By Christy Anyanwu
Recently, Rose of Sharon Foundation (ROSF) celebrated its fourth International Widows Day. Widows of the foundation all smiled home, as they were treated to a splendid time and given gift items by the foundation.
As early as 8am, the venue of the meeting was filled with hundreds of widows dressed in orange and black uniforms. They were there for the free medical tests organised by the foundation. The tests, which lasted for about five hours, were followed by another session, entitled: ‘Economic Empowerment of Widows: A call to reach out and touch.’
Founder of the foundation, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija in her opening speech, said the plight, travails and challenges of widows were not being noticed by the generality of the society.
“We are determined to fight for their rights and provide succour to them, as best as we can. This year, a seasoned entrepreneur is our guest speaker. Mrs. Ayodeji Megbope is CEO of No Left Overs Nigeria Limited, a full-scale catering company with a take-off capital of N1000 but which today has an annual turn-over that runs into millions of naira. This same business has taken her to the White House in America. We hope that her story will inspire and encourage many of our widows and others today to believe in themselves and realise that with hard work and tenacity, no amount is too small to start the journey towards economic freedom,” she said.
She announced that the N1 million donated to the widows by Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, wife of the Lagos State governor, would be divided among them.
Alakija rolled out the achievements of last year’s International Women’s Day. “The Grand Matron and First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, promised to empower seven widows in the bread business. However, they have not commenced the business due to mobility challenges. The annual capacity building & skills acquisition programme held between 10 and12 October 2016, with over 300 participants were empowered with vocational skills, which has enabled them to become financially independent.”
According to her, last year’s Christmas party had an exhibition session in which products of widows, who had gone through vocational training programmes in ROSF, were displayed. She said almost all their products were sold out.
“The fashion designers, milliners, confectionary caterers, jewellers, accessory manufacturers and tie and dye producers were encouraged with patronage by guests. The Founders award for the top three students was also held same day and the overall best graduating student, Mr. Olawale Mabadeje, an orphan, was awarded a scholarship for his Master’s degree.”
Dr. Mrs. Folashade Onanuga, Director General, Lagos State Pensions Commission represented Mrs. Bolanle Ambode. She praised ROSF for alleviating the plight of the widows. Said she: “The more educated and exposed the family is, the freer the widow. Education and enlightenment can bring about profound changes in a widow’s life. So there is an urgency to ensure that widows are financially empowered to stand up against the oppressions around them. That is therefore the major focus of the Rose of Sharon Foundation, a body actively engaged in educating women on their fundamental human rights, engaging in poverty alleviation schemes and providing other supports to widows of all ages.”
Three widows gave testimonies of how the foundation had turned their lives around after the loss of their husbands, adding that the foundation gave their children scholarships to the university.
Some of the speakers were Mrs. Aisha Imeh-James (CEO, Ample Food Venture) Dr. Martina Agberien and her medical team, Lola Adefusika and the guest speaker, Ayo Megbope, CEO, No Left Overs Nigeria Limited.