© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
The task of making life greener in Nigeria, the GHIF story
By Michael Orodare
Whichever perspective you may want to view it from, there is a very high level of poverty in Nigeria, and it is having its toll on the socioeconomic development of the people and the largest black nation in the world. Access to fundamental needs such as food, water, clothing, shelter, may sound cheap; they are not cheap for the poor Nigerian for whom poverty has become a companion.
According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, about 112 million Nigerians (representing 67.1 per cent) of the country’s total population of 167million live below poverty level.
In the midst of all these agonising reports of poverty, a non-governmental organisation has been working so hard to make life easy for the people from the north to the south of the country.
Many have been heard and reported about NGOs fighting one social courses in the country, but what is perhaps less known yet is that one among them is doing all these without soliciting funds from local and international donors.
Located in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, Green Heart Impact Foundation (GHIF), the NGO, has already saved thousands of lives from the claws of poverty, and remains resolute on making life greener for the people who make up the Nigerian poverty index.
Founded by Munira Suleiman Taninu in June 2014, GHIF has been assisting and empowering the less privileged across the country through innovative programmes that address root causes of poverty, from the north reported with the highest level of poverty to the south.
Perhaps no one feels the pulse better than one who has had first-hand experience of what it means for people not to have access to basic needs of life; this informs why the Founder of GHIF decided to take up the task of helping people get out of the claws of poverty and hardship with her personal income.
“I grew up in the north with a very large family. While growing up, people came to our house every day to ask for food and other needs,”says Munira.
“In every family in the north, you’ll have four people around you who depend on you for basic needs of life. I grew up helping my father to assist the needy, so that drew my attention and it became my passion to help people who don’t have. Although I am not a rich person, I still try as much as I can to help.”
The President of GHIF is no doubt proud of the sterling achievements of her NGO in few years without external support.
Three-year-old Zahra’u is one of the success stories of the humanitarian efforts of GHIF. Zahra’u lay helplessly at the malnourished unit of the Asiya Bayero Children Hospital in Kano as her hapless parents watched the clock tick, probably expecting death to take her; they had no hope of giving her a chance to live. She was critically ill and suffered from a severe case of malnutrition. She was at the throes of death; it was just a matter of days before she lives to live no more.
“When the GHIF team visited the hospital during one of our routine visits, we found few children suffering from malnutrition, but Zahra’u’s condition caught our attention and prompted immediate action from the team. We had to pay people to donate blood for her and other malnourished children who needed blood donation at the hospital. We donated health, food and other materials to her,” Munira narrates. Zahra’u survived.
During one of its community services, the GHIF team also discovered Mallam Hassan, with his four children, resident in Kano. He suffers from a form of disability that has prevented him from getting employed to meet the needs of his family.
“The GHIF team took interest in his case. We visited his home which was in a deplorable state. From our interaction with his children, none of them was enrolled in a school. This prompted a quick intervention. We renovated Hassan’s home and built a shop for him to start trading in food commodities supplied by GHIF while we enrolled all his children in school,” Munira said.
Today, millions of children in Nigeria especially in the northern part have dreams, but many of them don’t see it coming through because poverty has denied them access to the major step of reaching their dreams – education. The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Adamu Hussaini, recently said Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. He puts the figure of out-of-school children in Nigeria at 10.5million of the cumulative 20million out of school children in the world.
There are over 130 million girls around the world that are out of school, and statistics show that by the year 2030 this population may double. The girls, from age 10 and above, are not just out of school, they roam the streets hawking for their parents. Hawking has taken the place of books; many of the girls are given away into marriage once they reach their teenage years, to probably rich men who the parents of the girls believe can give succour to their hardship.
In Nigeria, aside from the fear of underage marriage, the present plight of girl-child hawkers from age 10 and above represents a major health and socioeconomic challenge, which is known to be a preliminary step to societal ills such as prostitution, drug abuse and human trafficking, which sequentially have an adverse effect towards the development of the nation. To tackle this, the GHIF team recently flagged off a project to reduce girl child hawking in Nigeria, tagged #BooksOverTray
The GHIF President says “the project aims to reduce the number of girl-child hawkers across the nation via a process that identifies and extracts the girl-child hawkers from the circle of child labour through provision of educational grants and empowerment for their parents/guardians”.
Taking girls off the street from hawking can be difficult, especially when the finances and the livelihood of the family depends on them, the move could be met with brick walls from their parents who depend on the ‘tray’ as a source of daily meal ticket for the family.
Putting this into consideration, Munira says “GHIF adopted the strategic approach of empowering the mothers as they take the tray away from their daughters, so the hardship won’t felt”.
“In the last two months, we have taken 54 girls off the streets in five northern states; 10 each from Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Niger and 12 from Borno State, and we have also empowered 54 mothers to start up businesses while we enrolled their daughters in a boarding school, all expense, from tuition fees to books, their feeding and other needs, paid for by the GHIF team,” she says.
It is widely believe that African women are a major economic force in their homes and policy makers believe empowering the women translate to empowering the family. This seems to have informed Munira’s decision to make the mothers economically independent while their daughters go to school.
Munira does not see herself as an affluent African lady, neither is she a money bag, one would then wonder how she gets funding for all the huge work the GHIF team has been doing in the last three years.
“Collaboration and support from the team and my personal finance have been our source of finance. I put 10 per cent of monthly income from my events centre in Abuja, my farm and transport service into the foundation,” she says. “I wanted to do something different, my dream was to make it stand out and prove that NGO can run without soliciting for funds from international donors, government and the affluent in the society.”
From the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in the North East and Abuja, to Sokoto, to Kano, to Wauna village in Lere local government area of Kaduna State and other parts of the country where GHIF has empowered widows with grinding machines, spaghetti making machines and sewing machines, among others, to start up businesses, men and women are also being equipped with innovative skills to make them stand out in the society. GHIF has stamped an indelible mark on humanitarian service in Nigeria with the empowerment of over 4,000 people across the country.
Like every other African lady, Munira had dreams while growing up. This dream she pursued vigorously from childhood, studying through the university and bagging a degree in Sociology from the University of Abuja and a Certificate in Communication from Harvard University. But unlike other African ladies pursuing a career in the banking or oil and gas sector, that’s not Munira’s way of being the woman of her dream. Fulfillment for her is about uplifting the less-privileged in the society, and make sure they all smile to bed every day.
Munira and her GHIF team have chosen their path, and no doubt they have chosen rightly, to empower the less privileged, give them a fillip for better life, and also contribute to turning around the poverty index in Nigeria.