Reverend Sister Ann Falola, a sister of Our Lady of Apostles is the initiator “Maria Centre,” an empowerment project for vulnerable girls and Indigent women.
In this chat with ENE OSANG, she expresses disappointment over the commercialization of Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP’) camps. Tell us about your project with the IDP’s
I don’t want this initiative to be associated with IDP’s because there is a commercialization of IDP camps which I don’t want to get involved with and that’s why I am not calling it an NGO. We are religious people and we are sensitive to human suffering so where ever there is human suffering be it IDP, women, and since I am a woman I feel I can help other women.
We started helping people in the IDP camp but we are moving gradually away from there because we feel very sad about the commercialization of the issue of IDP and we are not part of that.
How sustainable is the programme?
For me it is a religious initiative so as long as God feels that there is a need and there are people who would benefit from it, God will make it possible for us to sustain it after all we started with nothing and we are standing on good providence. We take one step at a time and we have gotten some machines, since we are mostly volunteers it is not capital intensive, we only need little money to mobilize ourselves and get materials.
How do you get funds to carry out activities?
We get from friends mostly from the catholic church.
What inspired you to this?
I am a missionary, a religious and a Reverend Sister of the our Lady of Apostles. Historically in this country and other parts of the world, we help women to stand up especially when they are down. We started the first girls school in this country so we have a history of that. I looked at this and see that there are still women who can not stand up and I feel I should help them get on their feet. Many of them have very low self esteem but we have taught them to believe in themselves and know they can do it. When they started seeing what they could produce by themselves they couldn’t believe it.
What is the criteria for selecting your beneficiaries?
We don’t even select, anybody who is in need that comes to us whether Christian or Muslim, irrespective of your state or ethnicity will be assisted that is why I disassociate from using the term IDP. In fact at one point people taught IDP’s are only from Borno or Adamawa but in this country there are many displaced people economically, educationally, etc those from Borno or Adamawa is due to insecurity and Boko Haram is one factor that leads to displacement like the others I have mentioned. So anybody who comes, we give that support.
Ethnicity is becoming a problem in Nigeria, what is your take on this?
People just need to see mentors who do things differently, I think that we have failed in projecting good mentoring in Nigeria. If people see me that in my team I am the same as a yoruba or hausa and I treat people equally we won’t have much issues. We have held too high the negatives so people think that is the way to do it.
We need to be more visible to ourselves especially those who are doing good things, we don’t need to blow trumpets of our good deeds but we should know that the power of God is what keeps us going and that is why those who do good should let their light shine and should not be afraid to talk about what is good and what motivates them. This initiative I am spearheading is not an NGO, it is not any big organization, we just believe that a little good by everyone makes some difference.
Does the economic recession affect your initiative?
Of course it does because people don’t have money to buy our products and that where it becomes trying! People don’t have money to donate and we have a lot of problems.
Again it gives us hope because we made bags for the conference and people from all over the world who participated scrambled to get our hand made bags. What this means is that there is a potential market and our product is better than what we import from China, Dubai and so on and we made it here with our own ankara. If we get help and produce like this, court yard industries can be encouraged for export and people will get a little bit of income, poverty reduces.
What’s is your take on this administration?
We Nigerians like to talk with both mouths and if we really are serious we should stop importation. I was listening to a programme where the need to encourage court yard was stressed and just immediately after that an advert was played calling for those who want a cheap holidays overseas. I was like we are just talking about encouraging our own business yet we advertise other businesses, I mean why can’t they advertise for a holiday here. I think people don’t like the truth, they think somebody can bring the change we desire in a minute . If we all look at what we wear and imagine how much is made from it, and whether if it is made in Nigeria we can make all of these and make the economy grow. There is a young Nigerian man who makes good shirt which can compete with that of Dubai, I did the experiment by mixing his shirts with dubai shirts and people didn’t even know the difference in fact they picked his own, that means if we promote our products people will buy. The only problem in Nigeria is that the same people who say we stop importation all wear and use imported items.
Let our leaders wear ankara, adire, and stop wearing imported clothes and shoes, bags because we have enough leather in this country to make simple sandals and school shoes in fact, that is what the developed countries did to stand on their own. I can still remember that during Awolowo’s regime there was no importation of things and that is why we didn’t borrow any money. The moment we continue to import it means we are living beyond our means so they should stop crying and do the right things.