By Vera Winns & Sonia Okere
To her critics, Chibuzor Azubuike rushes in where angels fear to tread. However, her resounding success attests to her versatility and why fellow women should learn from her giant strides
My name is Chibuzor Mirian Azubuike. I hail from Nnewi in Anambra State, but I was born in Kano.
I am the first of my parents’ four children. As the eldest, I was trained to set good examples for my siblings. My mother was very strict with me due to suggestions from people who warned her not to “pamper” me too much. Although I did not appreciate her strictness back then, I am now grateful for the upbringing I received.
After I completed my primary education in Kano, my family relocated to Lagos State, and I was enrolled at St. Francis Catholic Secondary School, Idimu, in Alimosho local government. The school was fun, and I enjoyed the experience. After completing my ‘O’ Levels, I was admitted to the University of Benin to study Philosophy.
I have strong passion for education, which is why I have continued to learn and earn additional certificates. I have a Master’s degree in African Studies (Diaspora and Transnational Studies) from the University of Ibadan; and a certificate in Civic Leadership from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, USA.
I am currently pursuing my PhD in the United States of America.
Growing up, the three people who greatly influenced me were my parents and my aunt, Mrs. Bridget Okafor. My mom is very calm, and she taught me to be confident. However, I really liked my aunt, who was a vibrant and outspoken woman. She would always speak her mind and stand up for her rights. Also, my dad did not make me feel less for being a girl. These people shaped my character.
The girl who found water
After completing my first degree, I was posted to Bauchi for the national youth service. My parents were scared for me because there was pre-election violence occurring in the state. So, I went to the orientation camp with hopes of being redeployed.
Three weeks later, I didn’t get a redeployment letter; instead, I was posted to a rural community for my primary assignment.
When I arrived there, I was shocked by the poor standard of living. During a community service trip, I discovered that over 6,000 residents of Bigi Tudunwada relied on a single well for their drinking water, which was not even potable!
This water was causing health problems for the residents, so, I decided to provide them with a borehole water source.
Living in Bauchi was challenging, and I still remember the day of the bomb attack that destroyed the Catholic Church near the corpers’ lodge.
We were sleeping when we suddenly heard the sound of the explosion. Everyone ran out and sought a safe place to hide. After the incident, most of the corpers were redeployed to other states, but I stayed back because I wanted to make a positive impact before leaving.
Earlier on, I had written to the NYSC secretariat, seeking approval to initiate a community development project. After receiving approval, I reached out to various organisations and authorities for funding. Although it was not easy, I’m happy to have successfully completed the water project.
When I was passing out of NYSC, news of the project went viral, and I received numerous awards and recognitions for my work. As a writer, I decided to share my experience in a book titled, The Girl Who Found Water.
Haske Water Aid and Empowerment Foundation
Water gives hope, happiness, and life, yet so many people lack access to this basic necessity. Over 80% of children in rural communities miss school because they have to walk over six kilometres to collect water for their families daily.
After I left Bauchi, I started a foundation that provides clean water for rural communities. So far, we have provided clean water for over 60,000 people and have partnered with corporate and international organisations to achieve our goals.
We also provide grants and mentor serving youth corpers to initiate their own water projects.
In the last few years, we have organised outreaches in over 11 states in Nigeria. During each outreach, we visit different schools to educate the students on the importance of water. We also donate items to schools.
Due to my experience, I have been invited to give talks in countries such as the US, China, the UK, and South Africa.
My life goal is to help the less privileged, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I have had. After completing each water project, we hold inauguration ceremony, and my most fulfilling moments come from seeing the joy and gratitude in the hearts of the people who have access to clean water.
I am passionate about my work, and my family is proud of me.
The main challenge we are experiencing is the lack of sufficient funds. We need money to expand our reach and impact more lives, and we also need to employ people to help with the workload.
After completing my PhD, I plan to take Haske WAEF to the next level.
Another challenge is that some of our target locations are inaccessible due to poor road infrastructure. I hope that the government will address the issue of inadequate infrastructure in rural communities.
Awards and recognitions
Winning an award is always a special moment, and I have received numerous awards, recognitions, and nominations throughout the years. Some of them include:
• Community Service Award, Rotary Club Nnewi, Nigeria (2015)
• Most Resourceful Youth, Catholic Youth Organization, Lagos, Nigeria (2015)
• Best Batch B Corps Member, National Youth Service Corps, Nigeria (2012)
• National Youth Service State Award, Nigeria (2012)
• Nominee for the Nigerian National Award (2012)
• Founding Mothers Award for an Exceptional Graduate Student, Association of Leadership Educators, USA (2022)
• Award for Community Development, Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, UK (2017)
• Young African Scholar Award and Grant based on an MA research project on Bakassi refugees on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, USA (2017).
In addition to these awards, I have also been awarded scholarships and grants to travel to different countries. I teach young people how to apply for these opportunities and some of the grants and scholarships I have received include:
• Mini-Grant Award, Association of Leadership Educators, USA (2023)
• Graduate Assistantship to pursue a PhD degree in the US (2021)
• Doctoral Proposal Development Grant, Next Generation of African Scholars, Social Science Research Council (2019)
• Winner of A Beautiful Life Grant and Competition (2018), Nigeria
• Full sponsorship to participate in Yenching Global Symposium (2018), Peking University, Beijing, China
• Full sponsorship to participate in Brown Institute of Advanced Research on Forced Population Displacements (2018), Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
• Mandela Washington Fellowship (2017), Young African Leaders Initiative, US Department of State
• Mandela Washington Fellowship Speaker Travel Grant (2017), to present at the International Water Association, South Africa
• Winner of The Conversation Grant (2015), Nigeria
In my free time, I enjoy sleeping. If I had the chance to meet a public figure, I would love to meet Oprah Winfrey.
Always listen to your heart. If I had followed other people’s opinion back then, I wouldn’t have stayed back in Bauchi, and I wouldn’t have done that water project that brought me to the limelight.
I’ve also had other instances where I listened to my inner voice and got fantastic results.
According to Anerican talkshow hostess Oprah Winfrey, the only courage you ever need is the courage to follow your own dreams.
If you have a dream, chase it. If you have failed before, try again. You can be a successful woman and a mother at the same time.
Start from where you are and with what you have. I wish you the best of luck.