Ifeanyi Okechi, Enugu
Women of Amachara-Ngwo community, in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State, are eager to start smiling to the bank without stress.
They are itching to transit from crude to mechanised method of palm processing, courtesy of Mothers and Marginalised Advocacy (MAMA) Centre Initiative.
However, barring any unforeseen hitch, the excited women, who are already counting their blessings, would, soon, cease to toil night-and-day in order to process palm nuts. They would rather be spending so little time and energy to accomplish the processing of commercial quantities into finished products. That was the assertion of the Executive Director of MAMA Centre, Ola Onyegbula, while addressing the women at a recent event, christened “A town hall meeting on socio-economic empowerment of Ngwo women (Right Holders)” at Ngwo community, Enugu State, held at Amachara-Ngwo community hall.
According to her, MAMA Centre was concerned with seeing to the general welfare of women, including the needy and the marginalised in the society, adding that they were at Amachara to kick-start the execution of the project, which she added, was being run under the EMPOWER programme – Engendering More Participation of Women for Economic Revitalisation.
She said that the project is supported by Voice Nigeria, adding that it is expected to elapse by December 2020. She further disclosed that on the course of the project, “We will open up the space for you to understand your full potentials and apply them towards improving your livelihood and socio-political status, in the long run.
“Our business is about empowering women on how to acquire social amenities from their government and also lay the foundation for them to evolve beyond cultural inhibitions.”
Onyegbula added that the NGO had already identified relevant stakeholders and key influencers, within the state, that could influence policies and bring about desired change for the women.
In most parts of the South East, palm nuts are popularly processed by smashing them with feet or smashing them with mortar and pestle; methods Onyegbula condemned, describing them as tedious and associated with health issues such as waist pain and deep cuts on fingers and feet, among others.
She was emphatic that the Centre would not give cash to target beneficiaries but rather, train them to recognise their full potentials, recognise their rights, organise themselves and coordinate ideas to be able to seek support from various governments as well as from key players in the society.
Volunteer/Programme Assistant for the project, Grace Ude, thanked the organisation for the project, describing it as unique. Ude, who is also an indigene of the community, said the wonderful aspect of the scheme was that the NGO was teaching the women to how to fish and not for them to be fed with fish: “I am so excited and it is wonderful that our leaders, the traditional ruler of this community and the President General of the town union are part of this. So, we can assure MAMA Centre that the mill would be put to good use, managed well and secured well, as well”.
Both the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Emmanuel Amano, and the President General, Oguejiofor Ani, lauded MAMA centre for bringing the initiative to the community and assured of maximum cooperation and readiness to make inputs whenever such were needed. They urged the women to conduct themselves well throughout the duration of the programme to enable them achieve full benefits of the scheme.
Some of the women, who spoke to our correspondent, expressed joy over the initiative. For Mrs Onyegekwu Amalu, her joy was boundless considering the expected relief that the proposed mill would provide them.
She said that although she was no longer able to undergo the crude hurdles of palm processing due to old age and waist pain, but that she would bounce back to business once the mill comes on stream.
Speaking in the same vein, Ifeoma Ani and Onyia Catherine stressed that the mill would enable them start processing palm in large commercial quantities with less labour.