There was something about that day; the day she finally realized he was never coming back. She woke up that morning, feeling electrified; how could she not? It was the start of the sixth year of life, little did she know, it was to be the beginning of the end…
With tears streaming down both cheeks, she asked her mother again; are you sure, are you sure he isn’t coming? “He’s never coming back darling”, she said it with such coldness, her bag of lies and excuses had finally run empty. Ebby couldn’t understand it, she hadn’t seen her father in three years, he was meant to be here today, he was meant to come, he would finally make it up to her with endless sweets and kisses… but he wasn’t coming, not now, not ever. Her first disappointment.
Going forward, life became an endless stream of disappointments. But she found her escape; books were good, people hurt but not books. People, she now knew, always broke her heart. Yet her books always embraced her.
Unfortunately, books couldn’t avert her next disappointment; it arrived nine years later. Her father was never coming back and she knew that now. She was fatherless and it was a long and bitter road to accept this, she battled depression, anger, hatred, detest for the world and she overcame it all. Or did she? Was it because of her new-found father, he was jovial: always listened, offered advice, never scolded and was forever encouraging. He was to be her next disappointment…
Unlike her first disappointment, she didn’t see this one coming. She remembers it so well now, that summer day that shattered the hope of a new father. It was past midnight and he held her in an embrace, she was glad at first but then he wouldn’t let go. He hugged her so tight, at first that she was glad and felt safe. But she realized quickly that something was wrong, his hands were wandering. No, she must be dreaming! But it was all too real, she screamed and cried for help, no one came. Though in the end, somebody did help, she screamed ‘Jesus’ and he heard her; he loosened his grip and she ran away.
Now she’s running, she’s still running, but she has a new father now. The One who helped her; with him she is safe, though chained by life she is free..
Adepeju Alice Ayoade is 22 years of age and originally from Nigeria currently living in Ireland. Her own life experiences inspires what sheWRITES.
AkiDwA as an organisation emerged from regular meetings held amongst fellow migrant women, from 1999 to 2001, initiated by Salome Mbugua, a Kenyan migrant woman who had arrived in Ireland in 1994. The first meeting was held in city centre Dublin, in Temple Bar, in 1999. In 2001, through the support of the Catherine McAuley Centre, Salome mobilised a group of African women to come together to SHARE their experiences of living in Ireland. What emerged from this meeting were feelings of exclusion, isolation, racial abuse and discrimination, issues related to gender based violence were also raised. The group went on to meet regularly and were supported and offered facilitation from outside. AkiDwA sought and obtained funding from the Combat Poverty Agency in 2002 to carry out a pilot needs assessment with African women living in Ireland. The survey elicited over two hundred female participants from seventeen counties.
Formal structures were put into place when AkiDwa was registered as a company with guarantee but without capital SHARE in 2003. However, limited funding meant that most work continued to be carried out on a voluntary basis. With a view towards enhancing the integration of migrant women and indigenous women, training modules were developed including programmes on capacity building, cultural diversity, racism and its effects on society. In addition, ‘Train the trainers modules were also developed’.
Over the years, the organisation has gained recognition as a leading NGO in Ireland, reviewing key legislation, policy and practice as well as proposing reforms specifically to do with the issues faced by migrant women. AkiDwA consulted with migrant women and other key stakeholders, identifying gender and racially discriminatory practices, to develop evidence based and representative solutions for migrant women in the key identified areas of gender-based violence, gender discrimination.
AkiDwA employs the following key strategies to achieve its objectives: networking, policy work and individual and organisational capacity building/development. AkiDwA’s networking strategy is aimed at individual and organisational levels. Policy work is developed from migrant women, identifying their needs in the areas of gender discrimination, gender-based violence and employment. AkiDwA develops legislative, policy and practice reforms to address these priority issues with government and sectoral stakeholders, as well as capacity-building programmes to deliver the on the ground practical support that women require. AkiDwA has developed the capacity of hundreds of migrant women and their communities living in Ireland over the course of its lifetime. Their capacity building was supported through our network, resource centre, outreach and training programmes aimed at promoting participation in their local communities, in civic and political structures and in sectoral and government consultations and decision making processes. Training programmes delivered over the years including targeted capacity building in multiple regions, sexual health workshops, access to education and employment, integration, leadership and political/civic participation sessions.
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