This profile was prepared when Rabi Wali was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Rabi Wali has established a multi-faceted women's training center to alleviate some of the social problems faced by Nigerian women and children. The center focuses on giving women practical education, awareness of their Islamic rights, and domestic and child-caring skills. She has particularly targeted middle-aged women who, due to early marriages, have had little opportunity to be educated or trained.In her northern state of Kano, women receive little or no education and are generally married to uneducated or semi-educated men. Twenty percent of these women are divorced or widowed and probably have not received primary education -- education having been consistently denied them by their parents and husbands. "One has to know the attitude of men in this part of Nigeria," Rabi Wali points out. "Women are like chattel: when they are new they are cherished, but the moment they start to wear out, they are discarded to be replaced by newer ones."Rabi Wali's centers help these uneducated and often abandoned women become employable. The centers also try to provide poor women with the opportunity to interact with middle and upper class sisters, thus establishing relationships with families and agencies that can open doors and provide some security.Through years of experience as a teacher and an observer, Rabi Wali has concluded that the social and educational problems of children start at conception. "It starts with the environmental influences that affect the unborn child and continues throughout the child's life," she says. "Women -- as mothers, caretakers, teachers, and siblings -- play the first and most important role in shaping a child's development. In order to enhance the life cycle of any individual, the quality of the life of the women in that individual's environment must be the best possible. The empowerment of women in our society must be a top priority in positively changing the patterns of the society."