I was born in the mid-1970s, after the end of the Civil War. Although I’m an indigene of Enugu State, I grew up in Nasarawa State. My parents, Mr and Mrs Akazi, had ten children, and I’m the nineth.
Two of my older siblings died during the war, and my parents prayed to God to give them more children. Their prayers were answered when I and my brother were born. My arrival brought joy to the family, and that was why I was named Chidiebere, which means “God is merciful.”
My father, Emmanuel Chukwu Akazi, was a loving, caring, and kind man. He worked very hard to provide everything that we needed. He had a thriving timber business and back in the 1980s, was among the few people who bought a Peugeot car.
Due to the nature of father’s business, we used to have over 15 people assisting us in our home. He was also a philanthropist who loved to spend money, and that was why his friends called him “Ane eri aku, aku a na’abia,” which means that when you spend money, you’ll get more.
My mother was managing a hotel at the time of my birth. As a child, we had more than enough and always shared food items and clothes with the less privileged. Although I grew up in a prosperous family, my upbringing was a combination of discipline and pampering. No specific chore was assigned to me because we had a lot of domestic staff.
However, while my elder siblings were working, I used to watch what they were doing. So, that was how I learned how to perform household chores. My mother however, didn’t know that I had learned anything, and that was why she told my first suitor that she was still training me on how to be a good wife. He was asked to come back when I’m thoroughly groomed!
While growing up, my parents were the greatest influence I had. They loved and respected each other so much. My mother was very submissive, kind, and understanding, and in return, my father adored her. Throughout all the years they lived together, they had no serious conflict that I can recollect. I was very close to my dad, and that’s why his death really broke my heart. I’m grateful to my mother for being there for me after my father passed away.
I attended several primary schools because my father was seeking the best one for me. I went to Central Primary School Araba at Toto in Nasarawa State; Ada-Odu Primary School; Saint Theresa Primary School; and Holy Ghost Primary School. My father loved education so much. He used to say, “Chidi, I will send you to
Oxford University. I will send you to Cambridge.” Although father had no formal education, he knew the names of top universities abroad and wanted his children to study there. Sadly, he died before he could achieve those dreams. Sometimes, when I think about it, I wish I could attend those schools just to fulfil my father’s dreams.
I had my secondary education at the prestigious Government Girls’ Secondary School, Abaji, Abuja. Although life in school was challenging, it was also interesting. My keyword as a student was excellence, and I was among those who had good grades. They assigned me the posts of a Library Prefect and Study Prefect because of my love for books. I was also the Assistant Female Prefect. Besides academic studies, I also played a lot during my leisure time. Sometimes, we used to sneak out to look for fruit or go to the nearby stream to swim.
I was very good at science and arts subjects. However, my childhood dream was to become a doctor. I was also very eloquent and could win any logical debate. Therefore, the school principal, Mrs Roseline Elemi, counselled me to study law. I accepted and had two choices: to become a lawyer or a doctor. Unfortunately, as I grew up, things didn’t go as planned. So, I couldn’t pursue a career as a doctor or lawyer.
I think self-discovery is the greatest achievement in life because once you discover yourself and accept who you are, then you can fulfil your true purpose in life. As I grew up, I started asking questions about the purpose of my existence. I wanted to know more about God. To find answers, I started reading the Bible and books on self-discovery, life purpose, and many others. I found out I’m a loving and generous person who enjoys making other people happy. Then one day, while I was having communion with God, I got the revelation to set up an organization that cares for people. I obeyed the voice, and that was how Harriet New Life Foundation (HANEF) was born.
At HANEF, our aim is to empower and develop women and young people. We also help them discover their purpose in life. We started the NGO in 1998 and in 2000, we got officially registered. Over the years, as HANEF grew larger, we created several arms and ministries.
Some examples are Every Child Counts, Change in Grassroots Connect, Naked Truth, Women of Valour Global Mission, etc. We have also handled many projects and campaigns. The goal is to reach out to people, educate them, and donate food, clothes, and drugs to those in need. On Naked Truth, we encourage women to be bold while sharing their stories. The goal of the Every Child Counts project is to provide school bags, books, school uniforms, and sandals for children. We also pay school fees for some of them. We have a Mother’s Cry programme, and during the conference we interact, share ideas, ask questions, and pray together.
I consider HANEF to be my divine calling and an extension of God’s hand. I’m grateful to the Almighty for empowering us with the wisdom and strength to do the work. We have had some challenges in the past, but I didn’t consider them unconquerable. I believe every challenge is an opportunity to grow, and a chance to learn a lesson.
When I started HANEF, I was funding the expenses with the upkeep allowance given to me by my husband. So, instead of buying clothes for myself, I would buy drugs, and foodstuff and give them to poor women and young people. Over time, I desired to reach out to more people but couldn’t due to a lack of funds.
However, as a businesswoman, I noticed that after I started touching people’s lives positively; I had breakthroughs in my business. So, I used some of my profit to fund the expenses of the NGO. So far, I have also received financial support from my husband and other kind-hearted people.
Women are vulnerable to diseases like cervical cancer, breast cancer, HIV, STIs, and fibroids. So, we always organize health intervention outreaches to educate them on how to prevent diseases. We also organize free screening and treatment.
During the early years when HIV/AIDs was discovered in Nigeria, we went to a rural village to create awareness and perform free screening. Can you believe that some villagers refused to take part in the blood screening because they felt we were ritualists? Some of them said they didn’t have the disease because they looked very healthy.
I found another category that amazed me. I’m talking about those people that screamed, “God forbid! It is not my portion,” after seeing their positive test results. Sadly, some of them failed to accept their reality until their condition deteriorated. We always try to educate and reorient the mindsets of such people, but it has been very challenging.
When we started, we were mocked and criticized, but when people saw our transparency, integrity, and accountability, they started spreading our name far and near. Gradually, our number increased and we continued to touch lives for good.
There is a popular adage that says, “Your child will follow your example, not your advice.” I am grateful to God for assisting me in raising godly children. They are always involved in the programmes we do. Sometimes, I take them to outreach venues just to inspire them.
During the Every Child Counts project, my daughter told me she wanted to sell her shoes and use the money to buy books, school bags, and sandals for the children. When she said that, I was so happy to know that I had raised a kind-hearted woman.
Marriage is a beautiful union ordained by God and it ought to be enjoyed, not endured. As I mentioned earlier, my parents had a loving marriage. I was also fortunate to marry my soul mate, and we have been married for 28 years now.
Whenever I hear stories of broken homes, it breaks my heart. My ministry opened my eyes to see the suffering of humanity. So, one day, I asked God to guide me on the best way to help people save their marriages, and He said to me, “You have a lovely marriage, so teach them the secrets of a happy home.”
Do you know that your marriage can still be exciting even after many years? The Women of Valor Global Mission is a branch of HANEF that is aimed at restoring dignity in the home. We are raising women that are ready to build their marriage on a solid foundation. Marriage is a triangle with God at the top and the couple on both sides. As the couple draws closer to God, they also become closer to each other.
Our mandate is to teach, encourage, nurture, direct, and educate women on how to build healthy families. We believe that if the woman plays her role, then about 80% of marriages will be sweet and peaceful.
At Women of Valor Global Mission, we teach women to respect and be submissive to their husbands. We also encourage them to stand up against oppression and fight for what belongs to them. I’m very proud to say that through this ministry we have saved many marriages.
During meetings, we share our stories and encourage one another. When we started this ministry, some people said our goal was to collect tithes and offerings but they were wrong. Instead of collecting tithes and offerings, we give the poor women food items, clothes, bed sheets, electrical appliances, money, and lots more. The next thing they said was that I was bribing the women so that they would vote for me. When I heard that, I laughed because I’m not even a politician.
The Valiant Women Award platform celebrates women who have been married for at least 10 years and are influencing their families for good. We recognize mothers who are sacrificing their best to raise responsible children. The award has been held once, and we are planning to organize it again.
There was a time a man called me and said he was nominating his wife to participate in the Valiant Women’s Award. He wanted her to be honoured as the Golden Woman of the Year. When I asked him about his reasons for nominating her, he said that he lost his job ten years ago and since then she has been the only one footing the bills. She does it cheerfully and still respects him as the head of the family. How many women would carry their family’s responsibility without complaining or telling outsiders?
Women are naturally wired to be receivers, and that is why most of them find it difficult to give out something tangible. Note that I’m not encouraging any man to abandon his family’s responsibilities, but if your spouse finds himself in a situation that is beyond human control, support him till the end of that phase.
During one of our outreaches, about 25-30 women tested positive for cervical cancer. Then, through the help of the NGO, we were able to administer the treatment that destroyed the cancerous virus. Today, those women are living happily, and I’m excited about that. In the same way that I have touched the lives of people through my ministry, I must confess that my life has also been transformed. I just can’t explain the level of peace and self-fulfillment I have experienced so far. I wish to continue on this path for the rest of my life.
In the beginning, my husband didn’t understand why I was giving my best to the mission. Back then, I used to travel from one place to another and leave the kids with him. He began to complain because he didn’t like the idea. So, one day, God ministered to him to support what I was doing because He sent me to do it. Since that encounter, my husband has been supporting me immensely. He prays for me and donates to our ministry.
Nowadays, he has become a key part of the mission, and he runs faster than me. Anytime we are having a programme, he provides everything that I need. He is always there for me, and I’m grateful to God for giving him to me. My children are also very supportive. They may not always agree on every issue, but they love me and I love them too.
I’m not a feminist. I believe we are all equal before God’s eyes, but on earth, there are some gender differences which must be acknowledged. God made the man the head of the family and the woman his helpmate. As a woman, you can be the boss in your workplace, but if you want peace to reign in your home, kindly drop that title before going home.
The rate of divorce is increasing every day because most Christians are building their marriages using the standards of the world. Don’t join the crowd. Let the scriptures guide you at all times. I believe marriage is not for everyone, but if you decide to get married, then you should stick to the rules of the union.
I’m the kind of person you’ll like after meeting me for the first time. For that reason, I have received several awards and recognition from different organizations, industries, communities, conglomerates, etc. The award frames are in my home and office.
When I’m not working, I enjoy reading and sleeping. I also love travelling around the world to see beautiful places. I hate gossip, and that is why women open up to me. So far, I have had no issues with any of them. Whenever we meet together, we always share ideas, tell our stories, or talk about important issues. We also read and pray together.
Every woman you meet has a story to tell, and some of those stories will melt your heart. Apart from inspiring other women, I’m glad that Iya Magazine is giving voice to the voiceless and listening ears to those who have no one to talk to. I look forward to meeting the entire team so I can give them a pat on the back for the great work they are doing.
So, to all readers, keep coming back for more, and I believe that you’ll experience a transformation when you apply the lessons to your life.