ALJAZIRAH ENTREPRENEUR- Why I am passionate about women, youth welfare- Princess Christybelle

ALJAZIRAH ENTREPRENEUR- Why I am passionate about women, youth welfare- Princess Christybelle

Christybelle Sylva John, CEO, Ray of Hope Empowerment Foundation explains to AljazirahNigeria the reasons why she has made it her life mission to fight for the rights and privileges of Nigerian women and youths. Excerpts:

By Amina Isah, Abuja

May we know you more?

My name is Christybelle Sylva John. I am married with three wonderful children. I run a non-governmental and nonprofit organization. I am also a business woman.

What kind of business are you into?

Trading to be precise. I used to contract those days, but I had to stop.

What is the name of your NGO?

Ray of Hope Empowerment Foundation. It has been on for a while now. We registered in December 2013 and by God’s grace we have been running all manner of programs.

What does your NGO do?

It’s all about women empowerment and youths, we also do things on children and try to better the lives of the common man on the street.

Ray of Hope Empowerment Foundation has been involved in various humanitarian activities, since our inception. We have carried out various medical outreaches in different communities in four area councils in Abuja where we conducted several tests such as HIV, Malaria and blood sugar levels. We also distributed over 10,000 piece of insecticide treated nets to pregnant women, men and children under the ages of 5. We go to schools to create awareness on importance of making right decision on their careers, maintaining a healthy lifestyle etc.

We are passionate about education, especially the girl child education. Education is the key that opens doors to progress. It is a fundamental right of every child. Girls should not only be seen as future mothers but assets to the nation’s development. When we invest in the girl child, the whole nation benefits. If girls have enough to eat, a safe environment and she is educated, she will work to raise the standard of living for herself, her family, community and the nation at large.

There is a magazine we are trying to introduce. 70% of the articles were written by teenagers. We want to see a way we can encourage readership, because if you check out what is really happening in education, lots of children are so much involved in the internet. People are finding it difficult to read books, so we want to go back to that era where we could read books. When we were in secondary school, we had an hour for prep where we could read books after school hours, so that’s what we want to go back to, and also the use of library to activate it once again.

You know people are finding hard to use the library too, they are always on the internet. And internet has its own advantages and vices. If you are not there regulating what they do on the internet, some of them learn what is outside what they ought to learn. So we want parents to subscribe to this magazine, since we giving teenagers power to write themselves, sometimes we proffer solutions based our own understanding. So we want them to write things bothering them and proffer solution at their own level.

Read also: A worrisome culture of frivolous protests (Editorial)

What makes Ray of Hope Empowerment different from other NGOs?

We specifically handle the needs of the less privileged in the society, especially in the area of girl-child education, we do our best to enroll them, we place some of them on scholarship. And for women, we help those who are into small scale businesses. When we find out you are not really doing well in terms of finance we try to help boost their businesses by raising them little funds and for those that aren’t doing anything we also assist them. Sometime last year, a particular woman said she wanted to go into bean cake business and we provided her with some cash, oil, beans to start up the business and we have been monitoring her, she is doing quite well.

We occasionally organize peace summits where we invite different resource people to come and talk on importance of harmonious existence in a multicultural society and so on. We have also donated various relief materials to different IDP camps in Abuja.

We have partnered with organizations like Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to commemorate the international day of the girl child, where we spoke on how girls ought to keep themselves clean during menstruation to avoid infections. We also act every 27th of May, which is a day set aside for children. We have visited and organized programs and competition for various secondary schools in FCT where Airtel communications gave out phones and T-shirts to the winners of the debate.

How do you raise funds to manage all these affairs?

We do that from our board of trustees, we raise internal funds within ourselves and from well-meaning Nigerians who believe in what we do, and they have been supporting us tremendously.

We have also gotten support from people from the government. Like the last time I had a program in the IDP camp, we got support from Gombe state governor and the Vice president’s wife, I have also gotten support from Atiku’s son, Alhaji Adamu, he has been there for us too.

What aspect would you want the government to work on concerning the less privileged?

We want more girls enrolled in school, because if you check the statistics of those that are not in school, they are quite high. As we speak about 62 million girls are not in school. That is really an alarming rate.

Lately, the Emir of Kano has been in the news, he has been doing everything he can to encourage the girl-child education. For instance he has been talking about putting an end to early girl child marriage, that parents shouldn’t force their children if they don’t want to be married. One aspect is to make the law, and the other one is to make sure they act according to the law, because we have so many laws but they are not really putting their feet on the ground to make sure that those laws are implemented.

I will like to encourage the government to see how the people displaced by Boko haram can be integrated into the society. If you continue to feed a man, you will feed him forever but when you teach him to feed, he will not only feed himself but his entire family.

Government should give them places to live and farmland since most of them were practically farmers in their hometown before they were displaced. They can be involved in various trades instead of waiting for people and government to continue to give them aids, this is only making them a liability not just to people but also to themselves. After all, most of us who are here in Abuja or any other part of Nigeria are all striving to make a living.

What are the challenges you face?      

Yes. I will like to say that power supply is really a big challenge to everyone who is into business in Nigeria. For business to strive they has to constant supply of power and at an affordable rate. That is why most business people travel as far as China to manufacture and import goods into Nigeria because the cost of production is cheaper. For instance, a woman who sells soft drinks and has to buy ice blocks at a high rate to chill the drinks, how much does she make at the end of the day? She either sells high to be able to make some profit or makes nothing at all. This also explains why people patronize goods imported from other countries than goods produced in our country. If made in Nigeria goods must be promoted, then the government must take cognizance of the importance of power.

The women are the heartbeat of every nation thus, they ought to be encouraged to be involved in the affairs of the nation. Like the saying goes, when you train a woman, by extension you are training an entire nation because any woman who is empowered will automatically ensure that her whole family is carried along. Most importantly, women should be encouraged to participate in politics. Gone are the days when women were seen as house wives who sits at home to enjoy her husband’s money but have distinguished themselves in different walks of life.

I am a woman who believes in gender equity, you know what I mean? What is good for the goose is good for the gander. It is high time women should stop looking up to men to empower them, they have to achieve it, earn it. We should make ourselves important enough to contribute positively and gainfully to the development of our nation.