As the world celebrates the International day of Rural Women, we focus on a beneficiary of the Commonwealth Fellowship who is empowering the women in the rural communities of Kwara state. Biola Adimula is the Chairperson of Women and Child Watch Initiatives (WOCWI) an NGO making a tremendous impact on the rights and welfare of women and children in Nigeria. She shares her journey to actualizing her dream of grassroots development by building female manpower in the local communities.
As a young girl, Biola constantly found herself genuinely disheartened by the injustice she witnessed in her community. Not one to stand idle, she resolved that a Law degree would give her the backbone she needed to combat said injustice. She was so resolute that even though her A level results were not strong enough to grant her admission to the course, she opted to repeat the class. She eventually gained entry to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1989. She was called to the bar in 1993 after graduating and had her LL.M in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. She obtained her PhD degree in Peace and Development Studies at University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.
The wife and mother of three is the Principal Partner of Biola Adimula & Co and a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, Nigeria. She is a former Chairperson of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kwara State Branch and the current Chairperson of Society of Women in Taxation, Kwara State Branch. She is a Member of the Governing Council of Women Forum of the Nigerian Bar Association and a Council Member of the Nigerian Bar Association National Assembly Matters Committee.
In early 2010, she attended the 54th Session of the United Nations Commission on Status of Women in New York, USA, where she met Elvira Wilson, the then Business Analyst of The Haven Wolverhampton, United Kingdom, at a Civil Society session and they exchanged addresses and kept in touch thereafter. Later that year, Elvira discussed with Biola about the Commonwealth Fellowship Training, for which her UK organization will be glad to host 2 to 4 members from her NGO (Women and Child Watch Initiatives).
She said of her conversation with Elvira, “I received the information with mixed feelings as … I was not convinced I could leave my family and Legal practice for [that] long, though I was happy for other members to apply.” After days of contemplation she eventually decided that the Commonwealth opportunity would expose her to new ideals and position her better to pursue her ambition to make impact in the lives of people in her community. It is with this conviction that the Fellowship would give her a solid platform to pursue her initiatives that she applied and was granted the Fellowship in the same year.
As Biola recounts, during her fellowship, she had the opportunity to attend Domestic Violence proceedings in Family court and participated in mediation and reconciliation of family matters in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. I visited and worked among residents and got to know that UK government protects women and children against violence and provides for their welfare, which is not so in Nigeria.
Seeing the level of protection that women enjoy in the UK on issues of Domestic violence, she resolved to pursue same with a functional Family Court in Kwara State. On her proposal, the Kwara State Judiciary released the two Magistrates of the non-functioning State Family Court for CSC fellowship, so that they could discharge their duties effectively. When they returned, the trained Magistrates started sitting and determining cases from January 2013. About 180 family cases have been handled by the Court till date.
Because she recognised that women can be better protected from domestic violence by being self-reliant, she initiated the Tsaragi Project, another immediate outcome of her Commonwealth Fellowship. Agriculture being the mainstay of the women in the village, they needed modern equipment in order to enhance their harvesting processes.
Mrs Adimula set about making this happen for them. “My Partner and I wrote a proposal to FATE Trust Wolverhampton a sister organization of the Haven Wolverhampton, for a grant to purchase and install modern harvesting machines for women farmers in Tsaragi, Kwara State, Nigeria. We got the grant of GBP2100 and we added personal [funds]. With some other local support, we were able to construct and commission a building- WOCWI WOMEN CENTRE where the modern harvesting machines were installed to thresh and blow rice, corn, groundnut and melon to enhance agricultural harvesting process.”
The centre was commissioned by the Wife of the Executive Governor of Kwara State, Her Excellency Mrs Omolewa Ahmed on 4th August, 2011. 20 Women Farmers were selected to run the centre to serve the entire Tsaragi community.
Her Excellency, Mrs Omolewa Ahmed, wife of the Executive Governor of Kwara State listening to Mrs Biola Adimula, Chairperson WOCWI, on how the installed equipment will work to enhance women farmer’s harvesting processes, during the commissioning of the women centre
“It gladdens [my] heart to report that, these women farmers are managing the centre well and it’s still functioning. The women invest their profit by buying farm produce [during] surplus season and they sell during scarce period, thereby increasing their income. They have also opened a Bank account to keep their income.”
The women have also begun to use the gains earned from using the harvesting machines to serve the community. They make loans available at low interest rates to female members of the community. This has greatly improved the women’s economic power and in turn reduced the effect of domestic violence in that community.
On plans for the future, Mrs Adimula laughs and exclaims, “Many! One of them is soap-making. Black soap is a big part of Odo-owa community and we are looking to help the women modernise and industrialise its production so they could package and sell beyond Kwara state even. Most of our plans, of course are being stalled for lack of funds but we are positive that they will come to light eventually.”