By Osondu Ahirika
For six years and counting, the wife of the governor of AkwaIbom State, Her Excellency, Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel, has been prudently managing her vineyard. Yes! You heard me right. Her pet project, the Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path-initiative, FEYReP, is her metaphorical vineyard.
In biblical terminology, vineyards, which were common, were a great source of income, food, and drink as well as a place to enjoy and celebrate. It was also used as a figurative image of the church, where the vine and the branches are represented as Jesus being the vine and we (believers) are the branches. We also have God as the owner of the Vineyard.
This complete metaphor speaks of Dr. Martha’s exploits via the vehicle or platform of FEYReP. Lives have been touched, impacted, redefined and changed. Actively enabled by the owner, His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel as the husbandman, the success story of FEYReP is worth every notification and adulation.
I absolutely agree with a commentary that “when she inaugurated FEYReP years ago, only one objective had occupied her thought and it was how to use the platform to make life easy and better for the less privileged constituency in the State.”
Six years down the line, this platform has wiped many tears, brought smiles and opened new vistas for many individuals and families who never imagined their lives could be turned around so soon. From the riverine communities of Eket Senatorial District to the lush green vegetation of Uyo Senatorial District, down to the shorelines of Oruk Anam in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, FEYReP’s milk of human kindness dots the nooks and crannies of the state. The various people-centered programmesare skillfully weaved to give succor to the disadvantaged community.
In this vineyard called FEYReP, there’s been a lot from the wine press. As at the last count, 62 families have benefitted from the Shelter of Hope project. A fully furnished two-bedroom apartment replaces the shanties and mud houses, which they inhabited hitherto Martha’s touch. Like two widowed beneficiaries, Madam Alice Joseph from Ibesit Anwa-Udocommunity in Oruk Anam Local Government Area and an octogenarian, Madam Diana Tom from Ikot Ebiere, Onna Local Government Area, would say, they have been visited by an angel, for only God could have wrought the miracle of transforming them from hopelessly displaced persons to home owners, courtesy of Dr. Martha’s FEYReP. The heartwarming good news is, more homes are underway for other less privileged persons.
In this vineyard, the curve of maternal mortality has been significantly flattened through the Pregnacare Outreach of Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel. The first lady has championed the reproductive health program, which has changed the tide of maternal mortality by sensitizing and educating women in rural and urban communities to embrace the orthodox way of delivery and reduce the rate of deaths associated with complications during child birth. Thousands of women, pregnant and nursing mothers have been reached through this platform.
On Friday, February 18, 2021 the 9th edition of Martha’s Pregnacare Outreach was held and another set of expectant mothers numbering over 400 took their turns through free medical tests, treatments, health tips and hygiene, courtesy of FEYReP. Dr. Martha accordingly charged women to imbibe the counselling offered through Martha’s Pregnacare Outreach so that they can safeguard their ante natal and post natal health and reduce maternal mortality. All that is complemented with free delivery packs and cash for the women courtesy of the governor’s wife.
Still on healthcare delivery, the press unit of FEYReP reports and I quote: “Miss Patience Joseph Bassey, a 24-year old from Ibiaku, Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, life was fast becoming unbearable due to the deformity she had to live with from a very tender age. Her condition known as Gene-varum referred to commonly as bow-leggedness, is a deformity marked by (outward) spreading at the knee, which meant that the lower leg was angled outward in relation to the thigh’s axis, giving the limb overall appearance of an archer’s bow. FEYReP’s intervention in Glory’s story was timely. The surgery to correct her deformity was facilitated by the governor’s wife and today she is walking with her legs completely straightened.
The case of Mr Ofonime Iniobong Etukunwa, as well as Dorathy Udoekong was quite pathetic. Both women were afflicted by goiter. They had walked into FEYReP’s office as a last resort, and FEYReP did not back down. The cost involvement for their surgeries was astronomical and time was running out for both. Her Excellency, the compassionate mother took up the gauntlet and ensured they got the financial assistance needed for their surgeries.” These acts of charity are verifiable. Many others are unreported. About 5,680 families have so far benefitted from FEYREP’S healthcare programme.
What more, the innovative interventions of Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel in the areas of fighting gender-based violence, rape, sex and child trafficking, prostitution, child rights and advocacy for widows and the less privileged is highly commendable. This is a whole package that adds economic, social and political empowerment to women. Again from the Press Unit of FEYReP, I replicate here another brief on the achievements of Dr. Martha’s Vineyard.
“On women empowerment, FEYReP holds the opinion that women are stabilizers in the family and when they are empowered, the family is in safe hands. In the last six years FEYReP has been at the forefront of rolling out many lifelines to the economically disadvantaged women and families in the state. An approximated number of 10,000 women have been reached with grants, free-interest loans and business starter-packs all aimed at improving and making families strong. Chief among the economic initiatives of FEYReP is the recently launched Multi-purpose Cooperative Society, which offers interest-free loans to rural women who are involved in small and medium scale businesses (SMEs). As at the last count, over two thousand women have received interest free loan in the first and second batch of the program and the pay back response is commendable.
The latest addition to Martha’s empowerment block for female youths is the launch of get-a-skill initiative, where female youths are sent to designated training centres for skills acquisition. As at the last count, over 2000 female youths have so far been trained in the most sought-after skills for economic self-reliance. While recently visiting some of the designated training centres, the female youth beneficiaries could not hide their joy as they poured eulogies on the Governor’s wife for providing them a lifeline. They promised never to let her down but rather to become useful ambassadors of the training scheme.
Another area that Martha’s FEYReP has shown an unrelenting presence is in the fight against gender-based violence in the Akwa Ibom State. With strategic partnership, FEYReP with sister organisations like FIDA, NAWOJ and NMWA has tackled the social menace of rape and other forms of gender-based violence against women. The recent domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition), law in the state, has brightened the hope for justice while strengthening the fight against GBV.
The continuing awareness campaign on GBV has helped to break the culture of silence as many now speak out whenever they are abused. This has led to the prosecution of many culprits with a number of them convicted.
In Akwa Ibom State, apart from the domestication of VAPP law, which has greatly aided the fight to end GBV, the State Government headed by Governor Udom Emmanuel has recently inaugurated a Gender-Based Violence Management Committee to provide logistical and data leverages to further strengthen and curb the menace of GBV.
FEYReP boss reflects: “There was a time that we were having cases on daily basis, but from last year when we took our campaigns to all nooks and crannies including the Traditional institution, youth leaders, church and other stakeholders, we have seen a reduction. All the stakeholders are cooperating, though we are still seeing some pockets of it. It’s a huge concern for us even at the Governors Wives Forum. I want to thank God because the Governors themselves have signed a pact to address this situation by signing the VAPP law in their respective states which empowers us to arrest and prosecute offenders. Another good thing now is that people are talking and acting as well. The culture of silence has been broken”
I hereby join all people of goodwill, citizens of Akwa Ibom State and in particular, the female gender to celebrate this Woman of Substance and trailblazer, Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel. By the way, the Uyo Capital City Development Authority under the watch of Prince Enobong Uwah as executive chairman is currently supervising a modern estate named Martha’s Vineyard along Idoro Road in Uyo. That will be a fitting immortalization of this amazing run of public service by the exceptional first lady.