A UK-based Nigerian woman, Ijeoma Ibijoke Jummai McDougall (nee Iheme), has won the prestigious Cheshire Woman Award for her enormous contributions to the lives of the less privileged in Nigeria and the UK. Ijeoma is the Founder of The Kairos Initiative, a charity that is dedicated to helping less privileged people around the world; “returning hope to those who have lost it.”
Through her charity, Ijeoma provides succor to victims of insurgency in the North Eastern region of Nigeria, where she hails from. She provides apprenticeships to young people; helping them to gain valuable skills and experience, equipping them to start their own businesses, and giving them the opportunity to make a real difference.
She has also provided clean drinking water to over ten thousand households, renovated a maternity ward, fed an orphanage, and clothed street kids. Ijeoma has connected Nigerian children in need with families in the UK; who provided them with Christmas gifts. “These are just a few examples of the work she has done for those who are most in need,” the organizers of the Cheshire Award stated.
“I got a letter saying I was a nominee for the Cheshire Woman Award of the Year, I couldn’t believe it because I don’t know who nominated me, I don’t know why they nominated me. If I am honest with you, I thought it was a scam,” Ijeoma told The Guardian.
“I just decided to go and felt it would be a nice day, I’d get to meet other women who are doing great things. Before I received the letter, I saw a lady on Facebook saying she had received a nomination from Cheshire Woman of the Year and I was so excited for her because she is a scientist who creates all these products that help with pain relief and I thought of course she’s going to win because I couldn’t think of a better person.”
Ijeoma added, “When they started to read out, they gave two examples of things that I did, they said my name, and I started crying. Everybody who was asking me what I was nominated for, I told them I don’t know because it was obvious to others what they were nominated for.”
“When they started reading the examples it made me emotional because the main thing I was nominated for is the thing that I had forgotten, like a lady that I put on Facebook who’s been in the hospital and didn’t have food for herself and her children, and I just got people on Facebook to donate foods so that we could fill up her cupboard. To me, this is a thing you do to people to have something to eat..It is not something I did myself, I asked for help and people gathered the help. I don’t think I should be getting the credit,” she said.
The Cheshire Woman Award is an annual event that has honored outstanding women for over thirty-seven years. Award nominees are not necessarily women in the limelight, but diverse women who were born, live, or work in Cheshire and have achieved great feats, demonstrated admirable courage, and made an exceptional impact within the community. Over 2,500 women have been nominated for the award since 1985.