From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Total E&P Nigeria Limited, TEPNG, has embarked on education and empowerment of over 280 widows from its host communities in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states
Speaking yesterday in Port Harcourt, during a capacity building/empowerment workshop organised for widows in its host and neighbouring communities of the above mentioned states, TEPNG Deputy General Manger, Community Affairs and Development, Mr James Urho, stated that the aim of the workshop was to equip the widows to enable them survive, grow and achieve positively in life.
Represented by Mr Okechukwu Obara, company’s Manager, Community Relations, Urho noted that the workshop is part of TEPNG’s deliberate policy and corporate social responsibility commitment to improve and alleviate the socio-economic conditions of the widows in their areas of operation.
He said: “It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this capacity building/empowerment workshop for widows in our host and neighbouring communities of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States. The loss of spouse or partner is often devastating but for many women it is magnified by a long term struggle for basic needs, human rights and dignity.
“Cultural practices in most countries such as ours, link women’s social status to that of her husband’s, such that when her husband dies, a woman is denied an economic place in society. They are sometimes deprived of inheritance and land rights, evicted from their homes. The children of widows also often find themselves affected, withdrawn from school and more vulnerable to abuse, especially in the case of the girl child.
“In 2018, while marking the International Day of Widows the UN focussed attention on the need to ‘Developing Resources and Policy to empower Widows’. It is against this background that this workshop is designed as part of TEPNG’s deliberate policy and corporate social responsibility commitment to improving and alleviating the soci-economic conditions of the widows within our catchment areas of operation.”
Urho who commended their partner, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), for their successful imput in the programme, urged the beneficiaries “to remain steadfast, resolute and be rest assured that TEPNG will continue to provide succor where we can, no matter how little, to assist you create a life for yourselves and your children thus ending a cycle of poverty and abuse”.
Dr Charles Apoki, one of the Resource Persons in the programme who lectured the women on Cooperative and Growth of Small, Medium enterprises, noted that the underestimation of women in the society has led to the bad economic state of the nation today.
Dr Apoki who is an entrepreneur and a General Overseer of one of the fast growing ministry in the society, stressed that until women’s position is recognised and valued, the poverty level of Nigeria will remain as it is.
“One of the challenges we have in Africa is nations bringing aids to Africa. The modern approach to development is community driven development. The community owns project, the community owns the future of their life and so what the company can do is to assist them.
“So, now that Total has gathered woman, mostly the most vulnerable widows, the most deprived, the most despised in Africa, the most falsely accused over death of husband, it will have multiple effect.
“The major ingredient of cooperative is the power of unity, the power of collective strength, the power of reaching a critical mile with certain number of people.
“We have underestimated the power of womanhood and any nation that underestimates women will never do well. When you empower a woman you empower children. So when you empower a woman you empower entire household. By empowering women, it will reduce the poverty level in Nigeria.”
One of the widows who benefited from the empowerment programme, Mrs Enyalenka Umejuru, a native of Idu Obosiuku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, said “What I have actually learnt today is that the demise of our husbands is not the end of life, life still continuous. They have taught us one or two things we should do in order to put food on our table and take care of our children and families”.
The mother of three children who lauded TEPNG for the capacity building and empowerment programme organised for them, said “They are really empowering the host communities, we are glad and I must say, other companies should emulate what Total is doing.”
Also Mrs Pepple Stephens, Women leader of Opobo, at the programme said “Even though am not a widow, I brought my people down here, I learnt alot. There are certain things we do ignorantly without knowing and we feel we are on the right direction in business. But with what the resource person has told us today, I have learnt that it is better for us to invest our money in things that will be useful in future so that at last we will have something to train our children and something that we will leave behind for them. We will use our money judiciously for the benefit of our families”.