Nigeria has recorded several initiatives instituted by first ladies since the days of Better Life For Rural Women in the mid 80s, which have become complementary apparatus to government’s efforts at providing infrastructure and catalyzing developments. To a large extent, these programmes have become mechanisms of social interventions.

To this end, wife of Akwa-Ibom State Governor, Martha Udom Emmanuel, in a bid to better the lives of women in the state and empower them in all ramifications, has initiated Family Empowerment and Youth Re-orientation Programme (FEYReP). Describing the programme as the first of its kind in the state, she said it’s an example of what social intervention can achieve when properly executed in relation to its extraordinary impact and achievements in just five years.

At its inauguration on the occasion of the 28th anniversary celebration of Akwa Ibom State in 2015, she stated that FEYReP’s primary objective is to re-position family and youths in the state. With a five-point agenda that includes empowering women to provide economic and emotional support to their families, advocacy for the prevention of teenage pregnancies, education for the girl-child, promotion of moral values and economic excellence, as well as providing support to government efforts toward sustainable development, she was clear about its set objectives and how to achieve them. 

Today, she’s proud that FEYReP still maintains this momentum, providing far-reaching social intervention for the people.

“We are proud of the Girls Uphold Your Dignity programme, which keeps a cycle of sensitisation going for teenage girls in secondary schools on the benefits of abstinence from premarital sex, enlightening them on HIV/AIDS, VVF, teenage pregnancies, rape and the rights of the girl child to education. This is complemented by the Martha Cares for Young Women programme, which awakens young female adults’ awareness and resolve to decline unsolicited sexual advances from men. By providing counseling, scholarships and economic empowerment to inspire and support indigent young women, FEYReP has in the past three years, become a bastion of gender empowerment. With these two programmes, we have found a way to cut down on early pregnancy, which in the past was a big problem in this state.”

She further revealed that additional boost to this gender cause was given with its collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that resulted in the establishment of a Gender-based Violence Centre (GBV) in Uyo. 

“Focusing on the family as a key unit of society, FEYReP’s Shelter of Hope programme has been meeting indigent’s family need of a decent home. In the past five years, widows and others who are economically disadvantaged and unable to provide shelter for their families have enjoyed philanthropic gestures that made them homeowners. Across three senatorial districts, at least, 30 families have been beneficiaries of two and three-bedroom apartments newly built and furnished.

“To further lift women above the poverty line, start-up grants of N100, 000 and capacity building training were provided for them. At least, over 5,500 rural women, the poorest of the poor have benefitted from the various economic empowerment interventions.”

She added that 30,672 beneficiaries have enjoyed free eye care intervention, deworming, surgical care and other surgeries, among which were over 1000 senior citizens who on every International Day for Older Persons, went home with wellness kits, gift items and cash grants.

“In providing health services to these people, especially vulnerable women, FEYReP forged partnerships with MTN Foundation Eyesight Restoration Intervention Scheme (MTNF EyeRIS), Niemeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc, Pro-Health International and Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria (AKISAN, USA Incorporated). Another area of great importance is reducing maternal and infant mortality, which is being handled by the Martha’s Pregnacare Outreach. Asides free medical care and counseling, expectant mothers are entitled to delivery packs which has helped stem maternal and infant deaths. Orphans and vulnerable children are not left out and with the Divine Children Home, several orphans have been given a new lease of life with a roof over their heads and their education taken care of.”

She added that they have further strengthened care and rehabilitation efforts for abandoned children in nine special children’s homes across the state and those in foster care with monthly support of food, cash and other supplies, as well as providing financial and material support to inmates of Leprosy Hospital, Ekpene Obom in Etinan Local Council. She also set up skills acquisition centres in both Eket and Ikot Ekpene prisons where female inmates especially could make something of their lives.

“Even agriculture is not outside the scope of FEYReP’s interventions as its Food For All initiative, necessitated by rising prices of staple foods, especially garri, led to a 17-hectare model farm cassava farm and a cassava processing factory at Ikot Aba, Ibiono Ibom LGA; fish processing factories at Ukpenekang in Ibeno and Ibaka in Mbo LGAs respectively for women rural fish sellers, the establishment of palm oil processing factories in Edem Akai (Etim Ekpo LGA) and Aya Obio Akpa (Oruk Anam LGA) to take advantage of the Federal Government-Central Bank’s drive to boost palm oil production in the South-South.

One of the female beneficiaries hailed Udom Emmanuel, saying what she has done with FEYReP is a blueprint of how to drive development at the grassroots and is truly deserving of the sobriquet, “Eka Unwana” which means “Mother of light” she is called.

A recipient of several awards and accolades, the Mrs Udom said she remains focused on bringing about positive change and impacting the lives of more women and girls.

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