The I-Care Women and Youth Initiative (ICWYI) came into being in 2007 as a pet project which has grown into a fully incorporated non-partisan and non-religious NGO with a Board of Trustees and a Management Team, supporting women, children as well as vulnerable groups in the areas of health, education, economic empowerment as well as governance.
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ICWYI began a decade ago as the pet project of its founder, Her Excellency (Mrs) Amina Namadi Sambo, the then First Lady of Kaduna State and later Wife of the Vice President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency (Arc) Namadi Sambo. Unlike most pet projects of First Ladies (Wives of Presidents and Governors) in Nigeria, which fizzle out of existence as soon as the founders cease to be in power, I-CARE continues to wax stronger, positively impacting on the lives of Nigerian women, children and vulnerable groups.
“I-CARE Women and Youth Initiative came into being in 2007, out of passion to uplift the living conditions of people; my horizon was widened when I went round and saw the magnitude of the challenge. The formation of I-Care offered me the opportunity to do much more, especially at national level when I was the Wife of the Vice President,” says Her Excellency Amina Sambo, Founder of ICWYI during a recent event held to commemorate I-CARE’s 10th anniversary in Kaduna.
“Today, I look back not with satisfaction but with hunger to do more for this category of people that we have been striving to touch their lives in the last ten years. We are committed and will work towards the attainment of the Millennium to Sustainable Development Goals (M 2 SDGs) and Vision 2020-20 of Nigeria. I Care Women and Youth Initiative will continue collaboration with Nigeria and foreign partners to safeguard the welfare of women, children and youth.”
Speaking on the giant strides of I-CARE across its programmatic areas of education, health, empowerment and governance in the last 10 years, Abdulrahaman Mikail, the programs manager of ICWYI said the nonprofit was a “proactive response to high rate of poverty, illiteracy and lack of adequate life skills amongst our women, youth and persons with disabilities particularly in the northern part of Nigeria.”
Mikail said ICWYI had in the last 10 years successfully implemented several projects including the World Bank supported HIV Programme Development Project (HPDP2); and USAID funded 5-Year Systems Transformed for Empowered Action and Enabled Responses (STEER) for Vulnerable Children and Families, among others.
“We have Provided free HIV Counseling and Testing as well as ARV drugs to over 3, 000 people; supported states’ routine polio immunization especially in hard to reach communities; donated free drugs to primary and secondary health facilities to support access to Medicare by the needy and restored vision to over 10, 000 eye cataract patients with the successful conduct of 5 Free Eye Screening and Surgery Camps in Kaduna, Gombe, Bauchi and Kano States,” he said.
Speaking on the theme: “Safeguarding the Northern Girl-Child for Nigeria’s Future,” at the 10-year anniversary event, Dr Lydia Umar, guest speaker and executive director of Gender Awareness Trust (GAT) said there were over 250 million adolescent girls in the world living in poverty adding that over 14 million of these figures were in Nigeria. She said although Nigeria constitutes only 2% of the world’s population it was carrying 10% of the world’s maternal mortality burden.
“About 11 per cent of girls complete secondary school in Nigeria while only 4 per cent of girls complete secondary school in the north; only a quarter of girls are married before the age of 15 in Nigeria while over half are married by 16 and are expected to bear a child within a year in the north. Nearly 70 per cent of women know at least one method of contraception in Nigeria while as high as 94 per cent of 15-24 year olds in Kebbi state have no knowledge of contraception,” says Dr Umar.
She identified adolescent girls in conflict situations like northern Nigeria’s as a special group of girls who deserved an equally special attention because they were “displaced from their homes and familiar environment, have lost their parents, friends and schooling; they were forcefully married thus become ‘baby mothers’ who risk contracting HIV/AIDS. Such girls also grapple with other challenges like being abducted and trafficked, being conscripted as sex slaves as well as being used as suicide bombers.”
In a goodwill message delivered at I-CARE’s 10-year anniversary, the Executive Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasiru Ahmad El-Rufai said although Nigeria had ratified many international conventions on discrimination against women they still suffer various forms of challenges to do with access to health, economic empowerment as well as domestic abuse.
“I-CARE is complementing the government’s effort by ensuring women and youth are empowered, Kaduna state is creating an enabling environment for women and youth to achieve their potentials by making girl-child education a priority, hosting of the women economic empowerment summit as well as creating a gender and social inclusion policy,” says El-Rufai who was speaking through his commissioner of women affairs and social development, Hafsat Baba.
In a similar goodwill message, the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris – who was represented by the Iyan Zazzau, Alhaji Bashir Aminu – congratulated I Care Women and Youth Initiative on the occasion of its 10-year anniversary and said the contributions of NGOs like I-CARE were critical for achieving sustainable development, urging governments and NGOs to work hand-in-hand towards women’s and youth’s development in the society.
“Our mandate coincides with that of ICWYI; therefore we look forward to working closely with them on reduction of maternal mortality, promotion of gender equity and social inclusion. I am impressed by their capacity to deliver on programs, I look forward to working with them next year,” says Mariama Darboe, the head OF Kaduna sub national office of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in her goodwill message.
The 10th anniversary of I-CARE was also attended by eminent Nigerians including immediate past Vice President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency (Arc) Namadi Sambo, immediate past Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, Wife of the Governor of Borno State, Hajiya Nana Shettima as well as wife of the immediate past Senate President, Mrs Helen Mark, amongst others.