The month of August, in this part of the country, has become a very important calendar month of activities among the calendar months.
August, the Eight month of the year has become a senoxture of attention, hosting two major and important events in Igboland- the New yam festival and the Women August conference.
The New yam festival celebrated in all Igbo speaking communities and the annual Women August conference have made August, the most beehives month of activities in any of the calendar month of the year.
While the New yam festival didn’t actually impacted or popularised the month of August much due to limited participation of people based on religious belief, the Women August conference is all encompassing and has added a major and new impetus and glamour to the month due to the uniqueness of women in adding colour, glitze and value to whatever they do.
Today, people, women in particular look forward to and start preparing for the month of August well in advance and just like the month of December, another month of celebration, no woman want to be left out or miss the yearly August conference of either her community, church, age grade or group due to the feeling of nostalgia associated with such conference.
The Women August meeting brings together women from diversed background, beliefs, class, endeavours and accomplishments in a given community to ruminate on the challenges facing their communities, the womenfolk in particular and proffered solutions thereon It arose as a gap filler and veritable instrument of mobilising women’s active participation in communal development.
This is because women are the worst hit in communal crisis, societal inequalities and every other forms of communal under development.
Thus, as an agent of enlightenment, mobilisation, integration and due to their uniqueness, they must play a powerful roles to challenge and change the equation, provide a veritable platform devoid of any biases to harness women’s potentials to contribute, excel and drive general development of their various communities.
To this end, the women August conference has provided the materials and instrument of achieving such objectives.
When the Women August conference debuted about 30years ago, it was seen as a misplaced and wrong concept due to certain negative acts associated with some women.The then August meeting was seen as a jamboree sort, a class conscious and rivalry gathering where women came to compete against each other, show superiority complex, exhibit their latest and trending fashion and flaunt their husband’s wealth along with certain misbehaviourial attitudes.
These vices no doubt affected the perception of the objectives of the August conference then but did not totally submerged the good and noble objectives behind the Women August conference.
It didn’t take time for the wheat to be separated from the chaff as Women August conference witness serious transformation and the vehicle of August conference put in its proper lane.
Today, the lands of our communities are dotted with various developmental projects and drives championed by our women through the instrumentality of their yearly August conference.
In Amaokwe Item, Bende local government, the women were not left out as they cue in to the objective and instrumentality of the women August conference. A look at their performance record showed that they need to be applauded and celebrated for the giant strides they have made and recorded through the women August conference.
According to the out- going National Secretary of the Amaokwe Item Welfare Union (AIWU), Women’s Wing, Ezinne Lolo Ijeoma Ogba Nwaokoro, the motive behind the celebration of Amaokwe Item Women August Conference was birthed as a result of lot of developmental needs in Amaokwe Item and the need to provide a major problems solution platform. Lolo Nwaokoro, further said that outside the need to solve some of the identified problems, the August Conference brings together women from different parts of the country to interact and exchange ideas on certain developmental needs affecting the community and women in particular.
” Within this period every myyear, we come home to interact, share ideas and show love to one another. Infact, August Conference gives the women enough time to identify both individual and collective problems and also find solutions to the problems. It is not a period of showcasing wears as it’s speculated in some quarters. It is a period of sober reflections on how far we have faired as women”, she said
According to her, some women have become a better version of themselves through the experiences gathered in attending the August conference.
On the achievements of the conference so far, the outgoing National Secretary said that Amaokwe Item women became the first community to start the annual August conference under the leadership of former National President, Prof. Regina Enyidia Ogali.
She stated that the conference under the then leadership was able to solve some pressing challenging problems facing the womenfolk especially the home based.
According to her, the conference started the building of a skills acquisition center, empowered some indigent women to learn some skills that have helped them become economically self reliant and help their homes and well got a vehicle that was being used to convey our rural mothers to farms and back.
Also, under Prof Ogala’s administration, a cassava cottage machine was attracted and installed for the women of Amaokwe Item, which has helped to reduce the stress they passed through in processing of garri.
Lolo Nwaokoro said that present National President, Lady Sophia Ukachukwu has equally recorded great meaningful achievements among them but not limited to completion and furnishing of the Women’s Development Skills Acquisition Center through the assistance of the Rotary Club International and that the club trained 200 women from Amaokwe Item in different skills like hairdressing, catering, fashion designing, computer appreciation, make up skills among others for free.
Out of this number, 40 of them who did well and passed the set exams at the end of the training were empowered by the Club.
Equally, the present regime instituted a scholarship scheme for the girl child, who for one reason or the other, dropped out of secondary school, or couldn’t attend due to poor background. The identified girls were sent back to school and some have graduated from the secondary school at the moment while some are still in school.
” It will interest you to know that this project was started with 45 students. 18 have passed successfully out of Secondary school and currently, while 20 are in SS2 and SS3. The rest left because they couldn’t control themselves as they got pregnant. You can agree with me that this project is capital intensive”, she said.
Continuing, Lolo Nwaokoro said their administration registered an Adult Learning Center for Amaokwe Item men and women with the State government and the centre had over 100 adults in different classes on inception.
According to her, at the moment, some of them have passed the FSLC and that efforts are being made to reopen the centre temporarily closed down during the Covid-19 pandemic.
They have also introduced the Charity Shop where abroad women send wears home to the shop and women at home, both old and young, on agreed dates, go to the shop to pick items for their use and during the annual conference, the aged mothers who are 80 years and above whom they called NDE OKPU UFIE are given special treat and gift items.
The August Conference is usually a very busy period for the women of Amaokwe Item. On the grand finale of the celebration, we showcase some of our rich delicacies. We have competitive match past and drama. The best three branches in each of the activities go home with cups and the price money, she said.
One important aspect of the conference is the award ceremony during which they identify some women to be honoured with an award for their deserving contribution to the community.
In the words of the out going National scribe, these are individuals who have served the community well in different ways, have excelled in their chosen different professional callings and have contributed immensely in the development of their family and the community at large.
She said that for this year’s award event, the conference is recognising some of their wives married from outside Amaokwe Item, who have in different ways contributed to the development of their families and Amaokwe Item in general.
We call the award, EZI MIE OKWOAJA AWARD and the awardees include; Lady Mercy Amarachi Kesandu Uko, Dr (Mrs.) Nnenna Udensi, Mrs. Martha Okorie, Mrs. Annastecia Ugonwa Okpo, Lolo Finny Ngozi Abraham, Dr. Ukaegbu Ujunwa Eucharia, Mrs Benedicta Chinenye Nwokocha, Mrs Nkechi Josephine Ikoro, Mrs. Ameze Okeudo, Lady Mercy Ejike-Ogbonnaya, Lolo Rose Ori Emenike and Mrs Joan Anulika Egwu.
One of the awardees, Mrs Annastecia Ugonwa Okpo (aka Nwamewe Aniche) was born to the family of Mr Benjamin Uzonyeadinjo and Mrs. Fidelia Ocha Okoro of Ndianiche-uno in Arondizuogu, Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State.
She attended Ndoki Road Primary School, Aba and later proceeded to Our Saviours Secondary School, Okpuloumuobo, Aba, Abia State where she graduated in 1998. Ugonwa joined the Jesus the Saviour Congregation, Elele, Rivers State (for her training as a Reverend Sister), but circumstances compelled her to leave after 3 years (as a Postulant) to pursue her University education at the Ebonyi State University, obtaining a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree in Secretarial Education.
She did her National Youth Service in the Department of Physiology, University of Benin and presently, is the Corporate Liaison Officer at the Centre for Forensic Programmes and DNA Studies, University of Benin, Benin City.
A founding member and Financial Secretary/Treasurer of the Ufuagbo Ebiebia Women (Lagos/Benin/Abuja/Diaspora branch), is also the Treasurer of Ufuagbo Ebiebia Women (Central).
She is married to Stephen Ogbonnaya Okpo, a Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Benin, Benin City and they are blessed with lovely children. Another awardee is Lady Mercy Amarachi Kesandu Uko (nee Onuwabuchi) who hails from Eziukwu Ndi-Uko kalu Ogbuana family in Elu-Akanu Item, Akpanagbo Autonomous Community in Beude Local Government Area of Abia State.
She attended Cameroun Primary School Aba, Umuocham Girls Secondary School, Abayi Aba and Abia State University Uturu, where she obtained Education and Accountancy B.ed (Hons.)
Her love for humanitarian services and numerous contributions to the affairs of the Students Union Government (SUG), led to her being honored with a Chueftancy title of ‘ADA KA IBE YA NMA 1 of ABSU by HRM Eze Sunday Ogbu of Uturu Kingdom in 2008.
The tireless amazon lady after the completion of mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), established her corporate empire called TUFAR MULTI VENTURES LIMITED in the heart of Federal Capital Territory Abuja and have through this venture empowered many sons and daughters of Item Okpi through employment.
In furtherance of her community development and humanitarian advocacy, lady Mercy Amarachi Uko is the current Treasurer, Amaokwe Item Welfare Union Women’s Wing Abuja Branch.
Financial Secretary, Item Union Abuja, Women’s Wing
Vice President, Ufuagbo Ebiabia, Abroad Branch
Co – Founder, Item Female Football Association,
Financial Secretary, Unit 21 RS 7.1 Special Marshal of Federal Road Safety (FRSC) Abuja.
Secretary, Debate and Quiz Committee RS 7.1 FCT State Command Special Marshal of Federal Road Safety (FRSC) Abuja.
Treasurer, ABSU Alumni Abuja Branch.
Member, Iheanyichukwu Age Grade, Women’s Wing Amaokwe Item.
Ex-National Vice President, National Union of Item Students. She has been decorated with many awards in the recognition of her positive contributions to the development of the society and service to mankind and this include:
Supporter of God’s kingdom-Methodist Church of Nigeria.
Unique Alumni-Umuocham Girls’ Secondary School Abayi Aba
Chieftaincy Title -“Ada Ka Ibe Ya Nma 1 of Uturu Kingdom
She is happily married to Ezinwa Joshua Kesandu Uko of Ufuagbo Ebiabia Amaba, Amaokwe Item and the marriage is blessed with lovely Children.
Another awardee is Engr. Ameze Okeudo nee Idele hails from Ovia North East Local Government Area in Edo State. A graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Benin with B.Eng honors. She has over 21yrs experience in the oil and gas industry occupying critical leadership roles such as drilling supervisor on oil rigs, contracts manager and recently as safety and environment manager. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, the Society of Petroleum Engineers and the Energy Institute.
She is married to the Chairman of the Port Harcourt branch of AIWU, Barr. Emenike Okeudo, supporting him to implement various welfare projects since his tenure and the marriage is blessed with 3 children.
Ameze has supported the various initiatives of the AIWU Women’s wing such as the sponsorship Programme for indigent Children and is enthusiastic about moving the association to new heights.
By Kingsley Ugorji