As they were driven to the highbrow Elizade University, Ilara Mokin in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State, the camp for the 2021 Bemore Summer Boot Camp, the young girls marveled at the environment.
Clearly, none had been to the university before Sunday, 12th September, 2021 when the camp for the two-week intensive training opened. Beholding the well-paved roads and trimmed lawns at the university was an enchanting sight.
It might have given the girls, 350 of them, the impression that the training they were about to undergo is truly one not to trifle with. Truly, the training is not just a serious one but also one that will separate them from the clan of never-do-wells.
They are not just about acquiring life-changing skills but also the self-confidence required to successfully navigate through the twists and turns of life.
Before being ushered into their halls of residence at the camp, medical examination had to be carried out. Head of the Medical Team, Dr. Emmanuel Onyeama disclosed that the team carried out basic check-up by conducting physical examination to ensure the girls were in good condition and have a successful stay.
Onyeama stated that the girls will be given all medical assistance they might need, saying all the equipment needed are available with experienced doctors and nurses to attend to them.
Bemore Summer Boot Camp is powered by Bemore Empowered Initiative, a pet project of Chief Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, wife of Ondo State governor, Aketi Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
The Ondo State First Lady set up the Bemore Summer Boot Camp in 2017 to encourage the empowerment of the Nigerian girl-child and womenfolk with the right knowledge and skill-set for impacting the society positively.
The 2021 edition is the fourth in Ondo State. The second edition in Imo State was concluded about a fortnight ago. It has produced more than 1,500 alumni who were trained in Information Communication Technology (ICT), solar renewable energy, making of hygienic liquid products, arts and design, tying of head gear (gele), cake making and make-up.
The girls are also trained in such physical exercises like taekwando for defence against abusers, aerobics, music and dance. These exercises are carried out early in the morning at about 5:00am.
At every opportunity she has to speak to the girls, the founder, Chief Mrs. Anyanwu-Akeredolu would inspire and motivate them.
Addressing them at the camp on arrival, she urged the girls to learn new things and the matrons to ensure the girls were comfortable.
On Monday, 13th September, at the opening ceremony held at the Ondo State Public Service Training Institute (PSTI), Ilara Mokin, the first lady expressed her confidence in the abilities of the Bemore girls to change the country’s gender narrative.
She stated that the boot camps are producing a new breed of girls who are not just technology leaders but are selfless to contribute to the progress of the society.
The first lady noted that it costs a fortune to organize the programme even as she revealed her most important wish which is for the programme to outlive the tenure of her husband.
To achieve this, she counseled Ondo state indigenes to own the programme by supporting it financially. She was effusive in her thanks to sponsors of the girls particularly the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), which in spite of attacks believed and supported the programme at inception.
She described the programme as a landmark achievement and attributed the successes recorded through Bemore to the willpower to impact the girl-child at all costs.
Bemore has its root in the early childhood experiences of the first lady. She said she did not find it palatable growing up in her rustic remote Emeabiam Community in Owerri West LGA of Imo State. She grew up seeing the discrimination and economic inequality that stared women in the face as a result of lack of skills and she is determined to rewrite the story of the women. And catching them young is the best.
Omotehinse Mercy Tumininu is in Senior Secondary Class 3. She is studying at Cornerstone Girls College, Okitipupa. Mercy is 13 years old. Mercy and Temitope Bolawutife, 13 years old of Bolaji Secondary, Great Shagari Village are participating at the ongoing 2021 Ondo Summer Boot Camp. So are Malahunsi Favour Oluwatunmise, 14 years old, who is in Senior Secondary Class 2 and Alagbori Ayinde from Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State, who is in Senior Secondary Class 3. The girls are bubbling with zest and zeal.
Speaking with our correspondent at the camp on Tuesday, September 14, the girls unfolded their expectation which is to imbibe the skills being taught at the camp and put them into practice thereafter.
They also pledged to impart the skills acquired in other girls when they leave camp in line with the vision of the founder that the Bemore Boot Camp is raising not just a generation of female technology leaders, but girls who are not greedy but selfless.
Temitope Bolawutife, who said she is interested in learning make-up and sewing, promised to set up her own outfit thereafter.
She also expressed her desire to boost her confidence level so that no one will ever intimidate her.
Alagbori cherishes wig-making. She said she already have some idea about wig-making, stressing that the camp will offer her the opportunity to perfect the craft.
She is thankful to the founder, who she described as her mentor. Fourteen-year-old Owolabi Grace in Senior Secondary Class 2 at Flourish Secondary School, Ondo said the camp will offer her the opportunity to learn more about life even as she commended the calm and clean ambience of the camp.
Testimonies abound of the great transformation which the boot camps have caused in the lives of participants.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, two of the alumni of the Bemore Summer Boot Camp, Marvelous Jegede and Abimbola Ogunsemore testified to enhanced lives which they today live as a result of the skills they acquired at the 2018/2019 camps.
According to Jegede, she has completely dispelled darkness caused by the incessant power outages from the public power supplier from her home by building and installing solar panels at her home.
The panels, she said, supply her with power that she does not depend on the public power supplier anymore.
In addition to being trained in solar energy, Jegede said she was also trained on how to produce reusable sanitary pads during the boot camp. Today, she disclosed that she does not just have a firm producing reusable sanitary pads, she also runs other three business concerns. Through the instrumentality of Bemore, Jegede has travelled to 13 states in the country imparting the knowledge she gained during her time at the boot camp.
She lauded the Ondo first lady as a rare gem on whose shoulders one could lean on.
Abimbola Ogunsemore also has similar testimony. She disclosed that the camp changed her idea of early marriage and inculcated in her web site designing skill with which she is today earning a living. She boasted that she could design just any type of website.
The Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Hon, Lucky Aiyedatiwa who graced the opening ceremony was thrilled by the testimonies that he awarded another title to the richly-garlanded Chief (Mrs.) Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the Ada Owere 1.
Hon. Aiyedatiwa conferred on her Aturise which literally means one who changes fortune for others. The deputy governor, who is also one of the major sponsors of the programme described Bemore as impactful, life-changing and wealth-creating. He canvassed for increased support for the programme even as he charged the participating girls to take the training very seriously.
The chairman of the occasion and member representing Akoko North East/Akoko North West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo pledged to ensure that the dream of the founder which is seeing programme outliving the regime of her husband was realized.
According to Tunji-Ojo, who is the chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta, the Bemore is a legacy that has come to stay and will outlive the Akeredolu administration.
The lawmaker foresees great women like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala emerging from among the participants.
The Bemore Summer Boot Camp has trained 1,500 girls since its commencement in 2017. With 350 girls enrolling in the ongoing programme, the number has ballooned. Kudos to Chief Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, a woman whose heart beats for the girl child.