Alhaji Lawah Tafida of the Lawah Tafida foundation, addressing participants during the pragramme.
John Shiklam writes on the efforts of philanthropic organisations in addressing the growing number of women beggars in Kaduna.
Like the Almajiri menace, the emerging phenomenon of women beggars in the North is causing serious concern to individuals and groups in the region. In most cities across the north the increasing number of women beggars is becoming so alarming due to abject poverty, illiteracy and lack of means of any decent livelihood.
It has become common to see many women without suffering from any physical deformity moving about, sometimes in group roaming at busy traffic points and other strategic places where they beg for alms.
It was learnt that some, especially those who are physically challenge and use wheel chairs, often go to the extreme of hiring little babies from their mothers for a sum to use in getting the attention and evoke the sympathy of passersby for alms.
THISDAY investigations revealed that apart from those who are physically challenged, some of them are either divorced or widows who have no means of livelihood other than begging.
This scenario has become a cause for concern among some individuals and groups in the North who are out to discourage such demeaning attitude, which, they noted put the image of the region in bad light, especially within the Muslim community.
The Lawal Tafida Foundation and the Initiative for Muslim Women Support of Nigeria (IMWAN) are offering support that will take the women out of the street.
The two non-governmental organisations that have been collaborating in an effort to address the problems of women beggars recently organised skill acquisition training programme for some of the women beggars in Kaduna.
Already, the foundation has set aside N4 million to empower women beggars through the provision of skills and assistance for them so that they can stop begging.
Addressing the women beggars during the training programme, the founder of the Lawal Tafida Foundation, Alhaji Lawal Tafida, noted that the issue of street begging particularly by Hausa/Fulani in the north has been of serious concern to all.
According to him, “every time you drive you see people on the street begging. This is quite disturbing to us in the North and as Muslims. We must know that Almajiri means student, not begging. We know that some of you are widows and have children, who are struggling to survive, but begging is not the solution, we must strive to build a community that is progressive”.
He said nobody is happy with those who rather than struggling to find a means of livelihood, resort to begging.
Tafida who did not mince words with the growing number of women beggars, urged the women to stop the shameful act by exploring their talents to better their lives and those of their children.
He added: “We will not be happy with you, and your children will not be happy with you if you reduce them to beggars. Begging is not a profession and we must stop it. All of us here in this hall are either Hausa or Fulani; you can hardly find any tribe here that goes about begging. We must tell ourselves the truth. When you go out on the streets, you will see children from other tribes selling things like pure water, biscuits, bread and other things on the streets, but you will see our children begging.
“I was a member of a committee that recruited women as street cleaners, we asked our women to apply for cleaners but they refused. If you go around you can see that most of the women that were employed are not our women because they refused the job and prefer to beg.
“I want you to pray that none of your relation should be a beggar. Most of you have eyes, hand, legs but you refused to do something that will assist you and your family. I am aware that some of you give out your children on hire to be used for begging.
“I beg you in the name of God to be courageous and stop begging. There are lots of things you can do. All of you have talents that have been bestowed on you by God and all you need to do is to explore it. We will assist you with the little that God has given us. But you must assure us that after this programme, you will not go back begging on the streets.
“The money we want to give you is not politician’s money. Before we give you, we must know what you intend to do with it. We are not going to carry money and give you for you to go back begging again. We will monitor what you do with the money so that you will not go back on the streets to beg again.
Speaking further in an interview with THISDAY, the business man and philanthropist lamented that the issue of almajiri and begging is something that has been bothering the north, especially within Muslim communities.
“We feel as business people or as leaders of the society, we have something to contribute to the development of the society by bringing these people together to discuss with them and see how we can help them,” he said.
Tafida regretted that the governors in the north have been looking at the issue of poverty in the north from an intellectual perspective instead of taking pragmatic steps to tackle the problem.
“We want a practical solution to the problems not intellectual discourse. That is why we are doing this. We are adopting a practical approach to the problem which is different from the intellectual talks the Government has been doing over the years,” he lamented.
He disclosed that his foundation would be spending N4 million to train 50 women beggars on some skills and get them off the street from begging.
At the end of the weeklong training, each of the 50 women beggars who attended the training programme were expected to choose a trade of her choice after which they would be given some money to go and start the business.
Also speaking during the programme, the chairperson of IMWAN, Hajiya Rabi Sufiyan said participants at the programme would be closely monitor from their various locations to ensure that they put into practice what has been imparted on them during the programme.
“We intend to be meeting with them from time to time to preach to them by quoting from the Qur’an and Hadith. By the grace of God this will instill the fear of God in them and make them to stop this begging. This will help us make progress.
“We will ensure that this assistance does not only stop on them. We will extend to other people. There are so many people who are begging on the streets we pray that other wealthy people will emulate this young man by making their contribution to stop this begging.
“We have been speaking with each of the women and asking them what they intend to do. We have been asking them the type of business or trade they think they can go into.
“We are trying to avoid a situation where they will be forced to go into a business that they are not interested in so we want all of them to decide on what to do. Some of them told us that they want to go into the business of selling fire wood, some said they like to trade in household items and some of them said they were selling second hand clothes before the business folded up” said.
She noted that the role of a woman in the society is very vital; pointing out that “the essence of our programme is to assist women to contribute to their family and community they live.
“We urged them to stop begging on the streets, they should learn some skills and shun street begging and bring up their children in a proper manner so that one day they can become governors and president.”