Emmanuel Ugwu reports on the efforts of the wife of Abia State governor, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, to empower women and youths in the state to be self-reliant
It was a new vista of life for 50 persons from Aba South Local Government seeking to be economically self-reliant. They successfully completed the skills acquisition training of the Springboard Skills Acquisition programme of the wife of Abia state governor, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, who empowered them with the needed equipment to take off in the journey of making a living.
The beneficiaries were trained in different vocations including hairdressing, fashion design, decoration, catering, and computer operation. The Springboard Skills Acquisition programme is an aspect of the Vicar Hope Foundation, a pet project of Mrs. Ikpeazu. Accordingly sewing machines, laptops, hairdressing equipment, decoration accessories, and catering utensils were distributed to the graduates.
The First Lady said that her plan was to ensure that at least 1, 065 Abians were trained in various skills in the empowerment programme aimed at making them “self-reliant and economically vibrant.” She said that so far 200 persons representing about 19 per cent of the target number have received skills to make them self-reliant. “I believe that this programme will reduce our unemployment rates and add value to people’s lives, especially the beneficiaries and their dependants,” she said, adding, “Our plan is to equip them so that they can start immediately to contribute to our state’s economy.” The First Lady said that the interest of her foundation in the affairs of the empowerment programme would not end with the training and provision of equipment as their progress would be monitored. According to her, it was important to ensure that “they (beneficiaries) really apply what they have learned and grow their businesses.”
The beneficiaries of the skills acquisition programme had undergone a six months training with the national Directorate of Employment (NDE) providing the technical assistance. The First Lady said that she was satisfied with the planning and execution of the training programme as the graduates of the Springboard Skills Acquisition programme have come out well trained in their chosen fields of endeavour. “Gone are the days when skills acquisition are hurriedly done.” The result, according to her, was that “the students graduate only for them to end up selling the equipment given to them and then return to square one.”
To avoid a situation where the graduates would end up wasting both their skills and their empowerment items, the wife of the governor assured that “we will monitor their progress to ensure that they really apply what they have learned. She therefore charged the beneficiaries, the budding entrepreneurs to take their economic ventures serious. The First Lady noted that the Springboard Skills Acquisition programme of her Vicar Hope Foundation would continue to impact positively on the people just like other programmes run by the foundation in healthcare, education for the young ones and building of houses for indigents.
But she stated that Vicar Hope Foundation would make more impact in improving lives of people if it receives the needed assistance for the implementation of its programmes. The Abia First Lady therefore called on public spirited individuals, international donor agencies, corporate bodies and agencies “to come and partner with us in our effort to make life better for our people.” She acknowledged the role of her husband and governor of the state, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, in making it possible for her to implement the programmes she has mapped out in her pet project.
According to her, the governor “has provided the enabling environment for all of us to succeed.” The Springboard is just one of the several programmes being implemented by Mrs. Ikpeazu under her Vicar Hope Foundation. “We have provided for healthcare, education for the young ones and construction of houses for homeless indigents,” she noted.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs. Nnenna Chikezie, said that more people were going to benefit from the Springboard Skills Acquisition programme following the decentralisation of the training centres. She lauded Mrs. Ikpeazu for decentralising the training programmes to the three senatorial zones, which she noted was a departure from the past when empowerment programme trainings used to be “concentrated” at Umuahia, the capital city.
Chikezie stated that the cost of training and purchase of the empowerment items for the beneficiaries was borne by government. Apparently referring to the preponderant of women among the beneficiaries the Permanent Secretary said that the administration of Okezie Ikpeazu has been taking special care of the women folk. She advised the beneficiaries to make judicious use of the empowerment equipment, saying that their successful graduation and empowerment marks “the beginning of making their livelihood.” Chikezie further urged the 50 beneficiaries to strive hard and manage both their acquired skills and the empowerment items, adding that they have now been placed on good pedestal to be employers and trainers for those seeking to acquire their respective skills.
For the beneficiaries the empowerment programme has opened vistas of economic independence. Judith Onyenzo said that it would definitely “make a very big difference” in her life as her dream of acquiring the skills to go into fashion designing has now materialised. Esther Igwe, who is a widow, also has the same high hopes that her life would change for the better with her new skill. She said that she was now hopeful of taking care of her children as can now start “doing something on her own.” Alban Amadi was among those that specialised in computer operation. He said that he was already a technician before he got the opportunity to train as computer operator, adding that he would now set up a business centre.
Chairman of Aba South Local Government, Hon. Emma Emeruwa was very much excited over the new opportunity the wife of the governor has given to the beneficiaries of the empowerment programme. He profusely lauded Mrs. Ikpeazu for her interest and commitment to ensuring that people acquired needed skills to start making their living. The council chairman also commended the Abia First Lady for decentralising the skills acquisition programme, which he said made it possible for the people of Aba to benefit from the Springboard Skills Acquisition programme.
The “graduation ceremony”, which was held at the Aba South Council Headquarters, was a joyous event for the empowerment beneficiaries, their parents and well wishers. Now, armed with their certificates and the needed equipment to start making use of their acquired skills, the empowered persons left the venue of the ceremony with high hopes. They have entered the threshold of attaining economic independence.