THISLIFE: Makoko’s Unsung Heroine

THISLIFE: Makoko’s Unsung Heroine


heroineShe came to the rural setting of Makoko for a different reason, but her passion for supporting the less privileged ensured that she took up another assignment. Mary Ekah writes on the soul-lifting activities of Regoe Alfredo-Durugo in Makoko, Lagos State
Popularly called Mama Makoko, Regoe Lovefans Alfredo-Durugo, Founder of Roi Fate International Concern, goes from house to house in the Makoko community, a slum located in Lagos, to encourage children who would otherwise not want to be in school to go to school.

She paddles her canoe around the Makoko riverine community, taking kids from their homes to their various schools in the area. And when the water is down and the canoes cannot move, she moves towards their homes, making a makeshift school in any available space close to where the children live for the main time. There, she holds lessons till the water is back.  For over 25 years, she has been able to send over 5000 children to school in Makoko but surprisingly, nobody seems to have noticed her efforts nor the challenges she faces in doing this, not until lately.
“I do not have a place of my own. I only use any available space in the community as long as it is closer to where the children live.  I am having it difficult to pay teachers”, she said.
Speaking further on the challenges she faces in her calling, Alfredo-Durugo said, “It is not easy being there because I was not brought up in such an area. Life is just so difficult in Makoko, no conveniences and no place for comfort. You just have to struggle to get everything done.”
Alfredo-Durugo’s evangelism work brought her to Makoko many years back but before she knew it, she had already developed a passion for the undedicated children in the area and so thought of ways to encourage them to have education.
The evangelist-cum-teacher whose efforts of 25 years has paid off as she was recently recognised by Unseen Nigeria as one of the 100 Unsung Heroines noted, “God knew that something like this will happen in future and that is why I have not been discouraged by the lack of support over the years on this mission. I have gone round the nation seeking for assistance to help me carry on with my vision of helping educate kids in the Makoko slum but it never came. But today God has remembered me.”
Unseen Nigeria is a movement to find, highlight, document, project, celebrate and empower the everyday woman who is making a difference in her community and adding value to the nation hence using such as role models for national development.
Before now, Alfredo-Durugo had to rely on her meager income, which she gets from her catering and entertainment job to carry on with her vision.
“I am into catering, photography, I also do dance, I make cloths and I do so many other things, from which I finance this project”, she noted adding however that there seemed to be light in the tunnel as she is being recognised as one of the Unsung Heroines by Unseen Nigeria. “I feel like a superwoman.  The light has started beaming on me after so many years of struggling. I feel humbled and I feel like I am a real woman”, she noted with happiness.
To encourage the likes of Alfredo-Durugo and other women who have contributed in their small but significant ways to the development of the nation, Unseen Nigeria recently lunched its 100 Unsung Women Project, dedicated to celebrating and appreciating the achievements of women in our society.
The project will provide the opportunity for women in the society who have constantly been ignored and neglected to gain recognition for their achievements and strides. The project which is yearlong campaign will witness organizers visit various states of the Federation through villages and communities in search of women doing exceptionally well in their various communities.
Visionary and Project Coordinator, Bayo Omoboriowo said: “We have seen the woman as second agent, we have seen them as people who should be put in the kitchen but I think there is need for a reorientation and one of the strategy of the 100 Unsung Heroines project is to reorientate Nigerians and the Nigerian woman, in particular, to know that they are very important to the success of this nation rather than them saying they are the weaker vessels, it is time they start taking charge and start giving themselves to show, even to the male folks, that they can do anything they determine to do.
“Nigerian women have exceptional stories. These women are fabric of society today, without whom we won’t be seated here. I was amazed when I met a woman who from the little profits she makes from the sale of bottled drinks has been able to train her kids in schools outside the country. And somewhere down the road in the archives of history, the events of today will be referred to as one of the events of our time that shaped womanhood”, Omoboriowo noted further. He noted that these set of women were particularly celebrated because “Until we start celebrating these women who are doing great things we will be limiting the possibility of building other role models and upcoming heroines. We are doing this project to celebrate these women, let the world see and appreciate them. In doing so, we can thereby build more role models that will be contributing to National Development.”
Speaking on the roadmap to gathering the 100 Heroines, Omoboriowo, a photographer by profession, said, “we are going to call for nominations across the nation; we are going to select, sieve and come up with list of exceptional hundred Nigerian women.  And once we find them, we would document them photographically and in video.  After we are going to publish a book on them and then we would call them for a celebration where the hundred unsung heroines of the year would be celebrated. After which would do mentorship empowerment development skills, where would be taking these women through development therapy that can help them actually do more because if the don’t know more, they can’t do more. So we want them to know more, so that they can do more.”
Founding Partner, Red Media Africa and Director for Partnership and Fundraising of the 100 Unsung Heroines, Mr. Adebola Williams, described these set of women as unsung heroes and not just heroines. “I think they are heroes because heroes are people with exemplary lives and characters and I think that is what these women represent. These women are very key to our nation because apart from the fact that they keep the economic system going, feed us as market women, and that without them, we would not have fish in the store nor have yams, rice, garri and all those stuff to buy in the market, they also keep their homes together. They train their children to secondary and even university level and beyond from that little trade they do. And it is proven over time that these women are key to where we are going in this nation. I call them the engine of the society, I call them the unseen hands that steer our nation”, Williams said.
He noted that these women were being celebrated so that their stories would inspire other women to do likewise.  “They are also celebrated to also tell the society that there is something these women know that we need to learn and understand about the essence of why they exist and that learning is key in shaping our nation and grooming the next generation. So in celebrating these women, we would also want to use them in to encourage other women to keep at it, stay focus and finally we also want to use these women to tell a story globally of hard work, passion and resilience that Nigerians are known for.

The most interesting part is that some of them are not even women who are trading, but they take care of other people’s children. Mama Makoko, for example has for the past 25 years been taking care of the children in the Makoko community. So we want to put faces and names to such women and make their stories to be heard”, he said. To get this done, Williams said the train has been on the road with a nationwide media tour and then to the market places all over the nation.

This post first appeared on Thisday Newspaper