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. 

Read More

Woman weeding her plantation

“I can’t go to the farm anymore. You don’t know where or when they will attack,” Chigozie explains. 

This has been the situation of farmers in communities in Uzo-Uwani LGA, Enugu State. On the 25th of July 2021, herders attacked Obie Akwu farm camp where few people died and many were injured. This has disrupted the normal proceedings of the communities whose chief occupation is farming. Now, farmers are scared to return to the farms for fear of being attacked. 

The herders-farmers crisis has been an ongoing issue in the country and has recently become a cause of concern in the Southeast. As remote communities have been frequently attacked in recent months. 

“I buy farm products from farmers to sell in the market. Since the attack there’s been little activity from the farmers,” Onyinye, a fruit seller said. 

Many women in Uzo-Uwani communities are traders. Some buy farm produce from farmers and sell it in the market. Other women engage in farming and proceed to sell the products themselves. Thus, raising money to fend for themselves and support their families. 

However, many of these women deal in small quantities. Buying and selling as much as they can to break even and stay afloat. There is a limit to how they can support their family and look to attain financial independence. 

Women like Onyinye abound across communities in Enugu and the country at large who make barely enough to cater to their needs. Coupled with the insecurity the communities in Uzo-Uwani face, it is worse off. 

“I barely make enough profit to buy books and clothes for my kids, talk less of taking care of myself,” Onyinye said. 

In 2019, Onyinye came in contact with South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) during one of their community outreaches to Uzo-Uwani. 

“I met some officials from SSDO and they told me I could access loans from their organization to grow my business. I was so excited.”

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 objective of the project is to empower women to gain financial independence, reduce poverty and over-dependency. 

Recipients of the Micro-credit loan

Onyinye has been able to grow her business after acquiring some loans. She can now buy fruits in more quantities and expand her business. 

“I use to buy fruits in small quantities before from those who buy from the farm. Some oranges, bananas, and a few watermelons. With the loans, I have been able to grow my business. I buy in bags directly from the farm. I am grateful to SSDO for the opportunity.” 

These loans are made available with a cooperative as a third party. Only women who are duly registered with these cooperatives can benefit from the loans. Once a loan is cleared off, the women can reapply for another one. Thus, steadily growing their businesses. 

Things have however changed, the recent attack has made it difficult for business activities to continue as normal. Not just that, female businesses that have been empowered through the Jacob’s Well Initiative might suffer as well. Women take loans from SSDO to grow their businesses then refund the loans gradually after making profit. With the level of insecurity, this might no longer be visible. 

“With the current situation of things, I don’t know when I will be able to go the farm again. I also cannot take another loan because I’m not sure of how things will turn out”.

The same also can be said for Theresa a rice farmer in Adani community. She gets loans from SSDO and has scaled up her business. However, the current situation in the community has brought all activities to a standstill. 

Beneficiaries sun-drying their rice.

“Since the incident, I’ve not been able to go to the farm. And that is where we carry out the parboiling and the sieving of the rice as well. So now we are stranded.”   

This poses a new challenge for women in these communities. Access to funds was usually the problem but this new status quo looks to threaten the progress that has been made with women empowerment in these communities.  

Read More

“I was young when I met my husband. He was loving and kind. We got married not long after. Then he changed.” Blessing said.

Blessing’s husband is the main provider of the family. She also supports the family with proceeds from her foodstuff business. From time to time, she joins her mother on the farm to uproot cassava and make gari.

“When we started together, he was caring. I didn’t have to pay for things,” she noted. 

He made it his responsibility to take care of her from when they met and even throughout her pregnancies. Their relationship was a sweet affair until two years ago when everything went sour. 

“He stopped providing for the family. Anytime I ask for money for upkeep, he will become angry and ask me to use my money,” she said. 

At the slightest provocation or argument, he hits her. Blessing didn’t take this lightly, as every time he hits her she will retaliate. 

“I always fight with my husband because he is always hitting me,” she said.

But being stronger, he overpowers and beats her. Many times the thought of leaving crossed her mind. She always waded it off, thinking of the shame and stigma. The income from her foodstuff business could not take care of her and her three kids. This coupled with her little education effectively knocked off the idea of moving. Blessing knew her livelihood was tied to her husband. 

Sadly, the beatings and maltreatment didn’t stop rather it became more frequent. When it became unbearable and looked like she may lose her life, she moved back to her parent’s house.

“He started beating me so much, I had to run for my life with my kids,” she said. 

Weeks after, her husband came to her parent’s house and demanded that the kids be handed over to him. She refused this request. It led to a heated argument that spiraled into something far worse. He pounced on her and beat her right in her parent’s house. Her mother on hearing the chaos rushed to the scene to mediate. But she was on the receiving end of things as he hit her with his elbow and shoved her away. All the while her three children watched in horror. 

Her mother’s eye instantly swelled and became teary. She struggled to see and had to be rushed to the hospital. She sustained a serious injury to the eye from the collision that led to a discharge, leaving her very uncomfortable.    

Her mother was taken to the hospital for treatment, but they couldn’t pay the ₦60,000 bill. All efforts to reach her husband to cover the bill were futile. The family had to borrow the funds to save her mother’s life. 

“You’d expect that after he hurt my mother, the least he should do as a sign of remorse was to foot the medical expenses. But he never showed up. I was afraid that I might lose her. Her eyes kept bringing out mucus.” she said. 

The family could barely survive, talk less of paying the medical expenses from the treatment. Blessing said that after the money was borrowed, debtors were on their necks for a refund. 

“After the eye treatment, the lenders wanted their money back. We had no way to pay. Different people spoke to him but he kept sending them away, refusing to foot the bill.” 

A friend of hers later informed her of the presence of Sister Guardian in Omor community. She reported the matter to the group, and they intervened. The case was brought before the panel of elected women leaders. They heard from both parties and mandated the man to cover the medical expenses. 

Blessing affirmed that this decision made her family feel relief from the lenders’ pressure and her husband’s maltreatment stopped. The husband also promised not to beat her anymore. The intervention also provided counseling services for Blessing seeing as she agreed to give the relationship another chance.   

“I am thrilled that the Sister Guardian was able to intervene. He doesn’t beat me anymore, he respects me more now.”

As part of South Saharan Social Development Organization’s (SSDO) commitment to the reduction of gender-based violence at the community level, it implemented the Sister Guardian Initiative in 16 communities in Enugu and Anambra. This initiative taps into existing community-based women’s groups to identify women who will stand in the gap and advocate for other women.  

Blessing Uchendu, the Gender Officer for the organization who spearheads the initiative and interacts with the Sister Guardian (SG) group sheds more light on the impact of the group.

“The beauty of the group is the unique setup that enables it to tackle different violence-based issues. The SG 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.”  

“Studies from World Health Organization (WHO) show that 30 percent of women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence. The risk of anxiety and problem drinking is two times higher for abused women. That is why the SGI’s support for women is so important.” 

Gender-based violence, also known as violence against women and girls, is one of the most prevalent issues facing women yet the least visible. It affects the health, security, dignity of the victims. Victims suffer sexual and reproductive health issues such as unwanted pregnancies, traumatic disorders, and sexually transmitted infections. SSDO is one of the leading organizations in Nigeria working to improve gender equality and women empowerment. SSDO’s program offers psychosocial support, micro-credit loans, and promotes the rights of women to live an abuse-free life.  

Mrs. Uchendu also stated that one reason for prolonged gender-based violence and fear of reporting is economic dependence on the man. She also shed light on what SSDO is doing. 

“You will observe that violence is condoned because of the family’s economic dependence on the man. SSDO is providing micro-credit facilities for abused women, to empower them and make them more self-reliant.”  

Over the course of the initiative, over 300 women have benefitted from the micro-credit schemes. 

Volunteer distributing sensitization materials.

The past year and months have been challenging for many. Numerous people are yet to come to terms with the drastic ways that our lives and regular activities have been affected by the covid-19 virus. Plans were terminated, businesses lost, dreams aborted, and for so many people, life started afresh. So many people have lost a lot without actually getting the virus.  

“Sometimes I doubt there is any Covid-19, we just keep hearing about it, and we were asked to sit at home. I couldn’t work and my family suffered,” said Onyeka Chiamaka, a fish seller engaged during one of our outreaches. 

Community outreaches and awareness campaigns have helped to gauge the knowledge and perception of community members on a particular subject. This is exactly what the Heineken Africa Foundation (HAF)-sponsored covid-19 response plan did.

The HAF Covid-19 response plan was deployed in six states in Nigeria (Bauchi, Benue, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, and Oyo) over a period of six months from August 2020 to January 2021. The aim of the project was to engage decision-makers to accelerate access to water, promote messages about hygiene to the public, and provide handwashing facilities in public places. WaterAid and South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) were implementing partners in Enugu state. 

WASH, Enugu’s Challenge

Research shows that about 28 percent of the state’s population lacks access to water supply services. Only 38 percent of the state’s population has access to decent sanitation, and 40 percent of the population still defecates in the open. This points to the fact that the state needs improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation services. It is also necessary to enhance citizen participation in Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) dialogue and decision making. Hence, the urgency for the WASH initiative.    

The Approach

Six Local Government Areas (LGAs) identified with the most pressing WASH challenges in the state were selected. They were Nsukka, Isi Uzo, Enugu East, Enugu South, Uzo Uwani, and Ezeagu. After careful observation and analysis of the target community and its members, it was decided that the best medium to improve citizens knowledge and participation in WASH would be to air televised messages/jingles from traditional rulers and religious leaders. Including the Catholic Bishop of the Enugu Diocese. 

Sound system for the jingle broadcast

The Covid-19 and WASH messages were scheduled every week over three months. The activity aimed to drive home the message of proper WASH activities and the promotion of improved hygiene practices at home and in public places. Volunteers were also on the ground to sensitize people on the need to follow the Covid-19 guidelines. WASH coordinators monitored, supervised, and captured the activity. Visual aids were used to drive home the message. 

The Revelation 

In the sensitization course, the volunteers and the WASH coordinators took their time to engage the community members. Their message was well-received in some areas. In some other areas, this wasn’t the case. 

“We just dey hear Covid everywhere, I no believe say anything like that dey. Na normal disease wey dem just find wey go soon comot” a palm oil seller told one of our volunteers. 

This is just one example of the perception people had in different locations. Most people in the markets were skeptical of the existence or persistence of Covid-19. They believe the pandemic is over or was never a threat. 

In another market, the traders were hostile as they had lost business opportunities during the government-imposed lockdown and other restrictions. 

“Please I don’t want to hear anything about Covid-19. Leave my shop,” said an electronics shop owner who sounded like the mere mention of the virus evoked memories of losses. 

People feared that more covid-19 messaging could result in another lockdown with negative economic implications. 

Takeaway 

Airing messages in the local languages went a long way to drive home the intended messages. Even better was the fact that the voiceovers were from respected members of their communities to whom they could relate. From subsequent visits and interactions with the traders, many affirmed that they are paying more attention to their hygiene. 

“I now have my own hand wash station with soap and sanitizer in front of my shop. All customers must wash their hands before coming in,” said Felicia Nwobodo 

Weeks after the initial outreach was conducted, volunteers went back to the LGAs and markets for follow-up visits and there was a remarkable improvement in handwashing practices.

For future efforts at public sensitization, it is important to de-emphasize Covid-19 as the key reason for basic hygiene and social distancing practices. The message would be more beneficial and better received if they focused on the prevention of infectious disease as the primary reason for imbibing safe hygiene. As already noted above, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was a bitter pill for many. 

1. Background

South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) is a duly registered non-profit organization in Nigeria, with a primary focus on equipping women youth and children with the social, health, economic, educational and political skills needed to survive and compete favourably in a vastly changing and urbanizing sub-Saharan Africa.

South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) has been at the forefront of the response to reduce Gender-Based Violence (GBV) at the community level through its flagship program – The Sister Guardian Initiative (SGI). The SGI puts women at the forefront of GBV interventions by building the capacity of women drawn from existing religious and socio-cultural associations within the community to provide GBV services and advocate against its practice within their community.

SGI is being implemented in 17 communities spread across Enugu and Anambra States and currently plans to expand to an additional 5 communities in Enugu state. This consultancy is designed to facilitate the expansion strategy of the project by mapping GBV prevalence in Enugu State.

2. Objective of the assignment

The main objective of this assignment is to map the GBV prevalence in Enugu State through the following:

  1. Document the law enforcement reporting and policing processes for GBV with an aim to identifying the gaps and challenges

  2. Document reported GBV cases across all 40 divisions of the Enugu State Police Command.

  3. Produce a report and PowerPoint with infographics that document the findings

  4. Present the findings in research results and lessons learned dissemination activities

3. Timing, duration and location

This is a research consultancy with a timeframe of 6 weeks. The precise timing is to be discussed and agreed upon with the consultants respectively.

Research: September – October 2021

The research will be conducted across the 40 divisions of the Enugu State police command

4. Methodology

Consultants should as part of their application provide a summary of their research methodology

5. Deliverables

The consultants are required to deliver the following:

  • Research methodologies and tools
  • Qualitative and quantitative data collected
  • Final report

All deliverables are to be presented to SSDO for approval before implementation. All rules and regulations should be strictly applied to all outputs.

6. Key documents and sources of information to be consulted

  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Case reports
  • Summary reports
  • Other relevant documents
  • Additional documents to be identified during the research

7. Required skills and experience

The Consultant should have

  • Advanced degree in social sciences, preferably PhD in sociology, demography, political science, or comparable work experience
  • Advanced knowledge of qualitative research methods, data collection, and data analysis techniques;
  • Experience researching on GBV
  • Demonstrable experience and network within Enugu State Police command;
  • Experience in quantitative and qualitative data collection methods;
  • Excellent analytical skills;

8. Contact details

For more details, or to submit your expression of interest, please send an ‘Expression of Interest’ letter indicating your current rate, along with an up-to-date CV to the email – hr@southsaharan.org

9. Deadline for Applications

All applications should be submitted on or before the 15th of August 2020.

As compared to a time where all you need was to go through school and a job awaits you, the ball game is entirely different. Statistics released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2020 show that the global youth unemployment rate is at 18%. With that of Nigeria currently sitting pretty at 23% with about 275 million youths unemployed worldwide. These numbers only mean one thing, you’re as valuable as the skill set you possess. July 15 is recognized globally by the U.N as World Youth Skills Day. This is a day used to re-emphasize the place and importance of skills in changing the socio-economic fortune of the youth.

The U.N’s initiative designed to tackle this challenge is the Technical and Vocation and Education Training (TVET). This scheme is targeted at ensuring that all youths find the most suitable place for them to thrive, irrespective of their financial capabilities. Seeing that artisans, the informal sector, and the formal sector work together for a vibrant economy.

SSDO’s Role

South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) is at the forefront of implementing the TVET initiative. SSDO organized a TVET conference sponsored by Development Research and Projects Center and Ford foundation aimed at bridging the skills gap in the Formal and Informal TVET sector with a keen focus on artisans, technicians, and students. Find more on the TVET mini-conference

Importantly, before youths can effectively put their knowledge to good use and in fact create employment, there are marquee skills that are crucial and important for youths to be successful in the sector they choose to operate in. Here is a rundown of the most important soft and foundational skills needed for life’s mastery.

Time Management

This is one of the most important skills needed in the world today, but painfully only a few youths have been able to master it. Youths are adventurous, fun, strong, hardworking, diligent but a lot of them have no grip of the concept of time. And you see so many people ask themself at the end of a long day. “What did I do with my time?”.

Time management is fundamental to personal development and a key ingredient in goal setting. For your planning to be effective you need to work with a time ban. Come to think of it, why do CEOs and successful people have a personal assistant? Oh yes! Scheduling is the crux of productivity and that’s why even people who have life all figured out, don’t joke with this. Time is our most valuable asset and often can’t be recouped once lost.

                “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus.

Communication

This is another skill that so many people have yet to come to grasp with and rightfully so, it is psychological. There is a science to communication. Interestingly, when people communicate, it is less about the words spoken and more about the things left unsaid. Research has shown that about 70% of communication is deduced from nonverbal cues. So how much attention do you pay to body gestures, sighs, facial expressions, eye contact, and more? Someone is saying, ” Well, I am going into business, this doesn’t concern me.” Sorry to break the bad news to you, it does!

The better you can communicate your business’s essence and the brand story, the more loyal your customers are. And for those in the formal sector, the importance of communication cannot be overemphasized. Both written and oral forms. As an effective team lead or member, how well do you communicate with your team? Are you someone who speaks and others are struggling to decipher the theme behind your message? Or you in fact leave them more confused than how you started? Communication is indeed one of the most important skills youth should seek and learn.

Networking

There are four types of quotients, intelligence quotient(IQ), emotional quotient(EQ), social quotient(SQ), and adversity quotient(AQ). Of all these, you’d expect that IQ would be the most significant to be successful in career and business right? Well, it’s not. Studies have shown that the most successful individuals in the world are those who have combined well their EQ and SQ. How well do you know people?

How willing are you to leave your space and meet others? Your ability to build a relationship and relate with people is often time the most crucial factor for success. The most important resource to build a career isn’t money, but social capital. This is the network of relationships among people that live and work in a society, hence propelling it to function. Relationship is the new oil, and those who know how to network are the owners of the oil well.

Critical Thinking

This is the ability to task the mind and brain systematically to get solutions to everyday problems. It is the ability to think independently, rationally, and connect ideas to achieve results. This isn’t something that comes after 5 minutes of thinking. And you realize that based on some socio-cultural norms, most youths in this age haven’t harnessed this skill. How many people can patiently think up a solution for one to two hours straight?

This skill is requisite in today’s fast-paced world. To stand out, come up with innovative ideas, brand strategy, policies, and innovations that would set you apart from the crowd, you need to be a critical thinker. You must be able to manage your mind in the midst of the pressures of the world, trends, and happenings jostling for your attention. In this 21st century, a vibrant mind is essential to not just keeping your sanity but also to make good judgments at the point of decision making.

If you can effectively harness these skills, you are well on your way to freedom in every sense of the word.

 








Protesters making their displeasure known with the ‘NoToPoliticalLifePension’ placards

Mar. 16, 2021

On the 11th of March 2021, the Enugu State Gubernatorial Pensions Bill scaled the first reading on the floor of the Enugu State House of Assembly. Ever since then, the news has sparked outrage amongst Enugu state residents on social media.

Enugu’s last internally generated revenue (IGR) was 31 billion naira. This is low, compared to the IGR of other states. For instance, Lagos state has an IGR of 398 billion naira, while Rivers state  has an IGR of 67 billion naira. This low level of state IGR is one of the reasons that the Bill, also known as the Life Pensions Bill, has received negative reactions. The bill has been said to be exorbitant and unnecessary in the face of other more pressing issues in Enugu state.

What is the bill about?

The aim of the initiative guides the selection of communities. The selection of communities is The Enugu State Gubernatorial Pensions Bill, if passed into law will repeal the Enugu Gubernatorial Pension Law 2007 and accommodate new amendments including the following:

–        A state-funded burial of an ex-governor

–        Medical allowance worth 12 million naira for a surviving spouse

–        House and vehicle maintenance allowance fixed at 300% of annual salary

–        Salary for 5 domestic staff

–        Equivalent of annual basic salary while in office

–        3 vehicles to be replaced every 4 years

–        Free medical services for the ex-governor and his wife

The life pensions bill is an implementation of the Constitution in Section 124(5). However, with the

excessive amount spent by implementing states, it begs the question, “Is it worth it?”.

22 states currently implement the governors’ pension law with Bauchi (23 billion), Rivers

(2.79billion), Akwa Ibom (2.04 billion), and Lagos (1.6 billion) doling out the highest amount.

 

 

Swimming against the tide

With the recent economic difficulties, there have been agitations by civil society groups for state governments to abolish this law. The current law which this bill seeks to replace, already eats deep into the states’ coffer. Therefore, it would not be sufficient for the state to scrap the current bill in deliberation, they must also repeal the already enacted Enugu Gubernatorial Pensions Law 2007 and 2017. This will substantially free up funds to be channeled to more urgent areas of governance.

In November 2020, the Lagos state government, under the leadership of Babajide Sanwoolu, passed a bill to eradicate their own version of this law, the Public office Holder (Payment of Pensions Law 2007). Kwara, Zamfara, and Imo states have followed suit. Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Sokoto, and Enugu state were among the states who have shown little or no willingness to repeal the law. Enugu state, however, took it a step further by introducing a new bill to further solidify the status quo. 

 

 

Why is it uncalled for?

Enugu’s state IGR for the last fiscal year is approximately 31 billion naira compared to Lagos’s 398 billion naira. If Lagos whose revenue is ten times that of Enugu plans to scrap such a law, why should Enugu do the direct opposite, further diminishing available resources?  The state owes its retirees 24 billion naira from 2010 to 2019, and pensioners have been demanding to be paid, to no avail. The state also struggles with water scarcity, with water steadily getting more expensive and less available. The recent hikes in fuel price, electricity tariffs and food costs are already causing people unbearable hardship. Given the current situation of things in the state, this bill is highly insensitive. And the people expect that their elected representatives should understand this.   

 

 

File Image: Protesters on a procession through Enugu Metropolis

confirmed

Walking the talk

On the 16th of March 2021, South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO), a non-profit
organization in Enugu state, organized a peaceful protest to register its displeasure with the proposed bill. The aim of the protest was to nip the bill in the bud before it could be passed into law. The protesters moved past strategic points in the Enugu metropolis, raising awareness. They carried placards with the inscription “No To Political Life Pension.” This caught the attention of well-meaning Enugu citizens, some of who stopped and joined the procession. The march ended at the Enugu State House of Assembly. Media houses arrived in their numbers. The group sang solidarity songs while recounting the problem to the media. After a while, protesters gained access into the complex.

Speaking at the State House of Assembly, the Executive Director, Dr. Stanley Ilechukwu, said, “the NGO joins its voice with that of other well-meaning citizens of the state to condemn the bill.” He also stated that “this egregious bill is a needlessly exorbitant gift for an already well-compensated service to the government.”

 

 

File Image: Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly , Rt Hon Edward Ubosi addressing the protesters

confirmed

Audience with the speaker

On arrival at the base of the complex, the Speaker, Rt. Hon Edward Ubosi addressed the
protesters. He commended the conduct of the exercise. He said the law had existed since 2007, amended in 2017, and this present amendment is to accommodate past governors who are Enugu indigenes.  

 “We have stepped it down for further considerations. After looking at it, we will form a committee, and invite the public to make their contributions. If you don’t like it, we will cancel it. It is not our bill, it is yours.”

 

 

What Next?

The process will be monitored, and we hope that the Speaker keeps his word. We will draw attention to the public hearing once announced. We believe the House should junk this bill in its entirety. The taxpayers are already under enormous strain from the increased cost of living and do not need the added burden of unjustifiable pensions to retired executives. We hope the representatives would do what is right for the people of Enugu, who have entrusted them with their mandate.

 

 

By Oduguwa Olusomi








Community Volunteers administering educational materials and drugs to children in Odumachara Community in Enugu State.

Feb. 26, 2021

It was past 11am when the van pulled in to the community. The team spent over 2 hours on the road from Enugu Metropolis to Igga community in Uzo-Uwani LGA. The team was assigned to the only public school to carry out the child profile collection.

As typical with any southeastern rural settlement, the red earth was visible, houses sparsely located and striking was the fact that there was no access to potable water. Further conversation with community members revealed that there hasn’t been light in the community for years.

The community relies on the stream which is located over 2km away from the settlement for its needs. “We use water from the stream to bathe, cook, wash, and drink,” said a child when questioned. A similar scenario was also encountered across the five communities where there were obvious deficiencies of basic amenities. Interestingly, at Oduma Achara, Aninri LGA, two critical observations were made.

Firstly, the unusually high number of private schools in the community, precisely 3 opposes the norm seen in rural communities, and our fieldworker engaged a community member on the subject. “I don’t trust the quality of the government school. They lack teachers.” said a mother of 3 children.

The field worker asked whether she would use the government school if the situation improved, to which the woman answered, “Yes, I will. The private schools are expensive.” 

This initiative identifies vulnerable children aged 3 – 8 years and attaches them to sponsors. Selected communities include Oduma Achara in Aninri LGA, Igga and Nkume in Uzo Uwani LGA and Abor/Isiala in Isi Uzo LGA. 

 

 

Facts & Figures

The above issues highlight the problem of poverty, lack of education and healthcare, which are indicators of a deficient system, of which the biggest victims are children. 

Having identified this problem, ActionAid Nigeria has partnered with South Saharan Social Development Organization to find ways to remediate the situation, particularly in Enugu state, through the implementation of the Local Rights Programme (LRP).

The initiative aims to reduce poverty by engaging with the poor and marginalized in selected communities through its child sponsorship mechanisms. 

 

 

Community Selection

The aim of the initiative guides the selection of communities. The selection of communities is based on reliable data from the National Bureau of Statistics indicating the poorest geo-political zones in the country. This is then narrowed down to the poorest states and then cascaded to the poorest local governments and communities.

This initiative was first implemented in Ebonyi state. Having achieved success in the state, Enugu state became the next port of call. Before entry into these communities, ActionAid liaises with the appropriate government authorities for ease of access.

 

 

File Image: A dilapidated classroom in Oduma-Achara community where pupils learn daily.

confirmed

Disparity in English language proficiency

The second observation made by the team in Oduma Achara, based on interactions with the children, was that most children in the community barely understood or spoke the English Language. Further interaction with the parents showed that they spoke and understood English Language better than the children. Another negation to the norm seen in other rural communities where the children had better fluency in English than the adults.

This observation led to further inquiries using the key informant interview system. Community members and teachers were interviewed and the following reasons were deduced.

The key reason attributed to this observation is that children were predominantly taught in the Igbo language. It is not certain whether this is to aid easy assimilation on the part of the children, or a lack of confidence on the part of the teachers to deliver in English Language.

It was also elucidated that the parents have traveled more. Some adults had contact with the cities at a young age. Some schooled there, and some trade there. Thus, leaving them no choice but to communicate in English which is more predominant in urban areas. Whereas, the children have lived all through in the community.

This observation begs more questions than it gives answers. Is teaching in the local dialect a more effective form? Is there a correlation between language and future success? These and more are questions that we would look to answer in our subsequent publication.

These communities afford us the much-needed opportunity to educate, inform, and advocate for their basic human rights. As well as to point the spotlight on these communities, which would, in turn, get the government to take more decisive actions. We are excited about the possibilities! 

 

 

By Oduguwa Olusomi








Chinasa’s new chicks (gotten from the profit of the first set) -25 chicks

Feb. 23, 2021

“During the lockdown, it was impossible for me to support my family. My husband’s
motorcycling repair job has been affected by the pandemic. I needed to do something about my family’s situation as feeding had become an issue. I anticipated receiving the money. I knew that with it I will be able to get my business running and my family going. The intervention was timely.”

Ngene Chinasa is a mother of five children. She lives in Ndibinagu Umunkwo community, Akegbe Ugwu LGA of Enugu state. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, things became very difficult for her and her family to survive. Chinasa was unemployed. Her husband is a mechanic, who needs to work long hours daily to earn a living. Life was unbearable, feeding became a struggle.

The effect of the pandemic has been felt by every sector of the economy and every class of people. No one spared. Nigeria is largely dominated by the informal sector which accounts for 60% of the working population. The main characteristic of the informal economy is that money changes hands on a daily, and the survival of workers in this sector is based on them showing up for work every day.

Since the lockdown in March, it has become difficult for informal economy workers like Chinasa’s husband to keep up, seeing that they make money daily.

The complications of COVID-19 didn’t only affect their means of livelihood but also brought about an undue scarcity. She had to walk about 4km with her suckling child to the major road junction, in order to go into town. “You have to call bike men to come to pick you. When they come, you will pay for both trips,” she said. The remote location of the settlement made it unattractive for motorcyclists. This meant that they had to walk if they didn’t want to wait for
hours to get transport. 

Fortunately, Chinasa was opportune to be enrolled on the OVC project by a community volunteer early last year. In September 2020, Chinasa was one of the first beneficiaries under the OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s) program to benefit from the IGA (Income Generating Activity) intervention supported by the 4Gates project in Enugu state. 

File Image: Receipt of the items for IGA -15 chicks

confirmed

File Image: Bags of feed and medication for the chicks.

confirmed

IGA is one of the implemented initiatives under Household Economic Strengthening, a domain of the OVC project. This initiative is aimed at helping beneficiaries attain economic stability by helping them establish businesses to support their families. “I have been thinking of how to scale through this pandemic. But with the cash, I will be able to provide for my children.”

Chinasa and other beneficiaries were trained on financial education to ensure that the businesses provided would be properly managed and utilized. After the training, she selected poultry as the business venture to embark on. “I had a poultry farm once but couldn’t sustain it due to funds,” she said. 

She has taken full advantage of the initiative and has expanded the poultry business to include a piggery. “So far, there’s been no challenge, and I have been steadily growing the business,” she noted. Chinasa now has a farm with 25 chicks, 7 pigs, and has also started a nursery in her home.

 

 

File Image: Birds at 6weeks almost ready for sale.

confirmed

File Image: Chinasa’s pig farm (gotten from the profit of the first set) -7 Pigs.

confirmed

“I make 6,000 Naira when I sell a chicken, and at least 50,000 Naira for a matured pig,” Chinasa stated. Her story has changed from what it used to be during the lockdown. She can now adequately support her family and have some savings.

35 people have been empowered so far by the initiative. The project is supported by CARITAS – 4GATES and implemented by South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO). 

 

 

By Oduguwa Olusomi








Bishop Njoku feels the weight of his responsibilities as the pandemic persists

Feb. 9, 2021

In turbulent times, Bishop David Njoku keenly feels the burden of the mantle. As Bishop of the Apostolic Church of Christ, Oduma-Achara, Aninri LGA, Enugu State, he represents hope and guidance for his flock. A lot of people depend on us, the church, for information and directives,” he says. 

The 67-year-old Bishop is particularly concerned about the economic impact of COVID-19 on Oduma-Achara, a small agrarian village with two lakes that dry out during harmattan, and no functional water facilities. “COVID-19 was a very big challenge to our people; it affected our farming and harvesting. To the extent that our women sold a basin of Okro for N150 (39 cents).” The hardship and scarcity of water has created some unusual items of luxury; GP water tanks are now highly prized among indigenes living in Oduma, and are even requested as part of the bride price. Bishop Njoku worries that the people are not taking hygiene seriously to prevent more outbreaks and other diseases. With a wife and 8 children of his own, he is understandably invested in maintaining hygiene protocol, constantly reminding people to wash their hands before entering the church premises. Yet generally in Oduma hygiene is poor. Open defecation is still widely practiced, and handwashing is only observed in school, at the Igwe’s palace and in church.

 

 

File Image: A young woman wondering about the next step as the lake has dried up

confirmed

The intervention by WaterAid and SSDO could not have come at a better time. The Scale Up Hygiene Project, sponsored by the Heineken Africa Foundation, targeted 6 states including Enugu for the promotion of hygiene messages in response to COVID-19. The project utilized radio and TV jingles featuring prominent traditional and religious leaders urging Enugu residents to take the pandemic seriously, wash their hands and wear face-masks. In addition, the jingles were aired in markets in 6 different LGAs coupled with the distribution of IEC materials with instructions on hand-washing, safe waste disposal and other beneficial hygiene behaviours. Hygiene packs were equally distributed to vulnerable households in 7 LGAs.

Bishop Njoku is pleased with the positive response to the messages. “Because of the sensitization, radio programs and IEC materials provided for us, we were able to teach them proper handwashing which they practiced despite the scarcity of water. Our children have also learnt how to use face masks. Our knowledge of hygiene has increased.” However, he notes that access to clean, drinking water is still a major challenge to reinforcing hygiene behaviours, and calls on the state government to urgently install water facilities to help improve the quality of life in Oduma-Achara.

 

By Ijeoma Ossi