By Stanley Onyekwere
In furtherance to its goal of training and educating women, adolescents, and children in a way that will yield positive transformation in their lives, the Aids for Women, Adolescents, and Children International Organization (AWACIO), a non-governmental organization, has empowered some youth with various vocational skills, in Kwali Area Council, of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
A total of 24 youth acquired skills in Vulcanizing, POP making, painting, Pastry and hall decoration, phone repairs and Tiling respective, after six to eight weeks entrepreneurial skill acquisition programme tagged ‘Kwali Youth Empowerment Programme’, which was powered by Total Exploration and Production (E&P) Nigeria Ltd, and facilitated by AWACIO, in collaboration with the host Kwali community.
Also, each of the trainees was given various equipment relevant to their individual trades, to help them put into use the skills garnered from the programme.
Some of the items include air pumping machines, manual tile cutter, hammers, locally made oven, painting brush, shovel, trowel and among other equipment free of charge.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony held at Kwali Town Hall, on Wednesday, the Executive General Manager (EGM), Corporate Services, Total E&P, Vincent Nnadi, said the programme, which is part of its corporate social responsibility package to indigenous communities, aimed at reduction of the rural poverty of the masses.
He said so far, the organization has impacted the lives of over 500 people in rural communities of the FCT.
“Our policy in Total is to build the capacity of individuals such that they can become part of important members of the society and contribute to the national economy; so this ( the programme) is just implementing what we have already in our organization.
“This is the fourth Area Council we have visited so far; we have been in Bwari, Kuje, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), and now we are ending the year (2014) in Kwali,” Nnadi said.
Looking into the future, he said the organization plans to take the proggramme across all the area councils in FCT, and “we are planning for the last set of the area councils by next year, where we are going to deploy our human capacity programme. So, our plan is to cover all the area councils.”
On why the focus being on the rural areas of the FCT, he explains; “this is where you have the larger population; this is where you have the real people; and this is where you have people who really need to be trained.
“In the urban areas, where you already have people who have trained themselves or may have acquired education or have thing or the other to do; but in the rural areas you have the population that we can reach out to, so it’s been very interesting for us keep the focus on people in rural areas.”
Similarly, in her opening speech, the Founder and Chief executive officer of AWACIO, Dr. Claudia C. Okeke, described the training initiative as a wonderful programme, as the youth were able to successfully go through the programme and get something out of it, expressing hope that they (the youth) would take it to the next level by passing it down to others within the area, so that Kwali as a whole can become a more industrious environment in the FCT.
“We really appreciate Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Ltd, for committing so much into building of communities; they have done so much in helping and partnering with us to build up rural communities in FCT.
“Also, the people of Kwali community have been very supportive to the organization, as they have been able to assist us and show that they are really interested in what we were doing with their youth.
“There are some communities one can go and they would not really be interested in what we are doing, but for the Kwali people they were really interested in our programme, as they want to see that the youth here succeed in life,” she noted.
Commenting on the some of the challenges encountered during the programme, she said that: the only problem we had was the distance in driving from Abuja city centre down to the community, and being able to ensure that both the trainers and trainees were doing what we expected of them.
“Other than the issue of distance, the youth were quite very eager understanding and cooperative with the organization, so we didn’t have any problem executing the programme. It was an amazing experience, which is that the youth have that zeal to do better in life by becoming more productive in the community.
“Generally, the challenge we have as an organisation is that we want to be able to get more youth empowered with various skills; we want to grow more of them.
“Yes, we have empowered 24 youths in Kwali, however we don’t want them to be limited just to this number of persons but we know that they can easily be multiplied into a huge number that can also impact on positively the community.
However, on the cost implication of executing the programme, she said because it is a community project, the organization cannot weigh the total financial implication of the executing the programme in the community.
“So, it is a collective effort by both the benefiting community, AWACIO and Total that have really helped to effective channel resources and time need for the programme,” she stressed.
On his part, the Etsu of Kwali, Alh. Shaban Audu, said when the NGO came to seek their partnership, in order to actualize its plan for their youth , they didn’t know that it was going to turn out good; therefore only few youths made themselves available for the programme.
He expressed confidence that the little youth that were trained in various vocational skills, are going to have a multiplying effect on others, because they too are going to train some other people, and above all be well placed economically.
“The popular saying that an idle hand is a devil’s workshop, but since that they are now going to be meaningfully engaged, by trying to put into practice their acquired skills they are no longer going to be the devil’s workshop.
“And their immediate communities and the larger society are going to be better for it. Therefore, we are calling on AWACIO and Total to come back again to carry out a need assessment of the people in the area, so that they can further train our youth in such area of interest,” he said.
He however urged the trainees to ensure to gout in the society, and implement whatever they have been exposed to during the programme.
“Let them (trainees) not go and sit down at home without trying to actually put to use whatever kind of skills they have been able to acquire.
“Also, they should improve on the skills and establish their own little workshops, because I’m sure AWACIO and Total are coming back to monitor and assess their progress, in order to see how to assist them to do even better in their chosen vocations,” he stressed.
Peoples Daily gathered that (AWACIO), an internationally based NGO dealing with the affairs and health issues of women, adolescents, and children, in most recent years, the founder, Dr. Okeke, has developed compassion for the affairs of women and has channeled her efforts to their needs and plights.
From the different testimonies by the trainees, there is no doubt that with the skills they acquired they are better positioned to be able to carter for themselves and their families, and by extension help curb crime in the society.
For one of the beneficiaries, who was the only female who acquired skills in painting, Jummai John, with her current status, she is now more encouraged to do more in life.
She explained that she chose to learn painting, which is a male-dominated vacation as an interesting challenge, “in order to prove the cliché that ‘what a man can do, woman can do it even better’.
“When I found out that in this part of the world it was only men that were into painting vocation, and when I heard of the youth empowerment programme, I decided to enroll for training in painting, so as to show that we (women) can do it too.”
Narrating her experiences during the programme, she said, because I was the only female who enrolled in the painting, and when we started the training it was a bit difficult for me, especially when it comes to painting ceilings, as I have not experience that before.
But I had in mind that I can do it, so I just focused on learning the trade (painting) during the programme.
Prior to the training, she said had acquired skills in hair dressing, but was yet to collect her certificate, so when she heard of the programme, she decided to add more skills to her life.
“And am ashamed of who I have become, but rather proud to have succeeded in becoming a female painter,” she expressed.
Similarly, Abdulah Innocent, who was trained in POP making, while thanking the organisers for the programme, said with the new vocational skill he acquired, his life has been transformed positively.
“I’m very happy that how Total through have come to our community with a very life changing programme, because I know with this skill my life can never remain the same.
Not left out, one of the trainers, Samuel Etsu, said all the trainees were exposed to various aspects of their chosen trades, to make them very effective in the real world.
Highpoint of the occasion was the presentation of the start-up equipment, awards and certificates to the trainees, while a cultural dancing group, which was brought by the Estu Kwali added colour to the event.