Together We Move Forward
On May 15th, the Paipe community in Abuja, Nigeria, gathered in the dusty street in front of the community school to celebrate the International Day of the Family. Princess Osita-Oleribe, director of the Centre for Family Health Initiative (CFHI), spoke to over 200 participants and celebrated with song and dance—an important part of any gathering for Osita-Oleribe. She said, “We walk together, we move together, we dance together, we think together, we resolve together, and together we move forward!”
It was with this same enthusiasm and joyful certainty that through the family we can strengthen our communities, that Osita-Oleribe attended CSW earlier this year, advocating for increased awareness of the health and education needs of women in her country. From their humble beginnings in 2000 when the members of CFHI borrowed money from friends, family, and local businesses to be able to help build a school and start after-school educational programs, CFHI has become involved in many causes: from attending the National Tuberculosis Conference fighting to eradicate disease in Nigeria, to striving to lower infant mortality, and looking for opportunities to raise families out of poverty. One of the ways they have been trying to do this is by getting people to recognize the importance of investing in women—they believe that building healthy families can help build healthy societies. “I realized how far we can go if we try, if we approach our goals with dedication and passion,” Osita-Oleribe said.
In many ways this measurement of health and success begins with the women in the community, and the influence that they can have if educated, and given the power to make change. Princess Osita-Oleribe recognized the powerful impact that a woman can have in the capital of their communities, binding their families together and helping to strengthen their socio-economic capital. One of the ways CFHI supports this change is by educating women, and helping them gain skills that are necessary and relevant to their communities.
CFHI has issued 140 microloans to women in different communities. They have instigated diabetes education and screenings at local schools. They have participated in maternal health screenings and skill acquisition training in barbering, hairdressing, tailoring, carpentry, soapmaking, catering, and other skills. They work in over 40 schools in communities throughout Nigeria. In addition to their own activities, CFHI is a powerful voice for others trying to make a difference, advocating for stronger family bonds, and engaging in conversations that help us to help each other. “We need to have conversations that we ordinarily would not have. We need to discuss issues of health and safety and morality. We need to talk to not only the women and girls, but their fathers and brothers and sons as well. We need to educate them on the importance and value of connecting with their mothers and their sisters. We need to open minds to new possibilities and new ways of doing things—better ways that help strengthen the family, pulling us together instead of pulling us apart.”
Follow the Centre for Family Health Initiative on twitter @CFHInitiative to see what they are doing to try to make a difference in their communities, and see what you can do to help.