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I try to eliminate all sorts of complications in my life, I pretend that I have a trash bin in my head and prefer to forget things that I believe would add no value to my life

Ms Magaret Egbe is a lawyer and founder of Shelter for Abused Women and Children Initiative [SAWAC]. In this interview, with SINA FADARE, she reiterates her commitment to the plight of the helpless in the society. Excerpts… Your background?
I am a Nigerian, from Delta State, a third generation lawyer who was called to the Nigerian bar in 1984. My late grandfather Chief Asifo Egbe was a lawyer and my father now late Webber George Egbe (S.A.N), may have been responsible for steering the course of my life towards the legal profession.

I hold a Masters Degree in law which I obtained in October 1983 from the University of Warwick, Coventry. My LLB I obtained from the University of Buckingham, England and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984. I kicked off my legal practice with the law firm of late Chief Debo Akande of blessed memory and in 1988 joined the firm of my late Uncle, my fathers younger brother, Mr. Fred Egbe, now of blessed memory. In October 2002, I left practice and joined the corporate world and was Company Secretary/Deputy Director of an insurance company. In March 2006, I resigned from my job and my life took a different turn. In 2007 I undertook a course in Counseling and now have a diploma in Counseling from Oxford College.

Why did you leave your career as a lawyer for humanitarian service?
In 2005, I was dissatisfied with my life style, and I knew there was something missing. In September 2005, my brother in law in his wisdom gave me two books to read, one was who moved my cheese and the other was the purpose driven life. After reading the later book, I knew I had to go in search of my purpose and the void and vacuum in my life became so pronounced. I could touch it; I was very dissatisfied with my life and knew I had to make some major changes. I needed to find myself, to find my centre, I knew there was more to me, I had to uncover that great person who loved life and people, who once felt he could turn the world around, set things right, make a difference. I desperately needed God to show me the path I had derailed from. I prayed asking God to uncover for me the way, my own purpose and my centre. I discovered what I wanted to do and had a passion for thereafter. I immediately with the assistance of my Sisters and friends who make up the board of Trustees turned my life around. Your previous calling, law and managing the abused women & children, which one do you consider more tasking?
Law and practice is far more tasking than managing abused women and children. The later is like undertaking a journey in finding yourself. It’s a joy to put smiles on the faces of people to share their pain and be in tune with their joy.

What do you consider as your ultimate vision, especially with regard to your organisation?
Our vision is to eliminate violence against women and children.

Our mission is to provide shelter and support services for abused women and children and raise awareness of all types of abuse, advocate for social, political and legal changes needed to eliminate oppression and violence against women and children.

At present, the Centre provides free legal advice and intervention on matters relating to violence requiring police intervention. We have also on various occasions been constrained to provide funds on what we consider to be emergency situations requiring funding. We provide food and snacks regularly to the children who are mostly from very poor families. We also provide clothes for the children and the women. The centre is always open usually from 8am daily, the children start coming in after they leave school, during school term, a lot of parents do not have the resources to send their children to school, these children after attending to their early morning chores at home such as fetching water, and playing their part in what ever role that is fostered upon them drift to the shelter for talks, support, snacks, solace, rest, fun or education, depending on their respective needs. We try to provide them with what we can, cushion their burden by providing them with some form of comfort, a sense of belonging, and plenty of laughters and fun. We have a lunch brake during which time we share snacks and read stories. We encourage the children to talk about themselves, and address issues which are affecting the society, we discuss about our aspirations and how to achieve them, we talk about problems and where necessary we have visited the parents who are encouraged by us to strive to overcome their problems. In the course of the day, we attend to individuals who drop by and also parents who come in to share theproblems of their children. I intend to take this centre to another level and, in doing so, I need to ensure that I am standing on firm grounds when talking, dealing and addressing issues relating to those in need. I pray daily for compassion and I need to understand how to deal with delicate matters without being presumptuous. Coining the Motto for the shelter which the kids recite daily is wonderful. ‘No matter the difficulties, no matter the frustrations, I will be an achiever’. It works for them, it also works for me. It’s all about overcoming and keeping the dream alive. We all have our personal dreams, so it’s all about never giving up.

How fulfilled are you as a contributor to human development?
I hope I have touched many lives positively, the Shelter runs a monthly women support group meeting which has become so popular, lots of mothers/ women attending these meetings and are very happy with the little we have done for their children and themselves. As for me, my life has taken a different turn, everyday is a special day, I seem to have found peace and am in tune with my centre. I love my life, I concentrate less on myself and more on the needs of those around me and find out that I have a sense of healing and peace daily. I am totally engaged with what I am doing now, its new, different and totally fulfilling, I wake up finding inner peace, I place myself according to my goals, my experiences are wonderful, I have a better understanding of people and am less judgmental.
There is so much to do, so many people are in need and we have only just started. I know I am doing what is right and in terms of fulfilment we are on the right tract and shall get there ultimately.

Looking back at your life encounters, what significant memories readily come to your mind?
On hindsight, I realise that I nearly missed out on the most important things of life which is putting back into society what you have been given. Not by your Country but by God. All the traffic jam, the board room politics, sacrifice and survival, spent in enriching companies and engrossed in accumulating more wealth for their organizations and themselves, make you lose sight of the well being of the individuals in need.
I have learnt that there is more to life than cutting corners, there are no straight shortcuts but ultimately doing that which is right has plenty of fantastic dividends, peace, success, recognition, integrity to mention but a few.

What is your dream for the Nigerian women and children at a time like this?
I would like Nigerian women to know that it is time to stop all what we are doing for the moment, take a deep breath, with deep concentration, look within ourselves; it is time to take stock of our lives. It is important to stop and examine our lives. What have we been doing all these years, how have we managed our time and ourselves? Where are our friends and families, what do we consider to be the most important things in our lives? How much time have we apportioned to what we consider the most important things in our lives? And most importantly, how have we touched and impacted on the people in our lives and those that we have come in contact with? This also applies to our children who are becoming more selfish and self-centered. It’s not all about us but more about others

As a young Nigerian learning the ropes, who are your role models?
My older sister Georgina, works for Social Welfare in England, whilst another older sister of mine Mrs. Roli Craig, is a lawyer. My Auntie Mrs. Marques, popularly known as mama Ife Oluwa, Mama Jakande are all my role models. Most especially Mama who is over 80 years and spent all her life giving and giving and still giving. Coming from a country where we are mostly family orientated, my older sister and her husband have been instrumental to providing me with sound advice, encouragement and self assessment of myself in the course of my trials with life generally.

What have been your guiding principles and how has it influenced your performance?
As each day passes, I have come to realize that life is not all about me but more about the people around me, and how in turn they affect my life. People look at you and say to you that you are such a strong person, very disciplined and that they draw strength from your courage, little do they know that underneath that front is a very frightened person, who, out of fear of the unknown holds on tight to something called survival. The word survival is relative to everybody and each of us would have to look within us and identify what we really believe in as our survival instinct. We have to reach out to the innermost recesses of our belief and lavishly commune and seek the presence of God and our joy would be unbounded and our life full of grace. I hold on to my God believing that at all times he is my shield and protector, I hold unto my rosary praying over and over again that my petitions would be heard and give my thanksgiving, I hold unto my sanity by trying to make my life as simple as ever, I try to eliminate all sorts of complications in my life, I pretend that I have a trash bin in my head and prefer to forget things that I believe would add no value to my life.