Ambassador Willie Workman was raised up by a mother who was intensely involved with helping women in need, especially the vulnerable at Airforce Quarters at Legico, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Today, Workman is dedicated to helping widows and orphans. And he is ascribing the inspiration to God and his mother.
He spoke to Starrys Obazei, Managing Editor, ddnewsonline.com.
Why are you fighting for orphans and widows?
For me, it’s a calling from God and I’ve realized, that’s the purpose why he brought me on earth to be an added voice to widows’ and orphans due to their vulnerability in the society.
How did you come about the inspiration?
The inspiration actually started from watching closely how my mum was doing her own philanthropic work from my very young age. I admired and got inspired the way she was solving various problems for widows’ and different people with complains or seeking counseling and advice.
People came with various problems and she put smiles on their faces through counseling, donation of food stuffs, prayers, networking opportunities, settling of disputes, among others.
She worked with the Nigerian Air Force at some point in her life as Magajiya in Legico flats Victoria Island, Lagos. That post is just like being the head of women affairs and environmental department of the Air Force in all their formations.
What is Magajiya in Legico Flats, Victoria, Island, Lagos?
Magajiya is a position or title reserved for only women who are solely employed as head of women affairs in their barracks or quarters (blocks of flats) where they reside to regulate the affairs of Airforce wives’ welfare, sanitation of their residence.
This is to ensure peace and harmony among women and more.
I guess the word Magajiya is a name derived from somewhere in the north which means women leader. Her position is also like an intermediary between the commander of barracks and wives of Airforce personnel on official matters and depending on which other pressing issues they might have.
Legico flats are one of quarters of the Airforce located on Victoria Island, Lagos, where I was raised.
So, that actually exposed and fired me up to do same. Her humanitarian work and confronting different issues from women, men , children aside her official duties is legendary. Can you believe that some children who grew up knowing about her kindness still send her money and stuffs from across the globe where some of them now resides and some here in Nigeria.
What year did you register your NGO and what was the first thing you did for these less-privileged people?-
It was registered in 2012 and our first goal was to mobilize widows’for membership and our first event was a medical outreach we did to check their health status and counseling.
We started with a membership of six and we now have over 3,000 members across five states in Nigeria where we operate.
What difficulties have you encountered so far?
Funding has been a major problem, cultural beliefs, and insecurity of some of our widows who are supposed to seek legal redress but fearing negative repercussions from their late spouses’ families. This is a major impediment in fighting for some of their rights.
For example, a woman who lost her spouse and was driven from her husband’s house, refused to go to court for fear of her life and that of her two children.
She was practically in fear of juju attack from her husband’s sister.
Also, changing societal perception and stigmatization of widow’ are still major concerns for us as stakeholders.
What can you call the biggest thing you had done for the group or specific orphan or widow?
Being able to put a smile on their faces through our various awareness, skills acquisition, micro credit loans, wellness outreach, educational scholarship drive for their children and farming empowerment programmes. This has led to upscaling for some of their quest for self sustainability.
What things do you find objectionable in our culture that harm the interest of these unfortunate persons?-
Stigmatization opens them to all forms of vulnerability from food insecurity, self esteem, sexual abuse, health risk, economic risk and more, the list is endless.
Who do you consider as having the responsibility to support widows and orphans?
Everyone should try and show empathy to support widow’s due to their vulnerable nature in some cases. Supports with funds, networking, counseling and care as much as they desire should be extended to them. Including the government which has been trying but can still do more by creating an entire ministry for widows’ affairs to address squarely their plights. Even If it is not a ministry but at least, a department in an appropriate ministry.
Have Nigerians as organizations or individuals really helped your NGO?
Yes, we’ve gotten support’s from SEPLAT Petroleum Plc, Ajinomoto, Dr Bisi Abiola of Indulge Group, Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA)Pep Stores, the South African retail shop and anonymous donors, just to mention a few.
Do you accept donations as low as ‘widow’s mite’ from people with gratitude?
Yes, we do, every penny matters to us and is appreciated.
Any regret or joy for passing through this road of reaching out to these widows and orphans in view of James chapter 1verse 27
No regrets at all! My greatest joy and fulfillment in life is caring for widows’ and their children and sometimes orphans. And according to James chapter 1 verse 27 (in the Bible): The form of worship that is acceptable to God is to look after widows and orphans on their tribulations…” This gives me greatest joy that what I am doing goes down well with God.
While my only regret with frustration is when people, especially those close relatives and friends mock me for not being a woman and yet carrying the issue of widowhood on my head.
Have international organizations also reached out to you?
Yes, we’ve worked with the world Bank through the Fadama 3 Agricultural Green House project which they built for our members in Jos.
We’ve also partnered with the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) , a non-governmental professional society whose aims are to foster the scientific progress, knowledge and development of occupational health and safety in all aspects.
ICOH is the world”s leading international scientific society in the field of occupational health with a membership of 2,000 professionals from 105 countries.
ICOH is recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization (NGO) and has close working relationships with International Labour Organization (ILO) and WHO.
Is there any other thing else you’d done to create awareness for widows?
Yes, I run a podcast for widows on Anchor Fm online called Voice’s of Widow’s’ and there’s a dedicated song I did for them entitled, ‘Hear My Cry’ in my album – ‘Virtuous Woman,’ released in 2019.
Again, the podcast is being anchored by a widow and also co-produced by a widow, Mrs. Bola Olanrewaju but I am the executive producer.
Indeed I live, walk, work, sleep, dream, even during my creative ideas incubation times all about the plights of widows and their children everyday of my life.