Monday, February 9, 2015

New Hands for Rural Women...

New Hands for a hairdresser Mama Peter

We thought they wouldn't show up. But the women and youth of this church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pyankasa Village, Abuja did and they came in their numbers.  Most cannot read, cannot write, and that perhaps was what was uppermost in my mind....their minds as well. If someone cannot read and write, how would they be able to use a computer for a livelihood?

A cross section of the women waiting their turn to try out the systems

Just come, you don't need to be able to read and write to use the scanner, printer, photocopier - you just need your hands', I had told them.

Mama Piro, a baker leaning new skills

But I was mistaken that they wouldn't show and I was glad I was. On that day, Saturday February 1st 2015, the women and youth in my church lined up to take their turns to get a new hand with a mini-laptop computer, a printer, a scanning machine and a manual binder.

From 17th 2003 – 27 July 2007 when Nasir El-Rufai was Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, there was a gale of building demolitions that affected the high and the low. The effect of those demolitions made local and international headlines, one of them reported by Premium Times dated June 15 2015 and titled How women suffer untold hardships that come with demolitions in Abuja.  Most of the buildings demolished belonged to small scale businesswomen who ran grocery shops, bakeries, hairdressing saloons, bookshops and restaurants.

Assisting a 'new hander' to handle the machines

My thinking was that since these women were partial breadwinners for their families, and whose petty businesses helped to drive the local economy and contribute to the augmentation of the family income, what would happen to them next?

Preparing the equipment for use

My findings reveal that about 90% of these women have not been to school and have not had an education. They found it difficult to even understand what the pastor preached on Sundays. But something stands out for these women – they are good with any social and economic activity related to their hands - they bakers, hairdressers, and could cook! 

So we asked them to come learn the use of the photocopier, the scanner, printer, binder and allied office equipment. I'd spoken with the Pastor of the Church, Ifeanyi Molokwu and he allowed us use of the church as venue. My boss, Sam Kargbo, allowed me cart away office equipment for the weekend but with a proviso - they must be there on Monday when he needed them!

Blessing Molokwu, JSS 3 student manning the binder for the first time.

My intention for this programme included the following:
[i] To equip rural women in a community in Abuja with skills relevant to rebuild their lives after their means of livelihood was cut short with the demolition of their shops
[ii] To use innovative methods to add value to the ability of rural women to create wealth
[iii] To extend the highly successful first phase of the rural training in office equipment and hardware.

And yes, they came, they learnt and they enjoyed it!

My assistants holding their printed and bound documents

One of them, a JSS 3 student, Blessing Molokwu sidled up to me and said, 'Oh, thank matter what happens now, I know I have a handwork!'

Getting new hands

 The last time I visited Pyankasa, Abuja, Mama Piro had saved up and had already bought a manual typewriter and an old binding machine. Still, she cannot afford a shop, but her customers at the Federal Secretariat in Abuja patronize her anyway.

Talk about new hands!