Lifeline for Barracks Women and Youths


Chiemelie Ezeobi writes on how the wives of Nigerian Air Force personnel recently extended a lifeline to women and youths in the barracks under the area of responsibility of the Logistics Command, by engaging them in skills acquisition and vocational trainings

A strong advocate of the saying on teaching a man how to fish instead of giving him fish, the Nigerian Air Force Officers Wives Association (NAWOFA), a body binding together all wives of Air Force officers, recently as they are known to do, extended a hand of fellowship to women and youths in the Nigerian Airforce Logistic Command, Oshodi, Lagos.

In one fell swoop, they enrolled 150 women and youths into its vocational and skills acquisition programme in a bid to empower them. The participants who were drawn from the barracks within the Logistics Command in Lagos, would undergo a 10-week course on computer literacy, aluminum fabrication, shoes and bags making, tailoring, beads making, hair dressing, events and interior decoration among others.

It was also gathered that Lagos was not the only state that the scheme was being launched, but also in other locations like Makurdi, Maiduguri and Kaduna by the NAWOFA President, Hajiya Hafsat Abubakar, who also doubles as the wife of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

NAFOWA’s Lifeline
According to Hajiya Abubakar, the initiative was the association’s means of reaching out to the less-privileged in the society, especially women, youth and children to add meaningful value to their existence.

She said: “This programme is the fourth edition of its kind having successfully completed similar programmes in Makurdi, Maiduguri and Kaduna. As we all know, the NAFOWA is a non- governmental organisation made up of wives of serving officers of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).

“Our motto is service to humanity and the focus of the association is reaching out to the less-privileged in the society especially women, youths and children through programmes that add meaningful value to human existence. Recently, our association as part of its community service obligation developed a skills acquisition and vocational training programme targeted at women, widows and youths in the barracks and surrounding communities.

“This programme is being done as part of our contribution at complementing the federal government’s efforts to curb unemployment amongst youths. It is also aimed at building capacity of women by empowering them with the necessary skills for self-reliance so that they can better cater for themselves in a changing economy.

“It would also cater for widows especially those who lost their husbands in the campaign against insurgency in the North-east. A total of 150 participants in Lagos are participants in this pioneer stage. The NAF base in Lagos being a command has a large population of women and youths hence it was chosen as one of the pioneer locations of this initiative.

“The focus of the training programme will be on vocational trades and skills that can easily be converted into small businesses so that a steady means of income is created for the beneficiaries. With this in mind, training was carried out in the areas of computer studies, aluminum fabrication, leather shoes and bags fabrication, tailoring, hairdressing, catering and baking, events decoration, interior decoration, makeup artistry, beads making and laundry items production.

“At the end of the training, the participants would take part in an exhibition where they will show off their newly acquired skills and they will also be awarded certificates. It is hoped that the positive effect of this program will continue to be felt in this environment for a long time and NAFOWA hopes to keep the spirit of service to humanity alive by embarking on similar projects in the future that touch lives positively and make a difference to daily existence.

“Our hope is that this skills acquisition programme targeted at our women and youths will encourage them to see this indeed as an opportunity to be self-reliant through this training programme.”

Also speaking in her opening remark, NAFOWA’s Chairperson, Logistics Command chapter, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, said in the light of the current economic recession plaguing the country, women have a duty to support their families in easing the hardship.

She said, “As we all know, women have a significant role to play in the socio-economic development of any society. Our great country is currently in an economic recession and we women have a duty in supporting our families to ease the attendant hardship.

“In realisation of this, our dear NAFOWA under the able leadership of the wife of our amiable CAS came up with different programmes aimed at empowering women and barracks youths to acquire skills in order to be self-employed.

“Therefore, I consider today a historic moment in the life of our dear association because after this inauguration ceremony, the training that the participants would receive is expected to become their source of livelihood.
“Let me place on record that the barracks youths, women and children have benefitted in no small measure in areas like improved facilities in NAFOWA schools as well as various youths and women empowerment programmes.

“In particular, the CAS recently launched the Barracks Youths Empowerment programme through Agriculture (BYETA) of which the logistics command was also a beneficiary. We strongly believe that your positive advice and support to our CAS must have contributed in the unparalleled transformation of the NAF being witnessed across the country.”

The AOC’s Commendation
Commending the association for the initiative, the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Sani Ahmed, urged the participants to devote themselves to the training in order to acquire skills that would help them and the society.

He said: “It is a commendable project. We hope that at the end, the participants would be given some items to start up on their own. Training would be helpful to the base community and the country at large because the participants would have their own jobs and become employers of labour.

“Our skills acquisition centre was under utilised when I assumed office. At the centre we can conveniently train 2000 at a go. So, this initiative is a welcome development because it would also reduce idleness in the barracks.

“For the participants, I urge them to be attentive and take their trainings seriously. They should learn because this is not just theory. If they learn when they are supposed to, they would come out useful to themselves and the society.”

Great Expectations

To whom much is given, much is expected and same holds true for the recent beneficiaries of the NAFOWA scheme, particularly the youths. The youths they say, are the future, and who is better to champion this cause for them to actually be the future of Nigeria than NAFOWA? With passion and zeal, NAFOWA had established an ICT and vocational centre in the heart of Ikeja, Lagos, where they train youths on different skills.

The recent launch of the skills acquisition and vocational training centre was also an opportunity for NAFOWA to tour the additional blocks of classrooms, shops and car park built by NAFOWA inside the centre at the NAF Logistics Command, Ikeja, Lagos.

The vocational and ICT Centre over the years have trained youths in various skills thereby empowering them and making life more meaningful for them and their families. In times past, the centre has had students thrill guests with exquisite display of wedding gowns designed and sewn by themselves, as well as the sumptuous looking cakes and other crafts prepared by the students during exhibitions. Much more is being expected from this recent batch.

It is therefore unsurprising that over the years, the centre has trained youths in various skills thereby empowering them and making life more meaningful for them and their families. Some of these beneficiaries have discovered their hidden talents and have gone to be useful members of the community.

NAFOWA said the motivation as captured in their motto has always been to provide ‘service to humanity’ and of course their efforts have been rewarding, and this has seen to the influx of students who subscribe to the programmes of the centre.

Also, the affiliation of the centre to the Federal Technical College (Technical) Akoka, Yaba, has been a plus, which has seen the population of the students outgrowing the classroom accommodation at the centre. Therefore, with the increased population, there was a need to provide a conducive learning environment, which encouraged them to embark on the construction of the additional classrooms that were inaugurated three years ago.

Meanwhile, as a non-profit organisation with chapters in all NAF units nationwide, they attempted to replicate this endeavour in many of these locations, and despite the modest progress in the establishment and smooth running of these centres, the organisation is open to partnerships and cross-fertilisation of ideas with like-minded organisations.

Given that the most important assets of the centre is their teachers, it is pertinent to note that in their over 23 years of existence, the centre has made deliberate efforts to build and equip the centre with the best facilities and human resources that are available.

About NAFOWA Skills Centre
The centre was established in 1994 and was designed to give the wives and dependants of officers, airmen and civilians, who live within and outside the airfare base in Ikeja, an entrepreneurial, managerial spirit and leadership skills required to turn their dreams and creative ideas into successful business ventures.

The centre started with the fashion and textile design, catering and hotel management and hairdressing and cosmetology deportments. This has since expanded to include an ICT, photography and cinematograph departments. She said the inclusion was done to broaden the scope of the vocational centre.

Since inception, the centre has had over 8000 students who have passed through it after being empowered and they graduated and became self-employed and at the same time employers of labour.