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Moments with the ‘Heart-of-Attarkar’.

KADUNA, Nigeria: In the wake of the recent deadly attacks by herdsmen in the Zilang and Mafang hills, located in the Attarkar community, which left several women and children dead and wounded, I felt eager and more convinced that I made the right choice to meet with Chief Mrs. Anna Avong (JP) the Sak-Kfuio-Takad (traditional title meaning ‘Heart-of-Attarkar People’); and advisor of the Takad Traditional Council on women affairs.

While traveling back to Kaduna from Lagos, all I could think about was the many past trips that I had made to Attarkar and the fulfilling times that I had spent in the company of Anna and her women’s group.

When thinking about these times, I recalled how when we walked in the community, people either curtsied or squatted to greet Anna. Migrant Fulani men could be spotted directing their grazing herds, just as I could routinely observe Fulani women adorned in their very lovely traditional attires, jewelries strung from colorful beads, and calabash containers on their heads; with which they hawked fresh milk and cheese. The natives who are mostly farmers mixed freely with the Fulanis and harmony appeared endemic.

However, the past four months have been very unsettling and engaging for Anna. Just as her wealth of experience speaks for her, she spoke audibly, clearly and loudly with her own unique voice!

According to her, “the recurring bloody attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen leave the community fearful, sad, devastated and pitiful; as women, children and men that cut across various ages were either killed or badly wounded. Churches, schools and homes have also been destroyed”. She told me a story about a newly delivered woman, her baby and aged mother in-law who were hacked down in cold blood.

A few days later, Anna solicited food, basic household items and clothing from friends, colleagues and well wishers. She also rented a commercial bus to bring the relief materials to the affected areas. She told me how “she met some of the victims, prayed with them and encouraged them to thank God for their survival.”

Thus her own long incubated initiative “Chatan” (this word was created by combining ‘chat’ which in Anna’s native language means love and the first two letters of her name ‘an’) was birthed. On the platform, of Chatan, she seeks to address all forms of social and cultural injustices against women, in particular. Plausibly, her commitment to improving the lives of women aligns with my motivation for advancing women’s active participation in natural resource use, control and stewardship.

Anna is using her wealth of experience to bring together women from the feuding ethnic groups, across her community, to chart a new course for the promotion of love, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. She believes that women can contribute extensively to protecting the environment and also preventing and or resolving tensions and conflicts resulting from competition over resources.

There are just too many remarkable sides to Anna’s life of devoutness and courage. “I got married at the young age of 19, however, I didn’t give up my educational pursuit”, she said. Sak-Kfuio-Takad narrated how her third pregnancy resulted in the delivery of a set of twins just two weeks after her National College of Education’s final examination in 1979. Not letting this get in her way, she won the honor of the best graduating Geography student that same year!

Her journey into widowhood began two years later when her husband died in a ghastly motor accident, leaving her with four little children to raise. She described this experience as “very painful, sad, unexpected and shocking but a reality she learned to accept.” At no point did she allow herself to be pitied, rather she was determined to tackle the challenge of- lack, stigmatization, opposition and blackmail that she faced as a widow.

Anna told me that "she knew that education was the only way out of her predicament.” In 1982, she was admitted to a graduate course in Language Arts, at the well regarded Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In order to attend, she and her children went to live with her parents for two years. She worked extra hard to make a living and sponsor her children’s education, while attending school. That monumental step, sacrifice and effort earned her a degree and also fast tracked her career development which she attributed to unshaken faith in God, perseverance and dedication to duty. Her children are also well educated, married and making their marks too!

Now, I became curious to know how she was able to rise through the ranks, from a classroom teacher to the level of a Director of Education before retiring into full time activism.

Taking a deep breath, she responded, “I believe strongly in modesty, selfless service, personal development and giving my best to whatever I commit to do.” Anna lives in a prejudicial society, where women are expected to be seen and not heard, but she never allowed herself to be deterred. She carried this mentality with her, as she challenged several social, cultural, and religious practices that are detrimental to women and girls. For example a traditional practice that disallows women from breaking or picking ‘Kola’ during festivities.

Anna is a grandmother who is retired but not tired! The current National President of the Attarkar Women Association of Nigeria (AWAN) has won several awards and she still volunteers her time to many organizations. She has been involved in membership and leadership capacities with the prestigious Young Men Christian Association and the National Council of Women Societies in Nigeria, among other local, national, and international bodies. “I find fulfillment in empowering women, youth and children, and they are at the center of everything I do!” she enthused.

In the spirit of comradeship and admiration for her commitment to humanity and Mother Earth, I celebrate Anna-‘A towering beacon of change whose ears remain sympathetic to the cries of the oppressed”

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Klaudia Mexico's picture

Eduaction change lifes

I'm so glad you chose Anna. She's a living proof that Education helps you to defeat the most difficult moments in life.
Congratulations!!!

Klaudia González

Greengirl's picture

Yes Klaudia......................

Assuredly, Education in the really sense of what it means can make a world of difference in our our personal lives, work and our World. I am glad too that I chose Anna, because the opportunity of having my first ever forma interview with her created a dimension of self awareness in me. I realized there is so much I can learn from her resilience and exploits; in furthering my own work. I found a mentor in her!

Thank you so much for reaching out.

Greengirl

Iryna's picture

Chatan

This woman shows incredible energy! She did not quit education because of pergnancy, she did not give up after she's lost her husband. She insistantly moved toward her goals despite of pain and difficulties. Anna is a brilliant example of a woman who unites energy, strength, optimism and love in her heart.
Thank you for sharing with us this beautiful portrait, Greengirl, which you painted with amazing colors!
Iryna

Greengirl's picture

Yipee!

Yes Iryna, Anna has such an amazing energy. She has been through a lot of challenges in life but she just seems to have a way of turning each seeming mess to a message others can pick up and run with. The interview afforded me an opportunity to learn from her wealth of experience.

I hope to share your comment with her and I can already imagine how elated and honoured she would be.

Your comments gave me such lift in my spirit that I just want to shout Yipee!

Hugs,
Greengirl

Mukut's picture

Way to go GreenGirl

Congratulations on your inspiring profile and the beautiful write up. I LOVED it Olanike ! You are such a gifted and warm soul. Along with Anna, you too are a precious change leader of your community. Proud of you.

Well done, love.

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

Thank you so much...........

You've stuck so close Mukut, and I know I can always count on your words of encouragement. Now you make me want to ROAR even more loudly!

Very warm hugs and much love.

Olanike

Celine's picture

Hey Ola love, Good to read

Hey Ola love,
Good to read this. I am glad your profile is about one of my 'Y' sisters. Good work dear sister. Ride on!

Celine

Greengirl's picture

Hey Sis!

It's been a long while, and it's so good to know that you read Anna's 'Profile'. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. Could you give me a hint on what you meant by 'Y' sister? Haha! Just curious!

Hugs,
Greengirl

Celine's picture

Yes Sis

`Y` stands for the Young in the YMCA and the YWCA. It is a parlance used among members of these 2 sister organizations. I belong to and worked with the YWCA and of course partner with YMCA. Mr. Akakpor is from Kaduna and was once the Secretary General.

Hahaha. Well done Sister!

Greengirl's picture

Y!

Wow, I like the 'Y' then, and will use it when next I meet Anna! I will also ask her about Mr. Akakpor. It may interest you to know that Anna has been nominated and will be enlisted as one of the top 500 hundred women in Nigeria;.and as one of the representatives of Kaduna State women of distinction. The selected 500 will be featured in a soon to be published book designed to show case high flying Nigerian women who have made their mark in different fields of endeavour; both in the public and private sectors.

Up 'Y'!

Greengirl.

pelamutunzi's picture

chatan indeed

love is unirvesal and this is shown in your profile choice. she is just selfless in her pursuits. the horror that she has faced and how she has chosen to change it all for the good of others is important. cant wait to read more from you. this was a heartbreaking story with a huge beacon of light shining from it. truly loved it

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Greengirl's picture

Yes Pela..............

You just resounded my feelings about about Anna. The moments I spent with her has left a lasting impression on me, and given me more courage to keep running the race for positive change.

I was privileged to peruse her numerous awards and letters of recognition which reiterated her selfless commitment to humanity. I must say that she earned and deserved every one of them. She is creating change in her own unique way!

Little wonder why Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizen can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has".

I am glad you loved my first ever go at conducting an interview. Yipee!

Best Wishes,
Greengirl

jampa's picture

Bravo

Dear Greengirl,
She is an inspirational lady with patience and perseverance. She has gone through so many difficulties with a faith deep down, never is knocked down. She knows how to balance her life as professional as well as a responsible mother. Moreover, one thing that touches me is “very painful, sad, unexpected and shocking but a reality she learned to accept." She is very brave, committed and self-reliable woman.
Thanks for sharing her story.
All the best,
Jampa

Greengirl's picture

Nice to hear from you

Hi Jampa, thank you so much for your very encouraging words. I much agree with you that Anna is a balanced woman and model. I am glad that her work is getting more recognized by the day, and hopefully, we would have more Anna's emerge beyond my community and country.

I just spoke to Anna a while ago and I will definitely share your comments with her. I am sure she will be delighted to know what you think of her.

Women will change the World for the best!

Hugs,
Greengirl

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Gripping, Greengirl!

Dear Greengirl,

I'm delighted, but not surprised, to read your work and find it so gripping! Your piece is fascinating, engaging and, perhaps most importantly, accessible. Far from life in Nigeria and it's terrible struggles, I was drawn in from the first sentence and compelled to read on.

Anna is another deeply courageous admirable woman, and I love seeing the photos of her, which of course make her al the more real. I love her dear face, and would kiss it if I could!

I kiss your face, too, Greengirl, and I thank you for the way in which you've told these excellent truths.

With Gratitude,

Sarah

Greengirl's picture

I am laughing and happy!

Haha, Sarah! Word will definitely reach Anna, that you long to give her a kiss in admiration of her courage. I am really encouraged by your comments.

Nigeria is richly endowed with both human and natural resources, however, these has not significantly translated into a better life for majority of the citizens. Of, course grassroots women are worse for it. Like Anna, I hope to continue contributing my bit towards positive change.

Thank you so much for your warm kiss!
Greengirl

Ayunnie's picture

A towering beacon of change

Hi Greengirl,
Anna is a powerful woman who brings reconciliation among communities at war. I salute her for her noble course. Thank you for bringing her to us

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Greengirl's picture

I am happy..........

I am happy that you think of Anna as a powerful woman! Thank you so much for reaching out.

Very warm greetings,
Greengirl

Deqa's picture

Wow

I was mesmerized to the last minute reading your piece. Such an inspiration lady and definitely a perfect choice. You have a beautiful writing style my dear keep it up.
Loved it to the last word.

Deqa

Greengirl's picture

You wowed me too!

Your comments left me wowed and I am certain it would have the same effect on Anna, my Editorial Mentor and Vision Mentor. Possibly, much more! Haha! I am glad that you found my personality choice and writing worth the read.

You are a darling and I wish you the very best as we continue together on this illuminating and transforming journey.

Love you!
Greengirl

Nadz's picture

Brave woman

Your article was clear and concise and I think it showed just how strong and brave this woman is. Take care.

Life is just for living

Greengirl's picture

Hello Nadz

Many thanks to you for reading Anna's profile, and also making out time to air your view. Together we can keep walking the talk and talking the walk.

Best Wishes,
Greengirl.

Aminah's picture

Hats off to Anna.

It never is easy to study full-time while looking after young children. It takes a lot of dedication and untiring effort. AND to come out with flying colors is just commendable.
Education, without doubt, empowers us and is essential for a conscientious populace to bring about meaningful change.

And then giving out to the community without asking anything in return, for the sake of moving the community forward is the most selfless anyone can become. It's a delight to read about the work of Chatan.

Thank you Greengirl, for bringing her to us.

Salaam
Aminah

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Sis!

Thank you so much for your invaluable feed back my sister and friend!

I met Anna about seven (7) years ago, and we've had cause to work together on a number of women's empowerment projects, particularly within the cycles of women groups she's involved with. Much as I had always known the leadership and selfless sides of her, the opportunity of interviewing her unveiled sides I never knew; but have now come to appreciate.

I quite agree with you that it is not easy "to study full-time while looking after young children". Anna is a shining example of what is possible, when women bravely confront the odds they face. As women, we need to be courageous and determined to become the change we want to see.

She'll be glad to see that you doffed your hat in her honour.

Love you,
Greengirl

A well-written and powerful article accenting the important work of Anna in her community and country.

Olanike, congratulations on the determination and transformation of this piece. Anna's story is an important one and you were the catalyst to bring it to the world.

Keep up the important story-telling for the world.

Sarah Happel, Principal
Intercultural Training & Leadership Coaching
www.SpectrumSolutions.eu

Greengirl's picture

You were there.........

Dear Sarah,

You were there for me through it all; and I couldn't have done it with your support and cheers. You've been there in ways beyond my expectation and I am encouraged to keep speaking out!

With high regards,
Greengirl

Precious M's picture

Retired but not tired

I love Anna's story and the way you have presented it. She is quite an inspiring grandmother.

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Greengirl's picture

Thank you!

I am happy that you like Anna's story and I would like to say thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.
Your comment remains PRECIOUS!

Warmly,
Greengirl

Sustainablefashion's picture

Well done!

Olanike,
This piece looks fantastic. You did a lovely job telling Anna's story and helping us to "meet" her and her accomplishments through your eyes.
Congratuations on this first assignment.
With very best wishes,
Sasha

Greengirl's picture

Hi Sasha

It's nice to get a nod and pat from you! I couldn't have come this far without your commitment, guidance, words of encouragement, edits, and motivating comments.

Thank you so much for helping me accomplish the task of sharing Anna's story with the world! I relish our talks and look forward to the walks ahead. Together, we can stir rippling change!

Much love and regards.
Greengirl

libudsuroy's picture

Greengirl, with you I

Greengirl, with you I celebrate Anna's life and loves. There is so much wisdom and courage in the way she lives her many-faceted activism among her people. I admire the way she connects peace building and environmentalism and women's rights.
Great work!

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Greengirl's picture

Yes Lina

Anna's work is exemplary and a projection of the significant linkages between empowering women, peace building and environmental sustainability. If women's rights are to be advanced effectively, efforts must take cognizance of these connections.

Thank you so much for your solidarity!
Greengirl

Maura Bogue's picture

Great Job!

What an interesting profile! Great work! You have a great sense of what/who is newsworthy. Anna is an interesting person to write about.

In the future, when you're attributing quotes, make sure the attribution is in the middle or at the end, not at the beginning.

Good job!

Best,
Maura

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Maura!

Thank you Maura for your invaluable feed back. It's really nice to know that think of Anna as an interesting person who is worth writing about. Your comment made my day!

The issue you raised about the quotes is noted and appreciated. I will definitely take that into account in subsequent articles.

Hugs and Blessings,
Greengirl

Frances Faulkner's picture

Inspiration

I never tire of hearing stories about amazing women such as Anna, because they serve as mentors for us all, whether they know it or not. This is true leadership. Not every woman will be an Anna, but every woman can be inspired and learn and grow. Thank you for this piece.

Keep up the good work - Frances

Greengirl's picture

Hello Frances

I can never thank you enough for making out time to read Anna's story and also reaching out. I agree with you that with role models like Anna, many a woman and girl can be inspired to aim higher.

Your words are quite encouraging and I am motivated to keep sharing!

In appreciation,
Greengirl

Hideko N.'s picture

Olanike, my dear

Mrs. Anna Avong reminds me of the barrister my daughter and I stayed with. She gave us safe accommodation and protected us from my fiance in Nigeria. She was the first and only woman who opened her house for us to hide because too much danger was there while we stayed in a hotel on Nwaniba st. in AKS. Though she was a widow with four children! Just like Anna--How amazing it is? She still takes care of my daughter.
It is not easy living in Japan having a huge debt and living with my elderly mother and sick sister. They had car accidents twice this July! And since I came back I still cannot drive because my license was expired overseas. And I have to retake course to get my driver's license (It costs me $3000!)

Though knowing the amazing women like her and Mrs. Anna Avong, we get so much empowerment.
With so much appreciation,
Hideko

Greengirl's picture

Your story

Dear Hideko, I can never forget your story and I am so sorry to hear about all you are going through at the moment. My heart goes out to you and I am sure that you will pull though, before long. We all all definitely share some common experiences, which more often than not drives us to give our best to bringing about positive change, for ourselves and others. Just like Anna, you are a shining example of what it means for one to be a change maker.

Best Wishes,

Greengirl

Y's picture

Move over Oprah Winfrey! Anna

Move over Oprah Winfrey! Anna is a woman from whom I would love to learn. Great job, Greengirl!
Blessings
Yvette

Y

Greengirl's picture

Anna would be delighted

Dear Yvette, I know too well that Anna would be delighted to read your words. I am currently working at getting her to join World Pulse; though she currently does not have a reliable means of accessing the internet. Somehow, for personal reasons, she does not like the idea of going to internet cafes nor have such time in her hands. However, I am sure she'll soon be over that challenge as soon as she gets her personal laptop.

I assure you that she would read your lines, and may be too, have the opportunity to connect with you on World Pulse.

Thank you a million times over for reaching out!

Warm Regards,
Greengirl

Y's picture

I thank you for introducing

I thank you for introducing me to yourself and Anna.

Y

Greengirl's picture

Appreciative

On behalf of myself and Anna, i would like to say- WE appreciate you!

Thoughts,
Greengirl

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