Feb. 11, 2019
By Chennelle Channer
Mmekom Udosen '18 has a passion for community involvement that exceeds expectations and extends across the globe. During her undergraduate career at Binghamton, Udosen double-majored in integrative neuroscience and Africana studies and was very engaged in community issues even as a student. On campus, she served as president and co-fundraising chair of the Charles Drew Minority Pre-Health Society and was a member of the public health research team in the Africana Studies Department. Through her involvement with the public health research team, she saw firsthand the prevalent issues facing Africans in the diaspora. She decided to use the resources available to her to do something about it.
Udosen is currently making strides to impact the lives of young girls in the community of Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. Her parents are originally from Akwa Ibom, which gives her a personal connection to the community. She recognized that she had been given opportunities and advantages that were vital to her becoming the woman she is now, and so she felt the need to provide similar resources and support to other young girls like her. As a 2017 Harpur Fellow, she put on a workshop called We Are Iban Ifiok. After traveling to Nigeria and hosting this empowering workshop, she realized that there was a need for so much more.
With the help of her mother and aunt, Udosen founded Iban Ifiok in 2018 and since then has added four other young women to her team. She named the organization Iban Ifiok [ee-ban- ih-fih-yok], which is Ibibio (a Nigerian language) for "knowledgeable women," because the members of Iban Ifiok believe that knowledge is power. Udosen founded the organization with the goal of inspiring, motivating and supporting African girls in order to raise the next generation of thriving women. The organization intends to create a community (a major characteristic of African culture) and a safe space for girls.
"An investment in the lives of women and girls, is an investment in the future of the human race," says Udosen. She says that programs that focus and engage young girls while empowering them are essential to improving their lives now and in the future, and she has personally seen that there is a current need for this in Nigeria. Although various initiatives have been established to encourage these young girls to aspire to greatness, these efforts often lack the peer motivation needed to sustain the efforts. That's where Iban Ifiok is different. Since the initial workshop in 2017, Udosen's team has received multiple requests to return and host more workshops. There has been tremendous support from the community overall, and it has caught the attention of young people in the community who have reached out to join the team.
"We would like the girls who hear about the organization or see our name somewhere to know and believe that they can come to us for support," Udosden says. She hopes to host more empowerment workshops in collaboration with schools, churches and community centers, while creating more opportunities for girls to cultivate their gifts and talents in order to sustain themselves, their families and their communities. Iban Ifiok has helped Udosen realize that each woman is unique and has a significant role to play in this world, and the impact women can have on others by sharing their stories and experiences. "You never know whose life you can positively influence through that," she says.
Iban Ifiok is currently planning and fundraising for their trip to Nigeria this summer to officially launch the organization. From March 8 through May 3, they will host an Empower Her drive to collect school supplies, feminine hygiene products and toiletries to bring to Nigeria. Donations may be brought to the P.U.L.S.E. office in UUW-323. For more information on how to get involved with Iban Ifiok, email email@example.com or visit www.ibanifiok.org.
Photos: Mmekom Udosen, founder of Iban Ifiok with young women who took part in her 2017 empowerment workshop in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria.