Tell us about yourself.
My name is Mrs Chinwe Odita.
I am a wife and mother of two children in their teens. I am a university graduate and an ex-banker. I am currently a businesswoman and I also volunteer with Mamalette Community Foundation, a non governmental social enterprise concerned with the health and welfare of pregnant women and children.
As a child, what did you want to become in future? What do you do now?
I wanted to become a professor of literature. By the age of 6 I had shown a deep interest in reading books and literature. I also wanted to study English at the University but I eventually studied Dramatic Arts and later obtained a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Times Journalism Institute, Iganmu. I later went on to work in a bank.
Why did you volunteer as a Mamalette Champion?
I volunteered as a Mamalette Champion because I have always been interested in helping less privileged people.
The Nigerian society is full of problems caused by poor governance and lack of adequate infrastructure. Most urban areas have poor social and public amenities and rural areas are even much worse. There is great poverty in the land and millions of women and children mostly bear the impact of the poor economic conditions.
I was happy to discover Mamalette’s programs because it gave me an opportunity to help women and children in a positive way. I am fortunate to have been allowed into the lives of some of our women and children and make a positive impact in their lives through teaching, counselling, companionship and showing of empathy.
What was a striking moment for you during this program?
While volunteering as a Mamalette champion, I was struck by the level of ignorance and helplessness of some of our mothers. A lot of myths and old wives tales govern pregnancy practices and childbirth. This contributes to the high mortality rates we see among pregnant women and infants in Nigeria.
Can you share a story of an enrollee whose life you have impacted during this program?
I believe I impacted all the enrolees I was came in contact with. However one stands out in my memory, Amaka. She was about 29 years but already had four children and was pregnant with a fifth child that she did not really want. She had had these in quick succession, the oldest was just 7 years old. Her husband can be best described as a ‘sperm donor’ because he was uncaring, a poor provider and subjected her to physical abuse. Amaka was saddled with the responsibility of feeding the four older children plus her pregnant self.
She was fending for herself and the children with money gained from the sale of fried groundnuts which she displayed in front of her husband’s shop.
When her pregnancy became advanced, she could no longer continue with her trade and hunger and depression became her companions. When I met her, she was really depressed and almost at the point of giving up on life.
I counselled, encouraged and taught her that life could still be meaningful despite her problems. The first thing she requested from me was to teach her about family planning because she was determined that she did not want any more children. I taught her the various family planning methods she could avail of and she was able to see and touch all the methods available. I also continued to encourage her and teach her other topics on the Mamalette Home Visiting curriculum. I also made sure I gave her food and provisions as often as I could and visited her more frequently than what was required for the program.
She has gave birth to a bouncing baby boy and appears much happier than she was when I first met her.
Why is your community important to you?
My community is important to me because health is wealth. A healthier nation will often translate to more productive people and less debilitating diseases and poverty.
What in your life made you care about other people around you?
I grew up in the village of Nnewi, Anambra State with my widowed mum. Despite her own personal challenges, my mother still found a way to help the less privileged. My mum was a giver and would often donate foodstuffs and clothes to our less fortunate neighbours in the village. Our society is ridden with poverty and we have so many societal ills as a result of this. High levels of illiteracy especially on the part of women does not also help. I just had to find a way to help out and thankfully Mamalette gave me such an opportunity through the Home Visiting Program.
What is the worth of a pregnant woman’s life to you?
A pregnant woman is a nation so a pregnant woman’s life is priceless. If a pregnant woman dies, a nation has died with her.
Describe a time during the program where you felt helpless.
I felt completely helpless one time during the home visit program when one of my enrolees, Unoma was being maltreated by her mother-in-law. She and her husband were living with her. She was heavily pregnant and was still being made to sweep, clean and cook for the entire family; her mother-in-law, her husband, sister-in-law and her husband’s five other siblings.
She explained that her husband was out of a job for some months and they could not afford house rent and so had to come and live with his mother and other siblings. I really wished I had the means to rent an apartment for them. I knew Mamalette did not also have resources to undertake such too. I also felt sorry that even though she was pregnant, she sometimes just had access to one meal a day. I gave her some provisions when I could, but my heart ached for her.
What is your hope for your community?
I have hope that the mothers that enrolled in the Mamalette Home Visiting program have been equipped with the knowledge and confidence they require to lead healthier lives. I am also optimistic that they will spread the information they have learnt to their friends and neighbours and this act can help save other lives in my community.
I am also looking forward to a better society where women are better informed about how to take better care of their health and those of their children.
I am looking forward to a society where women will be have the money they require to do required tests during pregnancy, eat the right foods, register for ante-natal classes on time and get the required supplements for themselves and their unborn babies.
A future where women can choose for and pay comfortably for Ceasarean Sections by themselves instead of relying on the husbands.
What message do you have for other women who are looking to make an impact in their communities?
My message for other women hoping to impact their community is be to be courageous and do the best you can. It is said that “ little drops of water can make an ocean”
A little impact can have a multiplying effect and with time, so many more people can be impacted positively. Mamalette is a proof of that. One woman’s dream has impacted hundreds in our communities today.