In the bustling city of Potiskum, Yobe State, amidst the throngs, 30-year-old Asma'u Jibril Umar saw as women who their husbands abandoned became immediately helpless and wondered if things could have been different for them if they could sustain themselves.
In 2021, after consulting her mentors and the founder of the Aikawa Charity Foundation in Kano State, she received support to start the Striving For Jannah Charity Foundation, a non-profit organization
“I tapped inspiration from the works of Aikawa Charity Foundation in Kano and it always excites me to help the needy,” Asma'u said.
Since the foundation's vision was to provide succour, it first started with the rehabilitation of a young boy named Abba Muhammad with diabetes. Abba was always seen begging for food on the streets of Potiskum.
After learning about his condition, Asma'u and her team went to work, trying to help him.
Investigations carried out by the foundation found that Abba's parents were alive, but they left him to the mercy of the street.
“We started our first project with him. We fed him daily and also took him to the hospital regularly to receive medications,” Asma'u told Prime Progress.
Asma'u highlighted that Abba's family was unhappy about the situation because they felt that he had humiliated them by publicly letting such help come to him.
Asma'u continued, “When we found him, he was a drug addict, but we have invested time and resources to rehabilitate him.”
Sadly, Abba passed away months after the intervention, as his parents were said to have stopped him from receiving further assistance.
Sustaining lives through empowerment programs
With the valuable lessons from Abba's incident, Asma'u redirected her focus and mission towards empowering women with the skills and knowledge necessary for self-sufficiency.
Her intervention comes at a crucial time, as World Bank and International Monetary Fund reports indicate that Nigeria is home to over 87 million people living in extreme poverty, with 52 million women.
In the summer of 2022, the foundation initiated an empowerment program targeting young girls and women in Potiskum.
Recognising that sustainable change goes beyond mere provision of food and basic healthcare, Asma'u firmly believes that empowerment is the key to improving the lives of these individuals.
“That is possible through empowerment programmes. We try to make them self-dependent by equipping them with skills they can profit from,” she recounted.
The selection of the 25 beneficiaries was based on recommendations provided by the foundation's team and board members. Additionally, they surveyed local communities to identify individuals in genuine need of assistance.
The foundation enlisted skilled professionals as mentors for the beneficiaries to impart valuable skills. These mentors provided hands-on training in crafting handbags, shoes, fashion designs, and household items.
The empowerment program has profoundly impacted the lives of young women like Yahanasu Adamu Begudi. Thanks to the program, Yahanasu, a 22-year-old, now finances her education by applying the skills she acquired. She focused on crafting shoes and handbags for women.
During the project, she was newly admitted into the Federal College of Education (Technical), Potiskum. She then utilised the opportunity to sell the shoes and bags to students within the school.
"I'm using the profits I made from selling these products to buy study materials and cover my transportation expenses without relying on others," she said.
She also shared her knowledge with several young women in her community, including some already married and supporting their husbands in business.
Today, Yahanasu faces a challenge due to the rising cost of living. The prices of materials used in her products have increased, resulting in reduced profits.
Adama Muhammad is another beneficiary who found herself raising children alone when her husband abandoned her in 2021. The foundation stepped in to provide her with essential support during those difficult times.
Through the empowerment program, 43-year-old Adama learned the art of fashion design.
"Yes, I'm still involved in sewing clothes, and it helps me cover my family's expenses," she shared with Prime Progress.
Asma'u revealed that although the program doesn't typically provide startup capital to beneficiaries, they supply sufficient materials from the market to use in their product-making ventures.
The foundation currently relies on self-funding and contributions from philanthropists. However, financial gaps still need to be addressed to execute successful projects.
Beyond the funding challenges, Asma'u noted that some program beneficiaries have ceased using the skills they acquired because they sold off all the materials provided by her foundation.
Despite the challenges, Asma'u hopes that she and her team of 15 staff can continue to empower women, one skill at a time.