Rock of Ages Empowerment Foundation (RAEF) is a non-profit, non-governmental, humanitarian organization founded in 2007 and registered as a corporate body on June 23, 2009 under the companies and allied matter Act, (Part ‘C’) 1990 in the federal Republic of Nigeria, with the mission of Helping Widows, Orphans and the less-privileged discover their potentials and supporting them in making changes to bring these potentials into the world by providing high quality, sustainable and replicable healthcare services, education support program, career counseling and financial empowerment.
Angela is a member and widow under the Rock of Ages Empowerment Foundation who was forced into marriage at a very young age right after completing her Primary 6 education because according to her family the fact that she was overweight meant she was old enough to bear children. A young Angela was convinced she didn’t have a say in the matter and dutifully caved in to her family’s wishes giving up all chances of furthering her education to become a wife.
Her new ‘home’ quickly became a prison into which she had been tossed by her own family and she endured years of verbal abuse, maltreatment, neglect and unapologetic infidelity. Her family didn’t offer much help because she was a woman and by their definition, that meant she was bound by whatever her husband wanted. She quickly learned to bite back her complaints when her husband, a chain smoker and a drunkard took to spending up to three nights in a row outside their matrimonial home with no notice to her of his whereabouts.
The marriage didn’t last very long though; she became widowed at the mere age of 19 when his constant smoking resulted in a wracking cough that ended his life one cold night. His sudden death left Angela to care for two children; a boy (who was merely 7 days old and never got to know his father) and a girl.
Angela had been a young mother and wife, still recovering from the stress of childbirth only to be plunged unceremoniously into widowhood.
To her surprise, her husband’s brothers were at their door as early as 5am the following morning; strangely, their presence was not necessarily to see the corpse nor to mourn the passing of their late brother. They were not interested in commiserating with the grieving widow either nor even consoling their wailing niece and nephew. Rather, they presented themselves at her door at such an ungodly hour to demand for whatever money her late husband had behind. She told them the truth: he hadn’t left any money behind especially since he had been in the habit of sleeping outside their home and spending what little money he did have on other women. While he had been alive, they had barely had two pennies to rub together and he had left no assets behind whatsoever!
The burial was a brief affair, conducted with some help from Angela’s family and after that, her in-laws cast her aside, refusing to help in any way with bringing up the kids.
A new phase of life started for Angela. She quickly learned that while her marriage to a man she didn’t love had been its own form of torture, it wasn’t the worst thing on earth; widowhood topped it. friends quickly fell away, afraid to be ‘contaminated by her bad luck in being widowed so early’; family turned their backs, conveniently forgetting that they were the reason she had gotten married in the first place; in-laws had suddenly become strangers.
Her lack of formal education hindered her efforts to get a good job and she had to take up hours of back-breaking labor on other people’s farms for wages. She was up every morning before the cock crowed and she would bend over ridges and ridges of tilled soil until dusk. When she got home, she had to still care for her kids and ignore the bruises and aches in her young body from her life of toil.
She continued to labor on people’s farms for meager wages until her family insisted that she had to return to Makurdi to help her sister in hawking cooked rice and beans on the streets. She eagerly applied herself to her new ‘job’ but it wasn’t long before she began to suffer maltreatment from her own sister. She had nothing but the clothes on her back and nothing to her name. The experience left her further disillusioned and embittered because of the treatment she received at the hands of her own sister.
She endured the rejection and maltreatment for as long as she could until finally, in a bid to survive, she was forced to move to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, for greener pastures.
Abuja proved to be just as harsh and unwelcoming. No one was willing to employ a widowed mother of two who had not gone beyond a primary 6 education. No one was willing to offer charity either.
In order to be able to afford the basic necessities, Angela hired out her time, her energy and her hands on odd jobs. When she had nothing left to sell, she had to sell her body because help was not forthcoming from anywhere.
She was reduced to sleeping with strange men and even professed friends and neighbours for money because of the abject poverty in her life.
She quickly became known as the neighborhood go-to woman for paid sex and after each sexual encounter, a paltry sum of N300 (Three Hundred Naira only) was tossed in her direction which was barely enough to feed herself for three days let alone care for her kids.
Each time, Angela tearfully vowed not to engage in those activities again but when the need for food to survive arouse, she was met with leering looks and jeering commands to offer sex if she wanted a dime. Sometimes, if she was very lucky, the men offered her N500 (Five Hundred Naira only); but each time, something in her died a little.
Her dignity and pride were quickly in tatters as she strove on for mere survival.
Her customers would sometimes call her on phone and rudely order her to their houses; she would come running immediately only to have sex with them and then have a measly N300 tossed at her thereafter.
She became frustrated at a point and two years ago, she resolved to quit even that and she has stood by that resolve ever since; even though she admitted it hasn’t been easy so far. It has been one trial after another and there seems to be no end in sight.
Her children are now grown but even that did not offer her any form of succor because she has had to constantly support her daughter and her son-in-law financially. Her son is grown too and quickly following in his father’s womanizing footsteps; preferring to lavish what little money he does have on skirt-chasing and a frivolous lifestyle.
Recently, Angela was faced with paying her monthly house-rent of Three Thousand Naira (N3,000) and tried to turn to a friend for help. He told her bluntly that he would only give her the money if she gave him sex in return. The possibility of returning to a life she had left behind loomed before her; she would get the money but she would die a little more inside. She refused his offer and chose to plead once more with her irate landlord.
Angela has been virtually stranded, with no help from family or friends and even though she is naturally a hard worker, reasonable jobs are not easy to come by for graduates let alone dropouts. Angela had been forced to feel helpless for so long with all the important decisions in her life taken away from her.
RAEF is raising at least $50,000 USD from well meaning individuals and cooperate organizations to empower Angela and her likes under the foundation in a business venture with hopes that she would be able to take care of herself and her family as well as be empowered to make better choices and even impact society positively.