Fr. Stan Chu Ilo (right) in Nsukka, Nigeria, at a June 2014 training session organized by Canadian Samaritans for Africa on how to manage micro-financing for a multi-purpose, agricultural co-op group for women who receive an interest free start up loan. Photo courtesy of Fr. Stan Chu Ilo

Helping African women with the ‘Power of We’

By 
  • November 1, 2014

For Fr. Stan Chu Ilo, the fight to help African women escape the “unacceptable conditions” in which they live is personal. 

Ilo was born in Nigeria, where almost 300 African girls were kidnapped earlier this year. He is the founder of Canadian Samaritans for Africa (CSA), a charity that helps African women rebuild their lives and communities in the face of poverty, patriarchal societies and war. 

“It’s not simply an abstract issue for me,” said Ilo. “This is personal. 

“I have seen my sister die of giving birth. I have seen my aunt die from HIV-AIDS... infected by an unfaithful husband. So poverty in Africa has the face of women.” 

The issues are compounded by Africa’s patriarchal tradition, Ilo believes. 

“These women are already in the midst of all these problems — social, cultural, economic problems,” he said. “Within this poverty... the men are the ones who are calling the shots. So women suffer a lot of abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and also legal abuse. A woman in many African societies does not have the right of inheritance. So when your husband dies, you begin to fight your brothers’-in-law over the patrimony of your husband,” he said. “They have no voice and they suffer in silence.” 

Ilo is inviting Canadians to meet and hear women from Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda — the nations of focus for his charity — at a dinner and concert event to be held Nov. 8 at the Mississauga Valley Community Centre in Mississauga, Ont. The African Awareness and Charity concert will also hear from Hon. David Kilgour and speakers from projects supported by Canadian Samaritans for Africa. Jewelry, fashion and other crafts made by African women will be on sale. 

Proceeds will go to scholarships for 80 orphans in Uganda; a start-up business loan for 30 women in Mombasa, Kenya; micro-credit finance and training for women in Enugu, Nigeria; and support for 15 women trying to become self-sufficient in Nairobi, Kenya. 

“You have environmental issues, you have political issues, you have cultural issues, you have economic issues. All these add together to create these unacceptable living conditions,” Ilo said. 

“Then you see a lot of people going without food, including these women. You see a lot of disease, a lot of preventable deaths. That’s why we think we can do something here.” 

Ilo says 100 per cent of donations go to the women and their projects, helping them enhance their own innovative ideas instead of forcing ideas upon them. 

“We leverage the indigenous approaches to wealth creation and indigenous approaches to social innovation,” he said. “We do not take away from someone what that person can do for himself or herself. What you do is solidarity.... We should recognize the things Africans can do for themselves. Africans have to renew, revive and rebuild their society from bottom up. Only Africans can do this.” 

Ilo adds that Canadian Samaritans for Africa discourages “armchair charity” by putting donors in touch with the women in Africa who are receiving their financial help. Ilo and other Canadians visit these women’s communities to see first hand the level of need and to learn what can be done to fulfill it. 

“One of the failures of aid to Africa and some form of aid in the West is this idea that it’s a Band-aid solution or I can stay here in Chicago, in Toronto and tell people how they have to organize their lives in order for me to give them money,” he said. 

Ilo will be giving a speech at the concert and dinner on the “Power of ‘We.’ ” 

“The Power of We is something that is rooted in African socio-cultural community wisdom that says that if we work together, we have the power of the elephant. And if anyone suffers, everyone suffers,” he said. “We reflects the intimate and intricate network of connections that we need to hold together in love, in positive life-affirming choices, which will help to sustain existence for everyone.” 

To purchase concert tickets, visit CanadianAfricanAwarenessDinner.wordpress.com. 

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