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Posted On: 18 February 2020 04:40 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:06 pm

Qommunity Voices: Noimot Olayiwola - supporting Nigerian expat women in Qatar through NEWFOQ

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Empowered women, empower women. And Noimot Omolara Olayiwola is certainly one. Prior to starting the Nigerian Expat Women Forum in Qatar (NEWFOQ) in November 2019, Noimot is a journalist by training and the first (and only female) Nigerian journalist to practice in Qatar.

She hails from Ibadan, Oyo State in Nigeria and graduated with a degree in Mass Communication from the Polytechnic, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. Previously, she worked as a staff reporter for the Gulf Times newspaper for seven years before joining Hamad Medical Corporation Corporate Communications Department as Project Manager since 2014.

Let's get to know more about Noimot Olayiwola and how Nigerian Expat Women Forum in Qatar (NEWFOQ) is supporting Nigerian women:

ILQ: How long have you been in Qatar and how has your journey been so far?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): My sojourn to Qatar started in May 2007 as a trailing spouse to my better half who had arrived a year earlier. My stay here has been so far so good. My family views this country more or less as our home having spent over a decade within which we welcomed two beautiful daughters to complete our team of four blessed kids (we brought our two sons with us from Nigeria).

Noimot with her family

We still hope to remain here for more decades to come, God willing. I see myself as one of the lucky few as I have remained gainfully employed since arriving in this beautiful country. I said this because I know how difficult it is (even for an educated woman like me) to get jobs in Qatar. Within a month of my arrival, I got double offers to work at the Qatar Tribune and Gulf Times and I struggled to choose between the two but eventually accepted Gulf Times’ offer, which would later earn me an employment at HMC – having covered the corporation for the Gulf Times’ health beat for some years. Working at HMC has equally been so far rewarding and I am thankful to God for that.

ILQ: What is NEWFOQ - Nigerian Expat Women Forum in Qatar all about? What is its mission?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): NEWFOQ is a first-of-its-kind Nigerian women-only forum in Qatar with a mission to offer social, health, psychological and emotional support to all Nigerian women resident in Qatar. We want to be there for one another and help each other cope with the emotional or psychological effects of living abroad.

Our forum is a non-religious, non-political and non-partisan community-based social-cultural organisation striving for members who would be respectful of one another, as well as caring and loving towards one another. The forum seeks to be the ‘go-to’ for every Nigerian woman resident in Qatar at their time of need. NEWFOQ also hopes to serve as a platform to showcase the richness of culture and the women fabric of Nigeria to Qatar and its people as well as other expat communities in the country through social and cultural activities relating to women while also highlighting important dates and occasions on the calendar of both nations as well as the international community.

NEWFOQ hopes to give back to Qatar (a country that has nurtured us so well) by actively participating in its national events and by organising community-oriented activities like visitations to hospitals, orphanage, homes for the elderly to show our love and affection for them and to offer support in whichever way we could. Part of our plan for NEWFOQ is to be able to carry out projects which will positively impact the people in Qatar as our initiative grows.

Noimot with NEWFOQ members during a picnic to mark Qatar National Day 2019

ILQ: Tell us about your journey with NEWFOQ - Nigerian Expat Women Forum in Qatar?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): We’ve been having a smooth sailing albeit slower than I expected since our official inauguration late last year. However, the launch of the initiative has been well worth it as a good number of our community women have keyed into the idea and many of them are actually excited about it. Their active participation in all our events so far is a testament to this. We have held events to mark Qatar National Day and Qatar National Sports Day.

We have more than 100 women on our WhatsApp group, which we created for bringing the women closer and similar numbers are following our @newfoq Instagram page.

Noimot with some NEWFOQ Coordinators at a book launch held recently

ILQ: How did you get into these initiatives? How did you start?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): I really appreciate the role of a social support network within communities (especially for women and children). This came from my previous work as a Program Manager for a civil society organisation back in Nigeria. Then, I led a number of projects targeting groups such as market women, long-distance truck drivers, commercial sex workers, children of West African migrant workers and people living with HIV/AIDS.

We offered different kinds of programs tailored to the needs of these categories of community groups through workshops, seminars, media campaigns, and capacity building trainings. For me, this experience is priceless as it gave me a solid grounding in civil society and community groups’ mobilisation. So it was a lot easier for me to initiate NEWFOQ when the idea popped into my head.

NEWFOQ members who took part at Qatar National Sports Day activities held at the Aspire Park

ILQ: When did you know you wanted to take up this kind of responsibility?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): I thought of initiating a forum for all Nigerian women in Qatar after I attended our country’s Independence Day celebration, organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation-Qatar (NIDO-Qatar) last October. I felt the number of women who attended the event was not as impressive as it used to be during the DohaNaija (now NIDO-Qatar) days when I first arrived in Qatar and I thought of doing something about it.

So I reached out to a few notable women within my community to inform them about my plan to bring the women back together as it used to be and to offer each other support and voila! NEWFOQ was born last November.

ILQ: What most often inspires your journey as the founder of NEWFOQ? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): I love the community and this is due to my upbringing. I was raised in a communal environment where people enjoyed each other’s company; they were willing to offer support; always ready to extend a helping hand to whoever was in need. This fact, coupled with my previous work experience in the field of civil society, keeps inspiring me. In addition, I draw inspiration from every strong and supportive woman out there who is willing to inspire others to greatness.

Noimot with her daughters on Qatar National Sports Day

ILQ: Why do you love what you do?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): To be honest, I don’t know why I love what I do. Strange, right? I have tried to question myself many times too but to no avail so I guess it is my calling. When something is your calling, you carry it out effortlessly. I just see myself swinging into action whenever someone requests my help. So I can correctly guess that my innate willingness to assist others in need is my trigger for doing what I do.

Also, I quite often get asked how I get the time to do this and my response has always been ‘you find time for what you love no matter how tight your schedule is’. I am a very busy woman working a day job, and at the same time minding five human beings (maintaining a day job and managing four kids and a spouse is no mean feat, especially for a typical African woman!) Yet I still find time to coordinate and organise women in my community all for the reasons of togetherness, solidarity, and social support. I seek to unite everyone regardless of our social background or status. The joyful feeling that I get each time I accomplished something for the community is fulfilling and rewarding enough for me.

Above all, it is my belief that when women come together, great things happen and when women support one another, they all become successful. Women who support other women are rewarded in heaven.

Noimot with NEWFOQ members during a picnic to mark Qatar National Day 2019

ILQ: Was it easy to set up NEWFOQ? What is the biggest difficulty you have faced?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): Getting NEWFOQ started was easy but getting it moving has been a bit challenging because we are a non-profit community organisation with no financial obligations from members so organising events have been based on voluntary support from individual coordinators of NEWFOQ.

However, I am optimistic that the initiative will succeed with the positive energy coming from our members comprising professional teachers, lawyers, healthcare workers, bankers, businesswomen, and home-makers.

ILQ: What is your biggest achievement so far in terms of your initiatives?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): Our biggest achievement so far is the recognition of our initiative in December 2019 (just a month after our inauguration) by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) under its CEO/Chairperson, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

This recognition shows that our initiative is a legitimate entity already listed on NiDCOM’s database and we can operate freely and collaborate with other recognised entities across the world for events that will benefit our members.

ILQ: What's next for NEWFOQ - Nigerian Expat Women Forum in Qatar?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): Early in March, we are looking to host our first ever engaging event - a workshop titled: NEWFOQ Women Money Talk to re-orientate our members about taking charge of their finances and offering useful tips on how to securely invest in Nigeria. At the workshop, we also aim to promote the handiwork of Nigerian women here in Qatar by encouraging patronage among ourselves and across to other communities in Qatar. In the future through NEWFOQ, we plan to help our members who are business-oriented establish legally in Qatar through a partnership with relevant Qatari institutions.

It is also my wish to see NEWFOQ achieve all that I earlier envisaged, and that is, offering social support for women. I recognise that being an expat (in addition to being unemployed can be depressing). Talking to someone trustworthy when going through rough times is important in resolving many problems. A lot of women are dying in silence as they fear stereotyping or stigmatisation that usually comes with speaking out or seeking help about personal issues.

To achieve this, we hope to start meeting up with members soon and also constitute a Psychosocial Support Committee operating with strict confidentiality to attend to women who are willing to share their problems. However, I will like to seize this opportunity to encourage any Nigerian woman in need of psychological support not to hesitate to reach out to me directly.

In addition, it is my hope to see NEWFOQ well recognised in Qatar. We have already signed a strategic partnership agreement with a Qatari consulting firm – the KON Group and we are looking to partner and collaborate with more firms and groups here in order to effectively execute the events we already planned on our yearly activity calendar which includes giving back to Qatar – a country that is nurturing and caring of the expat population in addition to striving to make an impact back home in Nigeria. We are open to working with local organisations on projects that will help us make this happen while also benefiting our members socially and psychologically.

Noimot with NEWFOQ members during a picnic to mark Qatar National Day 2019

ILQ: Do you have any message for the people of Qatar?

Noimot (NEWFOQ): My first message is to the citizens of Qatar to remain who they are - highly hospitable and accommodating people. I as an expat appreciate their warmth and generosity towards us and I always admire the highest level of respect and dignity that the Qataris enjoy because I believe that it is when the leaders respect their citizens that’s why they think they deserve the best always.

I always pray for the country and its effective leadership under H.H. the Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and H.H. Father Amir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, not forgetting our super role model H.H. Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser. I pray for them always from the depth of my heart each time I look around to appreciate the transformation of the country from what it was when I got here in 2007.

I implore the expat communities to remain good ambassadors of our respective countries by being law-abiding and well-wishers of Qatar. 'I love Qatar' and will continue to do so because of the way of its people. Thank you, Qatar!

Nigerian Expat Women Forum in Qatar

Instagram: @newfoq