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Corporate Citizenship

Sahara Foundation Launches Sahara Regenerator Technical Program (STRP) To Combat Climate Change, Boost Employment

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Sahara Foundation, the corporate citizenship vehicle of energy conglomerate, Sahara Group, has launched its inaugural Sahara Regenerator Technical Program (STRP) to promote capacity building among youths in Edo, Lagos and Rivers in Nigeria.

STRP will give beneficiaries a platform to develop technical skills in the installation and maintenance of meter and solar systems to enhance energy access, combat climate change and promote economic development in Nigeria.

With unemployment rate standing at 33.3% as of Q4 2020 and anticipated to hit 35% this year, experts say Nigeria needs to provide ample entrepreneurial opportunities for its teeming youth population.

Targeted at 120 youths with informal/minimal education, the project is also expected to help empower beneficiaries with resources to build sustainable businesses and ultimately become employers of labour.

Sahara Foundation will partner with leading African academy, the Energy Training Centre (ETC) and the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) to implement STRP.

According to Pearl Uzokwe, Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group, “the regenerator program comes at a crucial time where a gap exists in the technical skills needed to implement efforts aimed at providing clean energy through solar and bridging Nigeria’s significant metering gap. We are delighted at the opportunity to mould the next group of entrepreneurs in the power sector in line with Sahara Group’s vision to promote green energy and environmental sustainability.”

In 2020, Sahara Foundation revised its focus areas to two key pillars for all interventions going forward: Access to Energy and Promoting Sustainable Environments in alignment with our Group’s core vision.

Participants will develop competencies in the installation of single and three phase meters in residential and small commercial premises. The Solar PV Installation Technician program will train individuals to provide excellent service for residential and small commercial solar installations.

According to ETC’s Managing Director, Ibiene Okeleke, “ETC is excited to partner with Sahara Foundation in building capacity in their communities through these two programmes. The project will drive inclusive growth, poverty reduction through job creation and support the global energy transition mandate to provide cleaner forms of energy and aggressively reduce carbon emissions. We are proud to be associated with Sahara Foundation on this mission.”

Lande Abudu, REAN’s Executive Secretary stated that “having long recognised the importance of capacity building towards achieving universal access to energy, it is fitting that we combine efforts to enhance skills development in Nigeria. At REAN, we recognise the importance of collaborations and partnerships to reach shared goals. We are excited to work with Sahara Foundation and look forward to the positive outcomes that will certainly result from the programme.”

Applications for STRP will be open from June 11, 2021, to June 25, 2021 and can be submitted online or picked up and submitted at Sahara Group’s offices in the designated states. Interested participants can also visit www.ujanahub.com/strp and Sahara Foundation’s social media handle @iamsaharafdn for more information.

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Health

Agnes Nsofwa: An Auditor turned Registered Nurse and Global Health Advocate

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Agnes Nsofwa is a Registered Nurse and Global Health Advocate. she founded ASCA, a not-for-profit organisation supporting families impacted by sickle cell disease in Australia. Agnes is also the founder of Amplify Sickle Cell Voices International Inc, a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to give a voice to people from emerging economies and lower settlement areas sharing their experiences as sickle cell patients, caregivers, or healthcare providers. In this interview by Alaba Ayinuola, Agnes speaks about her NGOs, funded projects and her career-path. Excerpts.


Alaba: Can you briefly tell us about yourself and your career journey?

Agnes: My name is Agnes Nsofwa, an auditor and analyst turned Registered Nurse. For years I worked in the Tax Office as an auditor. After I migrated to Australia and worked in the bank for a few years then due to family reasons, I changed my career to become a Registered Nurse. All these skills have been helpful in my current role as a Quality Assessor, which involves assessing healthcare homes and reviewing their practices using my nursing experience. This requires me to understand auditing skills as well as understanding nursing standards to measure against.

Alaba: What motivated you to start your organisation, Australian Sickle Cell Advocacy Inc (ASCA)?

Agnes: Australian Sickle Cell Advocacy Inc is a community not for profit organisation supporting people impacted by sickle cell disease in Australia. It’s Australia’s first charity exclusively dedicated to serving the sickle cell community. My motivation for starting the organisation was to fill the gap that was missing in terms of supporting people impacted by sickle cell disease. For over six years after our daughter was diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia, I felt alone and needed someone to talk to. So, in the hope of finding out more information about this condition, I went on social media to learn as much information as possible. For me this was a coping mechanism when I felt low about the uncertainty of this severe disease. However, the information I saw did not really help, rather depressing stories about how this disease can affect people.

Hence, I decided to take control and create a Facebook page where I would post positive news. The goal is to post educational information and news that was uplifting. That was six years after our daughter was diagnosed. Three years after managing this Facebook page, with a lot of enquiries on the page, I decided to ask a few friends of mine so that we could come together to create an official not for profit organisation dedicated to all people impacted by sickle cell disease in Australia.

Alaba: What is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)? Is Sickle Cell Disease the same as Sickle Cell Anemia?

Agnes: Sickle Cell Disease is the hereditary disorder in which abnormal Haemoglobin within the Red Blood Cells (RBCs) causes the cells to take on abnormal sickle (crescent) shapes. It is one of the most common genetic disorders in the world affecting predominantly people from Sub Saharan Africa. 

There are different types of sickle cell disease, the most common ones include: sickle cell anaemia (SS), Sickle Hemoglobin-C Disease (SC), Sickle Beta-Plus Thalassemia and Sickle Beta-Zero Thalassemia. So, sickle cell anaemia is a type of sickle cell disease.

Alaba: What part of the body does sickle cell disease affect and the current treatments are available?

Agnes: Sickle Cell Disease affects all parts of the body as it is impacting the red blood cells which is one of the main components of blood. The main target is the Hemoglobin in the Red Blood Cells which carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Hence you see that all the organs in the body are affected and due to lack of oxygen to the parts of the body, it brings about a lot of complications. Some of which are: Pain episodes

  • Infections
  • Anaemia
  • Priapism
  • Strokes
  • Retinopathy
  • Leg ulcers
  • Gallstones
  • Kidney or urinary problems
  • Splenic sequestration
  • Hand-foot syndrome

Most of the treatment options are only there to treat these complications. The only available cure is a bone marrow transplant. The other available medications are there to help with red blood cells.

Alaba: Could you briefly share your personal experience and how you were able to manage it?

Agnes: I am a caregiver to a fabulous girl born with SCD. This is what drove me to start speaking up about the issues affecting people with SCD in Australia. We had to move between three States for us to find the perfect treatment for her. Her complications from SCD were one of those complicated cases such that at the age of 8, she had utilised almost all options available for management of SCD. The only option we were left with was trying a bone marrow transplant and were fortunate to have a matched sibling donor. But this was tricky because this treatment had never been done before in Australia for SCD HbSS. 

So, we trusted God and our instincts to go for it, and it paid off. Our daughter is now cured two years after undergoing the BMT, becoming the first child to undergo a BMT for SCD SS at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne Australia. However, the fight still goes on for over 1000 people still affected by SCD in Australia.

Alaba: What were the challenges when founding ASCA and the impacts made since inception?

Agnes: Founding ASCA was organic because we already had a presence on social media (Facebook), but there were and still are challenges because people still fear stigmatisation from talking about SCD. Other significant challenges were that we are a volunteer organisation and must source funds for our activities through sponsorships or grants. In the time that we have been around, we have achieved a lot of things such as:

  • Receiving acknowledgement of SCD as a serious chronic condition from our Australian Federal Health Minister, the Honourable Greg Hunt MP on World Sickle cell Day in 2019 and 2020 respectively, for the first time in the Australian History.
  • Being one of the first organisations in the world to create a sickle cell course for healthcare providers as SCD is considered a rare disease in this country. 
  • Creating the Amplify Sickle Cell Voices Part Webinar Series, which provides a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, advocacy, and education, bringing together global SCD advocates, world-class experts, and physicians. This is the first time in history that sickle cell warriors from all over the world have been able to share ideas in one “room”. Partnerships and connections have been formed because of this initiative. 
  • One of our recent best achievements is the approval of our newborn screening application which means that we will get a step closer to help detect SCD early and get children treated as early as possible, helping to start the management of the condition early.

Alaba: How does your organisation measure its impact?

Agnes: We have committed to a 5-year strategic plan, describing the objectives we would like to see from the gaps we have identified. So far, we have been able to tick off a few issues from this plan and we are confident as we go, we will be able to achieve a few more objectives.

Alaba: What do you think are the challenges in improving health in emerging economies?

Agnes: One of the major issues affecting people from the emerging economies is the issue around access to adequate and comprehensive healthcare. It is a well-known fact with a lot of literature to support that people in developing countries tend to have less access to health services than those in developed countries. I have seen it; I have lived in both settings.

Alaba: What would you say are the three key global health challenges, and the role of global health to address them?

Agnes: Going hand in hand with the issue of access, as a result we see the obvious health inequities in these settings. We have lower life expectancy for example, higher rates of mental health issues which are not even highly recognised in the developing countries, we see a lot of deaths that could otherwise be prevented if we were in developed countries. These are just some of the examples.

Another issue is the disparities in the management of covid-19. I think this is currently the highest priority issue that not only is it affecting developing countries but developed countries as well. However as with access to other health issues, we are still seeing that vaccines are not readily available in developing countries. We have countries like the USA who are vaccinating teenagers that are not as vulnerable as the elderly or even healthcare workers in developing countries. Yet again people from not so rich countries always have to come in last.

Also, I have seen especially in this covid-19 era is the inability to invest in health care workers especially in developing countries… again. Right as we speak Zambians in the diaspora are fund-raising to buy medical supplies for Zambian healthcare workers who are dying in numbers during the third wave of covid-19 pandemic. This issue was also experienced in developed countries where we saw healthcare workers dying or being at risk due to less supply of PPE. These people put their lives on the line and so many have died simply because their respective governments were unable to protect them, the world can do better to protect our frontline workers.

Alaba: What is the future for ASCA and plans for the remaining part of the year 2021?

Agnes: Our future looks very bright in terms of meeting our strategic plan objectives. One of the tasks that I have personally given myself is to ensure that we have smaller doses for hydroxyurea approved in Australia. As much as we have hydroxyurea in Australia, it has not been approved for use for sickle cell disease. Once it is approved for use for SCD in Australia, this will pave way for other smaller doses to be registered in Australia.

Of course, another major achievement is the conference that is pretty much done planning. I have sent you the flyer for you to advertise on our behalf. Going forward, this will be an annual event. We hope to have people from around the world join us for the face-to-face event one day, post covid-19

Alaba: How do you feel as an African in Diaspora making an impact in Australia?

Agnes: I feel honoured that I can advocate for a condition that predominantly affects people who look like me. This has been a major drive for me because I know just how hard it can be to be recognised in a country where you are the minority. In saying that it has not been an easy road, both in Australia and around the world. However, you push on because failure is not an option.

Alaba: What is your advice to policymakers and parents on SCD?

Agnes: For policymakers especially from less resourced countries: “let us make sickle cell disease a priority public health issue as it is affecting so many people of our own”. Over 10 years ago African WHO member countries signed a strategic plan to ensure that SCD was going to be professionally managed. Not all countries are doing this. Countries like Gambia do not even have a sickle cell policy nor hydroxyurea. Because of Amplify Sickle Cell Voices, one of the policy makers promised to work with SCD advocates in that country to ensure that they start working towards creating a policy. There is not much research and even simple monitoring techniques that are cheap enough for a country to afford, are missing. People are suffering, babies below the age of five are dying and it is about time that these countries put their priorities right.

For Parents, trust your instincts, if you believe something is wrong then it is probably wrong. Study your child and know what triggers the SCD crisis. Do not wait or doubt, ensure that you seek treatment right away. If you are not happy about the care your child is receiving, get a second, third or even fourth opinion until you are satisfied. Caring for a child with SCD is not easy but if you have a routine and know the triggers it gets better. Also work in partnerships with the treating doctors. If possible, try to understand the meaning of the blood test results. If you are not sure, ask questions from the doctors to tell you what they mean. Things like measuring the size of the spleen for your child is something that can easily be taught. Because if you know how to do this, you can act promptly when your child is having a splenic sequestration crisis, a life-threatening illness complication in children with SCD.

 

B I O G R A P H Y

Agnes Nsofwa is a Strategist and Global Health Advocate, the Founder of Australian Sickle Cell Advocacy Inc (ASCA). Through her personal experience as a caregiver to a child born with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), she founded ASCA, a not-for-profit organisation supporting families impacted by sickle cell disease in Australia. She is also the founder of Amplify Sickle Cell Voices International Inc, a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to give a voice to people from low resource countries and lower settlement areas sharing their experiences as sickle cell patients, caregivers, or healthcare providers. Through sharing, the aim is to find strategies that can alleviate these issues.

Agnes is also the creator of Sickle Cell Talks with Agnes, a Facebook Live show that brings sickle cell warriors and other stakeholders to share stories and education sessions by healthcare providers to raise awareness about sickle cell disease. A mother of four children, Agnes is a Data Analyst by profession but became a Registered Nurse to understand the hospital system and what their youngest daughter was going through while living with sickle cell disease.

She holds a master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Sydney, a bachelor’s degree in business from Edith Cowan University and a Diploma in Accounting. After chasing a cure for their daughter in three different States across Australia, their daughter was cured from SCD in 2019, through a Bone Marrow Transplant, 11 years after living with this disease. Their daughter became the first child to get a Bone Marrow Transplant for SCD HbSS at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

 

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NGOs - SDGs

ESSA: Women must have more leadership opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa to improve society for us all

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ESSA CEO, Lucy Heady (Image: ESSA website)

ESSA- There is a lack of evidence about the role of universities and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa in equipping women with leadership opportunities.  

Speaking during a press briefing to launch Education Sub Saharan Africa’s (ESSA) State of Women Leading Report, Dr Jennifer N. Udeh, Head of Programmes and Partnerships said through its Women Leading project, the organisation’s aim was to begin to fill this gap and to bring attention to the situation for women in sub-Saharan Africa by using data and evidence to improve practices within universities and colleges to support women. This includes both female academics seeking leadership roles in universities and colleges, and female students for whom leadership skills will be a critical factor in their success as they transition into work. As part of the Women Leading project, ESSA led a research phase which has included a desktop review, interviews with women, and a survey with over 400 female faculty, students and early career graduates.  

ESSA initiated a women leading project following the recognition of a stark disparity between men and women in leadership positions in universities and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa. ESSA in partnership with Association of African Universities, Population Reference Bureau and Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, formally National Council for Tertiary Education had conducted a study of the demographics of faculty in Ghana and reveal that only 8% of professors at public universities were women.  

Women she said, must have more leadership opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa to improve society for us all. Whilst this is not unique to education, ESSA believes that academia can set the bar.  

Women still face barriers to leadership, including socio-cultural expectations, limited access to mentorship and networking opportunities, unhelpful working environments and policies and barriers relating to mindset. The Covid-19 pandemic is also particularly impacting women.” She added. 

The State of Women Leading Report captures insights from existing research and the current perspective of women who are at different stages in their leadership journey. She emphasized that the specific objectives of the report are to unlock the potential of female leaders in education, by contributing to the understanding of the current state of women’s leadership, including current barriers preventing women transitioning into leadership,  existing solutions aimed at supporting and increasing women’s participation in leadership  and possible solutions going forward Additionally she stressed that women are underrepresented in leadership in sub-Saharan Africa in all sectors including tertiary education and more can be done to ensure gender parity. 

“Our research has highlighted conceptual skills as the most important skillset for leadership development of women in all sectors e.g., critical thinking/decision-making/problem solving/analytical abilities, logical reasoning. This is followed by skills relating to Leadership ethics and values, e.g., integrity/trust/empathy/emotional intelligence/self-awareness/self-confidence. It also points to four key types of further support that will have a high impact on leadership development for women. These are: scholarships, leadership training and development programmes, gender sensitive organizational/structural policies and networking programs and opportunities.” She said. 

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In her closing remarks, she extended a word of thanks to the project sponsor Dubai Cares, individuals and partners organisation who took part in the research  

“Your engagement and support have been invaluable in bringing this research to completion. ESSA’s contribution to unlocking the potential of female leaders is in supporting and working with universities, colleges and organisations, to understand the evidence and co-create solutions. Just as we have done through this research and the subsequent stakeholder workshop that we hosted in June 2021. Our ambition is to continue to identify issues and bring together evidence of what works and what is needed to drive change. We will do this through continued partnerships, stakeholder consultations and engagement. We look forward to continuing this work with you all and building on what we have started… we hope the state of women leading report is useful to all organisations and policy makers seeking to engage and contribute to research and the improvement of practices, to increase women’s participation in leadership 

ESSA is a charity improving education in sub-Saharan Africa so that young people achieve their ambitions and strengthen society. We support university and college leaders, employers, policymakers, and young people to turn evidence into practical solutions and maximise resources. By working together, we can improve education policies and delivery. 

 

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Philanthropy

Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) to Kick Off Its 10th Anniversary with 2021 Global Summit Series

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Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) is set to mark its 10th anniversary with the BPM 2021 Global Summit Series, which kicks off August 3, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm EDT, in the U.S. with virtual events continuing in Africa, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, and worldwide. The series will culminate on August 31st with Reunity, an international Black women funders power and wellness summit in collaboration with the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University.

Featured speakers include Ford Foundation president Darren Walker; CNN political analyst and former member of South Carolina House of Representatives, Bakari Sellers; ABC News senior legal correspondent and co-host of The View, Sunny Hostin; Nobel Peace Laureate and founder of Gbowee Peace Foundation, the Honorable Leymah Gbowee; and faith leader and activist Reverend Naomi Tutu.  

Registration is open. Sign up and see the global keynote speaker line-up at bit.ly/FundBlackSummit2021.

Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland, founder of BPM, Reunity, and Women Invested to Save Earth (WISE) Fund says, “Our 10th anniversary is a testament to the tenacity of Black people worldwide. Our resolve is strong to advance our culture of giving and promote fair access to private capital, including philanthropy and venture investment.  Economic justice is the last frontier in the Civil and Human Rights Movement.  We hope the U.S. and the entire world will join the celebration in August and press on to make equity real, starting by signing the  Black Philanthropy Month Global Black Funding Equity Pledge.”

With recognition at the outset from the United Nations as part of its Global Decade for People of African Descent and with proclamations from 30 governmental bodies, BPM has built momentum, having been celebrated by 18 million worldwide across 60 countries since 2011. Valaida Fullwood, creator of The Soul of Philanthropy and a BPM co-architect notes, “BPM has used the power of social media to celebrate the community giving that binds Black culture everywhere, while also calling on the ‘powers that be’ to institute principles and practices that accelerate funding equity.”

The BPM 10th anniversary continues its tradition of using high-impact technology to convene influential Black civic, business, and funding leaders with people from all walks of life to build community and practical action plans for funding equity and impact.  BPM co-architect, Tracey Webb, founder of the pioneering giving circle Black Benefactors, emphasizes that “BPM brings together Black and allied leaders of all backgrounds to remind the world that we too are philanthropists and that our giving traditions matter. We need funders from foundations and corporations to see and fund us too.”

BPM stands out for the diversity of Black people, worldwide, integral to its leadership and summit series. BPM Africa Chair Thelma Ekiyor, founder and chair of Afrigrants Foundation states, “Even though they manifest differently in the Motherland than in our Diaspora, anti-Black racism and neocolonialism on the continent still pose barriers to funding for effective recovery and development in our communities.  We are proud to join with our brothers, sisters, and allies worldwide to celebrate our collective potential and call for Black funding equity.  We are fortunate that the Nobel Peace Laureate, the Honorable Leymah Gbowee, is our BPM Africa keynote speaker to inspire a new vision for 21st century Black funding equity.”

Reunity – the only global Black women’s funders network that inspired BPM and organized its first summit—has played a critical role in advancing the global Black philanthropy movement.  Although not always acknowledged or written into the funding field’s history, Black women have been at the forefront of Black philanthropy as well as leading calls for racial and gender equity and intersectional funding.  Mojubaolu Okome, City University of New York professor and African diaspora giving scholar, asserts “From esusus to the new Black-led venture funds, people of African descent throughout the U.S. and world continue a rich tradition of finance innovation that benefits all of society.” Okome, an original Reunity leader, adds, “As Reunity marks its 20th year of Black women’s innovation for all, we hope the world will join us as we work to build better from the continuing devastation of the COVID era.”  

The Reverend Naomi Tutu, faith leader and activist, has long participated in the summits and will return in 2021 with a session on spiritual wellness for women leaders.  “When a crisis hits, women are often hit first and hardest, as we give everything we have to care for our families, communities, and the world.  Reunity is a time for us to be well, while doing good and to strengthen the global sisterhood as we work to advance humanity in this time of struggle and hope.”

Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) is supported by a growing list of sponsors and partners, including our Signature Charity Partner, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; event talent partner, The b’elle group; Indiana University’s Women’s Philanthropy Institute at The Lilly School of Philanthropy; and global regional chairs, Foundation for Black Communities (Canada); Afrigrants Foundation (Africa); The Puerto Rico Community Foundation (Caribbean); and The Bãobá Fund (Brazil).  The full sponsor and partner roster list will be released in early July. Registration for the BPM 2021 Global Summit Series opens today!

 

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