Grace Iliya: Women And Children The Heart Of Any Society
Orah Bayit Foundation has been around for some time now, founded by Grace Iliya, a media practitioner, who is passionate about impacting the lives of children and creating opportunities for the needy. She speaks on how she balances life being a journalist and running a not-for-profit organisation.
What was growing up like for you?
I would describe my childhood as quite interesting. I still have fond memories of it. My dad had died while I was barely three years old and my mom wanted me to get the best education I could. We had moved from Lagos to the village and my mom had to send me to live with my aunt in Kaduna. You won’t know I was not their child. I spent most of my growing up days with my cousins even though my mom had moved to Kaduna. Secondary education in Federal Government College, Kaduna, also evokes some kind of exciting feeling.
What inspired you to set up a not-for-profit organisation, especially one that caters to the needs of children and women?
I have always been a lover of children. The innocence and apparent lack of concern for worries in this world drew me more to them. A child is never offended. I get intrigued by their awesome mindset.
Though the foundation is still in its infancy, we are still impacting the society. I am so glad that I decided to start it. We have so far provided desks for the only school in a community called Bakin Kogi in Nassarawa State. When we first went there, the children were sitting on wood planks arranged on stones. Even those planks were not enough as the children had to take turns sitting. We also provided books and writing materials. There was no toilet, so, we constructed a set for the school.
Currently, we are working with the support of the National Orientation Agency, sensitising women and persons living with disabilities toward the 2023 elections. We engage women in communities around the FCT, parts of Kaduna State, and still counting.
What advice will you give to someone starting a nonprofit organisation like yours?
I would first ask for passion, zeal and dedication. It is always important to know what one is getting into because the journey is not a smooth ride. First find the important role to play in the social development of a state, nation, or community. What impact will the role be making and what plans are there to sustain it? These are the moving forces. Do your research feasibility. Look at your current responsibility and be sure you will be committed to your initiative. Have your vision and mission statement ready to guide you through it all.
Challenges you have encountered, which equally face NGOs in Nigeria?
Though Orah Bayit is still quite young, we have had some. Most organisations want to work with well-known NGOs and as such it is always not easy for start-ups in the areas of partnership and/or collaboration. Grants are also not favourable to us because of the processes involved. Lack of enough funds to execute our project effectively has been one of the major challenges.
What can you say is your best reward for choosing to found your organisation?
The happiness and joy I saw in the children the first time they saw desks in their classrooms. The amazing expression on their faces seeing that they got a comfortable toilet as they had often used the bushes. When women call you back, tell you how much money they have made with the new skills they have acquired. That moment when a community wants to give you something in return for the impact and the influence you have made on them and their children. The commitment, passion, and renewed interest I see every time I embark on an election sensitisation campaign. This brings tingling happiness to my heart. The fact that lives are getting impacted, there is the reward.
How do you balance being a journalist and running an NGO?
I just keep going. Both are about passion and dedication. One is a job I love, the other is a dream come true. I don’t allow one to affect the other. There is time for everything. I do a lot of planning and I am also grateful to a few volunteers who have helped to make everything less tedious, but I can tell you again that passion and dedication drive me to create that balance.
What do you hope to achieve with your organisation in coming years?
A future where girls are given equal opportunities to thrive and where every child has access to basic education. I would want to see women harness their potential and be given an equal playing ground to flourish. Women are an integral part of any democracy, we want to see more of them in leadership positions and in governance, making policies that will better the country and also impact their spheres of influence.