For Abby Osoba, helping others is her life passion and this passion has led her to starting Black Girls Ignite Africa (B.G.I.A). B.G.I.A is a non-profit dedicated to the empowerment, encouragement, celebration and healthy development of African women and girls. Founded in 2011, B.G.I.A has already made great strides in building a global movement to support and motive young African women. She shared this vision with her friend, Deborah Kukoyi and both women have carried the vision and brought their dreams to fruition.Abby is a believer in the idea that even your littlest gift can help transform another person’s life with just a little effort.
Despite her hectic schedule, I was able to track down Abby for a chat about B.G.I.A
Tell us about yourself and a bit of your background
I grew up in Lagos and attended secondary school at Federal Government Girls College, Sagamu. Then, I went on to the University of Abuja. I have also had postgraduate courses and executive education at Harvard Business School, Sloan Business School at MIT, and Rotmans School of Business at the University of Toronto.
What is Black Girls Ignite Africa?
Black Girls Ignite Africa is a non-profit organization that focuses on empowering, developing, and helping young girls and women. It is important to us that we celebrate and mentor these young women in ways that encourages independence and empowerment. Our goal is to help these women understand their purpose in life. We reach out to women and help them understand that they have a purpose on Earth. If you look closely at the millions of organizations operating around the world you will see that there is a large gap in this type of work. Right now there are very few opportunities in Africa but we believe that by helping a young girl and woman, it will give her an opportunity she will need which will cause her to shine and ignite Africa. Women are incubators and if you put the right positive things in them they will birth something great.
What inspires your work?
I am passionate about helping people understand their gifts, talents, and their ability to help their communities. I have been made to understand that some human beings could be seen as empty vessels that need to be filled and this can be done by teaching them or helping them achieve their God given dreams and visions. I am someone who loves people, especially helping people. It has been something that has been a part of me. I grew up in an environment where you had to be almost perfect and had to do everything right and it was expected of you. That has helped drive and shapen my decisions and has me move forward; this affects how I process information. I grew up not only wanting things to be done the right way, but also had to discover other ways of doing things and working with people to figure out how to motivate people.
The organization also supports other nonprofits and charities around the world. In addition to a focus on Africa, we work with different organizations, charity groups, and individuals all around the world. We have previously worked with The Living Star Mission, a small organization in Oyo State by helping them feed the children and people in the village and purchase clothing for the orphans. During Children’s Day in Nigeria we partnered with Cepan Africa to provide financial support to children with mental illness. We’ve also supported The Destiny Trust organization in Nigeria, a non profit organization to set up a soup kitchen in Lagos. Supporting young women, we have helped to them find homes and we are sending their children to school for the Kuramo Intervention project. We have since expanded globally into Kenya, Tanzania, UK, USA, UAE, Mali and Ghana.
What is the most rewarding part of the work you do?
The most rewarding part is to see someone smile. You can sense when someone is happy and their little needs are met, it is like a weight has been lifted. Many people only need small little things so once you are able to help them fulfill that need, the smile and happiness that comes out of it is very inspiring. I always encourage people to pass on the joy of giving and helping others.
How do you fund your activities?
All of the funding for the organization comes from volunteers, supporters, members and fundraising events.
Tell us about some of your really special projects
A Celebration of Women Homes: Build celebration homes around the world to rescue young girls that have been abused and provide them safe housing so they can get training and go to school.
Zarephath Project – Helps to feed the people in the community, building a school for the children , and supporting the widows by establishing a trade for them in Elekuru Village of Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria
Kuramo Intervention Project – Supports the people living in the Kuramo area of Lagos, Nigeria by finding a home for the families and sending the children to school.
Widows and Orphans Alive Community in Kenya – Helps to meet the needs of widows and empowering them through BGIA’s Creative Circle Programs and also providing for the needs of the orphans for sustainable self reliance.
Business Enterprise Network: We conduct programs that focus on mentoring, entrepreneurship, and business. We know that every woman has an entrepreneurial spirit and every woman can create something. Some women don’t know they can go about it, but through the BGIA Business Enterprise Network we help unleash the creativity in them and help them to unleash the gifts, talents and skills that reside in them.
What’s next for BGIA?
The organization will be expand more globally in the couple of years. In 3-5 years we want Africa to have its strength in increased trade and growth enterprises owned by women. We want Africa to be the preferred location for manufacturing especially in the villages and the cities where hundreds and thousands of women can be employed. When a women is empowered she will be able to provide for herself and her children and provide for her community. These initiatives will decrease the rate of spousal abuse and stop women from being traded for sex or mistreated. Their empowerment will lead them to be able to defend and support themselves.
What would you say to the young Bella Naija reader who is interested in helping their community but isn’t sure where to start?
You can find a local charity and help them expand their outreach. Or you can be that positive person to your neighbor. As you give of yourself to other people, you will find a sense of fulfillment and contentment. For example, if you have a talent for art, you can train the young children in your neighborhood and teach them about art. That training is a form of mentoring and can help keep them motivated and help develop their potential; this could lead to a passion and career that allows them to help others down the line.
Photo credit: Black Girls Ignite Africa