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In Kaduna, a group of passionate women help rebuild lives and future of crisis, poverty survivors

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By Bankole Shakirudeen Adeshina

SINCE large scale insecurity erupted about 10 years ago, most parts of Northern Nigeria has almost devolved into a theatre of war, with thousands of people being brutally killed, millions displaced and valuable properties destroyed.

Agents of death have attacked people at their places of work, worship centres, market places and at homes, leaving behind most unforgettable horror and anguish.

But amidst this hopelessness, there is an untold story of the growing effort by a group of volunteers  -under the auspices of Al-Manar Women Association (AMWA) – to restore hopes, rebuild lives and restore the human dignity of the affected survivors and other people ravaged by abject poverty in the region, through sustained strategic empowerment programmes.

AMWA is a group of elite Hausa women, founded 13 years ago in Kaduna State, with a singular objective: to turn the tide in favour of every poor and vulnerable Hausa woman and girl child.

In administering this objective, the group, which is administered under the leadership of its Ameerah/President, Hajia Rabi Umar Sodangi, the former Acting Director General and Chief Executive of the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency, has established major adult literacy and vocational development centres across four major Northern States to train and empower people routinely.

So far, according to data, 15,000 lives have been touched by AMWA on direct and indirect empowerment intervention.

This figure is besides the 1,500/2000 beneficiaries at the group’s Annual Ramadan Lectures, where scholars engage them on moral issues such as child upbringing, character formation, how to select a good spouse, conflict resolution, financial management at home, business in Islam, benefits of fasting, roles of spouses in the family etc.

One of such unique ways AMWA is quietly but methodically responding to the overwhelming socio-economic challenges facing the women folks, the vulnerable children and young adults in the region, is manifested in it just concluded two-day intensive Entrepreneurship Workshop held at Dialogue Conference Hall, Ali Akilu Road, Kaduna State.

With a carefully chosen theme: “Business Creation and Development, Stimulating Start-ups,” business scholars and successful entrepreneurs such as Hajia Bari’atu Muhammad, Head of Service, Kaduna State Government; Professor Aliyu Mamman, Dean, Faculty of Management Science, FUD, Katsina State; Sheikh (Dr) Tukur Abdullahi Almanar, an Islamic and Business Scholar; Mallam Abubakar Dansadau, Chairman, Sidi & Sons Group of Companies; Alhaji Mahdi Shehu, Chairman, Dialogue Group of Companies; Mallam Sani Aliyu Hunkuyi, Mallam Muhammad Inuwa Sabo, and Alhaji Sabo Sodangi were on hand to illuminate the minds of the selected audience.

The panel provided business tips to the participants

The total numbers of selected participants for the workshop, according to the Project Coordinator, Col. Jibril Hassan, were 200 women. And among these lots were widows, single mothers, orphans, Internally Displaced Persons and handful other survivors of domestic violence, and health related others.

Accompanying the workshop was a total package of N25,000 grant for each of the attendees. Out of this sum, tools ranging from pots, stoves, kettles, frying pans and cooking gas – among others – were procured and distributed to all the participants, with stipends ranging between N3,000 and N5,000, as cost of start-up logistics as added incentive.

Dansadau explained that the key to unlocking the art and science of a business start-up is hinged on understanding the basic principle, which emphasises that “the core message here is that businesses are designed to fulfil customer(s) desires and not the business person’s desires.”

According to him, “in addition, all that a starter needs to know is that he or she must have adequately armed with sufficient feasibility about the business; understands the terrain and how best the customers want to be served or serviced.

“Once those are perfected,” he guarantees, “such a business is bound to succeed.”

Speaking further, especially on the gender concentration of the participants, Dansadau noted that “and that is why training like this is paramount to solving our current economic challenges, which are partly fuelling many broken homes.

“And I am equally very happy about the gender consideration of the participants here today because I am a firm believer of the fact that strongest pillar in a home is the woman. And investing in her, building her up is but very important in achieve a stable and prosperous home.

“Therefore the strength of the development of society lies in the capacity of it women because they are the first teachers in the family,” he added, speaking in fluent Hausa language.

Delivering the second paper, titled “Ethics and Etiquettes of successful business,” Alhaji Mahdi Shehu, Chairman, Dialogue Group of Companies, emphasised that “commercial endeavours, big, medium and or small, have etiquettes which must be observed in order to be successful.”

He stressed that those ethics which dwells on doing things right and doing things right things “are part of the solutions, plus the absolute capacity to inform, educate, and meet customers’ desires.

According to him, “no doubt, when diligently followed, these preconditions can even rob off positively on private lives, including the possibility to put our society on a sound footing. They are capable of leading to a prosperous society and economy.”

Shehu, while responding to the choice of gender sensitivity of the participants corroborated the earlier speaker that the time has come to do more for the women on the issue of economic emancipation through entrepreneurial development.

He says, “If you do not give priority to the women, you are just wasting your time,” adding that “ignore their welfare at your peril, the peril of your home, society and nation,” he cautioned.

In a chat with our correspondent, some of the trainees were full of praises of AMWA for the “life-saving intervention.”

AMWA members attend to their guests

Hajia Bilkisu Aliyu is a 30-year-old mother of two children, who was until the workshop a full house wife but now part of the highly transformed and motivated young business owners.

“I was not working before. But now, at this training, I have realised the need for a woman to be gainfully engaged,’’ she said.

“Luckily for me, I have started something at this training. I’ve realized that nobody does danwake (beans dumplings, eaten with maggi, salt, pepper and oil)  in my neighbourhood.  So, I have started marketing it to my neighbors as we were told. Now AMWA has also given me all materials including pot and stove to start my business.

“Alhamdulillah, I now know that I need to keep up the business for my dignity. I’m going to think and come up with my vision and set my goals. I’ll also plan how to market my product too,” she added, beaming with smile.

Unlike Bikilisu, Hajia Hafsat Aliyu, a 20-year-old housewife, says her husband’s inability to satisfy her financial needs had earlier prompted her into planning a petty business, frying of Masa, a popular maze/rice cake more predominantly amongst the Northern people, but she was unable to start because of startup capital.

“But at this training, Alhamdulillah, I have learnt a lot on how to market and package my masa. I have a vision to be producing masa of 1bag of rice daily with two rams and 200pcs of chicken and selling it all daily. My name ‘Hafsa mai masa’ will be known all over, people will order my masa from Abuja, Insha Allahu.

“I have no capital to start the business before, but AMWA has now given me the rice, stoves, masa pan, soup pot and N5,000 to buy other materials to start masa business. I’ll start informing my neighbours in preparation to market my masa as I learnt in this workshop.

“Before, sometimes my husband will not answer me when I request for something or money. But now that I have a business, I can do a lot for myself. And I can even give him money to support him.”

Hajia Rabi Sodangi said it has been a great opportunity for her group to find itself playing the all-important life-saving roles in the region since 13 years ago.

Hajia Sodangi

According to her, the establishment of AMWA, over a decade ago, has provided the legitimate platform for her and people of like minds to help change the negative trajectory from the northern part of the country.

“Alhamdulillahi for giving us this opportunity,” she exumes smile, saying in the short period of AMWA existence, she is glad that many lives, including “thousands of women and girls, Widows, IDPs, caregivers, OVCs, VVF patients etc, have been touched.”

Among the said beneficiaries, Sodangi explained, “many of them are now adequately empowered and able to take care of themselves and their children.

“Many of them are now proud owners of thriving petty trades, producing and selling various types of goods, including gowns, beddings, bags, household accessories, jewel rose, snacks, drinks, tie and dye, fish, chicken, spices etc. we equally have food vendors, hair dressers, cosmetologists.”

Sodangi said besides her group’s intervention on illiteracy and economic vulnerability, AMWA is also investing heavily on marriage counselling, conflict resolution as preventive approach to domestic violence, and quality parenting, among others.

“Interestingly,” she says, adding that “our counselling sessions has solved lots of problems among couples, between parents and their children, inlaws, it has improved healthy and peaceful co-existence etc all praise is due to Allah.”

Sodangi, a certified leadership and management expert, noted that the empowerment and counselling programme has indeed addressed issues of domestic violence.

She explained that “most of the problems arose out of over dependence of women on the husbands,” stressing that “It is this same minor disagreement that tends to annoy the men especially when they do not have enough means to satisfy the family, thereby snowballing into domestic violence.

“Even the children especially the boys don’t listen to the mothers if they are not financially stable. It’s disturbing because such children usually become delinquents etc afterwards,” she then expressed concerns on the need to do more.

Sodangi, a certified leadership and management expert, noted that the empowerment and counselling programme has indeed addressed issues of domestic violence.

She explained that “most of the problems arose out of over dependence of women on the husbands,” stressing that “It is this same minor disagreement that tends to annoy the men especially when they do not have enough means to satisfy the family, thereby snowballing into domestic violence.

“Even the children especially the boys don’t listen to the mothers if they are not financially stable. It’s disturbing because such children usually become delinquents etc afterwards,” she then expressed concerns on the need to do more.

As a follow up to its major economic intervention in Rigasa Community, two years ago, Sodangi said the efforts have been yielding fruitful results.

“Alhamdulillahi, we visited the children in some schools last week, they are doing very well being supported by their parents because we had to stop financing them after training and empowering their caregivers.

“Some of the participants are now teaching at our Centre. Some of them are teaching various groups in their communities. Some of the cooperative societies we registered are into farming and trading,” she said.