‘As a woman you have to be dogged if you want to go into activism’– Onugha Rosemary
Onugha Rosemary is a passionate educator and serial humanitarian, she alongside her wonderful team educate and support vulnerable children living in slums across Lagos. The graduate of Applied Microbiology from Ebonyi State University advocates for quality education, reduced poverty by education and empowerment of women in the society.Rose who is also a food vendor, has been involved in teaching and raising role models as well as carrying out humanitarian activities with marginalised children by donating school materials to aid easy learning as well as coaching them on the needs of education not withstanding their immediate communities.In her words: “I intend working with urban and rural slum kids by making sure that each one of them have the privileged of attending basic education and as well acquiring the needed skills to survive as an individual”.The serial Humanitarian shares he inspiring story with me in this interview.
My childhood and environment prepared me for what I’m doing now. Growing up in a community where we had hoodlums and sex workers as neighbours made we know who and what I don’t want to be like.I had several occasions where I was sent out of school because of fee. These are few things children in slums and undocumented areas go through, when asked why you are at home, my parent could probably say I’m not feeling too good.
My environment made me very ambitious because I really wish I could change a lot of things, it made me who I am, it made me have a picture of who I want to be. It made me aspire for greatness.It was quite unfortunate that I didn’t grow up having role models, I only grew up having people I didn’t want to be like and seeing situation I’d never want to be in.
My passion for the vulnerable and less privileged in the society
I discovered that most times when interventions, outreaches, sensitizations, quizzes, debates are being carried out the children living in the slums are being exempted. They miss out on a lot of opportunities and empowerment programs because of their environment, as a matter of fact, people and even government hardly remember that they exist. I’m trying to be their voice, to give them hope and as well motivate them to be their best versions of themselves irrespective of their present environment. Every child matter notwithstanding their environment and their background.
Working directly with slum kids
I believe all children should have an equal right and access to education.During my research I discovered that about 40 to 50 percent of children living in slums do not have basic education. And this can further be a disaster to the society in the future. I thought within myself how do I stop this trend and reduce the level of illiteracy in Nigeria? This also formed the basis of my outreach. As we know, education reduces poverty and it has been noted that the level of poverty in the slum is in high rate. To tackle poverty, disease, ill vices in the society and to create jobs and be employable, educating the slum kids is the best shot.
Most times I go to these communities, I’m been looked down on, like what has this small girl got to offer us. But at the end of the visits both the children, school owners and their parents are always grateful and they have a different mind set of what education is about.
Like I said earlier, my environment inspired me. My parents as well especially my late father. He was able to raise us in a godly manner with the help of my mother. Until this moment, I can’t explain how my parents did it that we never took after the environment or joined the bad gangs. Till this moment is bewildering. Honourable Buumba Malambo from Zambia also inspires me she built a home for vulnerable children, orphan in her community as well as educating them.
Also, the founder of La Roche Leadership foundation Mrs Osoba, she is a humanitarian with a golden heart, she is also a member of the Global Goodwill Ambassador. she has a library in her foundation that enables children to read to fun and examination. She also donates educational books to different government schools. She supports humanitarian workers to create more impact in the society.
Dr DiPillar Richard who is the founder of Global Goodwill Ambassadors worldwide, he unites humanitarian workers around the world with the goal of making our world a better place. We also have the opportunity to network with other humanitarian workers outside the country and as well learn from them to create a greater impact in the society.
The greatest reward is the reward of fulfilment. Been able to create an impact in the lives of these kids. Also, when I joined the Global Goodwill Ambassadors network worldwide. When I got featured in a newspaper as well. Those are the rewards for now.
One of the challenge is getting funding for projects which is the most challenging. Another is my gender, people tend to think that as a woman you have less to offer, especially going to the slums where they believe that women are not supposed to be educated but they can either fish, farm or trade and also help out at home. It’s challenging having to change their mind set and showing them women role models in all fields. That’s why we need more women to engage in both science and politics, because the society has made them believe that some profession are meant for a particular gender.
On giving up
Yes, sometimes when I have ideas written down and want to implement them but not been able to because of some situations like funds. For instance, I visited a community in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State and discovered that there is no secondary school in Abaranje and Okerube communities. These two communities only has primary education, we can imagine what happens to the children after the primary education. Most of them that their parents can’t afford a private school are either seen roaming about, hawking, some have even joined hoodlums and some others not too good gangs.
As individuals and government trying to reduce the crime rate, illiteracy and poverty in the society, education should be the number tool to help curb the menace. I have a temporal solution to educate children in that community pending when the state government will erect a proper school and classroom for the community.
Being a food vendor and serial Entrepreneur
My food vendor business is new and I’m still looking out for more clients, so combining it with my humanitarian work is not really stressful. Because we do mostly in bowls, for meetings and office packs. I have people that can help out in both my humanitarian work and my food business, so I can take an order to deliver meals today and as well go for my outreach the same day. It’s just a matter of planning and having volunteers to assist.
Being a Woman of Rubies
Been able to impact lives, giving hope to children living in slums and undocumented areas and been able to empower women. A woman of rubies is a woman that is a role model in her society.
For women in the development sector
You have to be dogged if you want to go into activism as a woman, people will sometimes look down on you and make you feel you are making a mistake doing what you are doing. Sometimes you might even get a threat on your life, you will go to some places that you would be turned down but don’t give up because a lot of people are looking up to you and would also like to trade on the path. Giving up means you have succeeded in making people looking up to you to loss focus.There’s always light at the end of the tunnel and you’d be surprised to know many lives you’ve been able to impact with your works.
Activist being appreciated
Activist are not appreciated enough, that’s why we need to create more awareness to show the impacts of our activism and how our activism has made changes in day to day life.
One thing I wish I could change in the education sector
I would like to change the conventional ways of teaching and as well change the mind set of our tutors. Some of our schools still teaches with the same methods our are parents were taught. Education has evolved from been a normal classroom teaching to incorporating our day to day activities into mathematics and all subjects. Children should be able to mix fun with learning. Games, and life skills should be incorporated into teaching. If children are guided to express themselves and not been imposed, educational system would have a dynamic and drastic turnaround in Nigeria. Education should not only be maths and English, children should be given the space to be innovative and creative.
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