Home Feature Govt should spend more on vocational trainings – Deaconess Olofinkua

Govt should spend more on vocational trainings – Deaconess Olofinkua

Deaconess Adekemi Olofinkua is the President, Prime Women Builders Foundation of Nigeria (PWOBFON), a non-governmental organization (NGO). In this interview with FEMI-OLUSOLA IKUGBAYIGBE, she speaks on unemployment in the country among others. Excerpts: What is PWOBFON all about?
Is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization).  We are into vocational training. Also, we tried to involve corporate organizations for the benefit of women. We have the vision of adding value to womanhood. Women are essential people in the society; there is no community without a woman. Women are mothers, sisters and they are the people that can grow the community. Without women, there is no reproduction. We give important information that women may not see to them.
What inspired you to go into the NGO?
What actually inspired me was an experience I had 10 years ago with a group of women that I was appointed to lead in my church for a programe. We tasked ourselves to pay some money but most of them kept complaining that they didn’t have money, and the fact was that they didn’t have. They didn’t have because what they were doing was not enough or maybe they were not doing anything at all. So, I decided to find a way to solve the problem. I came up with the idea of going into vocational training so that they can do something with their hands.  I could not look for employment for them; what I can do was to look for experts in vocations who would train them. So, the idea of I don’t have money was what actually led me to start the NGO.
What is your vision?
Our vision is adding value to womanhood.
What about your mission and objectives?
They are; to provide women with valuable information and opportunities pertaining to income generation and diversification, to enable women with basic skills and equipment to be self-reliant and support them becoming organized in the community; to provide vocational training for women to enable them run their own businesses; to partner with corporate organizations in getting valuable information and support for grassroot women in order to alleviate poverty. And our objectives are aimed at assisting women and any person in our communities to acquire needed skills to self-realization and empowerment in their chosen area of endeavour; provides platform for participating companies to showcase their products and services, provides opportunity for free health screening and provides opportunities for acquiring skills from various vocational trainings.
How do you get sponsors for the programme?
The vision started 10 years ago but the NGO was properly registered seven years ago. So, for the past years, it has been me and my husband. The major part of it was my husband but thank God for 2016, there are companies who see our vision and supported us even though we still expect lots of support because the objective is to give women basic tools to start up with what they have learnt. But for now, we have not been able to do that because of fund. The minimum we spent on each programme is over N800, 000. So, we will appreciate other companies to still support our vision this year. We have three companies who helped us. It is a very good platform for sales, promotion and feedback and also to raise upcoming distributors, wholesalers and retailers.
What does it take women to come for the training?
We give women open entry. The vocational training is absolutely free and it will continue to be free even if I’m not around tomorrow. It has been laid down that the training must be free; admission for empowerment day must be free.
How do you cope with the NGO as mother with your job?
When you have a passion, no matter what, you will be able to go through it, it has not being easy but I tried to put my home in order, I make sure that my home is fine; if I’m planning for the empowerment program, I make sure all necessary things are put in place at home and moreover, I thank my husband for his understanding.
In the next five years, where do you hope this NGO should be?
We have not got to where we are going. I see a very large crowd that people will come to celebrate.  From this project, I see lives turn around. In the 2016 empowerment day, the person that trained them on decoration, Mr. Esho, was among those we trained in the 2014 empowerment day. Today, he is on his own, doing very well. Also the person that thought them cake icing, Juliet Ossai, was one of those who came to one of our empowerment programmes and today, she is a facilitator. So, in the nearest future, I’m seeing us getting the trainees out to come and train people. I’m also seeing us giving people the basic equipment to start up their businesses. Then, the NGO would have grown financially, supporting women to start their own businesses.
You started seven years ago, what are your testimonies?
Mr. and Mrs. Esho are one of our testimonies. Tthey learned from here and today they are our facilitators. I remember Mr. Esho gave me his Curriculum Vitae (CV) after the Ikorodu empowerment day. I collected the CV and tried all I could to get him a job through one of the companies we wrote for sponsorship. But Mr. Esho later called me that he doesn’t need the job again that he has started a decoration job.  Now, Mr. Esho is into full-time decoration business, people even call him “Oga” (boss).  He is now a big time decorator. Juliet is also one of them; she also attended one of our empowerment days and today, she is into baking. She said she used the baking job to train herself in school. Tina is the one in charge of liquid soap and household items. She is a worker and also doing the soap making by the side.
With the level of unemployment in the country coupled with the present economy crisis, what is your candid advice for Nigerian youths?
In fact, I’m already thinking seriously. Women are the first focus but as we move on, we include the men. In this year’s event, we added aviation training to our vocations because we saw that men also are interested. In the past, men were doing decoration and wire works but with the introduction of computer and aviation training, most of them are interested in the computer and aviation. We are also looking at how to fully involve the youths because they are the future of this country and so, we will try our best to make sure that the youths come first because whatever you do with your hands is your own. If you think of white cola job, sincerely, one day, you will leave and once you leave and you have no skill of your own, it means you don’t have a place to go.But when you have something to do with your hands; it is when you die that you will be retire. So, what you do with your hands and know how to do matters a lot because with it, you can become a manufacturer. My message for the youths is clear: be skillful and get yourself employed.
Don’t you see government lacking in the area of empowerment in this country?
I may not say it actually that government is lacking, government is trying its best but it cannot cover everywhere. My candid advice is that government should spend more on vocations because looking at the number of people that attend our empowerment programme every year, they are in their thousands and that means Nigerians need vocational skills. Government should concentrate more on vocations.
What is the academic qualification to be one of your trainees?
School is not a priority to success. That you go to school does not guarantee your success. Meanwhile, I still advise that everybody should go to school because education will certainly reflect in everything you do. But the fact is that education doesn’t make you successful; what makes you successful is what you think; like the Bible says ‘as a man thinks in his heart, so he is”. If you see yourself as a successful person, you must go for what will make you successful, make sure you do something with your hands. Our programme is open to everybody. We even speak indigenous languages in our training so that our trainees can understand what we train them.
Now that the government has introduced Agricultural programme in all states, would you also introduce it into your empowerment programmes?
We have started planning for next year and for the next year’s event, we are bringing in Agriculture. We are supposed to bring it in this year but the facilitators requested for money and because we cannot raise the fund, we have to drop it. So, by next year, if money is what they need, we will plan towards it so that we can bring in something in Agriculture.
For the past seven years, what are your challenges?
Our challenge basically is finance, though, for the past years, I have been silent about finance because we have been able to support ourselves to this level by the grace of God. We also discovered that after the event, some people wanted to continue but we have been constrained financially. It has not been easy to convince people to attend the programme as well. This year, we printed over 6,000 fliers and we also did a road show just to make sure that people attend. Some people even said we are 419, but the point is that everyone is entitled to his or her feelings.  Our programme is free, and we don’t charge people for anything. We plan to have vocational training centres at every area we go so that people can continue the training for two to three months to acquire more knowledge. But to do this, we need a lot of money.  The facilitators must be on ground.I must be able to pay them as well. So, finance has been our major challenge.
What is your plan for those who are already employed?
Before the end of this year, I’m planning a programme for them; don’t be deceived, you will leave that place you are working presently one day and start to ask yourself that after retirement, what next? My brother, that is why you see most people that after retirement, they die very quickly. Immediately they are told that their job is over, they become weak and start complaining because they don’t have a place to go like before. That is why you see them dying after retirement. But if you already have something that you are doing, it will help you after your retirement.

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