Chinyere Orji Benedicta is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cromaria Care foundation, a non-governmental organisation that empowers orphans, widows and the less-privileged. In this interview with Kehinde Akinseinde-Jayeoba, she discusses her passion to see women being financially independent among other things.
When did you start your foundation?
Cro-maria care foundation is a non-governmental organisation that started in 2018. However, the foundation was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2019. The core focus is to help the less privileged and empower women to be financially-independent and contribute to the welfare of their children, families and the society at large. The foundation, so far has empowered 3,000 female farmers in Abia state in the last three years by giving them fertilisers to enhance their farm produce. We don’t just give them fertilizer but we also educate them on how to be a better support system
Aside from agricultural empowerment, the foundation has trained and empowered artisans. We have given out grinding machines to women, especially widows, given scholarship to the less-privileged in Abia State.
Is the foundation restricted to empowerment of women in the rural area?
No. The foundation has carried out diverse empowerment programmes for young girls, widows and women in Lagos state. Men are not also excluded from our programmes. Basically, we just want to touch lives and empower people. Our target is to reach out to more people across Nigeria and to other countries in Africa.
After empowerment, do you follow up on the utilisation of the funds and support?
Yes. We do not just dish out empowerment and back off. Before the empowerment, we would have trained them and we also attach mentors to the beneficiaries. We follow them up and so far we have received lots of positive feedbacks and testimonies. From those we gave fertilisers, there had been testimonies of more profit and yield in their farm produce.
How do you fund your projects?
For now, it has been self-sponsored. However, as we expand our target to reach out to African women especially the downtrodden, we look forward to partnership from the government as well as organisations. We want to impact more lives; as we expand our tentacles, we cannot do it alone, therefore we seek partnerships.
You have worked with women in the rural area in the country, what is their perspective to life and living?
Women do not want to take the back seat anymore. Looking at economy in the country, men alone cannot finance the home. Women are standing up to support their spouses in fending for their homes. As a foundation, we also strive to change the orientation of not just being financially independent but to discharge the duty of care to people around them.
How far-reaching is the message of the girl-child education in the suburb?
They are yet to really understand the importance of girl-child education. The narrative of placing importance on the male child more than the female child has been embedded into the culture and tradition. However, as a foundation, we keep on preaching it, especially in our villages. Children are to be given equal chances. None should be subjected to the other. Growing up, my father told me ‘‘I don’t want you to be a liability to a man.’’He gave both his male child and female child quality education. That sticks to my brain till date. If you don’t train the girl-child, how will she be of help? Training a girl-child is not to make the man less important as some believe.
Where does the woman need to draw the curtain between work and the home front?
Leadership at work is a responsibility and different from the home. He whom much is given, much is expected. The company policy is different from home policy. You can’t compromise it, you have to do your best.
Taking myself as an example, when I am am home, I forget about the office because each has its own policy. The way I will shout at a man in the office, I can’t do that at home. Due to our office goals, to avoid failure, we need to do it right. Also at home, if your home did not work, it becomes a problem. The Bible says “A wise Woman built her home but a foolish one destroyed it.” Wisdom is required at home because the man is the head. You don’t boss your husband at home. All I do is to give suggestions to him.
What are the strategies you apply to keep your home and business?
I have to talk to myself, because when you are losing something you have to go back and think deep, if not, you can’t succeed.
If the home fails, African man would shift the blame to the woman, whereas we both failed. But in a company, it is the head that fails.
For the home to stand, it is a personal thing. You need to talk to yourself, work on yourself and be humble at home. When coming to office, I wear office dress; when going home I take it off.
What’s your opinion on the reversal of roles in the home where the woman works while the man takes care of the house?
I don’t subscribe to that because the ego of the man will rise and there will be no happiness and joy at home. It can work for white men but it can’t work for Africans. In Africa, man is the head of the house no matter how small the money he brings home.
In taking care of the children and home, we need to know each other’s ability in the family. A family I know waits for the father to help the children with school assignment because the woman could not. So we need to understand each other’s abilities and not pass blames. Also, when I went for PTA meeting, I saw a lot of fathers and I was very happy. Children, these days, are more knowledgeable than their parents, therefore joint effort is needed to raise them well.
How best can you raise a child at this industrialised age?
We need to pray for them. We also need to study our children in order to know how best to deal with them- like talking to them, knowing when to flog them. Be close to them; be their friend and let them be free to tell you things. When I was young I did teach teens and they confided in me more than their mothers because most were scared of their parents.
Allow them to talk, allow them to experience things. Don’t force your ambition on them. A friend of mine studied medicine and surgery but now she is a fashion designer. She said her parents’ ambition for her was medicine and surgery and she has made them happy by doing it and now she is doing what makes her happy and what she loves doing (fashion designer). Always encourage your children based on what they love to do.
In commemoration of the international women’s day, what’s your advice?
At Cromaria Care foundation we choose to challenge women out to poverty, we challenge women capability, we choose to challenge bad attitude -beautiful face with empty brain.
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