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® Igbo Women League of Minnesota
Our Story
(Revised May 8, 2010)

It was Thanksgiving day of 1994 when Amaka Onwumere, Benedette Ojiaku and Rositta Nwaokolo were having dinner at Benedette’s house when the topic of organizing an Igbo women group came up once again. They discussed the growing need of having a women’s group as a gatekeeper for peace and progress of the Igbo people, especially our children, within the Minnesota community. After much discussion, they decided that the benefit of having such an association was immense. Calls were placed to many Igbo women to schedule dates to meet and confer. The response was overwhelming. Many women showed up and there was a consensus at the initial meeting that a women association must be started. Thus was born the organization which started in March of 1995. Amaka Onwumere was elected as the first president. Also, a decision was made to name the group, Umunne Women Association. Our first Mother’s day celebration was launched in May of that year. It was very successful. Culturally, since the Igbo woman is the nurturer and sustainer of the family structure, our objectives were to promote fellowship and unity among Igbo’s in Minnesota, and educate our children on the Igbo culture. We also wanted to support each other during important milestones in our lives; like childbirth, christenings, weddings, illnesses as well as deaths of relatives.

In 1995, the decision was made to change the group’s name to Igbo Women League of Minnesota (“IWL”). Like many new organizations in infancy stage, IWL experienced initial teething problems. As a result of the problems, many members left the organization. After the departure of these members, the organization was on the verge of dissolving due to lack of interest and attendance. Only a handful of dedicated members were left. These women included Ngozi Wamuo, Nwadi Onah, Joyce Onyekaba, Chidi Omeoga, Nkechi Iwu, Uche Obidiegwu, Rositta Nwaokolo, Ngozi Ogbonna, Ngozi Okolue, Rita Okani, Benedette Ojiaku, Amaka Onwumere, Ngozi Nnebedum, Ogechi Nwokoro and Uzoaku Anorue. They worked tirelessly to ensure the continuity of this noble venture. The husbands of these members, Austin Wamuo, Okey Onah, Chike Onyekaba, Nduka Omeoga, Ike Iwu, Chris Obidiegwu, Patrick Nwaokolo, George Ogbonna, Goddy Okolue, Lawrence Okani, Jim Ojiaku, Fedelis Onwumere, Godwin Nwokoro and Silas Anorue, offered strong and unwavering support. Also, with the help of the following mothers, Late Mrs. Lucy Akanuike, Mrs. Margaret Obidiya Chigbu, Mrs. Catherine Edoga, Mrs. Felicia Nnadiekwe, Mrs. Priscilla Akunna, Mrs. Angela Anyanwu, Late Mrs. Theresa Onyekaba and Late Mrs. Regina Okonkwo who attended our meetings regularly and gave us encouragement and inspiration, we were able to rise above our problems. The mothers reminded us about the Aba Women’s Riots of 1929, and how those women with little or no education succeeded in making a difference against all odds. The mothers’ words resonated with us.

In 1997, the organization ventured to begin the first Igbo School at Saint Peter Claver which failed because of several factors. But, with new members joining the organization, there was infusion of so much energy that the organization was able to change its focus. In 2001, the constitution and bylaws were modified to reflect the revised organization mission and objectives. Our mission statement which states that “[T]he Igbo Women League of Minnesota is committed to unifying, identifying, educating and promoting the socio-cultural and economic development of Nigerian children and their families in Minnesota, while improving women and children lives in Nigeria,” has become the frame work of the organization.

In keeping with our mission of catering to the development of Nigerian children and their families in Minnesota, the organization participates frequently in the celebration of Nigeria Independence day, organized by MIND. Also we actively participate in Umunne Cultural Association (Umunne) IgboFest every year. We show our support to other organizations by responding positively when they request our presence. In 2001, we partnered with Umunne to form the Igbo Cultural School. The organization envisioned that the children of the Igbo community would be able to socialize with fellow Igbo children while learning the Igbo language and culture at the same time.

In keeping with our commitment to our people in Nigeria, in 2003, we started the educational scholarship program for underprivileged female students in Nigeria. To date we have funded thirteen (13) academic scholarships to female students from low-income families in Nigeria. The education of females is not a priority among low-income families in Nigeria. These scholarship funds cover educational costs from junior high through senior high school for these students. Further, we currently support and equip nine (9) motherless babies’ home (orphanages) in Nigeria. These orphanages abound in Nigeria due to the high incidence of death of women of child-bearing age.

Based on the current focus of IWL, in 2003, we once again amended our constitution and bylaws to include that the organization is organized exclusively for charitable purposes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Additionally, we sought and obtained a temporary exempt status. In 2007, the organization received IRS’ final determination, in which we were recognized and classified as a non-profit organization exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the code. This is a great milestone as it opened a whole new chapter for the excellent work that this organization has been doing in the community and in Nigeria.

Through the hard work of IWL Board members and particularly Amrill Okonkwo and Ugo Ukabam, it is noteworthy that in December 2007, IWL obtained its first major funding, from corporations, to aid IWL in carrying out its mission and objectives. Currently, IWL has implemented the Igbo Youth Mentoring and Leadership program, funded in part, by MoneyGram International and Gray Plant Mooty Foundation, which started in the Summer of 2008.The goal of the program is to educate the children of Nigerian immigrants, who are caught between two cultures, to recognize and tap into the values in their uniqueness and rich cultural heritage with a view of becoming leaders in their new American culture. We strongly believe that it will facilitate the building of a healthier Minnesota community by providing the children with life-changing experience that builds self-esteem and self- sufficiency, helping them overcome academic, social, and cultural barriers to success, preparing them to be confident and productive global citizens while promoting interracial understanding and respect.

Our humanitarian effort does not stop within the Nigerian community. In 2007, we participated in the Adopt a Family Program, in which we adopted a family of five in need through one of our member’s church for the holidays. We participated in a food shelf drive with St. Peter Claver Church. We have also partnered with St. Peter Claver Catholic Church to help run its homeless shelter program every the spring. As our quest to unify the Igbo community in Minnesota continues, the projects we undertake will benefit and enhance the economic welfare of immigrant Igbo children and their families here in Minnesota and in Nigeria. We hope that as we engage in cultural exchanges, we will continue to foster good relationship between the Igbos in Minnesota and the greater Minnesota community. We will continue to be deeply involved in the affairs of the community, serving as mentors and role models to the children of our great community.

We use this opportunity to acknowledge the support we have received from the Igbo community in particular and other Nigerian and African communities generally. We could not have done it without their support. Together we can make a difference!

Long live Igbo Women League of Minnesota!

Udo diri unu.

Peace.

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