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In Nigeria, we have four ethnic groups and not three. They are, Hausa, Ibo, Ijaw/Izon, and Yoruba.

In the diaspora, each ethnic group tends to form associations of their own, bringing people together bound by their common heritage with a view to keeping their cultures and traditions alive. You can call it, having a little bit of home away from home.

Formerly, the Ijaws were categorized under the Ibos, however, it was discovered that there were so many differences in culture, lifestyles and languages. It was impossible to fit under that particular ethnic group. The authorities made a very wise decision to separate them, as since then  the people have thrived immeasurably.

In America, a group of women came together on the 29th of October 2016 under the umbrella titled Ijaw Women of America Inc. It was formed with a common goal to promoting the Ijaw people and their cultural heritage to the wider world. The organisation is also an NGO supporting Ijaw communities back in Nigeria.

In an interesting and educating telephone conversation with Deborah Dein Abbey the  public relations officer of the organisation, I learnt quite a few new informations. One of which is that the Ijaw people do not only inhabit the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, they cut across most riverine areas of West Africa. Further research shows that the Ijaws are in Sierra Leone and even Gabon.(I would never have thought)

Furthermore Deborah Abbey stated that contrary to the notion,the Ijaws in Nigeria are only in Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states, they are also found in Akwa Ibom, Edo, Lagos and Ondo states. The Arogbos, Ilajes, Obolos, Mahins Egbema etc. all fall under the Ijaw community.

The organisation IWA Inc. is mostly made up of Ijaw women working in different professional roles across the USA.  Some are lawyers, doctors, engineers, judges, healthcare professionals and much more. Their aim is to promote sisterhood, Ijaw norms, encourage unity, liberate and edify all Ijaw women the world over. They are also preserving the original Ijaw religious roots.

The organisation goes even further by teaching the common similarities of cultures and languages within the Ijaw communities so as to build a unified front. They also believe there is the need to pass on the Ijaw heritage from generation to generation, so informing the youths about their roots through different means is important as well.
Having created the awareness and stability of the organisation in America, the next step was to organise funding for projects in Ijaw land. These projects not only help in alleviating poverty, but  also build social amenities for different communities. IWA Inc. promotes the awareness of civil human rights, they bring to the fore the current state of affairs in Ijaw land, and also support rural Ijaw women morally and financially.

One major project that is ongoing, is the provision of clean water for all Ijaw rural areas. This is funded under the Clean Water For Ijaw Land project. They have successfully commissioned a number of them within different communities. From Arogbo to Tombia, the Ijaw Women of America Inc. have provided clean pipeborne water to the people, and the list is set to continue because, come the 31st of October the association will hold her 4th annual fund raiser under the same title.

The current president of Ijaw Women in America Inc. is Eunice Baratua Apreala. Going by how successful the organisation has been and still is, taking into consideration the successful projects carried out, one can only admire their ability to work together regardless which Ijaw state you come from. They are a beacon of hope for the Ijaw people, often seen as uncooperative and  unsupportive of one another.

Currently, there are different media awareness campaigns running, regardless of the pandemic for the forthcoming fund raiser. The campaigns showcases the diehard, dogged spirit of the Ijaw people. It shows that no matter what, the show must go on whether it is held virtually or as normal, I trust the women to put up a spectacular event no matter what.

The Ijaw people are rich in cultural heritage. The flamboyance in their outfits, lifestyle, food, dancesteps, music etc. is a thing of joy to behold. Accolades should be given to the Ijaw Women of America Inc. who although are far away from home, are not only preserving their heritage but also connecting positively with the motherland.   And as the Ijaws salute, Chanty's Fashion and Lifestyle, alongside City People shouts a resounding..

Ahhnnnn Izon!
We wish the Ijaw Women of America every success in their endeavors.

Photo Credit: IWA Inc.

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