Ogunte: Who are you Okocha?
Okocha Nkem: I am the founder of Mamamoni. Due to my life experience, I have learned to be diligent and focused, and it has helped me become the woman I am today. I believe no woman deserves to be poor. If a woman is educated and economically empowered she can make the right choices concerning her health, business, children’s education and welfare. So my mission in life is to help poor women - one at a time - kick poverty out of their life by impacting them with relevant skills and tools.
Ogunte: What have you achieved so far?
Okocha Nkem: We have been able to empower almost 4000 women with free vocational and financial skills. We have helped 50 low-income women break barriers associated with accessing finance by providing loans to help them fund their businesses. We have been able to innovate and leverage on technology by upgrading our web platform to enable people lend more poor women money.
I started hawking shampoo for a company in major markets in Lagos
Ogunte: How is your eagerness to be involved as a social entrepreneur stem from what happened earlier on in your life?
Okocha Nkem: I started Mamamoni due to my experience as a young girl. I lost my father 18 years ago. Family members promised to help with our feeding and education, but they failed on their promise. My mum did not have skills or a business, so it was a big challenge getting school fees and feeding in the home. A family friend came to visit and gave my mum some cash. She used that money to go start a small business, by going to a bush market to buy vegetables, so she could sell in our neighborhood. This helped a little, but we still needed more money in the house. My elder brother had to forgo his admission into the university to go look for a job. I started hawking shampoo for a company in major markets in Lagos, I also became a house help to raise funds for my education.
I later got admission into the higher institution but payment of fees and feeding was a struggle till I finished. After I graduated I was fortunate to get a job in the bank as a note counter. That's how I started working in banking. At the same time, I attended part-time school to get my B.SC in Banking and Finance. I resigned in 2012 and saw the high level of women living in poverty in the community where I stayed, so in 2013 I took the little fund I had, I printed fliers, went out into the streets, church, market to invite women to come learn for free skills that could help them generate an income to feed and educate their children. I later started going to other communities to help their women also.
Ogunte: What is in the pipeline for Mamamoni?
Okocha Nkem: Our current partnership with the United States Consulate in Lagos, has helped us impact 100 women monthly, through our trainings many of the women who were idle are now diligently engaged in small businesses, and 23 of them were given grants through another partnership with a financial organization to help fund their businesses.
We are currently seeking more partnerships from local and international organizations so we can help more women, because we get requests almost weekly to come to different communities, but due to funding we have not been able to honour most of these invitations.
No woman chooses to be poor, but we can choose to help poor women by investing in them
Ogunte: What questions do people never ask you wish they did?
Ogunte: On hindsight, what advice would you give yourself if you were starting today (eg: top 3 bullet points)
Ogunte: Finally, which other female social entrepreneurs do you recommend the readers should know in your network?
Chioma Ukonu, founder Recycle Points
Adepeju Jaiyeoba, founder brown Buttons Foundation
Chinomnso Traffina, Founder Traffina Foundation for Community Health
Olutosin Adebowale, Star of Hope Transformation Centre
Visit Mamamoni's website: www.mamamoni.org