Nigerian based in the United Kingdom (UK), Ijeoma Ibijoke Jummai McDougaall (nee Iheme), has been announced the winner of the prestigious Cheshire Woman Award for 2023 for her enormous contributions to the lives of the less privileged both in Nigeria and the UK.
Ije, who spoke with The Guardian in a telephone interview yesterday said she was nominated alongside other white women whom she were doing great.
She explained that: “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, I thought somebody was pulling my legs. And on the letter, it said you can bring a plus one, meaning you can bring somebody to the event. I don’t know if it is real, I don’t know if I would go because the Cheshire Woman of the year award is too big, there is no way I could even be acknowledged.
“I just decided to go and felt it would be a nice day and 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 create all these products that helps with pain relief and I thought of course she’s going to win because I can’t think of a better person.”
Cheshire Woman Award is a big county in the UK, it has a poor part and a rich part. It focuses on people doing great things. Ije added that there is a ‘Real House of Cheshire’. “The calibre of women in the room and the kind of things they do, the kind of things they have achieved and there is me, a Bauchi girl from Nigeria in the same room with these people. 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 have forgotten, like a lady that I put on Facebook who’s been in the hospital and doesn’t have food for herself and her children and I just got people on Facebook to donate foods so that we can fill up her cupboard. To me, this is a thing you do to people just to have something to eat.
“They gave another example that I found some housing for a homeless family, this is something again I didn’t think… It is what you would do if you were in the position. 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. They said those were the main things I was doing in the community that got their attention, then they decided to look into me further and they started to see the Kairos Initiative that I set up and the work we are doing there,” she said.
Ije was born and raised in Bauchi, North East Nigeria before relocating to the UK. Her father, Dr. Andee Iheme, a communication expert is from Imo while her mother Mrs. Moji Iheme is from a Yoruba-speakingg part of Kogi state.