There is nothing as motivating like a woman who is passionate about humanity, and has a strong affinity for change. Dr. Nimi Stephanie Ekere is a Consultant Family Physician, a Fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Family Physicians. She is also a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and a Certified Management Consultant. Dr. Ekere is a Certified Management Specialist with distinction in Time Management from the London Graduate School. Dr Nimi Ekere is also a child advocate, author, speaker, coach and humanitarian.
Dr. Ekere has practiced medicine in urban and rural areas for over 15 years and has endeared herself to her patients through her dedication to duties. She loves geriatric medicine and has had numerous training, workshops and certifications in geriatrics. Dr Nimi Ekere also loves to guide children and teenagers into their full potential. She is a strong proponent of effective and intentional parenting. She convenes several sensitization programmes and has featured in many panels and conferences both in Nigeria and abroad. She is passionate about combating child sexual abuse, working through her foundation, the SmileandShine Children’s foundation, to tackle the menace.
She is also an author of 4 books for children, pre-teens, teenagers and parents on the dangers of child sexual abuse with effective remedies. three of these books are government-approved for use at schools in Lagos State. Just recently, all four of her books were approved and added to the curriculum of the Rivers State ministry of education to be used in primary and secondary schools in the state.
Nimi Ekere was recently featured by the York City Journal, as one of the most Inspiring Women to look out for in 2022.
I grew up in an environment of empathy, kindness, and charity. These qualities literally formed my ideologies about life. I grew up seeing my mother give and care for people so genuinely. Interestingly, my mother also saw her mum give out the little she had to the needy. Helping people and being kind come naturally for me and this is because this was all I saw around me whilst growing up.
On another hand, the zeal to read also came from seeing my dad read lot and this of course, influenced me a great deal. I read a lot of newspapers, journals, articles and even novels. This made me love to write and I started writing so early. I would write poems and short stories. I wrote a whole lot .So yes, I think my childhood prepared me directly or indirectly for what I do now.
Inspiration behind SmileandShine Children’s Foundation
I saw a profound need to save children as I had seen and related with a lot of them who were hurting so badly from the horrendous effects of sexual abuse. I had also encountered some adults who were still grappling with the effect of sexual abuse suffered in childhood. The scary part was that a lot of their parents were completely ignorant and even the few that knew their children were abused preferred to keep it “secret”. Sexual Abuse was and still is an unpopular area to delve into, as the culture of silence has eaten deep into our fabrics as a people. It is said that our people wear silence like a badge of honour. People still hold on to false dogmas about sexual abuse and are quick to judge and shame the victim rather than the perpetrator.
The victims and their families suffer morbidly from stigmatization in their communities, schools, market and even places of worship. I knew that I could change the narrative as I saw more and more children being sexually abused, leaving them with so many life long complications. I also noticed that a lot of parents didn’t know how and when to discuss sex education with their children. They would rather not discuss it or just keep waiting till the child is “old enough” , by which time they would have been fed with so many false information by their peers or even the internet. Being that I love children so much, I knew I could do my part to ensure that children are protected and kept safe from abuse especially sexual abuse. This gave rise to SmileandShine Children’s Foundation, a non profit organisation that is aimed at preventing child sexual abuse and profering solutions to victims and those at risk, including members of their families.
We do a lot to create so much awareness about this menace by educating and enlightening children and even the general public on ways that child sexual abuse can be prevented. We also offer interventions in the sad event of an abuse. Smile and Shine Children’s Foundation offers primary medical and psychological care and in collaboration with other NGOs, ensure that justice is served and rightly so.
Impact and lessons from practicing medicine in urban and rural areas for 15 years
I would say that I am very dedicated and proficient at my job and this is judging by the wonderful feedbacks I get from my patients and even my employers. Beyond the fact that I love my profession, I see it as a CALLING and intentionally love to make an impact in the lives of my patients. And being a Family Physician has helped me so much in this regard because it actually goes beyond treating symptoms, it is about the person holistically. Being a Family Physician entails that I provide continuing, comprehensive and coordinated health care to individuals and families across all ages, genders and diseases and this requires a great deal of compassion, good interpersonal skills, good work ethics, maturity, willingness to learn more and more, patience and of course expertise, and letting these become a part of my life has helped shape me to the amazing woman and professional that I am today. Additionally, practicing in rural areas makes you more humane as you literally see what a lot of the poor populace go through. It brings out the humanitarian in you as you see yourself inevitably paying a lot of medical bills and this is why I advocate an open health insurance policy for every citizen of the country. As a rule, equity is my watchword at every point, so no matter the age, sex, race, socio-economic status of a person, it is non negotiable that they are treated impartially. Every life is important and this means that I go the extra mile to give ALL my patients the best. So whether it is in the rural or urban setting, my consistency and commitment to patient care remain unwavering. The lessons I have learnt from these years of practice would be that having a great measure of empathy, and emotional intelligence are very important beyond your expertise. Being empathetic makes you do more to ensure that your patient gets the best that you can give, and emotional intelligence helps you understand that a sick patient may not be so polite or put together, so you are much more patient or tolerant.
My books and testimonials from those who read it
I am an author of four books that address the issue of Child Sexual Abuse. Being a child advocate and working closely with abused children, I thought that teaching them through story telling about self protection, body boundaries and having a good parent- child relationship would be more productive and far- reaching. I thought that writing age-appropriate books would help them a great deal to understand better about the menace and ways to tackle it . I had always wanted to write children books and I was sure that writing on child sexual abuse in words that were comprehensible and relatable to the children would help them stay safe. Being one who loves children and works with them, I knew that writing age- specific books would resonate better with them and help drive home the message more profoundly, so I wrote “Some Parts Are Special” for children aged two to seven, “Setting Boundaries” for pre-teenagers, “Sparkles at Dawn” for teenagers and young adults.
I also thought it was ideal to write for parents and guardians who are literally primarily responsible for the upbringing of the child. Sex education is inevitable in parenting and a lot of parents do not even know what to do in this regard. “Into the Light”, is my fourth book for parents, written to ensure that parents are equipped with the Whens, Hows and Whats of sex and sexuality education. It is a well researched exposé that dymystifies sex education, letting parents and guardians know that sex education starts with an efficient parent- child relationship. This book will help parents and guardians know about child sexual abuse, how it can be prevented and what to do in the sad event of a molestation.
My books are approved in Lagos State Government to be used in primary and secondary schools in the state. Also in Rivers State, all four of my books are in the curriculum of the Rivers State ministry of education and one of them is particularly recommended for use in the Junior WAEC Examination. My gratitude goes to the governors of Rivers and Lagos States for this step taken to ensure that good books on sex education are introduced in schools. It will go a long way to curb the menace. As regards the testimonials from my books, I will say that it has been amazing and mindblowing. I get feedbacks about how children are so bold and empowered after reading the books. I must add that apart from the values and lessons that the books teach, they were carefully and deliberately written to also enhance the children’s comprehensibility and improve their vocabulary. Children who were not bold to speak about body boundaries are now bold to say that no one has has the right to see or touch their special body parts( private parts). It’s been wonderful and I am so happy that these books are really impactful, not just in Nigeria but globally.
My York City Journal feature as one of the most inspiring women to look out for in 2022
It felt like a dream. To say I was exhilarated would be putting it mildly. I was even happier and more shocked to know that I was the only black featured.. This just goes to say that our good works do not go unnoticed. God is watching and He definitely rewards our labour and sacrifice. People are watching too and as long as you are passionate and tenacious at what you do, the sky would not be your limit but your starting point. All the glory goes to God. I thank my husband and children for the support and motivation always. You truly cannot live your dreams and go very far without the support of a good spouse.
My husband has supported me amazingly. My kids too have been my source of strength. They are so excited to give me their clothes and belongings to the less privileged. When we go to rural communities for our sensitization outreaches, my kids are always so happy to share their clothes, bags, shoes and toys to indigent children. This feature is an honour and I do not take if forgranted. I specifically give all the glory to God and promise to continue to do more not only for the Nigerian or African child but for children all over the world.
Parenting and the ills of the society
I think the ills of today would have been curbed drastically if more attention was paid on effective parenting. A lot of innovations which were absent in the past but present now have their advantages but we know that there are lots of disadvantages associated with them. For example, in the past, children did not have to study with laptops and tablets. It was easier to monitor what children did at the time, not forgetting that the economy was better and at least one parent was more available. Right now, parents have to work really hard to give children the basic things of life and this leaves the children without adequate care, making them very vulnerable to abuse of all forms. So, whilst the ills of today will not go away any time soon, parents must be ahead of their game with better and more result- oriented parenting skills that will keep the children safe and make them responsible adults. Parents must do more than parents in the past did as kids now are more knowledgeable and even more exposed to vices and ills via technology and westernization. This is no walk in the park as it looks overwhelming for parents but it is really achievable. My foundation ( smileandshine children’s foundation) has parenting classes and conferences and we are having quite a number of sessions this year. The aim is to help parents from all walks of life learn more about parenting and child protection in the digital age as this.
Other projects and activities
This year, we have quite a number of activities. I already mentioned the regular parenting classes and conferences we are putting together in a lot of states in the country. We hope to have child protection conferences in as many states of the country as possible and this would involve children and parents. We also have a lot of programmes for children in public and private schools to educate them on safety/ protection, morals and values. I am very passionate about the hard -to -reach children because a lot of them are left out in programmes like these, so we would deliberately be reaching out to them through various community sensitization programmes and a special project called the “Talk to me project”, a programme that targets children in hard to reach areas, teaching them about safety, protection, morals and career path. There is also the big event, in September which is called ” the STRIVE conference, first of its kind for children, in Lagos State. This conference will have notable speakers, child advocates, religious leaders and role models speak to the children on how they can stay away from vices, protect themselves from abuse, live their dreams and become whatever they set their hearts to become. It is going to be a phenomenal one and the first of its kind in the country and Africa
3 women who inspire me and why
I have so many women that inspire me and yes, I keep adding to the list. I have been asked to mention 3 and I will do just that(laughter). In no particular order, it would be: *Mrs Ibukun Awosika, I think she is phenomenal. Intelligent, humble, God fearing and so entrepreneurial. She is one woman that has excelled in every capacity and inspires me in no small measure.
*Prof Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, because she has literally raised the bar for women and proven that everything is possible for us as women if we believe and work hard. She has broken glass ceilings, challenging gender stereotypes in male dominated terrains. I see some of her attributes in me. Her resilience, tenacity and dedication to what she believes in, are qualities that women should strive to possess.
*Mrs Bola Tinubu, the founder of Ceceyarah Foundation is another woman that inspires me. Like me, she is a child advocate and I think she has done well in the area of child protection. She does inspire me a great deal.
Child sexual abuse advocacy, and the role of parents and Government
The first line of defence for children is the parents who need to pay more attention to their child’s welfare, especially in the line of communication. Parents need to communicate more with their children, a lot of times parents do not even know what is going on around their child even when the abuse takes place right in the home. Sometimes, children are so scared to discuss with their parents and they would prefer to walk the journey alone rather than tell anyone, including their parents. Again, parents need to be more intentional about their child’s safety and make efforts to ensure that their child is not put in harm’s way by anyone. For example, when you’re not with your child, make sure you run a background check on who is responsible for the child’s care, be it at school, church or even with relatives and when you’re with your child, make time to cover for when you missed and what you missed.
Secondly, the government is the most equipped line of defence for the child. Policies need to be made in this regard, and enforced. For instance, child marriage is still boldly practiced in some parts of Nigeria without contention. Only the government can stop that. While 26 states have adopted the Child Rights Act, 10 states are yet to domesticate the CRA in their respective states. Even some of those states in which the Act has been domesticated, there are still concerns about enforcement. Lastly, we have to help ourselves in the society. We should watch out for possible predatorial tendencies, whether or not we are directly involved, and call out perpetrators. No one should be too big to pay for their crimes. If justice is rightly served, it would definitely serve as a deterrent to others and help a great deal to curb the menace.
One thing I wish I could change in the health sector
One thing I would change is the weak performance and famished state of the primary health care centres in the country. I will strengthen and ensure viable and high performing primary health care services in all the 774 local government areas in the country and their respective wards, and advocate for more budgetary allocation, knowing that primary health care is the closest health care system to the common man and serves as a gate opener to other higher health care services. This will go a long way to significantly reduce morbidity and mortality in our country.
Being a Woman of Rubies
I would say that I am a woman of Rubies because I love to be the best at everything that I do. I go the extra mile for my patients, and I also believe that the depth of passion, dedication and hardwork I bring to my job(work) and the fact that I am very detailed make me endeared to my patients. As a child advocate, I am very passionate about what I do. I put in my time, resources and all that I can give to ensure that children are safe. As a wife and mother, I do my best to take care of the home front and also keep my kids safe.
See more photos of Dr. Nimi Ekere’s outreach programme;