On Behalf of the Board of Trustees, I thank you for honouring us with your presence this evening. Your presence here is a statement of your commitment to Humanity, particularly Women and children who are often the forgotten yet they are integral members of society.
Tonight, we are celebrating individuals who are advocates for the betterment of women and children because they play a role in the development of communities, states and the country as a whole. We, as a people, must recognise the importance of inclusion of all people regardless of ethnicity, gender, physiology, religion, socio-economic status or political affiliation. The development of a nation rests on the shoulders of all and, as such, we must ensure the respect and safety of those who can (and are often) relegated to second class citizenship, women and children.
Thirty years ago when I conceptualised this project, the message was simple – to give voice to those who were marginalised because of their gender and/or physiological differences. Today the organisation has three key focal areas: Violence Against Women and Children; Education of Children Marginalised by Poverty and Physiological Differences and The Empowerment of Women Through Education.
I believe there are no coincidences in life.
It is not happenstance that I am here today at this moment in time surrounded by brothers and sisters who are also trustees. Neither is it coincidence that I returned to Nigeria to pursue a heartfelt desire after forty years. I know we are all here for a reason…our lives are not happenstance because each of us contributes to humanity through our work, family and community participation. You care about the ethos and the individuals associated with this organisation hence you support the initiative.
We have come a long way as a people in recognising the importance of educating girls but there remains much to be done to ensure the safety and respect of women and children. There are laws in place which clearly state equality but around us we know there is a difference in the value placed on female versus male children.
We, as a people, must do more to protect our children from the violence and neglect they suffer due to economic and social injustice. I don’t need to tell you because you hear and read about the horrid cases of abuse meted out to children, particularly girls. This cannot continue and we must address these issues head on if our children are to have a positive future which includes a role in nation-building and the continuity of society and its values. Progress involves every citizen from children to adults. If our children are psychologically, physically and emotionally damaged in childhood then what can they do as adults? If their own relatives are causing denigration and harm then where are they safe? It is our duty to ensure the safety and respect of our children. They deserve a proper education, they deserve to learn, they deserve a future, they deserve happiness and personal fulfilment. It is their right as citizens of Nigeria.
My interest in children with physiological differences began as a teenager when I realised a friend’s brother was kept away from the public and school because he was challenged. I could not comprehend the reasoning given, which essentially, quote unquote, “He is not normal, it is shameful to have such a child, he was cursed and society will shun us for producing such a child.” In my eyes, yes, he was different and needed to be assisted with daily care and feeding but we played together and sang out of tune. He had a warm smile and liked simple music and cartoons yet he never went to school or left the house. In the end, he was taken to a home in London and his name was no longer mentioned during visits.
Empowering women to know their rights and to participate in the economic development of themselves, family and community is essential for economic progress and a sense of worthiness. Nobody wants to be denied access to education or employment due to physiological differences or socio-economic circumstances. We all have a right to be treated with dignity and respect and to feel secure in society as prescribed by the law.
Furthermore, we must address the level of violence against women in our society. No woman should be abused by a spouse who professes love. No woman should live in fear of being violated by a spouse or stranger. No woman should go to work and be subjected to harassment or ridicule. No woman should walk down the street and be objectified as a sexual object. We are human beings – mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, grandmothers and granddaughters and, as such, we should be respected and feel secure in our homes, communities and workplaces. As Oyemi’s lyrics stated today – “we are equal in the eyes of God” so why do fellow human beings view women as less than men and “trivialise our lives.”
As a registered charity, we thrive on the generosity and kindness of individuals and corporations. We humbly request you support our initiative through our Mindful Giving® Programme in order for us to continue our vision which includes three goal areas next year – 2018.
The first is to commence our W.E.E.P (Women Enrichment Empowerment Programme) project which is focused on providing skills development based courses for women which will ignite and increase the opportunity to participate in the economic sphere of society through meaningful employment or entrepreneurship and through loans available via Lagos State Employment Trust Fund.
We also endeavour to extend our support of The Destitute Children Centre for Empowerment by proving essential medical and mobility devices for our special children as well as increasing the numbers of scholarships provided for children with differences as well as those for mainstream educated children.
Finally, we shall initiate our Child Protection Programme which aims to provide children, parents and the community with essential information on the Rights of Children and the importance of protecting our children from predators. We must make the protection of our children a priority.
We are confident you will continue to support our initiative through your generosity, kindness and well-wishes. We, the Trustees, are committed to make a difference in the lives of people who have been marginalised because we believe our society should be inclusive of all and respect, safety and equal opportunity for all is the cornerstone of humanity as well as the success and survival of a society.
On behalf of the Trustees, I once again thank you for being with us this evening and humbly request you participate through our Mindful Giving® Changes Lives Programme to impact the lives of those who are living in circumstances beyond their making.
Thank you…Thank you…Thank you… I am truly honoured to be with you this evening.
Copyright 2017 – Dr. Ama Onyerinma Live Abundantly! ® Empowerment Initiative
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