Ifeoma Jane Adibe-Chukwuka: Why Educating Women Matters In Rural Development
Over the years, AYECI Africa has driven deep and sustainable engagements that make it possible for people in underserved communities, especially women, to improve their prospects and living conditions, through a variety of interventions that expands access to education, employment opportunities and gender equality.
In her chat with Rural Reporters, Founder/Executive Director of AYECI Africa, Ifeoma Jane Adibe-Chukwuka shares her wisdom on why educating rural women is the most powerful tool for rural development in Africa and all over the world.
Why did you create an NGO that advocates for literacy?
During my undergraduate years I looked around and saw a lot of students with potential but without expression, so in 2006 we first founded ASPIRE a student engagement initiative that ignited the potential of our student members, gave them a voice and plugged back their potential into developing their community. ASPIRE engaged its members in a couple of initiatives like Mentoring high school students, volunteering a community literacy centres, organizing employability tours etc. By graduation we were privileged to have grown ASPIRE to about 300 students members in 4 campuses.
Two years after graduation and having gained valuable experience in social interventions whilst working with student, I realized the need to develop a proper structure that would position our work for the future. The initiative we began in 2006, has today grown into AYECI Africa.
In AYECI, we do a lot more than just advocating for literacy. However our work in literacy advocacy has given us more attention and recognition.
How is your organisation using adult education to empower women in Africa?
Women need not be just objects or beneficiaries of development, but equal participants in the development of a nation. Given that, it is imperative that building the capacity of women is crucial for any holistic development to happen.
Adult education crucial in the empowerment process of poor women. To a large extent, women’s low level education affects their chances of wealth creation, sharing their views and having their voices being taken into account. This implies that with some skill training to improve upon their income-generating activities, functional literacy program to upgrade their reading and writing skills, and access to information to make them more enlightened, the capacity of women can be enhanced.
AYECI provides this sort of holistic approach to adult education; access to literacy training, knowledge resources and productive skills. In so doing, we empowering and enhancing the capacity of poor African women.
Why did you concentrate on giving adult women education? What benefit do you think that will serve them?
As a woman, I have experienced first-hand the value and benefits of education in giving me a voice.
Education is an enabler, and as an organisation we would like to make significant impression and underscore the importance of educating the girl-child and women who we believe are the guardians of the future.
Without apologies, I’m also personally driven by this quote; ‘the surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation.’
Education is an enabler, so giving disadvantaged adult women an education would benefit them in so many ways; it empowers and enables them to be better for themselves, their families and communities. Education enhances their skills for income generation, improved health choices and better participation in decision making both at home and in the community.
What are some of the communities you have worked in and what were the experiences?
We have been operational since 2012 and worked in several communities in Lagos, Ogun, Ilorin and Abia states.
We’ve had our fair share of good and not too pleasant experience, all in all it’s been rewarding and has contributed to getting us where we are today.
I remember an experience we had about a year ago, when we couldn’t secure a facility for our literacy classes in Ikorodu, we had to do makeshift planning in a very quick amount of time as the session was due to commence. Classes had to be held in open spaces and market stall. It was a bitter sweet experience, because despite the inconveniences the learners still attended classes. It would have been heart-breaking for the team had the learners not shown up. I was incredibly touched by the commitment of the learners, the experience gave me high hopes and was a sign for me, that our interventions were needed and appreciated.
Why are women in rural area generally poorer and face worse living conditions than men?
There are several reasons why women face worse living conditions than men in rural areas. The cultural stereotypes is more dominant in such areas resulting in the partial education of females which leads to absence of employment skills. In rural areas, women are also subject of unequal allocation of resources (land & capital) makes women more susceptible. The inability of women to exercise ownership and use of their resources to the same degree as men also plays a large part in the growing inequalities and poor living conditions faced by women.
Why does gender equality in rural development matter?
For starters, we must acknowledge that in rural communities women are disproportionately represented as the poorest, many of whom lack access to education, employment opportunities and productive asset. Although gender inequality varies across societies, globally it is evident that women are not provided with equal opportunities as men.
Gender equality matters in rural development because eradicating poverty would start by providing women with opportunities to take part in economic activities. Promoting gender equality provides benefits for rural development; decrease in child mortality, increased economic growth, strengthening governance.
While many women in rural communities live in poverty, it is especially difficult to improve their wellbeing particularly when they lack education. What do you think is the best way to help women in poverty improve their economic condition?
Interestingly, your statement already provides answer to the question. If the lack of education presents a critical difficulty in improving the wellbeing and economic condition of poor women, it is imperative that we invest in interventions that would enable these women have better access to basic and functional education.
As earlier mentioned, education is an enabler and crucial empowerment tool to lift poor women out of poverty. Education doesn’t only make them enlightened, it also enhances their capacity for wealth creation.
I highly recommend that asides providing access to education, it is also vital to integrate learning with activities that would enhance their skill in income generation.
Recently in Africa, we have more women breaking stereotype of male dominance in socio-economic development. What impact do you think this has on social development?
In ideal conditions. Women like men in Africa also need the security, stability and freedom to participate in the development of their societies not just as objects but as intellectuals, policy makers, producers and consumers.
In recent times, the rise in the number of women breaking stereotype and utilizing their energies to promote socio-economic development will not only foster sustainability, the involvement of more women as key actors in development process would largely contribute to increasing economic growth, reducing poverty and enhancing societal wellbeing.
What projects is your organisation working on at the moment?
As a non-profit we run a variety of projects that serves our target beneficiaries and also helps in fund raising
At the moment, I would like to mention our first funded project: THE EDUCATE A COMMUNITY PROGRAM. The project is designed to provide functional literacy training for educational disadvantaged women and youths. The project currently serves over 80 learners in three (3) communities. We recently graduated 27 learners who completed 9months of literacy classes from our Ikorodu center.
We also have the PLAY FOR LITERACY CAMPAIGN, which is a major fundraiser for our organisation. It is an annual football event that brings us a lot of resources and lots of new corporate friends to our organisation.
The event is targeted at leveraging the goodwill of corporate organizations and their employees to raise support for literacy. Every year, 16 corporate organisations come together to play at the football tournament. The event is currently in its 2nd season, some of the companies that have participated at the event include: Microsoft Nigeria, HP, LIRS, LAWMA, LASAA, NOKIA, FIDELTY BANK, PEPSI, SAP NIGERIA.
For communities where AYECI’s programme is yet to reach, how can we help improve girls and women access to education?
Providing women and girls with access to education is one sure way of giving them the enabling power to make informed choices over the kind of lives they wish to lead. This is not luxury.
In communities where our interventions are yet to reach, it is important to women and girls are provided with such opportunities. Some of the way to mitigating the barriers that improve such access include; providing low-cost learning program or better-still scholarship opportunities for talented females, ensuring the availability of female teachers, accessibility of learning centres, flexible timetable and relevant curricula
What is your advice to young people aspiring to make positive change like you?
Any opportunity you have to make a positive impact in the lives of others doesn’t leave you the same, you get as good as you make others.
You can find Ifeoma on twitter: @ifeomaadibe @AYECIAfrica
Photo Credit: AYECI Africa and Ifeoma Adibe