Women should be bold for more challenging roles

Kate Pam is the Founder and Lead Director, Stalwart Communities Africa, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) with core values for educational and leadership development and empowerment for the less privilege, especially women and children. In this interview with ENE OSHABA she speaks on the International Women’s Month and other development issues in the society.

How is Stalwart Communities Africa’s core values related to women?

Our approach is generally family centred and we look at education from that perspective, empowering women in skills perspective. We have about 500 women in the rural community which we cater to. We carry out capacity building for these women where we teach them different skills including entrepreneurship, financial literacy and other things we do to inculcate knowledge in them.

Also, taking cognizance of women’s role as primary caregivers in the home we have a programme we call help to help where we equip them with skills they will be able to help other people.

There is also the advocacy aspect, as we know with the pandemic there has been an increase in gender based violence and so we look at how we can take care of mostly young girls who have been abused in one way or the other. We help to give them quality education to empower them and enable them to rise above unfortunate circumstances.

Our NGO’s target audience is women because we intend to bridge that gap that exists in the work place.

The thought to set up this NGO came out of a research I did in school where I learnt that women tend to be more involved in social impact. It’s a woman that will leave her job to go take care of a father that is sick, men tend not to be into that, yet she is not empowered.

In the home, the woman is the primary caregiver but if she is not empowered there is a limit she can contribute to the well-being of the child because you can only give what you have.

So, the inspiration is to empower more women to take care of themselves and to rise and achieve more feats.

How long has your organisation existed for?

We were registered in the United Kingdom and in 2017 we set up in Nigeria and we have been operating since 2018.

We provide for the needy, we do young children education, and leadership development training. For the women, we do professional capacity building for women, entrepreneur training, and we also take care of rural women and provide mentoring.

Our vision is to look at the family centred model and be able to set up within every local government area in Nigeria.

We are also looking at setting up beyond Nigeria and set up in Africa and West Africa to be able to build a home with women with high literacy level bridge educational gaps and raise the next generation. So, we are looking at having centres where women can just come and be themselves and their families.

When my mum was alive she used to support a lot of women in the village and so I taught it’s important seeing what women want and particularly because I am from Jos and I have lost cousins, seen villages burnt down, because of clashes.

So, for me it is contributing to make life better for people. We can’t help everyone but we can help one person at a time. When all is said and done and my life is looked at nobody will talk about the number of houses but the lives you impacted and that’s why my personal mission is to be able to interact and help whoever I met you get to the next level.

How do you select beneficiaries?

We do a preliminary selection and so we go to churches, mosques and internally displaced people camp.

We are setting up an incubation centre, which is a hub where the women can go to learn and sometimes their children can go there for after school classes, because they don’t have the education to give their children quality education and most times if you look at most women who suffer a lot they are either widows and those who didn’t have the opportunity to get proper education, that’s why we support them to raise their children better.

Across Nigeria, the no standard of education and so there is a huge gap between public and private education, as well as rural and urban education. So, we thought that if we are able to provide technology that these children can learn and that will go a long way in bridging the gap.

We also prepare them for leadership roles so we have capacity building where we take young people and the women as well.

What inspired you and why do you think this is necessary?

For a vast majority of women it is confidence and the fact that women need encouragement because of our type of culture, but we are moving away from those cultural practices that kept women in the shadows.

And for you to come out you need to know the right steps because we have seen instances where women will struggle to work and their husbands will come take the money and squander. So, building their confidence is what matters and that’s why we are doing all we do. There is the correlation between education, literacy and the impact in what they will become because we teach them values that will help their children to aspire for greatness.

Most displaced women are widows because their husbands have been killed and so they are left with lots of responsibility and they need to be equipped to help themselves and their children.

Activities marking the International Women’s day (IWD) and the month are on-going. Do you think it’s worth celebrating in Nigeria?

The International Women’s Day IWD is a global event that advocates for equality and equity across the world.

Women play a significant role in preparing the next generation and they deserve recognition for the work that they do.

Vast proportion of women’s work is unpaid and so they are the most under celebrated, and undervalued gender, therefore, it gives credence to the celebration because it enables women to tell their own stories by themselves not only for the world to hear but for other women to hear in a bid to shape the future of work and other features of social development to be able to harness the potential of women together because we are only as strong as the power of the collective.

Going by this year’s theme what areas do you think women should really be challenging?

The theme couldn’t have been more apt than now, because we have come from a long journey all the way from female genital mutilation. And like in the professional sector, which I represent for instance, the women in oil and gas sector, certain industries are dominated by men and so it’s really difficult because the barriers to entry are already high enough as it is and we have other layers of barriers for women like the political scene where the representation of women is still very low.

Women have to, within themselves, be charged up to challenge the status quo and prevailing situations that does not encourage women to participate in some of these industries. Nobody can inspire a woman like another woman.

On that note, how would be you assess the status of Nigerian women?

We are a long way from where we were. We have come far and women are bolder and strong to take up more challenging roles.

We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go and we have to consistently push for change of narratives, advocating for a better society, helping one another and as we do this consistently it will yield the results.

The Ministry of Women Affairs distrusted palliatives as part of activities to mark the IWD, do you think this is what women really need?

I don’t think any of the women were expecting this so it’s a gesture of goodwill knowing that somebody thinks about you. No matter how little this will help a situation because the last time during the pandemic that palliative was shared we were able to reach out to about 400 women. They got little packages and were happy knowing that someone is thinking about them.

There is so much to complain about Nigeria as a country but it is also good to be thankful for a gesture of goodwill.

What is your call to the government?

It will be nice to see more women in leadership. Think about it, if we have more women in leadership and they do same things like this that the minister is doing more people will be empowered so we need more women in leadership positions in all levels.

There have been several incidents of kidnapping especially of students, how do you feel about the situation?

It is heart breaking for women to go through this because we appear to be the endangered species. Any girl going to school now is endangered and that increases the level of vulnerability because a lot of these girls come back after being sexually and emotionally abused and overcoming that trauma is not easy.

Don’t forget these girls are still going to have children and this will impact the children so it’s a generation cycle of violence.

I have been to IDP camps in Maiduguri where there are a huge number of babies and more babies are being born. This is really sad and I pray that the government does something about it so that our girls will feel safe going to school because no parents will want to take their child to go where there is no security.

Necessity is the mother of all creation, we need to look at more creative ways that people can learn to use technology to help these girls learn if not in the comfort of their homes, in safe places where learning and development will not stop and there is need for a multi stakeholders approach to this.

Financial inclusion is also very important because if parents are empowered they would be able to take their kids to better schools or give them better quality of life.

We have to speak up against this because it has happened so many times that we are beginning to lose our humanity and empathy. It is really sad.

Starting from the Chibok girls, we have so many of these girls rescued but Leah Sharibu is still with her adductors and this seems like a deliberate target to ensure that women don’t go to school.

These girls are used as service tools to breed the next generation of terrorists so we must speak up and find ways across structures of communities to the federal government. We must speak up and find ways across the structure of communities to the federal government.

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