At the margins of the recently held Iyalode Bisoye Tejuoso Film Project Auditions, the Founder and President of Ebunlobinrin Foundation, Hon (Queen) Grace Temitope Okoya, granted an interview in which she discussed progress and challenges of the organisation, efforts towards securing graduate employment for young people, the movie project, how to obtain the interest free loan from the Foundation, and the forthcoming YEIIS Youth Empowerment Program among other issues.
Amebo; What inspired you to establish the foundation having known you to be a politician?
Okoya; It’s simple. What prompted me into establishing this NGO is “Passion”. I have always have passion to help since I was younger. Having gone through a lot of hustle to achieve whatsoever I have achieved today, I find it so obligatory to ensure I’m part of the success stories of people around me. When I became a Legislator, I found it as a necessity to begin the foundation in a little way since it’s a normal phenomenon for people to come for help as a grassroot representative of the people in the Legislative house at the local government. What I did at that time was to deposit a substantial amount in a Bank (Solid Rock Microfinance Bank) where people would go and obtain a no interest loan and return without any charges. Though this would have been impossible but for God and my husband Hon Okoya Michael who believes so much in my dream and passion. So today we have taken the loan scheme beyond my ward to all the 20 Local Government Areas of Ogun State. The honesty of our people in Ifo Local Government made it possible for me to extend the tentacles.
Amebo: Are you saying these loan scheme remains interest free?
Okoya: Till date it is free from interest and will forever be. We are NGO and are not expected to delve into making money via it. Except for the Value Added Tax which will be collected by the financial institution on every amount repaid which is just sixty naira (#60), there are no other charges. The loan is repayable on weekly basis and means that #60 will be added to every repaid amount on weekly basis.
Amebo: You recently launched the foundation in Lagos, are you saying you are through with Ogun Women?
Okoya: I must thank God for the success recorded so far. We are still in very much in Ogun but people in Lagos State have been so desirous to benefit from the program and we just heeded to their call.
Amebo: You are out of your State, how do you cope with the challenge of repayment?
Okoya: We have challenges even in Ogun State here, but we won’t be derailed by those challenges. The loan has no collateral, so naturally some dubious members took to their heels after collection but we are optimistic. I must give it our local government coordinators and our unit coordinators for a job well done ensuring compliance by the beneficiaries. To forestall going bankrupt, we have put up a measure of a guarantor who will be held responsible in case of default.
Amebo: What are the modalities to get the loan facility?
Okoya: Firstly let me correct the notion that all we do at our foundation is giving out loans. We also do much more which I’ll explain later; but for your question, one must be a registered member of Ebunlobinrin Foundation. Please note that it is not just that immediately you come you are entitled to the facility. We must ascertain that you are actually in need of it. Don’t forget that the process starts from the unit level to the local government level before it gets to the state.
Amebo: What other programs has your NGO embarked on and what others is ongoing?
Okoya: Between 2012 and 2014, we empowered over 250 women in Ifo local government in various vocation and training of many others such as hair fixing, make up, bead making etc we also distributed drugs to the aged in rural areas as well as eye glasses. On the ongoing, we have a movie project titled Iyalode Bisoye Tejuoso. It centers on girl child appreciation and education. Iyalode Tejuoso stood as a role model fitting into Ebunlobinrin concept, being a woman who was able to get herself educated, industrious and ensured a balance with her home.
Amebo: You are delving into film making, how do you intend to recoup your investment?
Okoya: Let me state it clear again that NGOs don’t invest. We give without looking for who to give us back, it isn’t expected of you to spend your personal money though sometimes you do but it is done without a thought of recouping. The project is gulping over 500 million according to our budget with a cast of over 4,000. We have started consulting donors towards this project and the responses have been so positive and we are still consulting and hopefully by March we shall be at the locations.
Amebo: Pirates are demons challenging the profits of marketers, how do you intend to curb that?
Okoya: I’ll once again reiterate that this project is not for profit making. We are unperturbed by the cunning fraudulent acts because we are not releasing this project for sale in the market. We intend to show it in Schools across Africa, cinemas, Local TVs and Cables. So for anybody to see it on the CD means it is pirated and should be arrested. The movie Iyalode Bisoye Tejuoso despite having a Yoruba title is going to be a multi language movie. It is a true life story and we are covering every places mama went to according to the scripts and historical relay. Don’t forget that it is a movie that covers the pre-colonial and post colonial era.
Amebo: Any other program?
Okoya: YEIIS is the cooking program next. Infact it is likely to be launched any moment from now. It is a youth empowerment program designed to cater for these set of people; the job seekers, fresh graduates, non formal business owners, vocational trainings, business expansion and rebrand. Let me tell you one good news, we are seeking to partner with corporate organizations to give us slots for white collar jobs (not contract jobs) but permanent staffing which we are hopeful is achievable. We shall embark on 30 days vocational training session for those who falls within the category. Another lovely stage we are advancing is that of non formal business, for example if you are a cab driver, we can stand for you to buy your choice car and be paying back accordingly, so also business women who needs refrigerator etc.
Amebo: How can one join the foundation?
Okoya: those who are eligible to join should visit our website, http://www.ebunlobirin.org, the Instagram handle @ Ebunlobirinfoundation, http://www.Facebook.com/ebunlobinrin.
Amebo: On a final note, who is Hon Queen Grace Temitope Okoya?
Okoya: I’m just my natural me, a mother, wife, industrious, devoted and a goal getter, I’m very unpredictable, I’m calm but principled. I don’t party or club except I feel like going to a party but I’m a fashionista.
Amebo: Queen Temitope Grace Okoya, we appreciate your time with us and we do hope to revisit when need be.
Okoya: you are most welcome Mr Amebo and be rest assured that my doors are opened.