By Hauwa Ladi Ahmed
The Nigerian Air Force Officers’ Wives Association (NAFOWA) got off a little over 54 years ago, just about the same time the Nigerian Air Force came to be. It is easy to take the Association as ‘one of those associations,’ but one can easily err, not knowing that, in spite of the glamour of its members and its national appeal, it has reached down more than a few recesses to touch the lives of our society’s most depressed, most indigent and most downtrodden, all in a bid to make their lives better. The NAFOWA has become the principle of defining kindness for many whose lives it has touched and it has become like the public relations arm and a more gentle representation of the ideals of the force itself, which their husbands represent.
While the men fight to safeguard the nation’s territories and push aggressors away from the nation’s borders and territory, the NAFOWA is doing all that is humanly possible to alleviate poverty in the land, especially by helping to lift up less privileged men and young people, by giving them a great opportunity to kick-start their life and be more economically independent, by providing them with the skills they need to survive the harsh economic climate and not be at the mercy of any factor, as it concerns making and keeping their daily bread.
The NAFOWA, a collection of right-thinking mothers, have given many women and children across the nation hope, by empowering them with life skills. From Lagos to Borno, to Port Harcourt, Benin, Abuja, Benue, Bauchi etc, the story is the same and the narrative keeps changing. Recently, NAFOWA graduated another set of 150 women and youths from its Skill Acquisition Programme at the 115 Special Operations Group in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where the body’s National President, Hajiya Hafsat Sadique Abubakar, stated that the initial idea behind the skill acquisition programme was to empower wards of personnel serving at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base in Makurdi, as most of the personnel were engaged in the counter-terrorism operation in the Northeast. NAFOWA, she said, had to extend the programme to other NAF bases because of the obvious need. According to Hajiya Hafsat, the body has trained and empowered over 800 participants across the country in the past two years, since May 2016.
The sixth edition of the empowerment train was inaugurated in Bauchi on October 13, 2017. NAFOWA’s belief that empowering a woman would amount to empowering the whole family is the driving force behind the nation-wide skills’ acquisition project. The body’s National President explained that the starter packs being presented to the graduating students was to enable them take off smoothly and possibly later transform into small or medium-scale enterprises.
The skills acquisition training programme of the association, which lasts for a period of 10 weeks, covers areas such as fashion designing, catering and confectioneries production, hair-dressing and barbing, computer appreciation, cinematography, aluminum doors and windows fabrication, leather shoes, boots and bags fabrication as well as liquid soap, detergents and disinfectant production, among a host of other skills. After completion of training, in order to assist the graduates in their quest for financial independence, they are presented with a ‘starter pack’ which includes sewing machines (for each student of fashion designing), a 40-litre electric oven (for each catering student), hair dryers, laptops, make-up kits, shoe-filing machine, bead kits, soap and chemical kits, event and interior decoration kits, amongst others.
The graduates of the NAFOWA Programme are usually advised and mentored to use the starter packs judiciously and wisely to enable their graduation from NAFOWA programmes to lead to greater and bigger things.
The organization has taken its concerns beyond the Air Force bases, into neighbouring communities and those living around the different Air Force bases, as part of NAFOWA’s corporate social responsibility and its belief that initiatives like this go a long way in improving civil\military relationships. NAFOWA’s service to humanity continues in a focused and relentless way, as, clearly, its leadership is always on the lookout for ways to make a difference by visiting orphanages, hospitals and camps for internally displaced persons across the country. The association also continues to lead in skills acquisition and empowerment programmes with humanity in mind and service as its focus. NAFOWA has also delved into education of toddlers and children, cancer screening, women and gender advancement issues and advocacy, in partnership with local and international women organisations.
NAFOWA, being a non-governmental organization, draws its funds largely from the goodwill of members of the public, corporate organisations and the voluntary donations of members. The NAF equally supports the organization, as part of its corporate social responsibility, especially as NAFOWA, by its noble activities in various host communitis, helps to enhance civil military relationships.
“All what we do in NAFOWA cannot be possible without the support of my dear husband, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Baba Abubakar. Sir, your support for NAFOWA and her initiatives is truly undebatable. Your particular support and encouragement of our Skills Acquisition and Vocational Training Programme is truly of note. Our journey all through the different NAF Bases has been with your full support. I will like to sincerely thank you on behalf of all the women, youths and children of the Nigerian Air Force. As your name implies, you are, indeed, a father to us all,” the National President stated recently, during one of the ceremonies for students graduating from the skills acquisition class.
The NAFOWA has shown itself to be a true collection of well-meaning women committed to spreading love and lifting up other women, in order to lift up a nation and alleviate the pains and suffering of the nation’s most indigent and vulnerable. The NAFOWA story, when written, would not cease to amaze its readers; it is and would remain a story of great love by even amazing, greater women.
Ahmed writes from Mabushi, Abuja