Evangelist Jane Egbo is the vision coordinator and founder of Paradise Mission for widows and teenagers. In this interview with MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI, she speaks on the challenges bedeviling the girl child and widows among other things.
Can you tell us more about your foundation?
We started this foundation in the year 2000. It is registered with Corporate Affairs Commission. We have rendered service support to indigene girls, even people we don’t know that are dropouts. Our vision is to get these girls that drop out of school, as a result of lack of financial background, to return them to school and those that don’t want to continue in school, to teach them skills, which we have been doing and we are still doing. Concerning the widows, we empower them by giving them financial support to start something. A lot of them will tell you that they want to sell Akara (bean balls) and many of them are still selling that akara for the past eight-10 years after they collected money from us. Some will tell you it’s firewood they want to sell and they have been doing it religiously. Some will tell you they want to do poultry, while others, tailoring and baking. I myself just screened some because I have a fashion house, so those who want to learn, I offer them services free of charge and when they finish, we send them off by giving them the machines to start and those who want to go into catering, we teach them how to bake and everything that has to do with it and after that, we send them off. Some of the widows have children they can’t cater for, neither can they cater for themselves. We have paid the rents of some of them, children’s school fees, etc.
So, that is what Paradise Organisation for widows and teenagers is all about.
We also have mentorship department where we mentor these young girls, educating them on what their rights are and knowing what belongs to them because it’s one thing to grow up and another to know your rights. As a girl child, if you carry your self well, the society will respect you because sometimes, the society feels that the girl child is no child but I tell you, educate a girl child, educate a nation. A girl child is always vulnerable to crisis, to rape, etc so we tell them, if you find yourself in such situation, shout it out. Speak out. Don’t keep quiet. If any man molests you or touches you where he shouldn’t, say it out. We are advocates to that. A lot have gone through that and I have taken them to Human Rights offices in Jos and handed them over. The husbands of some also, are maltreating them. I have taken up such cases and we end up in human right office because like I said, I work with them when such cases are reported to me. I report the issues to the appropriate authorities.
Teenagers’ pregnancy is also part of this. Sometimes, parents send their daughters away when they get pregnant untimely, because of their position in the society or the church. They want their daughters to be married properly, which is good but what is the right thing to do when such happens? You don’t abandon the person. You don’t abandon your responsibility, but most mothers do that, even fathers.
For example, a girl was four months pregnant and she said that was the sixth time she had been pregnant and she had always been committing abortion.
So, after some arguments, I still went to their house, talked to them, they agreed then I followed up the case with the man that impregnated her. She knew the person who was in charge. He was also a military guy. You know, this crisis we are having in Jos, some of these military people cause some harm. By the time I realised, the guy was already in Enugu but thank God the girl had his phone number. I called him, the man owned up that yes the girl told him she was pregnant and that he’s ready to take the responsibility but the parents have not given them the opportunity. He said that he tried to speak to them and they threatened him and because of that, he had to keep distance.
I followed it up. The girl had the baby, a girl and when she had the baby, the parents came, took her and they were happy. The mother is now going around with this girl, now eight years old. The girl’s mother also went to school and she’s a graduate now. Now, the parents are happy but then they wanted to remove it, the girl refused.
A lot of widows sometimes have problems with inheriting their husband’s properties due to family issues and all that. Have you had such type of issues and what have you been able to do?
That is part of what I am doing but I never knew I was going to be an early widow when I started this paradise vision for widows and teenagers. I told you I started even before I registered it in 2000, and I lost my husband 2009 but before that, I had started this work which he was also encouraging me, going places with me whenever I had programs or even the people I help, when I bring them to the house, I would just tell him their situation. He let them be until we reconciled them with their families, before he went to be with the Lord. But when my husband died, it was a different ball game. My in laws denied me all my husband’s properties. They took everything. Absolutely everything. They even wanted the roof over my head. They took me to court in Jos. That is where the case was judged for four years and at the end, I won the case. This is a woman who had seven kids for a man, six boys and a girl but my brothers and sisters in law said no that in their culture, a woman doesn’t have properties. I said this is not a matter of your culture. I have children. How about the children? They took me to court, after all, they had taken all the properties already, except the roof over my head. Even the house, they wanted it. Anyway, that case was really celebrated. Papers carried it. The first day we went to court, the caption was “In Laws Battles Over Husband’s Properties”.
I took it to UN during CSW and I told the story. The day I told the story, it was more like a white audience. Everyone was in tears. If I was telling this story some years back, I would weep right now but now I think God has healed my pain because when I see the children and see what God is doing, I just said, let it be.
How have you been able to support this initiative?
No sponsors from anywhere. I have been doing this singlehandedly but the burden is getting bigger and bigger everyday. People see what you do. People that you have helped, both tell stories, people call you and when you tell them you don’t have, they don’t believe. I have told God that at every given point in time that someone is sent to me, make provision. I have tried my possible best to bring smiles to the faces of the downtrodden.
What do you have to say about the level of violence that has been going on in the nation, especially the one in Jos that just happened recently?
The level of violence that is going on in Nigeria is terrible, mostly in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria where I live and we have been advocates of peace. I belong to a lot of Peace groups and a lot of awards have been also given. I also want to thank God for the people around me that have helped to move the foundation forward, people like the Mr Gabriel Egbo, Mrs Gbegbumi Jacdonmi, Mr Sunday Nwali, Hon Simon Kudu, Rev Udeme who have been very wonderful and encouraging.
We pray that someday, there will be peace in the land and there will be justice because when the act is being committed, no one is being charged or taken to court and before you know it, they are released but if they were prosecuted and brought to book, I think it would reduce but my happiness and my joy is that each day we do this work, we pray that one day we live to see the same Plateau we used to know.
Recently, I lost eight people in one organisation I belong to in this last crisis. Eight children were killed on their way to a camp on Peacekeeping, and they died in the process. It was so heartbreaking. In the same crisis in Jos, I lost my in-law, my elder sister’s husband. He was killed in Jos crisis 2011, 8th January. My car was burnt down. I have had a bit of the crisis on the Plateau but that has not stopped me from being an advocate of peace because anything that will bring peace to Plateau, I want to be part of it. I keep on telling them that I am Plateau positive. I am peace positive. That is my slogan and I pray God will help us someday, soon, peace will come back to Plateau State but a lot of innocent souls have gone.
What challenges are you facing in your foundation?
The challenge we are facing is funding. I am asking good-minded Nigerians to help us in meeting our needs. Some of them, I can’t even pay their school fees again. When they call me, I tell them I don’t have because I have my own responsibility also but when you see that, you still want to help because it’s a passion I have so I urge the public or anybody who’s being touched to support us in any way, materially, financially, even prayerfully. You can come and do a voluntary Job. You are welcome. We are not even asking you for money alone. You can bring materials, like the girls, we give them pads every month because some of them use tissues and just rags, which are unhygienic. We also give them exercise books, a lot. If we get someone to be supplying the pads monthly, we won’t mind. You can bring materials for the girls or you can be taking care of the needs of the widows. As for the girls, you are taking care of; you can pay for their training and skills. We take you to where they are learning it, then you pay.
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