SPEECH BY DR. CHRIS IFEDIORA, THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE OCI FOUNDATION,
AT THE SECOND (2018) EDITION OF THE FOUNDATION’S HEALTH SYMPOSIUM
“BREAST SELF-EXAMINATION AND THE CREATION OF AWARENESS FOR THE PREVENTION OF BREAST AND CERVICAL CANCERS AMONG YOUNG WOMEN”
Tuesday, 23/10/2018; Stella Maris College, Umueri, Anambra State, Nigeria.
[All Protocol observed]
Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, we say “Welcome”!
We feel very privileged to have you as guests to witness the second edition of the OCI Foundation’s health promotion activity, designed to empower our young women on ways to prevent and identify early symptoms of breast and cervical cancers.
Just over 12 months ago, we held the very first edition of this event, on this very ground, and some of you here today, were also present at that very event. At the time, we promised to make it an annual program, in the hope that, with the Foundation’s other health and educational programmes, we can continue to create a society where everyone feels empowered, to take control of his or her own wellbeing, irrespective of his or her financial, social, cultural, religious, and educational dispositions.
We are grateful to God for the opportunity to stage this event again, this year.
Our commitment to this course is bold and firm. Our desire to reach out to everyone is resolute and unwavering. As we stated in our speech last year, even though we may currently lack the financial wherewithal and the political power that will enable us reach out the millions of at-risk Nigerian women, we, at the OCI Foundation, surely do not lack the courage, the dedication, the commitment, and the appropriate skills, to continually empower our people in ways that they can take control of their own health. The activities of today bear testament to these claims.
A timely testament to our doggedness is the fact that, just in the weeks leading up to this event, the OCI Foundation was successfully registered, and recognized as a charity body in Australia.
This development, ladies and gentlemen, is a big deal.
. . . it is a big deal because it confirms that we are at least doing something good.
. . . it is a big deal because it affirms our status as an international aid-giving organization.
. . . it is a big deal because it opens up doors for us to collaborate with other like-minded bodies, not just in Australia and Nigeria, but the world at large.
. . . it is a big deal, ladies and gentlemen, because if potentially allows us to extend our reaches from the thousands that currently benefit from our activities, to the potential millions of men and women who need them, not just within the confines of Anambra State, but across the length and breadth of the Nigerian nation.
. . . Finally, it is a big deal because of who the real winners are. For the records, the real winners of this recent recognition, along with its expected benefits, are the boys and the girls, the men and the women, the old and the young, the educated and uneducated, who have either benefitted, are currently benefitting, or will still benefit, from our numerous charity projects across health, education and other empowerment activities.
With this development, ladies and gentlemen, I am sure that it becomes less of a surprise, that, among our distinguished guests here today, are representatives of some international aid agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), among others.
Interestingly, ladies and gentlemen, with our symposium of last year, came a research into how we can make things better, more efficient, more sustainable, and wider-reaching to our women, not just in Anambra State, but to the rest of Nigeria. Some papers from that research have either been published, or are currently being reviewed by journals of international repute.
The insights from these papers are revealing. Should the recommendations from them be implemented, they may transform the way we run health promotion campaigns against breast and cervical cancers, not just locally, but globally as well.
These insights, we are pleased to say, will form the basis of the OCI Foundation’s health activities going forward, hopefully from the year, 2019.
In a nutshell, our research revealed that, despite the positive attitudes of our young women towards the preventive measures against breast and cervical cancers, their knowledge on what to do, are disappointingly, poor. Even more disappointing is the fact that they have no reasonable source of information. No, none at all. Not from the schools, not from the churches, not from the mosques, not from their friends, not from the media, and surely not from their families. And not even from the internet, as we all know that few can afford the costs required to meaningfully access the net.
So what are our options? Ignorance, we know, does not minimize the risks faced by our women. According to the WHO, of the roughly 14,000 Nigerian women diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, just over 8,000, will die. This leaves families, husbands, children, and a whole lot of others, devastated.
We can either continue to accept this unfortunate trend, or perhaps, just pray over it, or worse still, ignore it, and hope that it goes away. Alternatively, we can stand, and fight. Well, at the OCI Foundation we have chosen to do just that, by arming our women appropriately.
Unfortunately, health promotion campaigns, such as we are having today, can only reach a few hundred at a time, or at most, thousands, and comes at huge financial costs. And our research, among other bodies of evidence, show us that acquired knowledge diminishes with time, and, without a way to repeat them and ensure knowledge-retention, most participants lose the much they learnt.
So, the OCI Foundation have decided to champion ways that will ensure that our health promotion activities are not only sustainable, but will also reach all those who need them, wherever they may be.
With the support of the Harvard Medical School, Boston, the U.S.A., (where Dr. Chris Ifediora, the Foundation’s President, currently studies), as well as support from other international bodies in Australia, and possibly, Nigeria, the OCI Foundation has plans to introduce breast and cervical cancer awareness campaigns, into the academic curricula of senior secondary schools across Nigeria.
We intend to start with schools in Anambra State first, and will be approaching the appropriate authorities (some of which are seated here today), to work out the details and modalities. We also intend to engage religious institutions (mosques, churches, and traditional outfits), so that we can find interventions that are not only sustainable, but socially and culturally, acceptable.
Yes, we agree that this is an ambitious and potentially daunting undertaking, and can be quite expensive. But then, we really have no option if we are to be effective in saving the lives of our women. Sadly, while their counterparts in most developed parts of the world receive free and universal screenings to prevent and detect these cancers early, our own women in Nigeria, as is the case in many other developing countries, have no such preventive systems in place. We agree that we cannot continue to wait for our governments. However, we should not just sit by, and ignore the challenges we face.
As stated earlier, the OCI Foundation will fight for our people, by giving them the tools they need. We admit that these tools may not be perfect, and may not be the best. However, for now, they are the best we have.
They are the best we can afford.
They are the best we can sustain.
And we will continue to do them till such a time our governments can afford to provide and finance better preventive measures.
Ladies and gentlemen, given the foregoing, we enjoin everyone here and beyond to team up with the OCI Foundation. Together, we can do this. As a matter of fact, all four ministries of the Anambra State Government invited to this event today, can help us achieve this purpose, at the state level at least.
The NGOs and other bodies here today, as well as those we are yet to reach out to, also have roles to play. The press and media organizations, school teachers, politicians, parents, traditional rulers, and all other stakeholders, are also welcomed to join this movement, which will be executed under the slogan: the “Arm Our Girls Campaign” of the OCI Foundation.
This project will be launched in Nigeria and Australia over the next one to two years, and we intend to drum up international support and collaborations, that will ensure its success. I am sure that most of us here will be attending these launchings in due time.
The approach to be adopted by the “Arm Our Girls” Campaign is backed by facts from empirical research. It will be an affordable, sustainable, and culturally acceptable approach, that will reach out to everyone, not just our females, but also our males, who will need to be educated so that they can assist their wives, their sisters, their daughters, their girlfriends, and their professional colleagues.
Above all, ladies and gentlemen, the proposed campaign, as are our current campaigns, is aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We believe that Health is Wealth, and that, if we can help create a healthy society, then we would have helped create a wealthy society.
In rounding up this speech, ladies and gentlemen, may I remind our guests that the OCI Foundation was established in 2016, with the primary aim of bridging the health and educational divides between the rich and the poor in our communities. Through scholarships, our educational activities have benefitted dozens of brilliant but less privileged students and pupils, across junior secondary, senior secondary, and tertiary institutions.
We pledge that we will never stop, and we will never abandon all those in need. Our ultimate desire is to reach out to everyone who need us. And to these people, we promise to share your burdens to the best of our abilities, and will never let you walk alone.
Thank you everyone once again for attending this event. We will be reaching out to you all soon, for the “Arm Our Girls” Campaign. Kindly note that we will at the same time be reaching out to others across the country, and internationally as well, but we hope to make Anambra the first State where this will be rolled out. As such, we implore you all to open your doors when we knock, and to pick our calls, when we call.
The task at hand is one for all, and as a team, we can accomplish more. We affirm that we will not be asking you for financial help. All we will need from you, is your support, your ideas, and your co-operation in implementing our program, in ways that will benefit our people the most.
Finally, I urge us all to relax, pay as much attention as we can, and take in as much lessons as possible from the activities we have lined up today. These lessons will last us all a lifetime, and can save, not just our lives, but those of our families, our friends, and our colleagues.
I wish us all a smooth and safe journey back home. Please, remember to share the lessons from here with friends, family, and acquaintances. By doing this, you would have already partnered with the OCI Foundation, as WE RISE, BY LIFTING OTHERS.