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Siju Iluyomade: Building Nigeria’s human capital – The Arise story

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On Saturday, October 26, 2019, the Arise Women’s Conference will hold again. It will be the 11th edition in 11 years. The theme this year is Bloom.

For the Founder, Promoter and convener of Arise Women, Dr Siju Iluyomade known simply as Siju, for this posh lawyer, “it is time for women to Arise and Bloom, a time for the Arise Women, like a ship, to sail and chart new territories and to lend a voice to their dream and flourish like the flower.

The Arise Conference however is a climax of the programmes set up for the empowerment of women, the ultimate goal of the not-for-profit organization.

For instance, between Tuesday, September 24 and Saturday, September 28, the Arise Women would hold intensive skill acquisition and empowerment sessions for over 1000 women. These empowerment sessions shall cover Catering, Gele (scarf) Tying, Soap Making, Decoration/Event Planning, Digital Marketing, Photography, Tailoring/Fashion Designing, Hat, Bag and Bead Making, and Traditional Master of Ceremonies. And Siju says, “this is about equipping these women to become champions and to realize their inalienable right to live well”. For a single NGO to be so daring, Professor George Abua, a US based Lawyer says ” this is stunning and almost unprecedented. Dr Siju must be a very courageous and compassionate woman. It’s awesome menhhh..”, he enthused.

The Arise empowerment project will be followed by the health inclined and most exciting programme of Arise tagged Arise Walk 4 Life. And Siju herself says, ” I can’t wait for this to happen. Our body needs to be in tune. Health is everything and so must cherish anything that adds to our health. I am super excited”, the passionate champion of Nigeria’s human capital development said .

The Arise Walk for Life is slated for 7.00am, on Saturday October 12, 2019, at the Eko Atlantic, Lagos. This is one massive session in which the gender activist, Siju, leads thousands of women, plus men, creative industry and sports stars in exercise sessions that truly reinvent and reinvigorate the participants.

Like a change agent that she epitomizes, Siju affirms that Arise this year is a milestone as the building of Arise Women’s Village in Lagos will be launched. “It will consist of a fully fledged ultra-modern women and children’s hospital with state of the art equipments”, she stated. “It will also have a skill acquisition and empowerment centre and computerized literacy unit”, she added.

For this cultivated founder of the highly respected Women in Leadership Series, WILS, Arise is poised to transform the dreams of the market woman, the home maker and those on the sidewalk into a concrete reality. Said she, “I think about that woman that emerges from her one room apartment in a dingy environment holding her little boy going to school, struggles to pay his school fees, and waving as he departs, trekking his way to school. I under their pain and struggles. The whole purpose of Arise is to see how we could lift this women to that level that they can march on stronger with renewed hope. We want the Arise Woman to reflect the majesty of beauty, success and accomplishment in every phase of life,” she stressed.

In a country in which the activities and claims of many Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs have been suspect, this intellective lawyer with over 30 years in her legal stockstore has continued to prove the credibility and altruism of her cause and the authenticity of Arise Women’s audacious acts of charity.

But Siju’s compassion and relentless selfless investment in Nigeria’s human capital would not be strange to those acquainted with her history.

As a student at the distinctive Queens College, Lagos in the 70s, she had joined the Girls Guide and indeed led the Third Lagos Company. Though of the elite background, the Girls Guide exposed her to the ordinary people and market women and she learnt to do things for the most vulnerable of the society. Arise Women only reignited and accentuated these latent encounters as she strives to ensure the well being and empowerment of these women.

In December 2016, for instance, she launched the Arise Mobile Clinic and under the Arise Medical Outreaches, Siju and her team of volunteer Medical Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, and Laboratory Technicians, took healthcare to the back streets and slums of Lagos. They carried out free consultations on diabetes, hypertension management, and pneumonia plus free tests for high blood pressure, HIV, Blood Sugar and cervical cancer screening, all free of charge.

Arise also maintains an out-patient clinic at the high-end hospital, Healing Stripes, a Dialysis and Diagnostics centre. Here it provides the market woman, the hawker and everyday people with primary healthcare and ensured an environment that enables them to discuss their health challenges.

Siju’s insatiable thirst for the protection, safety and success of the women folk has seen her and Arise in secondary schools like her alma mater, Queens College, and Methodist Girls Secondary schools among others. Here, they have given health talks to acquaint these girls with the right health and sanitary knowledge as they march into their future.

While Arise Goes to School speaks health to the Children, Siju, an incisive activist recognizes the importance of legacy of character and faith and the need to invest in the unknown, unseen and hard- up children of the slum. And so, Arise built schools in almost forgotten places like Makoko in Yaba, Lagos. It did not only build the school, it provided uniforms and meals for the pupils proving that these children are the living messages we send to a time we may not see.

And how about Arise Women’s Adopt-a-Village scheme. Innovative, almost unseen before, Siju and her band of compassion workers continue to demonstrate a disruptive, revolutionary mindset to eclipse an old stagnant order and set aglow a new one that extends the frontiers of hope.

Take for instance, Dafara, a rustic village on the precincts of the Federal Capital, Abuja, Arise drew a seven year development agenda for this hitherto unknown community. Today, these countrified people can boast of boreholes, two reconstructed and re-equipped schools, and a computerized library. Then they crowned this astounding venture with the construction of a 10- bedroom ultra modern hospital and community centre.

A fierce advocate of the right of everyone to a good and meaningful life, Siju has led her team to adopt several other villages using the Zamfara model to rewrite their story and inspire fresh perspectives to life and living.

Arise is also reaching out to those lost in the high walls of prison in Lagos, also sitting to listen and provide for the internally displaced people in Abuja; Arise spells genuine compassion and hope that Nigeria needs today.

No question , Siju recognizes the importance of the human capital development in a nation. She knows too well that the financial and intellectual capital would only add value if a nation gets right the human capital part.

Arise 2019, underscores this essence with its comprehensive and profound five days skill acquisition programme. Re-echoing the acoustics from World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Siju, an undoubted inspirational leader with a crystal vision says “it’s time for women to thrive, indeed a time for them to bloom.”


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