I never knew the translation of the word “rights” in Hausa but this was revealed in my interview with Jean Bell (the first Country Director of Women for Women- Nigeria), when she handed me a sheet of paper and asked me to do a few translations about women’s rights from English to Hausa. It was so embarrassing that all I could do was stare at the paper. I have come a long way since then; Women for Women taught me so much.
My name is Bilkissu Muhammad Abubakar and I was hired by Women for Women International- Nigeria on March 11th, 2003. I stayed with the organization as a Social Empowerment Trainer for 15 years, 5 months and 20 days. Many will ask why I stayed put for so long? I had opportunities to move to higher positions but my passion for working directly with women, particularly the less privileged, to improve their knowledge and life was very strong.
I started out as a Trainer with daily shuttles to and from training activities, cramped into my small Toyota Corolla with other colleagues. At the beginning, the work was easier, probably because there were fewer participants and they were mostly mature women who were eager to learn and responded actively, which made the work less hectic. In the Jos office then, the staff was comprised of four trainers and one Program Coordinator. We had one desktop computer but no internet connection, so we had to go to cybercafés to send and check our correspondences.
Eventually, the organization bought a car and since there was no driver, I volunteered to drive it. At this time, our intervention program was only in Miango Community in Bassa LGA and I was delighted to drive my colleagues to Miango to work through sessions and back to the office to park the car before going home. Also, as I was holding the office keys, I arrived early to open and lock the office doors every day until the office moved to Liberty Boulevard (aka Millionaires Quarters).
As time passed, our work became more tasking as many of the women were younger, i.e. in their productive ages. We exerted more efforts and patience to understand them as most of them brought children along to the training venues, leading to distractions and inattentiveness. However, there were those rare moments when their responses made me beam with pride and remain hopeful that my efforts were worth the daily risk and time invested. Then everything became modernized. Work tools, operations, and systems changed and going about our daily activities became easier.
Working with WfWI made me stronger as the years rolled by. I developed the virtues of patience and tolerance. I learned how to handle issues and challenges calmly and getting to solutions became easier. I have also developed the confidence to meet and relate with people, and this has helped me work better with people in my personal life too. With these positive experiences, I know I can live anywhere and with anyone in the world.
Over these years, working with my colleagues has been a glorious adventure. These people made me feel young and exuberant; in fact, they are wonderful! I related with them at all levels irrespective of age and at each level, they accorded me a whole lot of respect, not just like a colleague but like an elder in a family setting — they fondly called me Granny, Mumsy, Aunty B, Lady B, Madam B, Mrs. General and many more. They overlooked my flaws and loved me just the same. How do I start to show gratitude –
The Women for Women International family is part of my ‘‘middle life,’’I shall forever remember and keep missing them.
GOODBYE MY FAMILY!
Social Empowerment Trainer (2003–2018)