The wife of Katsina State governor and founder of the Centre for the Advancement of Mothers and Children, Hajiya Hadiza Aminu Bello Masari in this interview with Francis Sardauna, spoke on some interventionist activities of her NGO in alleviating the plights of women, children and youths in the state, among other issues
What informed the formation of your NGO, Centre for the Advancement of Mothers and Children in Katsina State?
The goal of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) can vary widely, depending on its focus, objective and mission. It could cover issues related to improving the lot of a local government, a state or even a nation as a whole.
Ours, Centre for the Advancement of Mothers and Children, however, ranges from improving the human rights of vulnerable mothers and girls, to educating people on salient environmental issues, as well as supporting the arts. Individuals and groups who form NGOs tend to have a passion for their beliefs. To this end, the goal of my NGO is to improve livelihood particularly that of women, children and youths by channelling their efforts to meaningful life changing courses, thereby reducing their sufferings.
Personally, I have worked for various women groups in Katsina for the past 30 years, I know what they are passing through and I feel their pains. So, when the time was rife, I decided to get myself involved in activities that would improve their lots.
You would be surprised to know that I formed this NGO even before I became the wife of the governor of the state but the name then was not Centre for the Advancement of Mothers and Children. That one then was strictly for mothers alone. This present one started about four years ago, with a mission to upgrade the living standards of women, children and youths in the state.
Accordingly, in my effort to alleviate the plight of windows and orphans in the state, I recently donated grains and clothes worth millions of Naria to them in Funtua Local Government Area of the state. Other areas have also benefitted from similar gesture.
How exactly do you go about improving the living conditions of these women, girls and youth?
Basically, we try to elevate their socio-economic status in various ways. Worthy of mention is the introduction of numerous life improving activities.
We donâ€™t just put them through those activities; we follow up by giving them some start-up capitals that would sustain them to a reasonable extent. I can assure you that this has gone a long way to elevate their socio-economic status as well as changing their world view. This is not restricted to women, children and youths in the urban areas, but those in the rural areas are also beneficiaries.
You would agree with me that the living conditions of most women in the rural areas arenâ€™t really anything to write home about. However, the programmes initiated by my NGO have done a lot to improve the quality of lives of some of the women in these areas and a good number of them are today resourceful. You know drug addiction starts most times, at the early ages of children. I realised that and decided to be going from one school to another; to the nursery, primary and secondary schools across the state, to educate children on the dangers and threat it poses and how to avert the ugly scenario in the state and the country at large.
The missing link, however, has been the absence of an effective information system to mobilise and stimulate them into action. We are also doing our best in bridging the information gap.
What is your NGO doing to stop the rampant cases of rape?
One of the basic tools to social change is public enlightenment. We engage the media in intensive public enlightenment programmes at schools, social clubs, cultural gatherings, mosques. First and foremost, we demystify the myths of sexual assault. You know the thought of engaging in sexual assault begins from the subconscious mind before being ignorantly carried out in real life.
It is this kind of community disposition and ignorance that distracts from tackling the real cause of sexual assault, making it difficult for any preventive efforts to yield any positive result.
My NGO has collaborated with various media organisations in the state to enlighten people on the dangers of rape and sexual violence. The psychological implication of rape and sexual abuse on its innocent victims is so immense, to justify the enactment of any tough legislative measure to curb it. Furthermore, I partner with women groups, religious bodies and other critical stakeholders in creating the needed awareness.
It has been shown that education of children, especially the girl-child, goes a long way in boosting the socio-economic and socio-cultural status of the society.
You know it is often said that when you educate a girl, you educate the society because it is the women who take care of the children. So, when they are educated and empowered, the society would be the better for it. You know in our society, parents tend to pay undue attention to the education of their male children over and above the girl-child. Children, both males and females should be given equal opportunities to excel and prove themselves in all the areas of their lives.
This imbalance, coupled with poverty and ignorance, has led to a situation where children who are supposed to be in the classrooms are on the streets hawking wares for their parents or care givers, thus making them vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.
Like you said previously, when you educate a girl-child, you empower the nation. Are you also looking into the area of education for the girl-child?
An African proverb says, if you educate a boy, you educate one person; if you educate a girl, you educate a family and a whole nation. An empowered woman is full of great potentials, strength, courage and knowledge which she passes down to her child and the society. The solution to high rate of female school dropouts is embarking on enlightenment campaigns on the importance of girl-child education.
So, I have done a lot by spreading the message to as many people as I can reach and I will continue to do so until I see that every girl child, especially in Katsina State is given the opportunity.
Girl-child education is a critical issue that should not be treated with laxity as its impact in the society is immeasurable. One vital area I would not fail to mention is that girl-child education decreases maternal mortality. This is because women with formal education tend to have better knowledge about health care practices. You would be surprised to know that this also empowers and improves productivity in the society. With education women are able to understand salient gynaecological issues and are made to know what to do when such issues arise.
Girl-child education produces women that easily embrace safe sex, leading to preventive measures thereby reducing the degree of sexually transmitted diseases. Every child should be given the opportunity to be educated irrespective of his or her gender as both sexes can bring about equal growth and contributions to the society.
What are the challenges you have been confronted with, and how have you been able to tackle them?
Funding is a very major challenge in NGO management. Running an NGO requires a lot of funds to carry out programmes and maintain the organisation. Unavailability of funds for an NGO could mean a total standstill but I am doing everything humanly possible to sustain my noble NGO. This is one of the reasons why most times, they depend on government for funding.
However, NGOs that depend largely on public finance run the risk of becoming mere government subsidiaries by implementing activities formerly carried out by their own governments or multi-lateral institutions. In addition to the above factors, one major issue is that at the grassroots level, the bottom line is changing the behaviour of the target population. This change has to be sustained in such a manner that even after the NGO moves out of the intervention domain the change still remains, even though this is also difficult given the constraints mentioned above.