely depend on their abusive partners for their financial needs. They fear they will lose economic support. We understand this and that is why we introduced the Jacob’s Well Initiative to the community.”
Financial dependence on a spouse can be inhibition and a reason an abused partner would not speak up. SSDO understands this factor and has also made a provision by creating the Jacob’s Well Initiative.
SSDO through its Jacob’s Well initiative aims at improving the quality of life for women in Enugu state by providing micro-credit facilities. The aim of the project is to empower women to gain financial independence, reduce poverty and over-dependency.
Since the inception of the initiative, the organization has reached over 300 beneficiaries and given out loans to the tune of ₦22 million. This credit facility has made it possible for these women to grow their businesses from small scale to large scale.