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Esther Ijewere

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From the humblest of beginnings, Ifeoma Adibe-Chukwuka began her journey into social entrepreneurship at 19 when she founded her first non-profit organization​ ​(AYECI Africa) focused on providing educational intervention and access to work opportunities for young people and women in low-income communities.

Ifeoma is also the Founder and CEO of The Omaness Skinfood Company, an indigenous skinfood production company which began its operation in 2018.​ ​She broke the ​mould​ to become West Africa’s first homegrown skinfood products company “with an all-women direct distribution and merchant force”, as she likes to say.

Social Impact, Economic Empowerment and African Development- These three​ ​words best describe Ifeoma’s focus as an Entrepreneur. In 2019, Omaness launched the Business of Skinfood Program, a unique distribution model that allows Omaness to retail its products directly to consumers everyday through an all-women merchant force! The Business of Skinfood program is a deliberate approach to unlock a generation of new sustainable income source for women and exemplify the ideal of creating African-based solutions to African problems.

With over 40 products in the market, Ifeoma is breaking boundaries through Omaness Ski​n​food. She shares her inspiring journey exclusively with Esther Ijewere in this Interview.

Childhood Influence

One of my childhood dreams was to become a beauty queen. I recall being fascinated by the world of beauty pageantry. I was not only drawn by the glamour and I was deeply inspired by the way beauty queens used their voice and their platform to advocate, raise public awareness and support for worthy social causes. I remember I had a diary where I wrote down the names of several beauty queens and a portfolio of the social causes they were involved in.

As a teenager, this experience helped influence my ambition, and nurtured my interest to become a social change agent.

Today, I am a social entrepreneur who advocates strongly for women empowerment, education and local enterprise development. I may not be your regular beauty queen but I’m living out the childhood dream I once had to use my voice, skill and platform for social good!

 Inspiration behind Omaness Skinfood

 Before starting Omaness Skinfood, I had spent over a decade working and creating charity interventions for young people and women in low-income communities. During that period one of the things that became a pressing concern for me as I worked in those communities, was how I could help women who struggled with financial inadequacies and lack of opportunity to earn a decent income.

In 2016, while I was pregnant with my first child, I got a gift of shea butter from one of the women who was a beneficiary of my organization’s community learning program and I had my first real skin-enriching experience with that shea butter! The shea butter was so good and I wondered why this woman wasn’t making more money from her produce? It was this question that sparked the idea for Omaness Skinfood!

I thought to myself “How can I use my platform to get more people to know about this woman’s amazing local produce and get them to buy?”​ ​This was when I realized that if I can do this, I would have created a solution that can enable local artisan women earn more and have a sustainable income source.

This is what inspired me to start Omaness Skinfood, knowing I could create a social business that would enable me to enrich the lives of women in a sustainable and profitable manner!

The journey so far

Initially, when we launched Omaness Skinfood products the reception was slow because the majority of our target consumers were only used to foreign cosmetic products, while others were interested in skin whitening products. But over the last 4years since we launched Omaness Skinfood, we have stayed true to the mission behind the brand that is “to use naturally-active homegrown ingredients to create functional skinfood products best suited for the African skin” and I must say that our consistent brand positioning is gradually paying off as the consumer reception for our products has improved compared to when we first started!

What motivated me to start my entrepreneurship journey at age 19

 I founded my first non-profit organization (AYECI Africa) at 19 while I was a student at Lagos State Polytechnic. My campus was located in a low-income community and I witnessed first-hand the lack of learning opportunities and exposure that affected many low-income students.  This became my motivation for venturing into social entrepreneurship and founding AYECI Africa. With funding from corporate sponsorship and volunteer support the organization provides access to learning, employability skills and dignified livelihood opportunities for under-served young people and women.

 How I Impact​ed​ the lives of over 30,000 youths and raised over N250m funding support

 First, there’s a sense of fulfilment that comes with this kind of achievement, knowing that what I do is making a real difference in the lives of people who would not have otherwise benefitted without my intervention.

Secondly, I feel a sense of responsibility to do more! Knowing that there are millions of other young people and women in need of social intervention.

 Challenges of running my business

 First, one of the challenges we encounter at Omaness Skinfood is (impact) sourcing of our raw materials. Our business model at Omaness Skinfood is deliberate in its approach at ensuring women are key players and direct beneficiaries in supplying our raw materials. However, because the majority of these women are rural dwellers with limited access to mechanized processing equipment, we usually face the challenge of sourcing bulk materials within a shorter time frame. There is also the challenge we face with cumbersome government policies and rising cost of production that are unfavourable to growing businesses like mine.

Omaness products, our skinfood programme and accessibility of our products

Our skinfood products at Omaness are formulated to be functional to address common African skin concerns. We use naturally-active homegrown ingredients like shea butter, dogonyaro, tamarind, baobab etc. to create products that provide nourishment, healing and help our people put their best skin forward! Our skinfood products are sold directly to the final consumers through our authorized skinfood merchants. We created the business of skinfood distribution program onboard women to become independent retailers of our skinfood products, The program provides training, business support and empowers women to earn and build their own skinfood retail business.

How Omaness has impacted the women’s community

Since our official launch in 2018, Omaness has continued to enrich the lives of women. As a women-driven and impact-focused skinfood company, we have been deliberate in our approach at ensuring women are active players and profit fairly in every stage of our value chain. Omaness has continued to enrich the lives of women who are part of our supply chain in Badagry, Maiduguri, Nsukka, Tede,and Akure. We are also providing employment for the women who work in our production facility and creating an opportunity for hundreds of women to earn profitably by retailing our products as Skinfood Merchants.

What I enjoy most about my job

One of the things I enjoy most about my job as a social entrepreneur is the sense of purpose and fulfillment it gives me, seeing that my work is solving a social problem and making a real difference in the lives of people, communities and the African continent!

 3 women who inspire me and why

First, would be Sara Blakely, an American female inventor, entrepreneur and founder of Spanx, a global leading shapewear and undergarment brand. I admire how she built her company from scratch into a global prominent brand now worth over $1billion. Next would be Tara Fela Durotoye, a Nigerian beauty entrepreneur and founder of House of Tara International. I admire how she pioneered the bridal makeup profession in Nigeria and a prestigious Nigerian-owned makeup line. Finally, would be Madam C.J Walker, I got to discover her story through a Netflix true life inspired series. It was so inspiring watching her story about how she created a homemade line of hair care products for Black women and her rise from poverty to becoming one of the wealthiest African American women of her time! One thing that stood out for me about her was how she built her haircare empire and financially empowered over 20,000 black women who sold her products.

 Message for young women who are trying to go into skinfood business

 There is room for more! We are yet to scratch the surface of Africa’s skinfood sector potential!

 Work-life balance

 First, I am able to manage it all because I have an amazing support system. I am blessed to have a husband who understands, supports me fully and is constantly encouraging me to succeed! As a mom of 2 daughters one of the things that have kept me grounded is the aspiration to become the woman they can look up to and I hope my career and impact as an entrepreneur play a role to help them see that they were born to make a difference!

Being a Woman of Rubies

 I am a woman who continues to use her work as an entrepreneur to serve and enrich the lives of others!​ ​This is what makes me a WOMAN OF RUBIES!

My sisters share a close bond, one that I envy. Whenever I am around them – which is not often, I feel like a stranger looking on from the outside. They speak as if in codes or parables that I do not understand.

“Wait, what? What did you say?” I would ask in the middle of the conversation, looking from one sister to the other like a lost kitten.

One of them, perhaps the older one, would repeat what she had said earlier. It could be a comment or question on something as random as a TV show or book.

“Oh, okay!” I would respond, nodding and smiling, pretending to understand.

Of course, I do not understand. I do not watch the TV shows they watch and I do not read the kind of books they read. So, all I do is nod as much as I can or smile when I think I have to.

They share jokes that are lost on me, and when they laugh long and hard, hitting each other on their shoulders, I only look on in amazement.

“What? What? Share the joke!” I would say, peeling my eyes off the TV for a moment and shifting excitedly in my seat.

The other sister, would repeat the joke, laughing heartily, but I would only stare blankly, the corner of my mouth not even twitching into a smile.

They speak the same way; I have heard that we all do. With my sisters, though, it goes beyond the voice, intonation or pronunciation. They think the same way, too; the way you would if you were raised in a largely conservative home.

One is my twin sister and the other is my big sister. Yet, it feels like they are the twins, and I am the other sister just hanging on. When I am back home with them, the sisters bond over what you would call “kitchen gist” as they cook or sit idly around the kitchen table. They say that kind of gist is the sweetest, but I have no idea, as I am not there to share in the gist.

I am not sure how it makes me feel. Maybe sad, alone, or dejected. But mostly, I feel like the odd one out.

Is being the odd one out such a bad thing?

“No, it is not a bad thing. You are not a bad person for being the odd one out. The fact that you are a good person could be the reason you are the odd one out. So, no, it isn’t a bad thing,” Adetoun, a Lagos-based nutritionist, insists.

If being the odd one out is not such a bad thing, why does it sound like the worst thing that could happen to someone and why do people feel hurt about it? I’ll admit that I have felt like the odd one out around my sisters for the longest time and it has always made me feel bad. It just hurts to be that one person that is different from her sisters and cannot talk to them the same way they talk to each other.

“I guess you can say that there is a feeling of being left out that comes with being the odd one out. And just because the word “odd” sounds like a bad thing, it makes people think of it as something negative,” the nutritionist explains.

I have also thought about how being the odd one out in a group is not unconnected with odd numbers. If you think about it, you will observe that even numbers can even themselves out while odd numbers cannot. What I mean is, when there are three siblings or friends or roommates, two will be closer, no matter how close all three are. The two will share secrets that they probably will not share with the third. They will connect on a level that they might not connect on with the third. These two leave the third one out without even knowing it.

“I have two best friends. I’ll call them A and B. The three of us hang out almost all the time. When I want to talk about boys or rant about my relationship woes, I know better to call A than to call B. When I want to talk about work and work-related matters, I would much rather call B. But because I tend to talk more about my relationship woes, I am closer to A than B,” Adetoun says, in a sense buttressing my point.

In a group of even numbers – let’s say four, for instance, the situation is different. Each pair can be closer than the other pair without anyone feeling odd or left out. Now, I might be wrong, and it is not always the case, but this is often how it happens. It is the same way it happens in movies, sitcoms and TV shows. In the sitcom, ‘Friends’, you cannot help but notice that while all six are close, Joey and Phoebe are closer than the other four, Monica and Chandler are closer than the other two, and that leaves Ross and Rachel to be the couple – at least, for the most part of the show.

Do you perhaps find yourself in a group where you are the odd one out – whether it is a group of odd or even numbers? Do you feel like the odd one out, not just among friends or siblings, but in a work setting or environment, at gatherings, events, church, or some other space? How does it make you feel? Find honest advice from real people on how to deal with being the odd one out here.

Don’t see it as a bad thing – “Being the odd one out isn’t a bad thing. It just means that you are different, and different is okay.” – Nene. 31.   

It might actually be a good thing – “What if you are the odd one out because you are the one who does not gossip, the one who minds her business, the one who works the hardest? Tsk! Don’t sweat it, child. That is a good thing. Keep at it.” – Chioma. 36.

Stop trying to fit in – “Well, because you cannot; that’s why you should not even try. If you could fit in, you would have without even trying.” – Omotoke. 24.

Don’t let your uniqueness scare you – “You have your idiosyncrasies, just as everybody has theirs. But don’t let this scare you. You cannot fit into every group you find yourself in.”  – OJ. 33.

You might not be the odd one out – “It is probably just all in your head. You’re imagining or overthinking things. Either way, do you and you’re good.”  – Kolade. 44.

 

 

 

Titilayo Olurin is a writer whose stories and articles have been published on various online platforms. A love junkie, as she often describes herself, she is on radio every week talking about relationships, dating and family. She spends most of her time curating and creating content around these same topics on her Instagram page @toastlinewithteetee. You can connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @titilayo_olurin.

 

 

Adefunke ​Oluremi ​Adewumi is a goal getter and a force to reckon with. She is committed to supporting indigent communities, providing shelter for homeless victims of domestic violence , and empowering widows and single mums across the nation, through her non-governmental organisation, Black Diamonds Support Foundation (BDSF).

Adefunke’s popularity increased with her annual outreach tagged ‘PROJECT 5000’ – An event which comes up every year, on the 26th of December, and brings together a minimum of 5000 indigent children from various slums across the state, and they are given free medical attention, free back-to-school packs, food, clothing, and a Christmas party.​ ​Her passion for seeing both children and adults live to their full capabilities and for women to thrive, birthed her creating the ‘ UNMASKED – Her Truth’ event, which allows women to be free, and be themselves, without the fear of being judged or condemned.

The Alumni of the University of Ado-Ekiti and Master of Arts in International relations and strategic studies​ from Benue state University​ is also the CEO of The Food Sense Shop- A business that boasts of selling a variety of African items across the world.

 

​Defunke is a passionate ​Gender-based Violence advocate​ ​who has continuously used her platforms to advocate and support victims of domestic violence, rape , child abuse and molestation​. and lend her voice to voiceless single mums in the society​​. She is committed to adding value to humanity and living intentionally.

She ​shares her inspiring ​journey ​with ​Esther Ijewere​ in this interview.

Childhood Influence

I was born into a family filled with love and independence, my was my first role model , she was a skillful entrepreneur and counsel head  . My mother was a perfectionist, and she could multitask diligently. She was a major mentor in what I’ve grown to become today. My house was always occupied by total strangers, homeless and orphaned children, widows and impoverished women and men because my mother was a philanthropist to the core. She embraces everyone and would even prefer to give her last drop of water to a thirsty stranger than for her to drink it.

I would say the life she lived molded me into what I do now , going over the edge to get things done and being able to spearhead multiple things at a time from my childhood .

Inspiration behind Black Diamonds​ ​​Support ​ Foundation​ (BDSF)​

My mother’s legacy is the inspiration behind Black Diamonds Support Foundation, she was a lover of children , women , widows , orphans and the homeless. After she passed on to glory there were lots of people who depended on her for survival and I could not sit by and watch her legacy die.

Why I bring 5000 indigent children together for my annual project

Yes I do that to put smiles on the faces of these underserved children in mostly neglected communities. We have been running it for years. Unfortunately, ​It couldn’t ​​hold in  2021 due to the covid 19 safety guides , instead we did project 5000 food boxes , we supplied 5000 families with raw food items that is enough to last for the festive period ( rice , noodles , spaghetti, semo, oil, garri, yam flour , pepper and tomato pastes) we also supported children with back to school items like bags and books.

Motivation behind​ my foo​d items brand​; ​ “Food sense​ shop​”

The Food Sense Shop was born out of my love for healthy foods, I appreciate nature alot and it had always been my dream to own my own raw food brand where I can change the common use of additives and chemical preservatives in our food items. Majority of the sickness out there is as a result of unhealthy foods and drinks we take in. To cause a change in getting local foods without preservation, led me to start the food sense shop.

My passion and drive for issues that affect women and children, such as rape, domestic violence and molestation, and we can get the society involved

I have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assaults, child discrimination and abuse. This has been a drive for me to rescue as many as I can and my late mum for women and children when she was alive had been a force to do more than she had done. The helplessness of vulnerable women and children are heartbreaking, they can be traumatizing. I can’t just keep quiet when I know there is something I can do in my little way to help people. I can identify with them, I’ve been in their shoes, their hurts and abuse and hunger is like mine. We have gone to slums across the country to do our bits and we hope they pass it on too.

Challenges as an entrepreneur and stakeholder in the GBV sector

The economic meltdown is a major challenge for an entrepreneur like me, the prices of raw materials have skyrocketed by over a 100% and this kills business by paralyzing the demand curve. Despite being in the business of locally harvested crops. As a GBV Survivor and advocate, the laid-back attitude, insensitivity of our people, the cultural patriarchal communal living system, impunity, lack of funds and emotional trauma we face is extreme these days. Forget all the paperwork and policies. We are still far behind in getting it right as a country in the area of prompt sensitivity to GBV.

other projects and activities

Unmasked hertruth: A women group we created to intentionally be Deliberate to be better as women in all ramifications. A healing, learning and networking hub for women 16+.

We are also  trying to raise funds for our humanitarian projects this year and extend our Humanitarian Services to more zones in Nigeria, and expand food sense shop in a global model as the number one choice for African (Nigeria) locally foods suppliers.

3 women who inspire ​me​ and why

My late Mum: She was a phenomenal legend. A giver per excellence. Philanthropist to the core who goes all out of her way to ensure women and children in her community do well. She is a lover of Humanity, she works for others to be happy

Tobore​ Anne Emorhokpor​: She is ​the ​drive for the majority of our projects and goes all out to ensure our humanitarian projects do not go unaccomplished. Our coming together had helped us to achieve so many feats because she is selfless and committed to ensure women and children are not helpless in her own way.

Ellen DeGeneres: Her heart of giving is second to none and she is non judgemental and love everyone no matter who they are and help as many as she can help, without thinking of who or what they are

My perception of marriage as it relates to the  Nigerian society

To me marriage is a union of togetherness and when I say ‘togetherness’ , it is in the entirety of its sense , in all aspects of the union .  I am not a believer of the average Nigerian mentality that most couples practice, you’re married and you can both do what you like in the way that pleases either of you, a union should be about support, communication, motivation, growth , loyalty, commitment and a foundation built on God.

Stigmatization of single mums 

​There is so much stigmatization, Cultural setbacks and society victimizing single mums. There is so much to be done, but if single mums can give support to each other,dignifying their option of taking the bold steps of living for their kids despite societal judgmental insensitive patriarchal approach to them, they will rise above all the odds that is a daily factor to limit them from their goals in life. I will also want single mums to stop the pity party victimization of themselves. Being a single mum is not a disability. Be dignified

Being a  Woman of Rubies, mom, entrepreneur, women’s advocate, and support system to many, and managing it all

I take each day as it come​,​ as I know that each of these roles must not fail. So I do well in planning, delegating duties to others.

Funke Adeoye, a public interest lawyer who’s the founder and executive director of Hope Behind Bars Africa, a community of volunteers building a social profit organisation committed to restoring justice, dignity and hope to the lives of women and men living behind bars with particular emphasis on indigents, women and young inmates.

Funke‘s goal is simple: to promote the development of effective and sustainable interventions for increasing access to justice, human rights and reducing a cycle of recidivism/re-offending among women and juvenile offenders housed in correctional facilities in Africa.

Funke decided to become a lawyer because she wanted people, especially the underserved, to access justice. While writing her thesis on prison reforms in Nigeria, she decided to do something about the problems she discovered – so many people in prisons are poor and they can’t afford legal representation; then there’s the issue of lack of information. This idea became more concrete when she volunteered with an NGO and visited prisons.

After she spoke to lawyers about the situation of things, they told her they want to act, but they needed a platform, and she decided to create one.

Today, with headquarters in Abuja, the organisation works with volunteers in Abia, Niger and Nasarawa states in Nigeria.

Since founding the non-profit in May 2018, Hope Behind Bars Africa has represented well over 50 indigent awaiting trial inmates in criminal and human rights cases in Abuja, Niger and Abia states, many of whom should never have been in prison in the first place.

The non-profit’s welfare interventions have reached over 1000 inmates at Suleja and Keffi Prison. It is advocating and working towards the emergence of a humane and secure correctional system where justice is easily accessible to indigents and people who find themselves behind bars are corrected and empowered to prevent re-offending.

Funke is a 2019 Accountapreneur with Accountability Lab and a Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide Makwanyane Institute Fellow.

We celebrate Funke for being a voice for the voiceless and for leading a change in the Nigerian correctional system.

Karen Uhlenbeck, a mathematician and a professor at the University of Texas, emerged as the first woman in the world to win a Nobel prize in mathematics. The Abel Prize, modeled by the Nobel Prize and awarded by the King of Norway to honor mathematicians who have made impact in their field, began in 2003 and since inception has only been awarded to men.

However, Uhlenbeck who is known for “the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics” changed that. The award comes with a cash prize of about N253 million and a recognition as a giant in the world of mathematics. Uhlenbeck is renowned for her work in geometric partial differential equations as well as integrable systems and gauge theory, Gucmakale reports. It was gathered that one of her most famous contributions were on pioneering the field of geometric analysis in which she created theories of predictive mathematics. Among her colleagues, Dr. Uhlenbeck is renowned for her work in geometric partial differential equations. Photo: UGC. Source: UGC

The minister was recognised for how he initiated a reconciliation process between his country and its long time enemy, Eritrea. According to the prize’s committee, it gave the award to Ahmed to encourage its peace-making effort even though there are still many things to be done.

According to the prize’s committee, it gave the award to Ahmed to encourage its peace-making effort even though there are still many things to be done.

Healthcare is an integral part of any society and getting it right in that sector should be paramount. One of the most important part of any discipline, healthcare inclusive, is information. The more people know, the more they can do.

Farida Kabir is a health technology expert, an advocate for women and girls in STEM who’s also passionate about good governance and strong institutions.

Farida is a public health scientist, software developer, and UI/UX designer. She’s the founder of OTRAC, a healthcare Learning Management System (H-LMS) that provides cloud based medical contents to vary array of medical practitioners.

Through OTRAC, Farida provides “tailored trainings/courses for public and general health practitioners with a vision to build a learning platform that supports continuous development of all health practitioners, and enhance their capacity and knowledge for effective service delivery.”

OTRAC, founded in 2017, currently has over 8,000 subscribers, 27 courses, and 32 facilitators in its platform.

She’s an ICT advisor for Department For International Development (DFID)’s Partnership to Engage, Reform, and Learn (PERL) programme which “links governments and citizen groups to collectively address governance challenges for improved service delivery”. She’s an ambassador for Google Women Techmakers, Abuja and co-organizer for Google Developer Group, Abuja.

She also consults for Reboot, an organisation working with change agents in government, civil society, and philanthropy to achieve their social missions.

She also contributes her skills working at Mentally Aware Nigerian Initiative (MANI), a mental health awareness platform tackling the stigma associated with mental illness.

Farida, a graduate of Zoology from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, is one of 100 women named in Leading Ladies Africa (LLA)’s 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria list for 2019.

We celebrate Farida for devoting her skills to assisting developmental initiatives and solving social problems.

 

When a Pharmacist  has a burning passion for women and children,  committed to giving hope to the hopeless, and lending her voice to the voiceless, she deserves to be celebrated. Tobore reflects what humanity should look like.

Tobore Anne Emorhokpor is the founder of Nigerian Child Protection Trust and the convener of the End Child Sexual Group. She is a leading voice in the women and child development sector.

The Cardiff University Alumni also did a virtual leadership principles course at Harvard Business school. Tobore is driven by personal development and self-improvement, and she  has emerged as a credible voice armed with a passion for getting justice for the oppressed. She loves to go beyond people’s expectations and delight them.

She is renowned for her unique style of blended mentoring, empathy and speaking up for the oppressed through her various social media channels. Her inspirational leadership, empathy and benevolence makes it easy for women and children to have a connection with her. She wants a Nigeria where women are empowered to look after themselves and their children.

She detests children being used and abused for child labour and wants a great reduction in sexual abuse and rape of women and minors. The testament to her impact is the media mentions she has gotten for her humanitarian work and her Right Livelihood Award for outstanding role in reducing hunger, inequality and improving sustainability.  Tobore is happily married with kids. She shares her inspiring story in this interview exclusively with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

Growing up, I witnessed the effects of abuse and cheating around me. Domestic abuse has a negative impact on children. That is why I get really upset when women say they stay for the sake of their children. This is a myth not reality. They stay for themselves because the children suffer more in such situations. Your children cannot be happy if you are not happy. I love children dearly. I am passionate about children. I love carrying babies and playing with children. They make me so happy. I remember one time our driver beat up his 3-year-old son badly. I was so enraged. I asked my Father to deal with him. I knew I had to fight for these children that could not fight for themselves.

Inspiration behind my organisation; Nigerian child protection trust and End child sexual group

 I was coming across a lot of sad posts on Facebook about children being defiled and nothing being done about it. I eventually decided to do something. I wasn’t sure how or what I was going to do as I currently live in the UK, but I wanted to start with what I had, so I started a group on Facebook. I asked friends if they would like to join, and they did. That is how we started ‘End child sexual abuse in Nigeria’. I would post stories of cases, some educational posts on how to protect your child and other requests for help. I also used my personal wall to ask for help. I then decided that I could act as a signpost for people. Wherever there is a problem in Nigeria, I will find the closest Human rights officer, NGO, or Government Organisation to help. I was not going to change the world and make as much change as I could. I wanted to become the voice for these children.

Being a Pharmacist by profession, and the impact on my advocacy for women and children

I started off as a pharmacist and practised in the UK and Nigeria, then I decided to branch into Human Resources. I currently work as a Workforce Planning Lead. I enjoy planning and putting in processes. This helps me in how I deal with the cases that I work on. I speak with each person to find out what they currently do, how they got into the situation they are in, and how they can get out. It’s not a pity party but a way to plan their way out of their problems. I feel very proud when women I have helped turn around and help others up. I am very proud of the women I have helped.

The journey since I started my Organisation

The journey has been tough but very rewarding. When women come to me for help, I would ask what they can do and try to start up small businesses for them so they can be self-sufficient. Some people just want someone to talk to. I spend time chatting with them to understand the situation and give the best advice I can. I am so happy with what we have achieved together in such a short time. I didn’t know what I would really be doing but my social media pages have brought succour to many and I thank God for that.

The spike in cases of domestic violence and rape since the beginning of the pandemic

In the past, abusers would go to work or to school and leave the home environment and return at the end of the day. Due to the lockdown, there was no room for escape. Emotions were heightened. People lost jobs and hardship increased. This added stress to an already burning pot and resulted in a huge increase in the number of cases of violence. Poverty breeds ignorance.

Challenges of being a women’s advocate 

The people I am trying to help sometimes lie and try to scam me. One of these women showed me a prescription and lied that she needed to buy the medications on it for 3 weeks for her baby. Unfortunately for her, I know how to read a prescription and I told her no Doctor would tell her to do that. She started stuttering and saying it’s the hospital. I was scammed by another lady who got people to act and do videos requesting help as a trick to get money from me and other unsuspecting kind-hearted people.

We also have the Police who sometimes take bribes and let culprits go. We then have to use social media to call them out to get them to do the right thing. Victims and their families are sometimes scared about reporting crimes and refuse for us to help them seek justice when they have been harmed or wronged. I have had a few cases where people tell me about situations of abuse then grow cold feet and refuse to go further. No matter how I try to encourage them to tell the truth and speak out, fear of being known as the whistle blower does not allow them to help victims. There is a man who lures boys with gifts and passes them about in a paedophile ring. The sister of one of the boys approached me for help then later recanted because her parents told her to ‘leave it to God’. Another person contacted me about a school in Lagos where the Principal rapes young girls in his care but then refused to give me proof when they realised the school might be involved in the case.

Other projects and activities

When covid first struck, there were a lot of families that were left without any food and money. The first post I made was to ask ‘who has 5k to spare for a family in need’. People responded and I paired givers with recipients. Others saw what I was doing, and the finances poured in. We bought bags of rice and shared them out to people in Warri, Port Harcourt and Ilorin. I used my Facebook wall to raise money to pay rent, start up small businesses for the women so they can renew the next year’s rent. We paid for surgeries, medicines, school fees and everything else in between. I have posted job adverts so people can get jobs and a few kind people have offered free sewing courses and other types of training for people on my wall for free or for a little sum. We paid for a few caesarean sections and have helped pay the bills for women who have ended up as hostages in hospitals as they were unable to pay their huge medical bills. I remember when I was called about a woman whose baby had died inside her and was rotting and there was no money to pay a deposit to do the emergency c-section. I put it on my wall and within half an hour we had raised the deposit to start the surgery. We ended up raising over 500,000 Naira for her medical treatment which lasted a while.

 What I enjoy about my job

I enjoy helping people. That is what makes me happy. I like seeing everyone around me happy and smiling. In every job I have done, that is what has kept me satisfied and motivated.

3 women who inspire me and why

First, my Mum; She has worked hard and tirelessly to give us a good life. She is the most hard working and innovative woman I know. She is dogged and never gives up.

Defunke Adewumi – She has a heart for women and children. I saw the love, care and humility in her post and knew I must be her friend. She has supported me in many ways and continues to be a beacon for women and children in Nigeria.

Michelle Obama – A Queen!

The Nigerian Government and it’s support for the Gender Based Violence sector

So far, I have seen that Lagos state has taken the fight against rape seriously. I believe all other states need to follow suit. There should be special Police Officers trained on how to handle such cases and special courts to fast track such cases through. There needs to be adequate shelters to house victims and survivors. There should also be programmes put together to help them recover psychologically and help them start up business or get jobs and reintegrate into society. All states need to adopt the Child Rights Act and make sure children are protected from exploitation either sexually or via labour. Every child has a right to good education and a good life free from abuse.

Work life balance

It is quite difficult, and I have to keep reminding myself I cannot do it all. The requests for help are more than I can handle, and each one rips through the heart chords. It is especially sad for me each time I turn some people away, but I have to do so. I try to get some time to myself, and I also work on spending lots of time with my children. They are quite young and need a lot of my time right now. I try to maintain a good balance.

One thing I wish I could change in the Gender Based Violence Sector  

There needs to be a budget to support women and children who are victims of all forms of abuse. Shelters should be built to house them while working on helping them to integrate back into society. Children who are found to be child labourers in homes, can be taken away and given better lives rather than waiting for them to be abused and degraded by their mean bosses. Their only crime is being born into poverty.

Receiving the right livelihood award in 2021 for reducing hunger

I was excited and grateful for being recognised. The work is done out of love, but it is nice to know my peers see it as something commendable.

Being  a woman of Rubies

I am a woman using my abilities to help make a change and impact the world around me.

Olaniregun Ayodele is the CEO of   STUNGBYBEAUTY, a Nigerian based business focused on selling quality shoes, bags and other beauty items. The LAUTECH graduate share some lessons she’s learnt from being an online vendor and how she has continuously scale up, despite the challenges.

Meet Ayo

I am a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) .  Though I had the vision to become an entrepreneur. I have worked customer service executive for a short period of time. I also went through training as a call  center agent for one of the telecommunications company in Nigeria before I finally decided to pursue my dream as an entrepreneur in the year 2016. I started off as a makeup artist, selling makeup products, jewelleries and underwear.  But i had the desire for more so I decided to try out some other business, so I decided to go into fashion (shoes,bags,clothing and lots more)

The journey so far

Since I started in 2018, the business has made tremendous progress even though it has not been smooth sailing all the way, we have survived against all odds. We have  grown our customer based by satisfying our old customers and referrals from both our customers and well meaning friends of the business (social media influencers, friends and well wishers)
Challenges 
 The business has faced some challenges over the years, for instance;
– we have had our Instagram account taken down
– difficulty gaining customers trust due to lots of scammers on social media platforms especially for business that is predominantly online
-putting up with difficult customers for example use of fake transaction alert to buy product from our store
-and some challenges we face everyday like difficult dispatch riders, customers not picking up calls even when expecting delivery and the likes
Staying positive
 Despite all the challenges businesses face in Nigeria, I will say there is still great potential for entrepreneurs in the business atmosphere in Nigeria. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to feature in your article. It’s an honor well appreciated.
Connect with Ayo
Instagram handle – @stung_by_beauty
Twitter- @stungbybeauty
Tiktok- @stungbybeauty
Business line – 08065071914

Many singles  are seeking true love, love that is pure, safe and whole. Love that allows them to connect to their highest self, because they know that true love doesn’t need to be perfect, It just has to be true. Dating apps are fast becoming the “one stop centre” and go-to places to find companionship these days.

However, there is a more direct way to connect with your life partner, one that avails you the opportunity to have first hand information on your love interest, with zero stress. Chiddie Anyasodo and her husband Ben, are making this possible through their matchmaking platform “Chotayah”.

Chiddie’s career path evolved from engineering into full entrepreneurship over the years. She has worked in different phases of the Upstream Oil and Gas industry – initially as an International Mobile Field Engineer with Schlumberger, working in different countries. She also worked as Business Development Manager, she then joined another company as the Global Vice President for Commercial, before moving on to build her own businesses. The Electrical / Electronic Engineering graduate has been described as an eclectic love for developing ideas.

She is the other half of Chotayah, a high-end executive Matchmaking service for professional Africans all over the world. Chiddie and Ben have helped many African singles discover and route out the obstacles preventing them from being in a healthy relationship. Through Chotayah , they are transforming how the most elite African entrepreneurs and high networth individuals on the planet connect with their dream partners.

The amazing mom of 2,, Relationship Coah, and Professional Matchmaker shares her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive interview.

 Childhood Influence

 Well, thinking about this, I saw my mom find wives for my uncles and I found it fascinating. I also set up friends and family for fun. I grew up in Owerri, a beautiful city in Eastern Nigeria. I am the first child and only daughter of my parents. I have 3 younger brothers. I have always been very independent, ambitious and strong-willed since I was a child. I was also a voracious reader. I was called a tomboy. I grew up shielded by my parents. I studied Electrical Engineering in the University. However, what really prepared me for this was my early 20’s when I started dating, I had so many bad experiences and I had no one really to guide me. Such topics were a taboo in my house. My mom was very prim and proper and you do not discuss boys and love. If a man admires you, he is expected to come and meet my parents and ask for my hand in my marriage. The times I tried to tell her I was in a relationship, she got very upset, told me it was disgraceful and sinful. It was also ironic that the same mom who didn’t think I should be in the same room with a man was also going to church and prayer houses, sowing seeds and praying for me to get married. lol

Inspiration behind Chotayah

Both hubby and I had challenges in finding the right person. There were so many myths about love and relationships which we practised then separately but were all wrong.  On my side, my dating experience was quite sad and filled with heartbreaks after heartbreaks.  My genotype was an issue. And for some people the fact that my mom died of cancer scared them away.

I got rejected many times with excuses like – you earn too much – a woman shouldn’t earn more than a man. You are too boyish, too ambitious. Your job exposes you and makes you travel too much and you won’t make a good wife. A successful woman will never respect a man. At one point, I was told by some pastors and relatives that I had a spiritual problem. You can imagine. After praying so much and the cycle kept repeating, I decided to try alternative methods. First, I tried to use some Western dating sites like E-harmony and Match.com but they always rejected my application as I was Nigerian. I also tried to hire a matchmaker in the USA then, but she didn’t work with people outside the USA. So, I decided to go on my own. That experience made me start reading and exploring what makes relationships work. I also got a relationship coach, started studying serial men and women who always seemed to have lots of attention from their love interest. I took everything I learnt and crafted my own strategy to find my man. It took me about 8/9 months to find my man and no more heart breaks. My friends who knew about all my negative experiences started using the same formula and it worked for them. And everyday, I see so many people like me going through the same challenges that I went through. Successful high-flying people who have succeeded everywhere but seem they are not able to succeed in the love department. I then decided to go study Matchmaking in the UK and Relationship Coaching in New York. My husband is a Behavioral Change Expert & Therapist. We decided to join our passion and expertise to give birth to Chotayah.

Leaving engineering for Entrepreneurship

I think it’s genetic LOL. My grandfather was a successful businessman – he sold palm oil to the Portuguese and imported – canons, tea sets, and textiles. My grandma was a textile wholesaler in Onitsha. She also came from a family of businessmen and women.  My Dad is a doctor who owns his own hospital. I grew up seeing all these and hearing their stories, I guess that influenced me. I started my first business in SS1 (at 14yr) selling earrings to my classmates in the boarding house. I just did it for fun to see my money multiply.

How the matchmaking process on Chotayah works

We use a scientific process; psychology and tech, we always put into consideration their traditional African culture which is unique to everyone that comes to us as you know African culture is rich and diverse. Finally we use our intuition. When a client contacts us that he is seeking a spouse. We then have a 1- 2 hours session to know his relationship history and background to understand him properly and come up with the best Strategy that will give him results. It’s also in this session that we can figure out if he is a good fit for us, we are not able to help everyone unfortunately. We do a bit of background checks and if everything comes out fine, we then take him on as a client. Our matchmaking always goes with Relationship Coaching and Behavioural Therapy. We first work on him/her as a person to find out what is stopping this person from finding love – is it just that he is too busy, not positioned properly or is it something from the inside? We remove those blockers  and help him develop a unique  personal plan for him/her… And we go searching . As we search, we do a lot of  data analysis using proven scientist methods combined with emotional intelligence to see if they are a match. We then go through every match with our client till we both agree on The ONE. We coach them, guide and provide emotional support while dating and sometimes till they get married.  Some still come back after marriage and we keep helping them navigate early married life.

 

What kind of person will hire a Matchmaker

Matchmaking is not for everyone. The most common being they are very busy: they are highly selective and have certain criteria they are not able to find ordinarily around them; they love their privacy – many of clients do not even have a social media account. Some are highly placed people in the society or very busy highflying professionals who want to protect their confidentiality. They come to us because they need an expert to handle their dating life. They are the sort of people who will hire a personal trainer, personal stylist and personal chef. They always want bespoke and personalised services with someone they can trust to deliver excellence while being extremely discrete. Some have tried so many times to find love, gotten disappointed several times and then decided to use us. We love the diversity of our clients. We have people from 28 to 70+ years old. While we cater to a mainly african niche, we also get requests from people of other races who want to marry africans. When it comes to the kind of thing they do, we get approached by them – The Top CEOs, Royalty, Politician, Sport Stars, Celebrities,highly Celebrated and sought after Professions – We have people in Research, Oil & Gas, Tech CEOs, Specialist Medical doctors. These people are usually the best of the best in their fields but seem to have a challenge finding love. One thing they all say is that they are busy .. Most ambitious professionals don’t have the time or resources to commit to finding the kind of person that they want but the Chotayah team  does . This I understand as I have been their shoes

Challenges of being a Matchmaker

Trying to find if a person is being honest and truthful about whom they claim to be. And depending on the client, this costs a lot of money as we work  the best hands in background checks and they don’t come cheap. In the beginning, We have met all types of people and you know human management isn’t so smooth LOL… The journey taking people from the life they are used to a new transformed life that will enhance them for success was challenging in the beginning as humans will usually reject change, but with time, I devised means to make the transformation process easier for them.

What I enjoy most about my job

My greatest joy has been helping people who felt their case was hopeless find happiness. I love seeing people transform and become better versions of themselves.

 3 women who inspire me and why

 My mum, she was a very peaceful person who loved helping people and seeing them succeed. Her influence made me develop the kind of mindset I have towards helping others. Oprah Winfrey – She is iconic . I admire her doggedness in accomplishing her dreams and also helping others do the same. I love Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico – She is showing how a woman can be powerful, successful and balance family life.

On If people understand the meaning of true love

I think many people confuse Infatuation for Love.. Infatuation usually happens earlier on in the relationship is driven by strong emotions. That period when you have all those hormones running through your head and colouring everything you see about the other person. You have those intense feelings, the butterflies, you only want to be with them 247 neglecting every other thing in your life, and they can do no wrong.The good thing is that infatuation doesn’t last and if you are patient, the hormones will stabilize, and you can then see if you truly love this person and they love you back – which is True Love. Emotions are not enough to keep a relationship for the long term. On the other hand, True Love is more stable, more like deep friendship -where you have seen each other’s negative and positive sides and truly decide to stay together in mutual respect and deep admiration of each other. True love always has good intentions, is trusting, honest, accessible, responsive, loyal, consistent, and always growing. And you can always feel some of the passionate feelings characteristic of infatuation in a true love relation but its healthier and infatuation will always wear off. Expert psychologists say it can take 2-3 years to wear off.

My work-life balance routine and support system

My husband is my support system. He is highly organized and helps me organize my projects. Most times when I am down, he takes up the wheel 100%. When it comes to everyday work, I also delegate a lot.

If I could change one thing in the matchmaking and dating world

 I will change the process and mindset. I feel its shouldn’t be first about connecting people but about them finding real, healthy, lasting love. Focus should be more on people having the right mindset for love, understanding how to have a happy and fulfilling relationship. If all businesses put this first, then they will change their business models.

To the woman who has given up on love

 I will ask her why. Is she giving up because she has a new vision and direction for her life and she genuinely thinks that a loving relationship isn’t what she wants? If yes, that’s fine and I wish her Goodluck Or is she giving up because of endless disappointments? If yes, then she has to examine herself to know why the kind of love she wants isn’t coming. And NO, it’s not because all men are bad or that all the good men are taken. They are there. And she can definitely find and attract them, if she can change her mindset and strategy. 

Matchmaking nuggets, and red flags

Matchmaking: Always be clear on what you want in a relationship. Make sure you are willing to give your best to the person you are seeking to love. Be open-minded and positive. Red flags: Always listen to your intuition, if it says something isn’t right, investigate it.

Being a woman of Rubies

 I am a very compassionate person who loves people and loves to see them succeed. I believe in using my talent, knowledge, and time to empower people around me so that they can improve their lives.

I’ve activated my ‘recruiter super-powers’ and collated some red flags you can look out for to spot a fake job advert, so that you don’t even bother applying.It’s no news that there is a high rate of unemployment in Nigeria, which has resulted in people looking for creative ways to defraud Nigerians. Companies involved with multi-level marketing like GNLD, Neo-Life, etc. now create ‘job vacancies’ just to bring people together to ask them to pay a fee to join their distribution network.

This is a scam, because it lures people into applying for a role that doesn’t exist. If the intention was clearly stated in the job advert, then it won’t be a scam. Some adverts out there are worse, especially those pushed out by kidnappers, corporate robbers, and fraudulent people. Therefore, young graduates need to be more careful when sending out CVs that contain personal details like ‘home address’.

I’ve activated my ‘recruiter super-powers’ and collated some red flags you can look out for to spot a fake job advert, so that you don’t even bother applying.

No website or online presence
If all the results that come out on Google are random job adverts on job boards with no website where you can read more, it’s likely to be fake. Any serious company will have an online presence like Google My Business, VConnect, or any other verified website – even if they cannot afford a good website. I advise that you search for what others are saying on Nairaland, because as scammers rebrand, someone comes to Nairaland to update others.

No experience required
Some genuine job posts do not require any experience, but when you see a job that offers lots of juicy packages that ideally fit a senior role, and does not require any experience, then it is a sign that they are not genuine. Do your research very well! If they don’t have a functioning website, then how do you expect them to meet up with all that was stated?

Unprofessional E-mail address
A company that can afford a website will most likely use an official email for recruitment. What I mean is that their email address usually ends with ‘@(the name of the company.com (or the domain address)’. So if you see an email address that says recruitment@careerlife.com.ng, their website would most likely be careerlife.com.ng. I know of genuine recruiters that use Gmail to collate CV’s, google them first! See if they have posted adverts with the email and what people have said. Any serious recruiter won’t use funny email addresses like sexyrecruiter15567@yahoo.com.

Your results don’t add up
Sometimes, I see some fishy job adverts and after searching it, the email address provided is not related to what’s on the company’s job site. E.g., if it includes someone’s name attached to the email, check the person out on LinkedIn to see if the person really works there. I see a lot of Shell and Chevron vacancies being shared on Whatsapp. It is important to note that these companies don’t even use email addresses for their vacancies. Even if they do, the email address provided isn’t the same template with what they really use, so that’s a big red flag.

The job description is sloppy
When you see a job advert that barely contains proper information about a role or the job title is entirely different from the job description or there are a lot of grammatical errors, this should deter you from applying. Be very wary of those adverts from big multinationals that are poorly written. Most times, they are not from the recruitment team. Structured companies have a good HR Team with quality checks in place.