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AWACIO/TOTAL Empowerment of Widows

Bwari, Abuja

 


PRE-TRAINING EVENTS

Widowhood comes with shock, pain, sorrow and often suffering. Stories abound of how widows faired during and after their mourning period. In some cultures here in Nigeria, as soon as a man is pronounced dead, the grieving period begins. The woman and children are made to observe the necessary traditions that are customary to her husband’s people. Infact, if she is not from the same place as her husband, her late husband's property is taken from her forcefully without minding that she has children to care for. This makes the widow wallow in abject poverty especially if she has no education or skill. It cannot be over stated that empowering widows in these situation is crucial and important.
It was for some of these reasons that Aids for Women, Adolescents and Children International Organization (AWACIO), a Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) in collaboration with TOTAL in Nigeria, on Wednesday, November 27, 2013, started the training of 50 widows in Bwari Area Council, Abuja, with skill development in five core entrepreneurial areas.

The training which lasted from  one week to three months, was expected to bolster the widows in acquiring skills in the areas of bead making, cake making, soap making, hair dressing and tailoring. These skills, once surmounted, are expected to be turned into lucrative businesses for self-empowerment. To this end, each widow will be going home after the training with tools relevant to the acquired skills and a loan of up to twenty thousand (20,000) naira, to start up her own business.
The kick-off of the program, held at the Bwari Area Council Women Development Centre, witnessed a massive turn-out of over 250 widows of which only 50 of them were selected for the training program after a rigorous screening exercises. Most of the widows were eliminated because of age while some were medically unfit to participate in the training program.


MATRICULATION CEREMONY FOR THE WIDOWS


At the matriculation ceremony, representatives of TOTAL, the chairman of the Bwari Area Council, and AWACIO were present.

Welcoming the widows in her opening remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of AWACIO, Dr. Claudia Okeke reiterated her commitment in tackling the plights of the widows. Speaking with the aid of a translator, she charged the widows to make the most of the partnership between AWACIO and TOTAL and also to take the training very seriously. She went ahead to explain the different stages of the empowerment training program. She concluded her presentation by introducing the field representatives to the audience. She stated that their duties will include monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on the progress of the training as well as on the relationship between the widows and their trainers.

Similarly, the Manager Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of TOTAL, Emmanuel Ikomi, said the opportunity the women have is not only on employment capacity building but also an empowerment opportunity. He emphasized on the need to utilize this opportunity to better their lives and that of their family members. He pledged that his organization will continue to support in ensuring that their corporate social responsibilities to the society are maintained through sponsorships like this.
Also the Chairman of Bwari Area Council, Mr. Yohanna Peter Ushafa, recounted his childhood story and encouraged the widows to take advantage of this charitable initiative. He praised AWACIO and TOTAL for choosing the Bwari Area council for this great project which will help alleviate poverty and empower the widows.

The media was not left out in the events, the events were covered by the news channel NTA 24 and the representative of the Leadership newspaper and Peoples’ daily. The event was published in the People’s Daily newspaper of Friday, November 29, 2013, page 16, and the Leadership newspaper, page 39 of Tuesday, December 24, 2013.


TRAINING


The training program was scheduled as follows:
Cake making                                                   two weeks training
Bead making                                                   one week training
Soap making                                                   one week training 
Hairdressing                                                   two months
Tailoring                                                           three months             
The training commenced for the different skills on November 28, 2013. The participants were grouped by their departments in groups of ten, and introduced to their trainers, who assessed them and gave them a run-down of their training objectives. The trainers provided them with the appropriate materials and equipments for the training. According to the field representatives’ reports, the following were observed during the training exercise in the various skill departments:

CAKE MAKING: The participants were always punctual, disciplined and teachable throughout the duration of the training program. They were all able to master the art of caking and were able to participate in a local cake exhibition.

BEAD MAKING: The participants showed enthusiasm and willingness during the training. Most of them learnt very fast while others were challenged by their inability to see the needle hole. As soon as the incident of eyesight defects was reported to AWACIO Executives by the field representatives, AWACIO responded by providing an optician to perform eye examination. Glasses were then recommended and designed for those trainees that needed them. These were given to them at graduation.

SOAP MAKING: In this department participants were always in attendance, punctual, dutiful and business-like. They completed their tasks on time. At the expiration of the training period, the participants proved beyond every reasonable doubt that they could make a living from what they learnt.

HAIRDRESSING: The participants in this category were placed into two groups of three and four respectively. Each group was sent to separate saloons to afford them the opportunity to learn first-hand. Even though there was a little delay in providing adequate materials, the participants managed until the supply came, and successfully completed their trainings. 

TAILORING: The participants were as enthusiastic and teachable as the others. Their success in the training were evident in their excitement and display of the various wears, they’ve made. This skill requires a lot of patients.
In all, the training was made to be exciting and successful. The participants were very eager to explore their various fields of training, and to practice and participate in all they were being trained to do. 


GRADUATION CEREMONY FOR WIDOWS


On January 22, 2014, the graduation ceremony to honor 48 of the 50 widows who matriculated into the TOTAL/AWACIO Widows Empowerment training program in Bwari Area Council, Abuja, on November 27, 2013, was held. During this ceremony the participating widows received certificates as well as materials to aid them in their various skills. The ceremony was covered by media news and newspapers, and publicized throughout the region. Besides the widows, also present during the occasion were the Executive Chairman of Bwari Area Council, Honorable Peter, A. Yohanna Ushafa, the Executives and representatives from TOTAL, and from AWACIO. On the day of graduation, each widow received a ‘certificate of training’ and the following items listed below corresponding to each of the skills.

POST TRAINING EVENTS   
With the sponsorship of TOTAL/AWACIO the following Items were given to the widows after their training program to empower them to be self-reliant.

FOR BEAD MAKING: Bead making materials, medicated eyeglasses and a sum of twenty thousand (20,000) naira loan were given to each participant of this skill program.

FOR CAKE MAKING: Oven and a sum of twenty thousand (20,000) Naira loan were given to each participant of this skill program.

FOR TAILORING:  Sewing machine and up to twenty thousand (20,000) naira loan were given to each participant in this skill department at the end of the training.

SOAP MAKING: Soap making materials and a sum of up to twenty thousand (20,000) naira loan were given to the participants.

FOR HAIRDRESSING: The participants were given hairdryers and the sum of up to twenty thousand (20,000) naira loan at the end of the training.


FOLLOW UP PROCESS


This process is the most challenging because AWACIO has to ensure that these widows are using their skills to make a living. AWACIO has field representatives that will be in contact with the widows to ensure this and provide periodic updates on what they have done with the loans they received. The field representatives will follow up on them on a monthly to bimonthly basis depending on their progress for a period of one year or more. One challenging factor is that some of these widows live far away in the distant rural parts of Bwari so that reaching them is a bit difficult.  TOTAL is also encouraging AWACIO to enforce this aspect of the program.


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