By Doris Ikechukwu
The pet project of the wife of the Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Bolanle Esther Ambode, is appropriately named HOFOWEM, which stands for Hope for Women in Nigeria Initiative. It is mainly borne out of the need and desire to positively impact on the society. As the name suggests, it is a platform for women of all ages and tribe, without bias or preference. HOFOWEM caters for the needs of women by protecting, empowering and giving them hope and assurance of a better future. It also extends its services to children and the general society.“Women and children are a special part of the society that should be protected and empowered.
Women, especially, are the hands that carry the cradle and the chest that nurse generations. HOFOWEM, in pioneering the cause of women carry out intervention programmes at intervals, targeting different issues affecting women.“A few days ago, HOFOWEM empowered 103 widows with cash and various gift items geared toward alleviating their suffering and assisting them to sustain their means of livelihood. At the event, Mrs. Ambode said that the cultural and social problems that women face upon the death of their husbands had become a matter of extreme worry and as such must be appropriately tackled.“Mrs. Ambode further said the life of widows, especially young ones, was never enviable, stressing that a major aim of the programme was to guarantee that the widows were able to live happily and depend more on themselves after the death of their husbands.
Beneficiaries of the programme were grouped into three categories. The first were those that needed skill acquisition who fall into the category of relatively young widows. The second were those to be empowered with appropriate work related tools while the third group was those that needed monetary support to enlarge the scope of their businesses. This broad categorization was arrived at as a result of systematic analysis and eventual realization that various widows require diverse intervention.
Aside from offering assistance to widows, HOFOWEM also has a programme for mothers tagged: “Hope for Expectant Mothers” which is an initiative aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality in the society. At its inaugural edition, the programme made provision for 230 expectant mothers drawn from 20 local government areas and 37 development areas of the state.
Support materials ranging from baby mattresses, sanitary pads, towels, beverages, shawl, diapers, breastfeeding net, traveling bed and sanitizers to Nursing Mum’s packs which contained all the necessary baby essentials from thermometers to complete delivery packs amongst others were given to the 230 expectant mothers.
In view of the relevance of basic hygiene and good sanitary habits for pregnant women and its role in reducing maternal and infant mortality, the women were also educated on proper physical hygiene. Since the health of the mother is linked to the health of the child it is pertinent that issues affecting mother and child be tackled headlong. The First Lady is leaving no stone unturned in her pursuit of mother-child welfare.“Beneficiaries of HOFOWEM numerous interventions include 2 year old John Akinbo who had a hole in the heart and was sent for surgery in India. Also, Mrs. Folake Muritala who had a hip replacement surgery. Equally, HOFOWEM has provided financial grants for organisations such as Sebeccly Cancer Foundation (in aid of cancer cause), Irede Foundation (limb for children with mobility challenges), Children Development Center (in support children with autism) Lydia Foundation (to rehabilitate prostitutes), etc.
Though HOFOWEM has covered a huge ground within such a short period, it is not yet resting on its oars. The philosophy of the Foundation is that excellence has no finishing line and that innovation is a continuous journey. Hence, in 2016, it launched a major landmark initiative tagged: “Project Bright Steps, equipping future leaders.” At the launch of the project, Mrs. Ambode said: “We are here basically to motivate these children, boost their self esteem, and help them appreciate their self-worth, encourage them to be proud of themselves and most importantly equip them for the future. “As a mother, I am deeply passionate about children. Some lucky ones have the necessary support, while others have very little or nothing”.
A major highlight of the event is the distribution of shoes and socks to 175,000 public primary school pupils in Lagos State. The central and underlining philosophy behind the laudable gesture is primarily to ensure that no pupil is denied the joy and fulfillment of schooling on the basis of lack of shoes and other such basic necessities. Considering that a former President of the country once made the subject of “I had no shoe” a crucial electoral campaign issue, this particular intervention of HOFOWEM should be vastly appreciated.
Early this year, an additional 175,000 pupils benefited from HOFOWEM’s “Project Bright Steps” initiative. Another dimension was, however, added to this year’s edition with the distribution of shoes and socks for pupils across the six Education Districts in the State. They are: Agege LGA Secretariat; St Agnes Nursery and Primary School Complex, Maryland; Education District 4, Yaba; LGEA Secretariat, Ojo; and LGEA Secretariat, City Hall (Holy Cross).
At this year’s event, the First Lady admonished the pupils to listen attentively in class; dress neatly and smart to school; study well; obey and respect constituted authorities, discover and fulfill their potentials. She further stressed that she conceived the project because of her love for children and desire to see them decently kitted for school to boost their self-confidence and overall performance.
She said: “Properly equipping our children for school plays a great role in boosting their confidence level, morale, concentration and overall performance.” While restating that it is the responsibility of the society to guarantee that children are supported to fulfill their purpose, she accentuated that putting on shoes is not a luxury, but a necessity. Mrs. Ambode further pledged that HOFOWEM would keep on sustaining the project because “our children deserve the very best”.
Another crucial milestone project of HOFOWEM is a scholarship scheme which was recently launched for eligible candidates for 2016/2017 session. The scheme is meant to fund the undergraduate programme of some of the brightest students in public secondary schools to pursue first degree courses in Nigeria. The recipients of this scholarship will choose courses that will address critical issues on Engineering, Environment, Food security, Education, Public health and other key areas that will address societal needs.
A philanthropist at heart, Mrs. Ambode is not resting on her oars, as she is determined and dedicated to the cause of the under privileged, the weak and vulnerable. Working assiduously, her Foundation has been able to touch the lives of many; pupils, indigent students, widows, multiple birth mothers, orphans and many others have received varied degrees of help from HOFOWEM at one time or the other.