am Betty Abah. I would define myself as a journalist and women and children’s
rights activist. I am a graduate of the University of Calabar (BA) and the University of
Lagos (MA) and previously practised as a journalist both in Nigeria and the USA
(as a recipient of the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships in 2006). I am also a
fellow of the Knight Journalism Press Fellowship, the Kaiser Family HIV/AIDS
Fellowship, the Global Tobacco Leadership Program at the Hopkins School of
Public Health (USA), and have other awards such as the Nigeria Media Merit
Awards for Tourism Reporter of the Year,
the Diamond Award for Media Excellence (‘Child-Friendly Reporter of the Year’)
and the NYSC’s State’s Honours Award
(for community mobilization), and last year, Women of the World Unite (USA)
among others. I have also published a couple of books, mostly poetry.
started writing at age 10 in primary school and started organising at age 14
when I ran a children’s club in my home in Otukpo, Benue State of Nigeria. I
also ran an all-girl club while in secondary school around age 17. In the
university, I ran an all-women student journalists association. As a journalist
I also took a special interest in women and children’s issues. My life has
always revolved around children, girls and women and I love, live the
I am Executive Director of the Centre for Children’s Health Education,
Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) which I founded in December 2013. We work
with at-risk children and girls in urban slums and remote, impoverished areas
of Nigeria. We run a number of developmental programs aimed at bettering the
lives of these children so as to position them as assets and not as liabilities
or threats to the society regardless of their social-economic backgrounds. One
of our most vibrant and most successful programs in the two-and half year existence
of CEE-HOPE is our Girls-Go-Greatness (Triple G) program which has seen scores
and scores of girls— school-drop-outs, teenage mums, street girls and sexually
abused young girls and young women from about a dozen communities across
Nigeria rehabilitated through mentorship, psychosocial support, scholarships
and skills acquisitions. It’s been challenging but most of all, exhilarating,
just incredible how little resources and a great doze of commitment and
enthusiasm by a small team can make such a vast difference in so many lives. We
are excited and happier that our beneficiaries are happy about these
at-risk children and girls, our organisation was recently recognised by
Wikipedia, the world’s largest online encyclopaedia. CEE-HOPE was selected for
profiling on Wikipedia as part of the new Wiki
Loves Women project which celebrates works and personalities working in
women-related fields in four focal countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Cote
D’ Ivoire. CEE-HOPE is one of the few Nigerian organisations chosen to be
showcased on the project.
am unapologetically outspoken about women and girls’ rights. In an era where
abuse is commonplace, fueled by an enduring culture of impunity, relaxed legal
and enforcement systems (amidst the litany of anti-abuse laws), poverty and
misplaced aggressions, you can’t help but scream continuously for the voices of
the oppressed to be heard and for justice to be done in so many cases so as to
infuse some sense of sanity to our sometimes chaotic systems.
for about a decade now, I have been involved in movements geared towards
ensuring the human, environmental and gender rights of women impacted by the
dehumanizing activities of the extractive industries, mostly fossil fuel (crude
oil). The degradation of lives in many host communities across the Niger Delta,
and even at the sub-regional and regional levels are not very well documented
but the fact is that they are tear-jerking, their losses and the damages
incalculable. From oil-polluted streams, farms, homes to health implications,
to a patriarchal system that perpetually confirms the woman to the fringes of
existence and decrees that she can’t even voice out her challenges and fears,
the Niger Delta woman is up against so many odds. Some of my most memorable and
most nightmarish times as an activist has been during field visits to
communities in the Niger Delta and observing the impoverished and degraded
status of families, especially those of women and children, and wondering how
ironic it can be that people sit atop so much wealth that brings brightness to
generations of ‘privileged people’ everywhere yet continue to live and die in
environmental ruins and desperate poverty. It makes absolutely no sense.
– the audacity to speak truth into power. The audacity to speak the truth even
if it is the uncomfortable truth. The audacity to speak the truth as you conceive
it, as your conscience conceives it, even if you are the lone speaker. The
audacity to remain a proud Nigerian, speaking life into comatose situations and
resolute in the belief that we are the generation that will redefine history and
change the course of our nation and our reputation for good. It is the audacity
of stubborn HOPE.
hope that the most ‘dangerous’, forsaken, forgotten and criminalized slums and
impoverished neighbourhoods can produce the best of talents and assets to a
society. I have seen so much of that happen since our work in these places. All
they need to excel is a little care, a little refinement, a little more
patience, a little re-direction and a little show of LOVE. Boom!
for the people, the forgotten children, girls, women, love for the fatherland,
love for justice. Love, love for humanity, and oh, love for God!
my Father of Possibilities, unseen but felt every single second.
women— My mother. My mentor. My late grandmother.
Onuh, because of her unassuming nature and quiet resilience and principles. Her
faith is unshakeable, her integrity water-tight. From her, I learnt, quite
early the virtues of honesty at all times. I grew up recognising that it’s
never in her DNA to take what isn’t hers, and she expected nothing less from my
six siblings and I whom she raised with an iron hand. My mother is as tranquil as the cool morning
spring. And so noiseless in her generosity. I remember growing up and seeing my
mother feeding so many families in and around our town – indigent women, widows
and their children, students — by selling them her goods on credit back home
in Otukpo, and then having to leave the house at dawn, almost daily, on ‘debt-recovery
missions’. Many of those debts were never recovered. ‘Mama–No-Drama’. I love
Professor Ebele Eko, my former university lecturer whose biography I have been
privileged to have written, documenting her incredible accomplishments and
generous, life-transforming deeds to the downtrodden and depressed of our
society. A woman generous to a fault, she is one of the greatest influences on my
life. Educationist, poetess, life coach, pastor and humanitarian. She’s ‘Mother
of Multitudes’ as my book on her is titled.
Ugoh. Such an interesting, colourful and compelling character! Grandma is
perhaps the only person I know whose memories evoke guffaws! She was an actor,
activist, humourist and entrepreneur in a class of her own though she had no
formal education. Imbued with so much ‘native wisdom’ and courage, she was
outspoken and always shot straight from the hips and took no prisoners! Though
Ma Emo’o was generous and garnered so many under her roof, both relatives and
non-relatives alike, yet she wouldn’t blink about dragging you by the ears and
lashing at you—with her tongue of course—when she felt you were out of line! So
articulate, so self-assured, Grandma never called anyone by their original
names as she had her own ‘customised’ nickname for everyone! She had a knack
for mimicking people and speaking her brand of ‘English Language’! I often
wonder that, were she educated and lived in our time as a younger person, she
would have been a very successful actor, activist and comedian, even a politician
but as we say in an Idoma proverb, ‘Beans do not yield for the one who has oil’.
would be to take our organisation to heights beyond our imagination, from our
very humble beginning, positively affecting, inspiring hope in millions of
indigent children, rehabilitating as many at-risk, abused girls across Nigeria
as our paths would cross and grooming them into unstoppable, high-performing
women! We are glad to have the support and guidance of our generous Board of
Trustees and other supporters.
think patriarchy is a major issue. If that huddle can be tackled, I believe our
women would be able to exercise their rights in terms of being heard, being
empowered all round, being on the same pedestal and aspire like their men
folks. I don’t see anything wrong with women being given a platform to aspire
educationally, economically etc, have same access to resources and choose whom
they want to be. God created men and women equal and if we are able to do away
with cultures that stifle potentials and inhibit women’s progress, then Africa
would be much greater because women would have been freed to contribute
maximally to the growth of the continent. It’s a great deal tapping into the
resourcefulness, insight and incredible, innate compassion of women.
We need to
discard cultures, traditions and systems in our beloved continent that diminish
and restrict women to mere to spectators. We are doers. We must be allowed to
believe that the sensitisation we do have been successful in bringing so many
women to a level of consciousness where they are now aware of their rights,
ready to fly over the huddles and ready to realise their dreams.
Read. Sleep. Or, hold winding discussions on Politics and other nagging issues.
I don’t like politicians yet politics always gets me overtly excited!
TO BE INSPIRED, CELEBRATED AND EMPOWERED [I.C.E.]
the African woman has gone through thick and thin and is still standing. She deserves
a thumbs up, a tight hug and a prop made of steel! She is going places! She
will! She must!
work closely in the monitoring and enforcement unit. It’s never enough to enact
laws on women’s rights or any other for that matter. If they are mere pieces of
legislation, spoken, published, sealed and only good for decorating
bookshelves, then they are useless. The laws must be enforced, either those
freeing women from the pangs of inhuman widowhood rites, banishing stunting
child marriages or handing down life imprisonment to child predators, they are
as good as never enacted if they are not implemented and enforced by member
keep pushing for your rights, relevance and radiance! In our shore, and indeed,
in most parts of the world, you have to push to grab it. It’s not a woman–friendly
world, but then, we can’t be hostile in grabbing our rights. Get the best of
education, trainings, read hard, explore! Remain focused, fearless, yet
friendly. Let’s keep the charming smiles. The future is all smiles!