Osasu Paul-Azino is the coordinator of the Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation which was founded in 2005 after the passing of the beloved Pastor Bimbo Odukoya. She talks to Joy Ehonwa about the mission of PBOF, how you can help, and her motivation for what she does.
CN: What’s your professional background?
I’m a trained peer educator and social manager with certifications from the Pan African University. I’m also a chartered associate manager (AMNIM).
CN: What does the Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation do?
The Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation was set up with a mission to rescue, empower, and protect the rights of the woman and the girl child. The foundation runs four different projects all targeted at women and girls. The first and our very core project is the Hope House. It’s a shelter, a safe house and a rehabilitation centre for victims, or as we call them, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. We have no age range. At the shelter the survivors are provided with food, shelter, clothing, and psycho-social support which basically entails counselling and rehabilitation. They also get educational and vocational support, legal aid and health services. These services are rendered in partnership with other organisations that focus on these individual needs.
CN: So the core project is the shelter. What are the others about?
The others are advocacy projects. The centre is the intervention project in the sense that, when something happens to a lady, say she’s raped for example, where can she go? Where can she get solace and rehabilitation? She comes to the centre. Or a survivor of domestic violence can’t put her life together, where can she go? She can come to the shelter. That’s our intervention project. We have 3 different advocacy projects teaching women and girls about their rights so they understand who they are and what their worth is, basically trying to bridge the gap of gender inequality and empowering women and girls.
The Girls EMPOWERED Project, which was held last week, also comes under this. It’s a celebration of the girl child and this year we focused on technology and how the girl child can empower herself through technology skills. We had partners come teach these girls for free. We have over 30 secondary schools in our network and we were able to teach these girls about technology.
CN: What’s the extent of your work with schools?
We also have a project called Peer Education for Prefects. It’s usually done as a summer camp, a leadership training project focused on gender responsiveness. We take the public school prefects — there are practically no targeted programs towards these public schools so we’re really interested in the public schools and how the students turn out to become leaders — so we take their leaders, which happen to be their prefects, for a summer camp of about a week, and we teach them core skills that can make them stand out as leaders. And of course we also teach the boys gender responsiveness where they understand gender equality and how to look out for women, so they can become gender advocates as well.
CN: Does it end with secondary schools?
The last project that we run as a foundation is Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention. It’s actually run in universities where we work with the Students’ Union Government as well as Student Affairs to continue the conversations on why rape is wrong, and try to create reporting centres for rape victims in the universities.
CN: What does your role as coordinator entail?
I ensure the programs of the Foundation reach our focal audience — the woman and the girl child.
CN: Why did you decide to take up this job?
As a survivor of sexual assault, I wanted to be able to, beyond talking and counselling people in my spare time, be actively involved in the conversations around women empowerment and gender quality, helping to provide and proffer solutions where it matters most.
CN: What challenges do the survivors face during and after rehabilitation?
Criticism from family, stigma of leaving the partner’s house, —societal pressure on the victims to bury it away and not speak out— government bureaucracy particularly in the justice system and poor economic status are the major challenges. Most of the victims are usually people who are not financially stable, so there’s a lot of manipulation from even their spouses and their rapists.
CN: How do these challenges affect the Foundation’s work?
It’s usually a very difficult process for us because we have to give vocational training, try and get them back on their feet so they’re economically empowered. There is also bureaucracy in the justice system where some of these cases are taken to court and the legal system basically doesn’t help the process. The cases drag on, and on, and on, giving a lot of loopholes for the accused to get out by giving bribes. It’s a challenge for us because for most of these girls, getting justice is a huge part of their healing.
CN: What kinds of support or contributions can members of the public offer besides monetary donations?
Besides finance, we need laptops for our computer skills acquisition training at the shelter. Also, we are constantly in need of exercise books, text books, novels and other types of literature that they can use to pass time and broaden their horizons whilst they are at the shelter. Toiletries are always welcome, as well as food items and clothes; always, always welcome.
Facebook: Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation
Phone: 08035800201, 08093933439