Why UWoW is supporting British ethnic minority – Mrs Justina Aimufua
Justina Aimufua is the President of the United Women of Wales (UWoW), a body that was launched last year aimed at projecting issues affecting women and families of African descent.
To mark the second anniversary, the Group has put in place a one-day event-‘African Summer Festival’-a showcase of African musical extravaganza, talks from experts and a fashion show.
In this interview, Mrs. Aimufua sheds more light on the group and the upcoming event.
You started the United Women of Wales (UWoW) with other women. What is UWOW all about?
I have yearned for an African centre, or hub, that would be a support and socio-cultural melting pot and resource base ( literature, art, music, fashion, food) for every African immigrant in Cardiff. I have these three great friends, and we have always supported each other, both in challenging and in good times. I felt this support structure could be extended to other African women. I broached it to the rest of the gang, they bought the idea and eventually, the four of us sat down to start the group.
So, in essence, UWoW came about from a desire to support other women, especially black, ethnic, minority women , to help them cope with the daily challenges of family and work life in the UK.
Why did you think it was necessary at this time to establish UWoW, and how were you received?
In our various professions, community and places of worship, we come across women going through different challenges in their family with their children and work. Sometimes, they’re overwhelmed with no knowledge of who or where to turn to. It sometimes leads to some form of mental health issues like anxiety, depression, etc. We try to support them as much as we can in our capacity, but there is only so much an individual can do. There has always been a need for some support base, especially for black immigrants, but the need is more significant today as more of us settle here.
Since you launched last year, what have you done?
We have supported women through counselling, signposting them to support sources, and so on. We have done education and awareness-raising projects like workshops on health issues which we know is very pertinent to women of black ethic minorities(BEM). For instance, we organised a seminar on mental health challenges facing BEM women and got an expert to engage our women on the issue. It’s a fact that mental health is prevalent among BEM groups in the UK. BEM women are more vulnerable to it because of their multiple roles of child-bearing, parenting, marriage and family management. Besides, there is also the usual migration trauma, racism, acculturation and other social circumstances that they, like others, have to contend with. It is a significant concern, and that is why our group has adopted it as a substantial cause. As you know, in African culture, mental health is considered shameful; because of this stigma, most people are not likely to openly discuss their mental health challenges. It affects the way Africans seek help when they have mental health challenges. We, as a group, are passionate about changing this mindset in our communities. We have also procured substantial medical supplies, that include (Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), earmarked for distribution back home in Africa specifically, Nigeria and Zambia to support community and village health centres. We plan to follow these up with workshops, to raise awareness and encourage good hygiene practices to reduce infections.
Who are the speakers and on what will they be speaking about?
The speakers come from diverse backgrounds, and topics range from political empowerment, business/self-employment, breaking the glass ceiling in the corporate world, to specific health issues- maternal mortality and mental health issues. Speakers include, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Baroness Anita Gale, who is Shadow Minister for Women and Equality in the House of Lords, Mrs Angela Gorman, Director of Life for African Mothers, who is very passionate about Africa, and doing great work championing and reducing the maternal death rate in Africa. We also have Elizabeth Ozua, the National Sales Director, Mary Kay, UK, Suzzane Duval an OBE (Order of British Empire) recipient and mental health expert/activist, Dr Kelechi Nnaoham- a public health expert in Wales, Mrs Cynthia Ogbonna a top executive of Cardiff Bus, to mention a few. I am excited about it because it is going to be a remarkable and rewarding experience for all attendees.
As a special Guest Speaker, what would Mrs Abike Dabiri – Erewa be speaking on, and in what ways will her commission work with you?
Well, given her political antecedents, she will be sharing her experiences in politics, the challenges and prospects. But more importantly, we are hoping to bring her in on a project that is very dear to us, and that is the problem of high maternal death rate in Nigeria. In fact, Nigeria is the country where nearly 20% of all global maternal deaths happens according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). That is a massive chunk of the world’s maternal mortality that should be very troubling to Nigerians as a nation. This is just not acceptable, and anything and everyone that can be involved to reverse this dire situation is welcomed. That is why we in UWoW are hoping that Mrs Dabiri-Erewa will come on board with us, to work with someone like Angela Gorman and her organisation, doing such great work already in other African countries, to get life-saving free medication that has been shown to have a significant impact in reducing maternal death rate to Nigerian women.
What projects do you have planned for UWoW?
We have in the pipeline next, a workshop on online business for women in collaboration with Google. This is aimed at empowering more women into business and self-employment. The training and knowledge gained from the workshop, we hope to be able to use as well as replicate the same seminar for women in both Nigeria and Zambia.
Tell us about your upcoming programme, what is the aim and what do you hope to achieve?
The event we are having on August 31st is going to be an evening of enlightenment, entertainment and fun. We have an array of personalities lined up as guest speakers and special guests. We also have a three-day chartered cruise on two super yachts ‘Lady Tatiana’ and ‘Lady Alhena to Majorca’ for auction. The bid winners can have up to 11 people on a journey with them, on each yacht. We have a fashion showcasing of African attires by TC Collections, an exhibition of various product and services, African folklores, music and dance: and of course, sumptuous buffet. We hope to create more awareness of our Group and activities. It is the start of many other knowledge and fundraising activities we will be engaging in going forward.
Are you working with other groups or NGOs to achieve your plans?
We are working with, and plan to work with much more. We plan to work with established and reliable home-based individuals and NGOs in the execution of some of the projects and campaigns we have planned.
How can someone join or access some of your programmes/services?
It easy and simple. Any keen to join or work with us should get in touch. We are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Just search for United Women of Wales in any of the social platforms to find us.
How do you get funding to run the organisation?
So far, we have had to task ourselves for all our projects based on project cost. For us, it is a labour of love that we are passionate about and committed to doing. However, we are not averse to external funding. In fact, with the big project we have planned for the coming years (The African Resource Centre and the African Festival of Arts & Culture), we are going to explore all the external funding options available as well as embark on fund-raising activities, which is what our event coming up on August 31st is about.
Finally, have you reached out to the High Commission for partnership, and to help reach out to your various targets?
We have not even thought about the High Commission, talk less of reaching out to them. Our personal experiences with the High Commission on essential citizen responsibility services have not been good ones. So, many of us do not see the High Commission as keen on the interest and welfare of Nigerians here in the diaspora. Therefore, we have not thought of approaching them for partnership of any sort. But hey, never say never, right? So, maybe now you’ve mentioned them, we will consider it.