Translated into English, her name represents the abundant mercy of God. She was very certain she was going to take the driver’s seat on issues concerning women, widows and children upon becoming the First Lady of Anambra State. Her nature is to go about doing good. No wonder her Aguleri people named her Osodieme, she who is in tune with her husband in acts of charity. Two years down the line, Mrs. Ebele Obiano has lived her talk. She has gone round the nook and cranny of the 177 communities in the state doing good. Kasie Abone in this report captures some of the giant strides of her NGO, CAFÉ
CAFÉ To the Rescue
Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) was launched by Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano on assumption of office as the First Lady of Anambra State as a platform to fulfill a life-long passion of charity and care for humanity. It is also a vehicle to support her husband’s programmes in delivering good governance to the people of the state. Since its inception, CAFÉ has not only lived up to its aims and objectives but has maintained its vision of becoming a beacon of sustainable empowerment for women and the less privileged through improving the fortunes of all members of the family by providing succour to the less privileged.
Overflow Of Human Kindness
Mrs. Obiano, told select group of women at the Governors Lodge, Amawbia in her maiden outing that the milk flowing out from my breasts was so much that it could supply enough nutrients to nourish the numerous women and children in Anambra State.
No doubt many Anambrarians expressed skepticism as to whether she would be able to fill what was presumed at the time, former governor Chief Peter Obi’s wife, Mrs. Margaret Obi’s big shoes. Mrs. Obi had captivated Anambra women with her winning smiles as she toured different parts of the state when her husband held sway as the number one citizen doling out goodies to their admiration and cheer. Like the old saying, change is constant but people are always resistant to change. It did not take long before Mrs. Obiano began to demonstrate that she is indeed a woman whose milk of human kindness overflows.
In order to extend care giving to the indigents, less privileged and vulnerable across the 177 communities in the state, Mrs. Obiano instituted Caring family enhancement initiative (CAFE), a non-governmental organisation which is non-ethnic, non-religious and non-partisan. CAFÉ aims at provision of humanitarian and charitable services for Ndi Anambra as well as pursue, promote, propagate the welfare and safety of the citizens based on principles of equity, justice and fairness in other to foster socio-cultural, political and economic development of the state.
While unfolding her agenda for women, children and the indigent in 2014 Mrs. Obiano announced that CAFÉ would assist indigent women set up small-scale businesses, extend welfare packages to vulnerable children as well as support physically challenged persons live meaningful life.
Health is Wealth
To ensure that the citizens of Anambra State achieve hygienic and healthy environment in the rural areas, Mrs. Obiano commenced the construction of modern toilet facilities at market places. The toilets to be built across the three senatorial zones in the state are in phases. Afor Umunachi, Eke Igwe Nteje Market in Oyi Local Government and Afor Mbaukwu in Awka South Local Government Area are some of the markets where the toilets are already built. Construction is still ongoing in different locations.
Rationalising the toilet project Mrs. Obiano said,” the concept of the market toilet is borne out of genuine desire to promote healthy market environment and cleanliness in our rural markets and the well-being of our industrious mothers. I observed the lack of basic conveniences in the rural markets, and decided to encourage them by preserving their self-esteem. The toilets are complementary to the good work of the government in the area of maintenance of clean environment, and as you can see it is funded by donors whose selfless input are recognised on the plaque placed on the walls here for posterity. This is my modest way of ensuring that our society and our children stay healthy always in this 21st century.”
Roof Right Over Their Poor Heads
Who feels it knows it’ sang Bob Marley. Though she is not a widow nor is she prepared to become one soon, but as a woman and mother Mrs. Obiano understands the plight of widows in our society. Rather than sermonise, she made provision of decent housing for indigent widows in each of the three senatorial zones one of CAFÉ’s cardinal programmes. Conceived as CAFÉ Housing Project each of the buildings is equipped with a borehole that also serves the immediate community of the beneficiary. Some of the beneficiaries of the housing and borehole projects include Mrs. Helen Okafor of Amatutu Village, Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area; Mrs. Rebecca Ekezie of Okebunoye Village, Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area; Mrs. Chinyeaka Okeke of Ebenato Village, Amichi in Nnewi South Local Government Area and Mrs. Margaret Anayo of Amorka in Ihiala Local Government Area. Others were Mrs. Nneuwa Nwajideofor of Enugwu-Otu in Ayamelum Local Government Area; Mr. and Mrs. Ekesiobi of Ifite Village, Ogbunike in Oyi Local Government Area; Mrs. Catherine Ibekwe of Obeagu Village, Nri in Anaocha Local Government Area and Late Mrs. Chidili Igboamalu of Isioye Village, Umunya in Oyi Local Government Area
Presenting the house to the daughter of late Mrs. Igboamalu was very emotional. Unlike other political office holders or their representatives who look for flimsy excuses to renege on their promises Mrs. Obiano displayed rare act of compassion and integrity to the extent that even the death of the direct beneficiary could not make her go back on her words by handing over the key of the beautiful two bedroom apartment to the woman’s daughter Miss Blessing Igboamalu amidst regret over her demise. Blessing was overjoyed that tears like a river flowed. If only her mother lived to enjoy a decent roof over her poor head.
Ten houses and 12 boreholes have so far been built by Mrs. Obiano for widows across Anambra State with two located at Isulo and Omasi. More of such projects are under construction across the state.
Restoring Sanity to the Insane
Not long ago a total of 27 inmates of Home for Mentally Challenged at Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area who underwent rehabilitation were successfully treated and discharged. This milestone added another fillip to CAFÉ caring initiative for the helpless. They were all certified fit and discharged to reunite with their families. The 27 discharged patients were part of the 57 inmates of the home which is run by Mrs. Obianos CAFÉ in collaboration with the State Ministry of Social Development, Women and Children Affairs. The remaining 25 are still undergoing treatment and rehabilitation. From the speed of recovery Mrs. Obiano was hopeful that they would soon fully recover and rejoin their families.
Empowerment for Self reliant
In the last two years of its inception, over 2000 indigent widows, women and youths have been empowered through various skill acquisition initiatives including tailoring, bakery and confectionery, hair dressing, soap making, community health service, telephone repairs among many others. With these empowerment programs the number of dependency and unemployment is reduced as the widows become self-reliant according to Mrs. Obiano. On completion of the skill acquisition exercise, the beneficiaries receive money and tools with which to start up their businesses. At one of the occasions when the first lady presented them with cash and materials she urged them to be diligent and entrepreneurial in order to lift their families from poverty and dependency.
Besides these interventions, the first lady, has also intervened through her CAFÉ project in other areas of life. For instance, over 1000 people have received prosthetic limbs to enable mobility. About 50 Children have successfully undergone free corrective surgery for cleft lip cum palate congenital deformity while free wheel chairs have been given out to over 500 beneficiaries amongst other medical interventions.