The Janet Dozie Foundation
In Africa as well as in many nations of the Third World, women and children suffer most during economic and civil instability. According to recent statistics, women between the ages of 18 and 60 make up a large percentage of economically disadvantaged persons in the world. The Janet Dozie Foundation exists to alleviate the economic challenges of women in Nigeria faced with crippling economic difficulties. Since its establishment and commencement of operations over seven years ago, the foundation has devoted itself to mitigating the financial plight of widows who incidentally constitute the bulk of this economically imperiled section of the national population.
The Janet Dozie Foundation is the way in which Mr Pascal Dozie and his wife Chinyere have chosen to improve society through empowering widows. The motivation for the foundation is owed to Mr Pascal Dozie’s own personal experience as the child of a widow. Growing up with his siblings in the sole care of their widowed mother exposed the young Pascal to the sordid and joyless life that most mothers lead rearing their children in the absence of their father.
Pascal Dozie born in April 1939 at Egbu, Owerri North of Imo State, was barely 15 years old when his father Mr Charles Dozie died, leaving the responsibility of taking care of him and his siblings solely to his mother. As a result, he experienced first-hand the undesirable realities of widowhood, in the form of alienation, stigmatisation (are they not after all husband-killing witches!), loneliness, intimidation and social injustice. On his 70th birthday, Mr Pascal Dozie decided to memorialise his mother, Mrs Janet Dozie, who according to him epitomised love, care and sacrifice, by establishing the Janet Dozie Foundation.
Vision and Mission
The mission of the Janet Dozie Foundation (JDF) is to provide support to indigent widows through financial, educational and health assistance. The financial aid is distributed as start-up capital to enable the widows to start a trade, and thereby get involved in the economic value chain in their own little way. Of course, unsurprisingly, due to their indigency, many of these widows lack basic health care, despite being afflicted with conditions such as hypertension, tuberculosis, and HIV.
To be able to respond reasonably to the complex nature of its task, the JDF adopts a three-pronged approach that targets specific areas of prime interest. The first is to provide financial and social support to widows between the ages of 20 and 59 and their dependents. The overall aim is to make their daily life easier by providing these widows and their dependents with basic items, services and facilities. The second is to promote and protect the wellbeing of the widows and their dependents by providing medical care and intervention often through intermediary institutions within their community. Finally, the JDF desires a level of economic sustainability for the widows by providing capital to start a trade or by providing them full employment.
Scholarships awarded to the children of the widows constitute extra facilities deployed by the JDF towards realising its objectives. These scholarships cover education from primary to tertiary levels. Furthermore, through micro-finance organisations, loans are made available to women groups to assist widows to start small businesses, even as health education and services are also extended to the widows and their dependents.
JDF Operations, Projects, and Funding Sources
The JDF has offices in a number of states in Nigeria, mostly in the south eastern parts of the country, with its main office in Lagos at 14a, Oba Elegushi Road (formerly Club Road), Ikoyi, Lagos. The foundation is managed by an Executive Secretary who is supported by Programme Officers and other staff. The foundation identifies and sensitises indigent widows through focal persons (usually women leaders of organisations and local communities) and institutions (the church, for example). These focal persons and institutions are saddled with the task of ensuring that loans are distributed and that they reach the widows accordingly. They also coordinate the repayment of the interest-free loans, organise the widows into trade groups, as well as coordinate other activities.
The JDF’s first project was sited in Imo State. It targeted widows in the rural areas, who make up 75% of the women population in the state. According to the 2006 National Population Census, 49.7% of the population in Imo State are women. Eighteen percent of them are the breadwinners of their household and 56.5% of that number lives in poverty. The pilot project was carried out in three phases. From a sample size covering 27 local government areas in the state, the indigent women were selected through a list provided by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, presidents of women organisations, parish priests/pastors of Christian churches and other caregivers. Three hundred and five widows made the selection and empowered in the first phase of the project. In the second phase, 411 widows received empowerment aid and 300 widows were empowered in the third phase.
Several success stories have accompanied these phases of the Imo project. One of such poignant stories is the testimony of a woman from Oguta LGA who lost her husband to AIDS and is herself infected with the dreaded disease. She was driven from her home along with her only child. Although trained as a tailor, she could only manage to hawk her services around the community until someone provided her with a small shop. She got a financial empowerment of N100,000 from the JDF and got herself an electricity generating set and a weaving machine. Today, she gets contracts to sew school uniforms for schools and is financially stable.
Regular workshops are organised for beneficiary widows to teach them basic tenets of financial management and record keeping. These workshops provide the organisers the opportunity to instruct the women on the aims and objectives of the JDF as well as on the challenges of parenting. The primary areas of interest are normally on family health care, this being as integral to the overall well being of the person as economic and intellectual wellness. The workshops do not overlook the spiritual well being of the women either as they are encouraged to invite the supernatural forces into their affairs by praying regularly. Besides the practical tips that these trainings afford the women in their search for a better life, the social atmosphere they provide enables the women to interact quite beneficially with one another.
However, the activities of JDF are not always smooth-sailing and without constraints. Chief among these constraints is scarcity of funds, as a result of which inevitably, coverage scope is always limited. It breaks the foundation’s heart that the selection layout process often is forced to leave out some widows who the available financial resources cannot accommodate. Another challenge is that because of failing health and extreme poverty some beneficiary widows are forced to divert start-up loans to other pressing health and nutritional needs. Nevertheless, the positives are cheery enough to encourage the foundation, which has inspired lives and reinvented broken ones. For example, 20% of widows that received financial empowerment have risen above the level of extreme poverty.
The Janet Dozie Foundation gets funding from personal contributions by Mr Pascal Dozie, his wife Chinyere and members of their family. In addition, friends and associates of the Dozie family, as well as the Kunoch Group and a number of multilateral institutions provide funding assistance to the foundation.
The Janet Dozie Foundation’s contribution towards the alleviation of poverty among Nigerian widows and their families puts it in the forefront of the women and children development agenda. The empowerment programmes the foundation runs develop human capacities and capabilities, greatly impact the economy, and restore hope and the joy of living in a sizeable slice of the population that would otherwise be left forlorn with all the unsavoury implications that go with it. The activities of the JDF steadily contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Janet Dozie Foundation (2016), May University Press Limited, Lagos.