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Nigerian youths are talented, they need encouragement – Joan Agha

Joan Agha is passionate about the plight of indigent students and the vulnerable women in society. In the past decade, she has been playing a vital role in bringing succour to the needy in society. In this interview with NGOZI OKPALAKUNNE, Agha, who is the brain behind Joan Agha Foundation, stressed the need for the less-privileged women to be assisted financially as they will, in turn, contribute meaningfully to the development of their families and the society at large. Excerpts:

As a way of introduction, may we know the focus of your Foundation?

I believe that when God created us, he did that for a purpose and l believe that helping the poor, eradicating poverty as much as l can is one of the purposes that God created me asides being a wife and mother.

So, our major area of focus is granting scholarships to indigent students. We also give grants to university graduates for them to set up businesses of their own and then we give entrepreneurship lectures.

For the lectures, we invite successful entrepreneurs to give the students talk on how to become successful entrepreneurs.
During the lectures, the entrepreneurs are expected to also talk about the challenges they encountered while setting up their own businesses and how they were able to surmount such challenges.
We observed that such testimonies have gone a long way in encouraging some of the youths to become successful in their chosen businesses.
Some of our youths are indeed talented and they are doing great things, all they need is encouragement and financial support.

We also focus on less-privileged women in society. We carried out an assessment and discovered that some of these women do not need much money to set up mini businesses.
To assist them financially, we give them loans to set up their own businesses and they are all doing well.

How would you describe an average Nigerian woman?

An average Nigerian woman is hardworking and that is the reason l particularly like helping women.
When l was working in Shell Petroleum Nigeria, we resume work by 7 a.m and on my way going to work, as early as 6 a.m l would see some women already in the market and they would be there till night. When they get home, they would still prepare food for their families.
According to the former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Koffi Annan, ‘when women strive, all society benefits and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.” In any home where the woman is striving and succeeding everyone is happy.

Read also: Oyo trains 3,300 youths in agribusiness to boost food security

What do you think is the place of women in nation-building?

The place of women in nation-building is very important. As long as we are not doing that, we are not ready to develop, take a look at the role a woman plays in the home, it is fundamental. So, take the country as a woman, so why will you relegate the mother of the home to the background? Any home where the mother is relegated to the background, l wonder how such home will look like. The nation is made up of men and women as a result woman should not be sidelined. I do not have the statistics of nations that have put women in the forefront. But l know that such nations are doing very well.
Take for instance, during the time of the pandemic, it was reported that countries with women as head of states had low death toll because of the way they managed the situation.

Women are good managers of resources and other things. I am not condemning the men because there is no human being that will condemn the creation of God because we all have our roles.
We cannot continue to relegate the women to the background. During the election period, women will be invited to participate in dancing and other activities mapped out for the campaign, but when it comes for appointment, they will be given little or nothing; it shouldn’t be like that; the government should make a deliberate effort to give more slots to women because we have the same objective to build this nation. So, when men bring what they have to the table, women and the youth bring what they have to the same table, together we will build this nation.

The fact is that both men, women and youths are stakeholders in nation-building. And when women get into politics, they should represent other women well, they should not disgrace the womenfolk. They should go there to surpass the goals that are set before them.

Most importantly, women should support other women who are interested in politics. Take for instance, what happened some years back during one of the presidential elections where a female presidential aspirant, Sarah Jubril was the only one that voted for herself. I am sure she went there with other women and those women never voted for her; such an attitude is not encouraging. By now, women should have learnt to support their fellow women particularly those in politics. The saying that “women are their worst enemies” should be a thing of the past.

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