Namaste Wahala

Watching Namaste Wahala got me thinking about how nonprofits are seen by individuals as a hobby and not a career. Getting on Netflix, I was excited to click on Namaste Wahala having heard about it online and from a friend. Little did I know the movie has some plot around the sector I have come to love, respect and gave my all to—the nonprofit (NGO) sector.

Hearing Chidinma’s dad telling her to get a career as working in an NGO is a hobby got me all the more interested in the movie. I love the story line and the messages it passed across on diversity and love. Was good to see how the story also showed some of the challenges of gender-based violence around evidence tampering, influence and justice.

Good to see the ever-young Aunty Joke mastering her act as always. The “dating market” where Chidima’s friend (Anji) shops from is another focus about love, heartbreaks, men and women. Into the movie, Chidinma’s father again disagreed with her choice of working for a NGO using the word “pro-bono thing” whereas Chi as dearly called by her father (or Didi by friends) enjoy helping people using her knowledge and skill as a lawyer. Not surprised her father wanted her to work in his law firm and to marry Somto a brilliant and handsome lawyer.

NGOs (nonprofits) all over the world do important work of helping the vulnerable, providing services and helping to deliver a democratic environment for business and communities to thrive. I would forgive Chidinma’s dad and many Nigerians who think the sector does not have a career path since no one ever goes to the university to study nonprofit management in this part. And of course, many local nonprofits in Nigeria have not owned their brand neither do they pay well. Just as Didi, we all derive our joy in the altruistic feelings of helping mankind and that is all that matters. Money, win, win, money is not necessarily atop our agenda.

Watching Leila, the founder of the charity (nonprofit or NGO) at the fundraiser, going the last mile to get legal help for the abused victim reminds me of the enormity of work that staff of nonprofits do and the support from professionals like Didi through volunteering (pro-bono) which goes a long way in helping us make impact and to get justice for the vulnerable in a world that is unjust. Focusing on Leila and the work she does I will tease out the career path that existed in the nonprofit sector.

Leila may have started her nonprofit out of passion to help the downtrodden. It is the same way all businesses started, to solve a problem. In doing this she needs to develop a strategic plan which includes a fundraising plan, compared with a business that needs a business proposal and investment plan. Whereas profits are shared with shareholders by businesses, in the nonprofit sector profits are ploughed back for social good— meeting the vision and mission of the organisation. From legal compliance, branding and marketing, communications, annual general meetings, project management to human resources, accounting, logistics, policy analysis, trends mapping, impact assessment to needs assessment, IT, elevator pitch, investor relations (donor relations in the nonprofit sector) etc, the sector runs like business with our products being the social issues we work on without making profit.

For example, a bank gives loans, nonprofits provide empowerment grants and in some cases interest free loans. A company produces sanitary pads to help keep women clean from their periods, the nonprofit sector advocates for free sanitary pads for the venerable who cannot afford (period poverty) it and in some cases buy from the company to distribute free. Businesses need to enjoy an enabling and corrupt free environment to carry out their operations, nonprofits help to do this by asking for a corrupt free environment and support the conduct of free and fair elections.

Just like small businesses, many nonprofits have struggled to put structures around the good work that they do however many individuals working in the sector have taken a career path in communications, policy advocacy, human resources management, finance, logistics, humanitarian assistance, monitoring and evaluations, fundraising, gender specialisation, and have gone to work in the private sector as CSR managers, nonprofit or civil society advisors in international nonprofit organisations, multilateral and bilateral institutions like the UN, AU, ECOWAS, AfDB, Commissions etc. They have also become experts in managing conflicts and turning problems into solutions or as human right adviser to big technology and oil companies such as Shell, Facebook and Google.

Not many nonprofit staffs are also proud of what they do. When asked, where do you work? You will hear them say “I manage in an NGO” but I love Didi (Chidinma’s) defence of what she does. She exudes a great confidence in her work at Leila’s NGO but of course o wa ni ile (money dey for ground). This speaks to issues of nonprofit overhead and the meagre salaries we can pay, many times because we want to stay frugal while using our income to achieve more or the unwritten code of not spending more than 20% of your income on overheads. The sector is always careful of being accused of spending money on self than on its vision and mission. We must however remember that the quality of work done by nonprofits is underpinned by professional staffs whose fees or salaries do not come cheap. Many times, the sector have had to build staff capacities internally and along the line these staff move to bigger and better organisations that can pay.

Anyway, I like Mr. T’s way of wooing a lady and I found his lines interesting when he finally sat with Leila at the restaurant. Recall that Mr. T was the one sending gifts to Leila anonymously, hearing him say “I wanted you to know how special you are before I met you” hit me. This is a correct and romantic line. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Who else will not love a daughter or son that has taken over all your DNA and even won you in a “legal context”? Not always an easy one though.  And yes, nobody buys the cow if they can get the milk free!


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