Interview from the webmagazine
In front of me is Aluba Kalu Otis from Otu Umunwanyi Igbo Belgium (Igbo women Association). Aluba, hospital pharmacist and mother of 4 children, comes from the Igbo region in the South of Nigeria. She is a smooth talker and her eyes sparkle when she talks about her association, her motivations, her life in Belgium, ...
Hi Aluba, how did you come up with the idea to start your association?
Well, about 15 years ago we regularly met with some Igbo women. We all ended up in Belgium by marriage, to study or to work and we found each other through our Igbo identity with shared values and with the shared challenges of living in the diaspora. At a certain moment we had the idea to make those meetings official and to share our experiences of living in the diaspora with other women. This also strengthened and supported them with their integration and enabled them to make a quicker connection with their new host society. Otu Umunwanyi Igbo Belgium became a reality in October 2005.
What were the biggest challenges of diaspora life for you?
In the first instance, we get here and know nobody. We have no parents, grandparents who can help and inform us. We arrive in a country with 3 national languages but we speak English so this in itself is quite a challenge if you want to find a good school, arrange papers, look for work, etc. Moreover, we also come here with our own cultural baggage. For example, we Igbo women did not know whether it was a good idea to take our children to a daycare center or not? We could just leave the care of our children to strangers.
And what are the objectives of your association?
On the one hand we promote our Igbo values and culture in the diaspora and on the other hand we want to collaborate with other organizations in the search for solutions for problems that can have a negative impact on women, children and families.
Especially for our children, we also promote intercultural dialogue around our Igbo legacy to help them grow into responsible adults. They are between 2 cultures. Here they are not regarded as real Belgians and in Nigeria they are not regarded as real Nigerians. They must therefore really know their identity and carry this baggage to be able to fully develop themselves in the society in which they live and to come to an inclusive story.
What activities do you organize to achieve these goals?
We organize cultural activities around the Igbo culture ourselves in order to pass on the positive values of this to our children, but we also actively participate in initiatives aimed at a wider audience, such as 'Summer on the square' in Anderlecht, and also to them. to be able to show our culture and to come to intercultural dialogue.
We also have educational activities, especially aimed at women and children. For example, we organize information sessions on healthy food, on lifestyle diseases and on drug and alcohol prevention. In 2019, we also participated in a trajectory around education that involved parental participation, communication with the school, study choice, etc. This was a very important issue for our members because we encounter many difficulties there.
Of course we also organize activities aimed at relaxation because we think it is very important to just be together. For example, sometimes we visit another city. This way we relax together and get to know other aspects of Belgium. Moreover, these activities are always open to everyone and it appears to be an ideal way to get to know each other better.
Do you sometimes collaborate with other organizations?
Absolutely! We want an open operation. We want to be a bridge. A link between our community and Belgian organizations. For example, we work together with VGC, sit on the boards of De Rinck (community center in Anderlecht) and of Sankaa.
We also occasionally try to collaborate with other Igbo organizations or organizations from other countries. So we really try to work as openly as possible.
Do you still have dreams?
Yes, I still have many dreams!
My dream for Otu Umunwanyi Igbo Belgium is that we can grow into an organization that, in addition to Igbo women, can strengthen women from everywhere.
Another dream is that we as Igbo women can also be part of the political landscape. That we can become changemakers.
I also hope that we can support our youth, that they know where they come from and that they have the power to develop. That we can understand the dynamics behind motivation and self-development. Our youth has every opportunity compared to Africa but they are quickly discouraged. So we want to strengthen parents so that they can continue to support the youth !!!