It was a gathering to celebrate resilient women, most of them displaced by crisis or natural disaster in the country but it also served as an avenue to honour those who have supported Sesor in its work with the women. Held under the theme: ‘Sesor Day of the Survivor: Celebrating the Resilient Women’ in the scenic Freedom Park, Lagos on October 25, it was emotional for those honoured as it was for the women, who had surmounted many challenges to get there.
Veronica Daniel, from Jamaa Local Government Area, Kaduna State, escaped election violence, which erupted on April 18, 2011 after former President Goodluck Jonathan was announced winner in the election that year. Zara Ali from Bama, Borno State, came to Lagos running from the Boko Haram insurgency. Also on the run is Salamatu Zakaria, whose family was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents resulting in the slaughter of three of her sisters, loss of property and their house burnt to the ground. Herdsmen, whom she said killed her father leaving her mother with a mental condition, chased Josephine Emmanuel, who also lost her husband and two children, out of Kwande Local Government Area in Benue State.
And so, all the 47 women who now live in a camp in Elegushi, Lekki area of Lagos came bearing similar tales of woe. It may not be bliss for them yet but they were all thankful for the new life they are leading with all its challenges and do not want to go back to their troubled past. They were also full of thanks for the hope that Sesor inspires in them as part of the organisation’s rehabilitation work in economically empowering these displaced women currently seeking refuge in Lagos.
They also came with a shopping list of urgent needs, most of them would like to go back to school, all of them want the ‘area boys’ that daily harass them and their children to get off their backs and a place to call home. What Sesor and its supporters give them now is interest-free loans so they can eke out a living. This has been quite successful with sixteen out of the first set of beneficiaries fully paying back and ready for a bigger responsibility. The Freedom Park event, apart from rewarding some of the women for their resilience, provided 47 women with such funds.
As founder of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Ier Jonathan stated, it has been an interesting journey working with the displaced women whom she described as not only resilient but also generous.
“We don’t only celebrate the women we work with, we also celebrate those who have supported us. We are here because of you. These women are here and are able to tell their stories, and have survived and have some hope because of you. So, please, give yourselves a round of applause,” she said.
Those who thought the applause was going to be it got a shocker evidently intended by Jonathan and her team when they started to call the roll of those who have supported the organisation’s work with internally displaced persons (IDPs). Sabinews.com, an online publication and its sister PR, advertising and event company, Radi8 Limited, were among the corporates and individuals called out and given certificate of recognition. So was the Grooming Centre, which Jonathan said was the first to provide funding for Sesor’s work in Nigeria.
“They are like my family, the founders of Grooming were my colleagues in UNICEF. And they were the ones that believed,” she said.
She explained that back then, when you told Nigerians that there were displaced people living in camps, you met with disbelief.
Also on the list of supporters that were recognised by Sesor at the event are the Executive Director of African Radio Drama Association (ARDA), Alison Data Phido, who is on the board of advisers of Sesor; Programme Administrator of Cakasa Ebenezer Foundation, Helen Egbe and Ruyi Communications Limited. Others are A White Space, The Ice Cream Factory, Angela Ege, Mrs. Magdalene Okrikri and her students from Greensprings School, Soni Irabor and Rufai Oseni.
Sesor, which translates from Tiv to mean ‘let us mend’, has been working with displaced persons, particularly women since 2014 when the organisation was founded on the back of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Kwande, Benue State.
The journey from that time to the present has been an interesting one of discovery. As Sesor’s Communications Officer Jasmine Asekoma pointed out when making a presentation at the event, the organisation launched its economic empowerment programme for displaced women, as part of the rehabilitation programme in Lagos (in partnership with Grooming Centre) and Maiduguri (in partnership with First City Monument Bank) with over 100 women currently enrolled.
Registered in 2010 with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Sesor works to empower survivors of emergencies for a better life by providing relief materials during emergencies and advocating for survivors of emergencies as well as supporting the rehabilitation of survivors and their families.
It has provided support to over 3,000 IDPs since inception through donation of relief materials to survivors of farmer-herder crises, who are internally displaced in Benue, Plateau and Taraba states. It has also donated relief materials to survivors of Boko Haram attacks in the FCT, Adamawa, Gombe and Lagos states; provided livelihood support for over 100 women in Lagos and Maiduguri through partnerships with Grooming People for Better Livelihood Centre (Lagos), First City Monument Bank (Maiduguri), Rotimi Shonubi Foundation (Maiduguri) and Greensprings School (Lagos), (2016 – 2017).
Sesor donated relief materials to flood survivors in Makurdi (2012); provided educational support for 151 pupils in Kwande, Benue State (2011) and provided emergency relief to over 50 families affected by communal conflict in Kwande (2010).
Indeed, as Egbe, also a member of Sesor’s board, stated, the encounter with Sesor has tremendously transformed the displaced women.
“I celebrate these women. I celebrate their resilience. They have changed, the transformation is amazing. I am very proud of the women here today,” she said.
For Phido the most important thing she is taking away is that these women who have had a bad patch and have come to seek refuge here are very resilient, are strong women, strong people who haven’t given up on life at all.
“These are very inspirational people. I want to talk about the problem of safety and security where they are. Camps by their very nature are not supposed to be permanent nor are they supposed to be comfortable. On top of that, the host community the perception of the host community and the way they are treating them is what hurts me most. Maybe we need to have some advocacy in the community where they are and talk to some of the leaders.
“Maybe have sessions where we actually hear these women tell their story. The whole value system, something is wrong. People run and come to you for succour, you are not supposed to compound their problems rape their children, molest their little girls and still call them names. Nobody asks for what happens to them. It can happen to anyone. I think that that is one way we can help,” she said.
That is why for Jonathan, one of the most urgent things Sesor is pushing for is to get the displaced women they are working with sustainable shelter, low cost housing.
“We need to get them somewhere secure. In the last few months we have been talking to a number of people about designing low cost housing and how we can make that happen. We will reach out to you to get something even if it is semi permanent so they can have safe houses. You heard their concerns, where they live there is a lot of child abuse going on, a lot of sexual abuse and their children are not really safe,” Jonathan said.
Some of the little children accompanied their mothers to the event and could be seen playing in the hall. They may not know it yet but what Sesor is doing will have a great impact on their future?