Ijeoma Ibijoke Jummai McDougaall (née Iheme), a Nigerian living in the United Kingdom (UK), has been named the winner of the renowned Cheshire Woman Award for 2023 for her great contributions to the lives of the less fortunate in both Nigeria and the UK.
Ije told The Guardian in a phone interview yesterday that she was nominated among other white women who were performing well.
“I got a letter saying I was a nominee for the Cheshire Woman Award of the Year, and I couldn’t believe it because I don’t know who nominated me,” she explained. I’m not sure why they chose me. To be honest, I assumed it was a fraud and that someone was pulling my leg. And it indicated on the letter that you may bring a plus one, which means you could bring someone to the event. I’m not sure if it’s real, and I’m not sure if I’d go because the Cheshire Woman of the Year award is so prestigious that there’s no chance I’d even be recognized.
“I just went because I thought it would be a nice day to meet other women who are doing great things.” Before I received the letter, I saw a woman on Facebook who said she had received a nomination from Cheshire Woman of the Year, and I was so excited for her because she is a scientist who creates all these products that help 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 large county in the United Kingdom with a poor and wealthy section. It focuses on people who are accomplishing remarkable things. Ije also mentioned a ‘Real House of Cheshire’. “The calibre of women in the room, what they do, what they have accomplished, and here I am, a Bauchi girl from Nigeria, in the same room with these people.” When they began to read, they offered two examples of things I did, they spoke my name, and I began to cry. I told everyone who asked what I was nominated for that I didn’t know because it was evident to everyone else what they were nominated for.
“When they started reading the examples, it made me emotional because the main thing I was nominated for is something I forgot about, like a lady I put on Facebook who’s been in the hospital and doesn’t have food for herself or her children, and I just got people on Facebook to donate foods so that we can fill up her cupboard.” To me, this is something you do to people simply so you can eat.
“They offered another scenario in which I obtained homes for a homeless family, which I had not anticipated… It’s what you’d do if you were in the same situation. It was not something I did; I asked for aid, and people responded. I don’t believe I should be given credit. They stated those were the key things I was doing in the community that drew their interest, so they decided to look into me further, and that’s when they saw the Kairos Initiative that I founded and the work we’re doing there,” she explained.
Ije was born and reared in Bauchi, North East Nigeria, before moving to the United Kingdom. Her father, Dr. Andee Iheme, is an Imo-born communication expert, while her mother, Mrs. Moji Iheme, is from a Yoruba-speaking region of Kogi state.