Hajiya Hadiza Mohammed Abubakar is the wife of Bauchi State governor and founder of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Bauchi Sustainable Women Economic Empowerment and Peace Initiative (B-SWEEP), which provides intervention for women and children in health, education, skill acquisition among others. In this interview, she speaks on the work of her organisation in the last two years. Excerpts:
What motivated you to set up Bauchi Sustainable Women Economic Empowerment and Peace Initiative (B-SWEEP)?
The NGO was initiated with the sole aim of uplifting the status of women and complementing the efforts of government. I work with the Ministry of Women Affairs to roll out some initiatives as regards to women, because government cannot do it alone. So, the NGO is to complement my husband’s effort in addressing the challenges faced by women, children and vulnerable groups. This is based on my belief that any meaningful reform in the society must bring about economic advancement for women and youths.
Sometimes NGOs set up by wives of governors end after the tenure of their husbands. How do you intend to sustain B-SWEEP after the tenure of your husband?
Yes, what you said is true, NGOs come and go. Most people call them pet projects and they come and go with the administration. But from the onset, Bauchi Sustainable Women Economic Empowerment and Peace Initiative (B-SWEEP) as the name suggests, has factored the issue of sustainability into the running of the NGO. For that reason, we have a strong board and technical team and we have tried to maintain independence between the office of the wife of the governor, and B-SWEEP as an NGO.
What are the main areas of intervention by your NGO?
B-SWEEP has five thematic areas which of course we know is quite ambitious, but we believe it is doable. First, is the area of empowerment. We intend to provide women with skills to make them independent financially, while in health, we are looking at maternal and child health intervention. One of the other thematic areas is the reintegration of women and girls back into formal and non-formal school programmes and then participation of women in agriculture.
We are also looking into the issue of promoting peaceful coexistence. So, from the inception of our activities to date, we have done quite a lot in the area of skill acquisition and empowerment for women. We have empowered Internally Displaced Women because they form part of the vulnerable groups and we want to include them in our programmes in order to support them and reduce their trauma. We trained them in grains processing, provided them with grinding machines and the start up capital so that they get some measure of financial independence.
We have also trained the same women IDPs on how to do hand woven doormats using local materials. They made them and as a mark of encouragement, we purchased the items from them and we have given them the materials with which they will now go and make doormats.
We are also collaborating another NGO called MAHEMA and Charis Pal Concept to introduce some youth initiatives. The first programme was for 390 beneficiaries both males and females. We trained them in eight different skills which include; aluminum and leather works, sewing, baking, hairdressing and detergent making. At the end of the programme, we kitted the groups to create clusters and encouraged them to form cooperative societies and continue with their skills to make a living.
The second phase of the programme was for 15 people. The same set of skills were taught them. However, this time around, we shifted our emphasis outside Bauchi. We did one in Giade Local Government and a few others from Bauchi. We also kitted the trainees individually and also encouraged them to form cooperative societies so that they can derive some benefits from the government or banks to enable them continue with the trades that they have learnt.
We have also done intervention in the area of health, like maternal health as a pilot project. We provided delivery kits to pregnant women to support safe and hygienic deliveries in three local governments, one local government in each of the senatorial zones.
They include Alkaleri in Bauchi South, Nabayi in Bauchi Central and Shira in Bauchi North. We distributed a total of 600 delivery kits to the women to help them have safe and hygienic delivery when they go to the hospital.
We have also carried out interventions for children that are malnourished, because we realised that it is a major problem here. We provided nutritional meals for 1000 infants, and carried out a programme with Bauchi State Agricultural Development Programme ( BSADP). We gave them grains which include millet, groundnut and soya beans which they use to prepare infant formula for distribution to the three local governments. We took women to the local governments to demonstrate for other women how they could use the grains to prepare infant formula whenever it is needed.
That was a pilot programme. Right now, we are preparing for the second round of the intervention. We will take three local governments, one from each of the zones again and do the same intervention.
In the area of peace, we held a workshop for peace building and peace clubs creation in schools. It is also a pilot programme and we selected 10 schools in the state. During the peace workshop, we invited various stakeholders like political groups, pressure groups, the media, religious groups, traditional leaders and had a one-day workshop where we discussed and created awareness on peace and then emphasised the need for us to maintain the peaceful coexistence within our communities.
On the second day, we held a workshop for teachers from the selected schools – three from each of the 10 selected schools we invited. We taught them how to organise peace clubs in their respective schools. The whole aim is to catch our young ones early and imbibing in them the idea of peace, while encouraging them to accept our unity and diversity. These include teaching them to learn to live with one another in harmony.
We flagged off the peace clubs created in the 10 schools and issued them documents of activities, so they will replicate in their schools so that the clubs will grow. We are monitoring them and we will create an avenue where there will be interactions between the clubs, like debating clubs, drama clubs going from one school to another in order to preach and discuss peace.
Some months ago, you sponsored the screening of women for cervical cancer. After the screening, did you sponsor the treatment of the women who had cancer?
Yes, on the platform of B-SWEEP, we intervened in one particular case that was brought to our attention. The cancer patient was in ATBU Teaching Hospital and they had exhausted all avenues for financial support. So B-SWEEP took over the treatment of the patient and she was transferred to Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital Zaria where she underwent chemotherapy. She was stabilized, discharged and came back home but she eventually lost the battle.
The other was collaboration between the office of the wife of the governor and the Ministry of Health. It was not a B-SWEEP event. Because of my interest in cancer, we did a cancer screening exercise where over 1,000 women were screened. The initial plan was for 100, but people kept coming and we couldn’t turn them back. So over 1000 women were screened.
Out of the number that were screened, about 65 were found to have abnormal cancer cells and government came in and supported their treatment. Some were treated here at the ATBU Teaching Hospital including surgeries while the others were referred to ABU Teaching Hospital Zaria and arrangements were made through the Ministry of Health for them to be treated and government gave financial support for their treatment.