By James Kwen, Abuja
No fewer than 500 women in Abuja have been trained and given N100,000 each to start small businesses and enter into a new lease of life with successful vocational skills acquisition programme organized by the Elizabeth Jack-Rich Aid Foundation in collaboration with NNPC/Belemaoil JV and Belema Aid Foundation.
The amount is part of a total fund of about N112.4m take-off grant to both the Abuja and Port Harcourt sessions totaling 1100 women. Another N10.4 million was doled out to 50 outstanding trainees.
The training focused on developing priority vocations related to women such as computer appreciation, fish farming, leader works, cosmetology, bead making, hair dressing, makeup, catering services and handcraft, among others.
At the closing ceremony of the programme in Abuja, Elizabeth Jack-Rich, Founder/President of Elizabeth Jack-Rich Aid Foundation, in a keynote address, said the vocational skills acquisition and cash donations were part of e realization of the noble objectives upon which her Foundation was created.
Jack-Rich disclosed that her dream or calling in life is to be an enabler for women around the world and Nigeria in particular to actualize their dreams, and by virtue of the gifts and opportunities God has given her, she feels obliged to uplift the people around her.
She reminded the beneficiaries that they have a gift of empowerment and charged them to go into the world and succeed, not just for themselves, but for those around them who are also in need of empowerment.
“I see amongst you women of influence, captain of industries, founders and leaders of mega corporations. If you are to leave here today with one thing and one thing only, let it be this, “Girls may compete with each other but women empower one another.
“Many have asked why I focus on women but I say our focus on women does not stem from a gender bias, but rather a belief that women’s empowerment is intertwined with human rights. Also, I believe that our society is desperately in need of action not just empty rhetoric which is why Margaret Thatcher once said ‘If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.’’ Kofi Annan also said, ‘There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women’. Therefore, when you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“I cannot leave without thanking those who have made this event a success; and thank you to all our friends and guests we say a big thank you. As you contribute to the improvement of other people’s lives, may you continue to have good success and fulfilment”, she added.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of the occasion, Dikko Umaru-Radda, Director General of the Small Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), the facilitating agency, said the programme was in line with President Muhammad Buhari administration’s believe in training and development as means of attaining efficiency and competitiveness in any enterprise.
The Director-General, represented by Wole Fasanya, commended the remarkable efforts of the Elizabeth Jack-Rich Aid Foundation, Belemaoil Producing Limited and Belema Aid Foundation for initiating such a laudable scheme.
Also speaking, President/Founder of Belemaoil and Belema Aid Foundation, Jack-Rich Tein stated that the most important gift to a woman is to empower her. He informed the beneficiaries that have been trained and given startup packs that this was a clear demonstration that there is still hope for prosperity.
“So we need to continue to pray for this country because the private sector is interested in how well you fair and this is a private sector initiative through the unique collaboration of Elizabeth Jack-Rich Aid Foundation and others.
Pedro Daiz, Managing Director, Belemaoil Producing Limited, represented by Ender Barillas, General Manager, Production and Maintenance Belemaoil, in a goodwill message cautioned against misusing the financial assistance and knowledge obtained from the programme so that the aim would not be defeated.
“If you leave today and do nothing else, we have not achieved anything and the programme will be a failure.”
In another good will message, Abdulaziz Yar’Adua (retired Army Colonel) called on the organisers to extend the empowerment to men also and appealed to the Federal Government stop importation of products which the beneficiaries have learnt to produce so that they can be properly empowered.
“As they are going into the market now, they are going to face serious competition with other trades that are being imported into this country. So I call on our great president, Muhammadu Buhari to please consider this type of products that are being produced locally by our women.
On her part, Zahra Buhari reminded the beneficiaries that out of the 200 million people in the country the Foundation has chosen 1,100 of them and they must put both the skills and funds into proper use for their empowerment.
“From today on, you stand on your feet. You are women of substance; you are women of progress. You cannot let anyone shut you up. You cannot. You are unstoppable. From your toes to head, you must believe in yourself. You must know who you are. Don’t let any man or woman pull you down. You are not the same person of two weeks ago. You stand on your two feet”, the President’s daughter noted.