It’s full steam ahead – developing relationships woman to woman, and not just a one-night stand: this is a lasting relationship.
It was a year or so ago when Susan Popoola challenged Patricia (TACT – The Akabusi Charitable Trust – Trustee with portfolio for Nigeria) and I to find her a widow that she could support with a gift aid of £100 to start up a business. It was to be an investment with no pay back (unlike our micro finance programs) that would help the lady to start a business that would alleviate poverty and initiate self-sufficiency.
Mrs Orji was the beneficiary who proved that with a little support, the seed funding affected not just her life but also the lives of her children who previously had been hawking artifacts for sale on the busy high roads into the capital city of Imo State which is called Owerri. There is a similar scene up and down the urban centers of Nigeria, the home of 160 million Africans and the most populous Black country in the world.
And so Woman2Woman was born. Since that first success story, the children are no longer hawking (gateway into drugs, gangs and for young women prostitution) but are back in school. Mrs Orji is now the proud owner of a fruit and veg stall with an official registration document from the State government. This means her future is bright; the children’s are secure, and the family is a good role model to other members of her rural community.
In Nigeria like many countries Christmas is seen as a time of family festivities , giving, sharing and celebrating the gift of life the Almighty gave as he provided His son as sacrifice for the sins of the world. This Christmas TACT are looking for 100 women (or people/organizations/establishments in the name of women) over the forthcoming year (2012) to give £100 to 100 women widowed in Nigeria, so they can start up their own businesses. We have found that this is the best way to help these women help themselves, their families and their community. On the ground, our delivery partners Forward Africa then run a capacity building and sustainability programme which ensures that as many as possible of the start up businesses succeed and do not fail.
Will there be failures? You bet. Our experience in the micro finance world has shown that these vulnerable groups – just as in the western world – have people whose ambition is greater than their abilities and despite the training support and guidance they are unable to maintain the disciplines or sustain the knack of making a business work. However these are few, and are far outweighed by the many who go on to make a thriving contribution to the local economy. This includes – by extension – sending to school and educating many other local children, and developing a sense of self worth and appreciation for being part of the solution and not the problem in Nigeria.
At TACT we are aware that we can not solve all of the challenges that the developing world of Nigeria holds, but we are also aware that we can do our little bit as in the words of the 18th century Whig Edmund Burke “for evil to prevail good men do nothing.”
And finally I go to a parable that has stuck in my mind as we at TACT work with like-minded people to make a difference in the county of my origin, one person (and in this case woman) at a time…
A little boy was apprehended as he was picking up starfish on an oil-infested beach and putting them in to a pail of seawater. He then walked a couple of miles to the other side of the peninsula to release the starfish into an unpolluted environment. A casual observer was so intrigued that on apprehension of the youngster he asked, “what on earth are you doing”?
“I’m saving these starfish” came the reply.
“But there is no way you can save all these starfish. There are literally thousands”, said the interloper with a rye smile.
”Aye” said the youngster, fresh of face, “I can’t save all of them but I can make a difference to this one and this one and this one”.
Thank you in advance for being prepared to join us in making a difference to the few people we meet, for being prepared to give, share and celebrate over this Christmas period and beyond the precious gift of life and the abundance that your world has provided to you. Clearly we will not be able to cater for all the widows of the world but as in the parable, you will be able to make a difference to this one and this one and this one xx