Mrs. Elizabeth Onojobi is the chairperson of the Women Wing of the Lagos Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigerian. She spoke with Church Times Nigeria on what the Women Wing is all about and efforts that are being made to impact Christian women in Lagos.
Tell us about the Women Wing of CAN?
The Women Wing of CAN was inaugurated in Lagos in 1994. The Late Archbishop Magnus Atilade brought up the suggestion that women should be encouraged to be on their own; though we have always had women in CAN. He felt being on our own, will help greatly to impact ourselves and share common interests.
Rev. Mrs Edith Iloh was the first chairperson. The second chairperson came on board after six years. She was the late Rev Mrs Ebun Oduntan. She ran WOWICAN for quite a long time. It was during the second tenure of Late Rev. Mrs Oduntan members were chosen from every bloc of CAN. It was agreed that ten members would come from each of the five blocs of CAN.
I became the chairperson by His grace in December 2016. As of today, our bye-law has to go in line with CAN. The new law in CAN is a one-term of five years for all officers. We have tried to review our bye-law to fit into this.
How does WOWICAN operate?
We have local chapters in almost all the local governments in Lagos. We encourage women to visit the blocs and bring up women to be part of the group. Any meeting we hold that is not having a representation of the blocs is not acceptable. So as much as possible, we try to carry the Christian women in Lagos along in all our programmes.
Why do you think women should be part of the group. What are the benefits?
I think WOWICAN is a place for every Christian woman in Lagos. We evangelise and talk about being good women in the home. We do empowerment programmes. In July this year, we did empowerment on how to produce soap, wash gele and prepare goya oil. We invite facilitators to come and talk to us about health issues.
We meet once every month at Hoares Memorial Methodist Church, Yaba to encourage ourselves and to train ourselves. During the year we had a successful convention of women. The theme was “We have an anchor” We invited a preacher from ECWA who came to exhort us. The CAN chairman was well represented at the event. He joined us later in the day because he was earlier at Pastor Kumuyi’s book launch. Mrs. Adekemi Olufunmilola Adenuga came from LUTH came to give a health talk. We also gave awards of excellence to deserving women in Lagos. I think by and large the group serves the interest of women in general.
From your relationship with women, what are the peculiar challenges women face today?
I think many women will not open up to a large extent on the challenges they face. But when you interact with them, you will know that many are facing a lot of hurdles at home. Women are more or less becoming the breadwinners of many homes.
Because of Covid, many men lost their jobs. But then, some men are not responsible. Some just married thinking they need a woman and that the woman will take care of them.
That is why we do this empowerment to train women not to wait for their husbands again. We encourage them to take care of their children because those are their legacies.
What specific role do you play as the chairperson of WOWICAN in the life of women in Lagos?
Usually, it is not easy to get involved in the lives of women just like that. But in my church, I am a facilitator of couples who want to get married. I belong to a team that facilitates them. We counsel them when they come for counselling and advice.
As Catholics for instance, we are not permitted to divorce. The penalty is that you will not be allowed to take holy communion. We have a tribunal that handles marriage issues. The tribunal will not allow divorce. The worst-case scenario is separation, not divorce. But if the couples have to divorce, they will not be allowed to receive the holy communion. If you separate and you don’t remarry communion could be allowed.
The rate of divorces is increasing. Many homes are in disarray. How will you react to this?
The reason we are having a high rate of divorce is a lack of understanding among couples. And this comes because many go into marriage without having an idea of the kind of person they are married to.
If they don’t know themselves; as they rush in they will rush out. God instituted marriage and we must bring Him in at all levels. If we think we can do it on our own, we are deceiving ourselves. We must not base our marriage on money or other material consideration.
Money and beauty may go. But the love we have for ourselves will remain. We must also not take advantage of anybody. Some men want to take advantage of some women. We tell them, the fact that they are in courtship does not mean they should marry. If they no longer think they should continue with the relationship, its better they break it. Nobody is expected to be in bondage. Marriage is meant to be enjoyed not to be endured.
How will you rate your impact since you came on board?
The local chapter handed over to me was 26 but we are 35 now. God has used us to stabilize many homes. We encourage women to keep their homes, to be patient and to take care of their children. If they do, they will be better for it. Even if you are not in the marriage, don’t leave your children. Only a few men can take care of children. It is part of a woman to cook and to take care of children.
All these vagabonds we see on the roads came from homes. Where are their mothers? The priority of a woman is to focus on her children. Women must also lay good examples. Children emulate a lot. You don’t tell them not to lie and yet lie to them. You don’t tell them not to dress immodestly and yet you dress carelessly.
A woman must be upright. If you don’t train your children properly, you won’t be able to lead them right. Your name will portray where you are coming from. My son was in London and he said somebody saw him at the mall. The man was buying something and the next thing he came and said to him, you are Tola’s son. The man said he was watching my son’s footstep. My son called me and shared the experience. If he had done something bad, my name would have been rubbished. Our children must be taught well. We parents must be careful in what we do. Whatever we do, we must remember that we are passing it on.