Day I wept for 13-yr-old gang-rape victim — Irobiegbulam

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Ever since her graduation from the School of Journalism in Berkshire, England and the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra, respectively, in the mid ‘80s, Mrs. Eugenia Irobiegbulam has traversed the media industry.

Her post-graduate training and certification by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria empowered her to pursue a career in integrated marketing communications, alongside journalism, thus becoming a well rounded professional. Extensively travelled and exposed, she has updated her skills as a result and she is always eager to impact the youths of Nigeria with positive and enduring values.

A very passionate writer, she has authored three books. Her love for children is innate and that explains why, without discrimination, she is easily at home with any child she meets.

Irobiegbulam is also the Executive Secretary of First Whizkidz Educational Foundation – a not-for-profit organisation that is championing the welfare of the vulnerable children and youths of Nigeria.

Narrating her success story, she said, “Since the last time we spoke, a lot has happened with the Foundation. For instance, last year ended on a very sad note for us as we were confronted with a case involving a 13 year-old-girl child who was gang-raped on her way from school on November 6, 2018. Right now, the case is in court as the main culprit has been apprehended. We believe that she will get justice, as we are not leaving any stone unturned to that effect.

“While we were on this case, we took several trips to the victim’s abode and what we saw brought tears to our eyes, regarding the living standard of the family. A family of nine, of seven little children with their young parents, holed up in a shanty room without electricity, inside a dump site, where erosion and floods have a field day during the raining season, left our hearts pounding for them.

 She said, “Because at First Whizkidz Educational Foundation, we provide total intervention, our primary focus when the incident happened was to take the victim out of the environment and relocate her to a safer, saner environment, where she could pursue her education and begin her healing from the trauma. But when we couldn’t find a fitting place, we are now faced with relocating the entire family in order to save the remaining children from flood and other dangers.

“That is where we are presently. And because we work with people and organisations of like minds, we are appealing to public spirited Nigerians to support us to get this family rehabilitated.”

In an era, where many women in Nigeria are relegated to the background and get saddled with playing the second fiddle by overseeing domestic chores alone, Irobiegbulam has taken the bull by the horns and dared all odds.

 She said, “Last December, the NGO picked up another girl child, a 14-year-old JSS2 drop-out, on the street. Upon interrogation, we found out that the girl was very intelligent and extremely smart and very eager to go back to school. We decided to adopt her and give her a new lease of life by putting her back to school.

“Apparently, she dropped out of school because her mother, who had her as a teenager, could not afford to pay her school fees anymore. I personally took her to a new private school, where she sat for and passed the aptitude test and other interviews.”

In areas and frontiers that even men are afraid to tread and have sometimes faltered, this amazon has made a success of her venture. Her love for the less-privileged and vulnerable children is incomparable. 

“I am not just passionate about rape victims or minors, per se, I am very passionate about vulnerable children and youths. Our society is so very lopsided that we treat this very important segment of our population as the scum of the earth. It is simply not right because our children will mingle with these children at some point in their lives. If we do not get it right, they will chase our children away from this country by making the environment unsafe for them,” she observed.

With painstaking efforts, diligence and commitment to values, Irobiegbulam has contributed significantly to societal development. 

This Woman of Substance said, “We need to partner to train these kids, to empower them in such ways that they themselves will live fulfilling lives and become relevant in the scheme of things. That way, and together, we can reduce juvenile crimes and other self-destroying acts that are prevalent among this segment. That is why the primary focus of our NGO is youth entrepreneurial training and empowerment under our Whizkidz Apprenticeship Scheme. Under this scheme, we train young secondary school leavers, who may not be fortunate to pursue tertiary education on different entrepreneurial skills, business management skills, integrated communication skills and other skills they will need to start their own businesses and succeed.

“Again, we are looking up to individuals and corporate bodies to partner with us by adopting these youths as their children and sponsoring them through our training. By so doing, we are reducing the number of youths that otherwise would end up in mental asylums as a result of drugs and substance abuse. We are reducing the number of youths that would be plagued with HIV and AIDS as a result of prostitution; we will be reducing youth-related crimes as a result of poverty and we would be reducing thuggery as a result of idleness. We will also reduce suicide among this vibrant segment of our society.”

In line with one of her mandates to provide succour to widows, she initiated the annual Widows’ Hangout, which, she said, had taken a form for the better, as the emphasis had been shifted, from distributing gifts of various kinds to them, to also training them to be self-sustaining.

She explained, “I decided to partner with another NGO, Iya Circle Foundation, whose core competent area includes widows for this drive. Unlike the last two editions, this year’s event engaged 45 widows and vulnerable single mothers in a three-day intensive empowerment training in liquid soap, insecticide and air freshener
making.

“Highlights of the programme also included free medical checkup, counseling, motivational and health talks to sensitise the women on the need to wake up and take their place in their various families that had been torn apart by the demise of their breadwinners. This is the first step towards empowering all the women and ensuring that they all succeed.”

On how she has been able to manage the home front as a career woman, she said, “Combining various activities and commitments with managing the home front is easy when, as a woman, you are blessed with an understanding and supportive husband and children. I think I am very
blessed.”