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Esther Ijewere

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Born Joy Eseoghene Odiete J’odie Is a soulful vocalist with an exceptional ability to communicate her deepest emotions and perceptions using very simple, yet symbolic words. Her style borders on soft, mid- tempo, colored with string instruments that give her sound an overall sweet and soulful appeal.

Joy Odiete J’odie was born into a Christain home – her father being a pastor,naturally skewed her towards church music.  J’odie came into the limelight after her participation in the maiden edition of the West African Idols competition and came top 10 alongside Nigerian musicians such as Timi Dakolo and Omawumi in 2007. She released her first debut single Kuchi Kuchi (Oh baby) in 2007, which grew to be a hit song, as both young and old, within and beyond the African continent came to know the song as an anthem in both family and romantic gatherings.

Joy Eseoghene Odiete J'odie
Jodie

J’odie toured countries such as The Gambia, serenading African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO) Conference, South Africa where she also shot one of her music videos “Sugar Coconut” Sierra Leone and Liberia among others. She took a break from music to cater to her special needs child, and has since become an advocate for parents with similar lived experience.

Joy Odiete J’odie went viral recently when she shared her story online and asked Nigerians to support her . The songstress shares her inspiring story with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive interview.

Childhood Influence

If you mean what I do in the musical part of my life, I’d say a big “Yes!” I sang almost everyday, because I grew up a pastor’s kid, and we all (nuclear and some extended) have the musical talent in my family. In the area of advocacy, which was born out of my becoming a mother to a special-needs kid, I would say “No!”

My passion for music

It felt like the natural course of nature for me, though I never knew I could choose to make it an actual profession, because of my religious background. However, after many years of being stuck in the triangular routine of home-church-school, I got tired and wanted something else out of life.

After my first degree in Unilag, I stumbled upon an advert on television – the West African Idols! I didn’t know there was a show as such – I wasn’t even familiar with the American Idols show prior to that advert, but it was catchy and also gave me the idea of an “escape”. I was afraid at first, as I thought my dad wouldn’t let me go for the auditions, but he, surprisingly, did.

Singing on that “bright” stage made me realise, for the first time, “I want to do this!” “I want to sing for the rest of my life!” “I want this to be my profession!” The experience also gave me the audacity to start; because, I met many faces – I only used to see on TV, in real life. It made me believe my new dream was possible. Sometimes, you already have what it takes, but it could be a huge boost to meet or interact with people you perceive to be “high-up-there” to give you the courage to try.

Read Also: I Will Give Hope To Children With Down Syndrome

Why I took a break from music

Lots and lots of reasons. But before I give any reason, every artist isn’t going to have a long professional life span. It’s really okay to go on a hiatus or retire early and change profession – if it’s best for you. Artistes are humans too and go through challenges like everyone else. In fact, the challenges could be aggravated due to public attention. Art requires time and patience among other factors.

That being said, being the mother to a special-needs kid required more of my time and so I gave it. It’s like I’ve been to a different “school” for six years and I am still learning; hence, I see life differently, compared to life prior to this phase. I dare say this special “6-year program” has made my life more meaningful and I would not change it if I were asked to relive my life again. Tough, Yes! But the depth is nourishing to the soul.

Seeking for support publicly

An accumulation of pain, anger and frustration!!! Being the parent of a special-needs kid in Nigeria is not easy – especially if you are not very wealthy in finances. In fact, I’ll be blatant: being the parent of a special-needs kid in this country is super tough. The problem is not the child. The problem is the lack of societal support. When you have a special-needs kid, especially the severe cases, you need support – no matter how tough you think you are, else you break down.

I have some support – family, but I found it difficult for six years – in spite of my support system. It’s expensive and emotionally draining.

A lot of fathers run away (few mothers do), leaving only one person to handle a task that is already overwhelming for two people. There is stigmatization – some people would call the mothers “witches” and avoid any contact with a child with special needs. It may not seem a big deal, as I say it, but it is emotionally crushing when you are being accused of something you do not even understand.

Joy Eseoghene Odiete. J'odie
Jodie and her son

The general healthcare system is poor for an average citizen: you can imagine what it feels like for families that need “special” attention – especially considering that hospitals are like a second home. The roads make it difficult for mobility – even if you could afford wheelchairs, how do you navigate? Many schools do not embrace inclusion, while the ones that do are very expensive. Feeding the child is also very expensive and a tedious physical exercise: some of them can’t even eat through their mouths.

Diapers usage, for some, are for a lifetime – yet, diaper companies celebrate only “normal-looking” babies – even though special families are their enduring customers. I took time to mention this point, just so you see that every person or organization in this country can play a positive role in order to change the narrative concerning kids with special needs. The list is long, but I’ll stop here.

I had the audacity to speak out not just because of me and my son, but because I thought about people who don’t even have any support system. It is too much pain to bear – your ability to earn is threatened or crushed, yet your bills are higher than an average citizen’s.

Inspiration behind my song “Kuchi Kuchi”

I wanted to write about love in a different light. At the time, I wasn’t romantically in any relationship with anyone, hence writing a love song, which my producer suggested, felt like a lie to me. I needed to feel and imagine it before expressing it. I, however, was able to imagine myself as a mother and what I’d think of my baby, hence the song. The term “Kuchi Kuchi” represents baby language. It’s conventionally spelt “Coochy Coo”.

Other projects and activities

I run an online shop for hair care products that are great for African hair via www.kuchikuchi.shop or @kuchihair on IG. I am very creative with my hands, hence I craft accessories on @spiceandcharm on IG.

Presently, I’m gathering knowledge on how to help other special mothers like me – I believe, for the first time, I have found my purpose. I did what I could do on a humble scale by doing giveaways for special mothers and organizing an online competition, titled #SpecialKuchi on my Facebook, Tiktok and IG platforms @JodieGreat. In this competition, special mothers dance with their special-needs kids using the new version of my debut song, titled “Kuchi Kuchi (Special Version)” – now available on online stores and platforms. The winner’s prize was N50,000, while other participants in the top 20 list got consolation cash prizes as well. This was to encourage women to openly celebrate their special-needs kids – many are ashamed, because of the stigma. I also galvanized singers to sing a theme song, titled “Special Mothers” (yet to be released) to create awareness and to celebrate families on this journey. These were made possible by donations that Nigerians, both at home and in the diaspora, made – and I’m grateful.

I’m working towards more sustainable ways to help. I think when you find yourself in certain challenges, it can open your heart to have a strong yearning to pull others out of the difficulties you have faced.

My coping mechanism as a special-needs mom

I am blessed with a supportive family, a capable nanny and a gifted doctor; hence, I’m able to focus on providing for my son’s needs. It’s still not a walk in the park, but my consolation is that his priority needs are being met.

How the industry has supported me since I called out for help

The idea behind my outburst wasn’t for people to help only “me” – it was to direct attention to the challenges of special mothers. It turned out that people started offering to help – I initially rejected it, but it became a turn off. When I eventually accepted help, I was glad I listened, because it gave me the strength to sing again; to take some rest, because my health was fragile for a long time, due to stress and trauma. It also gave me HOPE: I am truly grateful.

Having said that, this would be excellent support from the entertainment industry: to promote my songs henceforth and to give me choice platforms to showcase my talent, ensuring I am well paid. This is a form of empowerment, because I do not see myself as just the mother of Chinua, I represent countless parents who have kids like my son. My financial empowerment would positively affect the lives of many families, because I understand the pain.

How my participation in West African Idols impacted my life

I mentioned earlier that being on the West African Idols platform made me realize I could make a profession out of my musical talent. I’d like to coin it this way, “Being on the West African Idols platform helped me articulate a dream”. The “articulation” was indeed for personal clarity; because, before then, I had not defined a pathway for myself.

Joy Odiete J'odie
J’odie

What I wish to change in the Music industry

Talent should be appreciated. There’s this popular statement, “Talent is not enough”. It’s factual! However, the industry has taken it too far, creating an imbalance. Over the years, it appears talent has been relegated: it’s mostly more about connections and network.  Life’s not fair, but more value should be placed on talent too, so that we would have much more qualitative art masterpieces in the public domain.

To Special-needs mom with no support system

Don’t give up!  Years back, the topic of “special-needs” was more silent, but now we are talking about it. While talk is not the solution, it just tells us there’s a gradual mindset shift. It’s super slow, but it’s taking place. Just keep doing what you can do for now – therapy sessions, seek help from people around and be in touch with NGOs that have your challenges on their agenda… look for other special mothers like you- this is for emotional reasons.

Also, instead of focusing on magical “cures”, focus on managerial care for the affected child, this is because many people are out there, who would take advantage of your vulnerability and desperation; and extort you of money that you don’t even “have”. Accept that some of these health challenges may be for life, but with consistent managerial care (therapy, nutrition, etc), the child’s condition would likely improve, no matter how slow. But you already know this, so the challenge is to stay positive as you go on this long journey.  You’ve come all this way… don’t stop now!

The society and its reception of special-needs parents

Societies can get used to concepts through media influence – the concept of embracing special-needs kids and even adults can be artistically and gradually infused in our films, musical videos, etc. More people now embrace albinism (compared to how it used to be), because of the power of the media. I have never seen someone with vitiligo, for example, but because I’ve been seeing cases online, it feels like I’ve known people with the skin condition for a long time.

That can be replicated in this case. And I enjoin every person of influence to take a chunk off this task – we mostly don’t plan to be special parents, but one’s offspring may become a special parent and this “help” (societal acceptance, support, world-class institutions of free care facilities) I keep talking about would be life-saving to them.

Read Also: I am Teaching Parent How To Accept And Love Special Needs Kids

Also, schools need to be more inclusive – this would help youngsters grow up feeling natural around people living with special needs, and likely be more helpful adults – not just stare or stigmatize affected individuals.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I represent the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles… of the special-needs children of Nigeria. My dream is to ensure that every state in Nigeria has free world-class facilities (day or boarding), where special-needs kids can be cared for, so that special mothers can have a fighting chance in life.

Follow Joy Odiete J’odie on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to know more about her work with special needs kids.

On September 18th 2022, the first-ever Her Summit, presented by the global inspirational and lifestyle platform Her Network, brought together women from diverse sectors and levels for an interactive learning and networking experience.

Neya Kalu at Her Network Summit The theme of the first edition of Her Summit, tagged ‘The Power of Community, reverberated throughout the varied panel sessions, where a diverse set of experienced female professionals and entrepreneurs who have led admirable careers and built sustainable businesses shared their impact stories and inspired professional and career growth among attendees. Bunmi Adeniba at Her Network Summit

Each session was distinctive, touching on areas like entrepreneurship, technology, inclusion, career, gender diversity, beauty, and collaboration. One of the recurring words shared by the speakers was that constant development is always significant for better performance and confidence.

Nkem Onwudiwe (Founder, Her Network and Convener, Her Summit)
Nkem Onwudiwe (Founder, Her Network and Convener, Her Summit)

In her introduction speech, the founder of Her Network, Nkem Onwudiwe, said, “The Power of Community” was inspired by our collective belief at Her Network that, while we all understand the value of belonging to a community, a lot of people don’t realize how powerful a community can be if it is comprised of the right people with the right values, goals, and motives. Now, more than ever, women genuinely need to not just come together but also lean in and understand that no woman is an island, and we all need one another to thrive. That’s the key message I want everyone to take away from this!”

Singer and Songwriter Kaline entertained the guests with a brief music performance which left guests awed by her melodic voice. The guests also connected, networked, listened to a health and wellness conversation by Mutti, learned about Real Estate from Omalicha by Middlechase and took affirmative photos in front of the branded photo walls of affirmation.

Read Also: Kemi Lala Akindoju Joins Amazon Studios As Senior Senior Movies Creative Executive

Her Summit was hosted by multidisciplinary marketing consultant and author Izin Akioya, whose eloquence, poise and constant words of affirmation kept guests vibrant and engaged.

Her Network Summit - Guest

Guests left with multiple goody bags from Her Summit’s brand partners; premium hair extensions brand LUSH Hair Nigeria, real estate investment company Omalicha by Middlechase, and Mutti, a trusted online pharmacy. In addition to these goody bags, speakers and two lucky guests were gifted the newly launched Paco Rabanne’s FAME perfume courtesy of Glam Brand Agency.

For more information about Her Network, visit www.hernetwork.co

Chioma Ogamba  knows her onions and she is proud of it. The amazon is fast becoming one of the most sought-after Immigration consultant In Canada, with core focus on Student Visa, Business Immigration, Citizenship and Residency by Investment.

Chioma Ogamba is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kisha Immigration, a licensed Canadian immigration company located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The trusted brand was birthed out of her passion for helping people find greener pastures and sharing in their joy when their dream becomes an exciting reality. Her niche is in Student Visa, Business Immigration, Citizenship & Residency by Investment

The company began as a pro bono consultation and guidance service in 2016, before becoming a fully licensed company with an expanded reach and range of clients and services.  Kisha Immigration is affiliated to Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC), College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC) and Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants (CAPIC).

The driven amazon with an eye for innovation and excellent customer service is committed to helping her clients achieve their Canadian dream. Kisha Immigration renders services such as immigration and citizenship consulting, business immigration, citizenship and residency by investment, settlement consulting and lots more.

Read Also: Hawking At Age 10 Made Me More Determined

Chioma Ogamba  studied Applied Business Computing in the United Kingdom and graduated with First class Honors. The visionary amazon also got educated in four countries: Nigeria, Malaysia, United Kingdom, and Canada. Being an ardent believer in personal development and never-ending improvement, she immigrated to Canada as a permanent residence, then acquired degrees in Canadian Immigration Consulting, Information Technology, and an MBA (Business administration), graduating at the top of her class with a perfect CGPA of 4.0/4.0 in all three.

Her first relocation experience started when she was 18 years old and had to avoid the pangs of the ASUU strike in the Nigerian university. She gained admission to study at a UK-affiliated school in Malaysia and relocated with her immediate younger sister, whom she assisted with both her admission and student visa application.

Chioma Ogamba
Chioma Ogamba- Immigration Consultant

Accidentally, this was her first informal immigration client. Eighteen months down the line, they were awarded scholarships and transferred to the University of Sunderland to complete their first degrees. She was responsible for both the scholarship applications and the study visa applications to the UK.

A year later, she graduated with a first-class in Applied Business Computing. Due to the UK’s policy as of 2012 after graduating, she could not secure a post-graduate work permit, resulting in her going back home in Nigeria to serve and work,

Read Also: I Want Immigrant Women In Canada To Have A Voice

She then embarked on another journey to relocate to Canada as a graduate student. Fortunately, in 2016 she seized the opportunity to relocate to Canada as a permanent resident. Along the line, she fell in love, got married, even handled her husband’s application, and relocated as a family to Canada in 2018.

Since then, she has helped other family members and friends relocate with their families.

The key highlight for her was helping her youngest sister to immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident in 2021 and helping her husband join her in less than a year. Kisha connotes great Joy and that is why Chioma essentially is delighted in witnessing people’s lives change entirely for the best. Their lives gets transformed in a way that generations will be inspired by her actions to become a licensed Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).

Follow Kisha Immigration to know more about Chioma’s work.

On Saturday the 17th of September 2022, Safe Space Initiative held the 6th edition of the Tehila event themed ‘The Power of Self Discovery (losing self to find self)’.

Tehila is a support group therapy event for survivors of sexual and gender based violence that supports their physical, mental, social, and financial wellbeing. The event laid host to women who have experienced domestic violence, rape, incest, and single parents. A strictly women event this edition of Tehila held as a hybrid event, with two locations simultaneously – Lagos and Abuja while participants also joined online via zoom.

Read Also:  I Created Herfessions App For Women Who Want To Flee Abusive Relationships

On hand were amazing facilitators who included: Osasu Edobor, Dr. Gbonjubola Abiri and Sandra Oluwadare.

The facilitators took the women through tips to discovering self in spite of the negative experiences while working at healing and becoming better.

Osasu Edobor, Founder at Safe Space Initiative, who facilitated the group session in Abuja, encouraged the women to take on simple exercises of journaling, staying present to avoid anxiety, and learning to truly reduce the noise outside, while they affirm and truly center on themselves. Practical sessions helped the women identify new things about themselves that there had ignored or not paid attention to.

Read Also: I Was Abducted And Raped Every Night For Two Months

Safe Space Initiative
Tehila Event Group Session in Abuja

Dr. Gbonjubola Babalola Abiri encouraged the women to learn to ask for help. They were reassured that in their struggles, the place of community that holds, binds and strengthens is reassuring and should never be taken for granted

Watch: Why You Shouldn’t Give Up

Tehila Support Group
Lagos Facilitators Dr. Gbonju Abiri and Ms. Sandra Oluwadare addressing the women.

On hand also was Sandra Oluwadare, a parenting Coach who shared tips with the women on being present. She identified the pivotal role of parenting especially with children of survivors who have also endured trauma. While mothers hurt, the cycle of trauma should be confronted with intention.

The sessions ended with engagements across the 3 locations with fun activities for the women, and information on reporting abuse through the herfessions mobile app. The herfessions App which is available on playstore is an anonymous community of women encouraging peer support, and a compendium of service provider in different state of the federation.

The sixth edition of the Tehila even was a massive success, and it was made possible by partner organization of WEVVO Nigeria, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (DNF) and Rubies Ink. The session ended with the participants sharing feedback on program highlights and anticipation towards the next session.

Tehila is a quarterly event and we look forward to hosting the next episode come the last quarter of 2022.

 

Maryam Muritala is a  Foreign trained lawyer with areas of specialization in Business, Technology , Copyright, Trademark law ,  and Contract Management.

She is  also an experienced Business Development Consultant.  She has  helped entrepreneurs across five continents launch successful and thriving businesses. Maryam  is the founder of  Canada Vendors a Business Development and Advertising Company using digital marketing tools to give structured visibility to businesses across Canada and the diaspora.

 

At Canada Vendors, they offer Business Development Consultations and Solutions, Advertise brands using digital technology, connect service providers with prospective clients, and host Business Networking Events. Between 2020 and 2022 during the lockdown, they  interviewed 255 Small businesses across various communities in Canada offering support.

Maryam Muritala is also the convener of Brand Expo, a brand visibility event that showcases the work of different brands across Canada.

 

She recently launched a mini-series on YouTube in 2021 titled “THE ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY” spotlighting business owners across communities in Canada, so far they have interviewed entrepreneurs from Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, and Alberta.

We celebrate Maryam for her tenacity, determination, and her support for female business owners in Canada.

Follow her: @canadavendors to know more about her work.

 

Opeyemi Ehi-Joshua  is the CEO/Co-founder of Hectares Digital Limited. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Statistics from the Premier University of Ibadan and a background in sales, service quality assurance, and customer experience management in the Tech and Banking Industry.

She is a certified Digital Marketing Expert and Blockchain enthusiast with experience in performance marketing, growth marketing, lead generation, and product marketing.

Her skill set and expertise cuts across the use of major ad managers, marketing automation tools, analytics tools, SEM/SEO, Power BI, and MySQL as important digital tools in solving the salient pain points in user acquisitions, gathering relevant data and making informed business decisions for Tech Start-ups.

As an experienced Performance Marketing Expert, Opeyemi is passionate about growing and scaling SMEs and start-ups. She works with SMEs to launch, grow and scale their business online through creative content, storytelling, business advisory, insightful data, creative web design, and digital marketing.

In the last 4 years, she has worked with hundreds of start-ups to generate 6 and 7 figures, leading hundreds of successful marketing campaigns and growth-driven digital marketing strategies that leverage the most effective growth tactics for lead generation, brand awareness, and increased sales revenue.

She worked extensively across different Business niches – B2C, B2B, e-commerce and Digital Product led-businesses to develop and execute results-driven business objectives.

Read Also: I want Immigrant Women In Canada To have A Voice

Opeyemi is an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation 2019, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Future Female Business School, Binance Blockchain Technology for Women, and Google Andela Developer.

Opeyemi Ehi Joshua
Opeyemi Ehi Joshua

Opeyemi founded Hectares Digital, a digital marketing and solution company that specializes in digital marketing, growth marketing, performance marketing, digital solutions, and digital skills training.

She is also the founder of THEPROPAS (The Professional Assistants), a business hub that specializes in helping start-ups and SMEs start, grow, and scale their businesses online.

Their services include CAC business registration, business documentation such as business plan, standard operating procedures (SOP), service level agreements (SLA), proposal, pitch deck, business start-up advisory, sponsored ad fixing and ads campaign management, and social media management for SMEs.

She started her company to help more start-ups leverage the power of digital technology to reach their target customers, boost sales and increase brand awareness.

Read Also: How To Use Mindfullness Meditation To Reduce Stress

Opeyemi Ehi-Joshua has trained and worked with over 2000 SMEs and MSMEs since inception in 2019 and hopes to train more than 5000 small business owners before December 2024 through free digital skills training and online courses for business growth.

She has assisted several business owners to generate 6 and 7 figures respectively in revenue with great ROAS for digital product-led businesses and other business niches in Africa and Europe.

Source: Woaman.ng

Kemi Lala Akindoju has been announced as one of Amazon Studios’ four-member local Originals development team.

Read Also: I started Elevate Her UK To Support Vulnerable Women

Kemi Lala Akindoju (Senior Movies Creative Executive), Kaye Ann Williams (Head of Scripted and movies for South Africa), Brendan Gabriel (Senior Unscripted Creative Executive for South Africa), and Mike-Steve Adeleye (Senior Scripted Creative Executive for Nigeria) will join Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu on the Amazon Studios Originals development team.

They will build Africa’s premiere studio and a home for talent to grow and share their original stories with the world.

In a LinkedIn post announcing the team, Amazon studios’ Head of Originals, Africa and the Middle East, Ned Mitchell wrote:

“Another big day! I’m thrilled to share that our Amazon Studios Local Originals team has grown even more, both in South Africa and Nigeria. Please welcome Kaye Ann Williams, Brendan Gabriel, Lala Akindoju, and Mike-Steve Adeleye to the Amazon Studios Originals development team, joining Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu.

“This immensely talented group joins with the singular goal of building Africa’s premiere studio and home for talent. Together with our colleagues and partners, we are at work to deliver authentic, premium, and beloved hit scripted and unscripted series and movies to our local and global audiences.”

“I am incredibly excited to be joining the Amazon Studios Local Originals team as the Senior Movies Creative Executive, Nigeria,” Akindoju shared on Instagram. “Amazon Studios has shown its commitment to creating opportunities that are laser focused on creatives & content.”

Source: Pulse Nigeria

Opeyemi Olakanmi produced the short film “Mirror” to address the effect of child molestation and the role we should play as a society. Passion, patience, perseverance are three qualities you need to have as a filmmaker. These are the qualities that makes Opeyemi  Omobolanle Olakanmi story inspiring.

She is a scriptwriter, location manager, actor and a film producer who understands the power of sacrifice to success. She founded Mightypen Production to produce films and web series in Nigeria, and support   young writers, actors, producers, cinematographers to showcase their talents.

The  Polytechnic of Ibadan trained computer scientist is one of the young vibrant filmmakers in Nigeria. She quit her job  as Customer Care Officer (CCO) at Skye bank (Polaris) to follow her passion and pitched her tent in Africa’s biggest film producing industry in 2017.

Her sojourn into Nollywood  gave her the oppurtuinity to explore her skillset. Opeyemi Olakanmi started as writer and location manager. She then went ahead to study cinematography at Iris Film Academy, Ibadan to perfect her skills.

She produced her first movie, IRORA (ABUSE) in 2019. A Yoruba film that highlighted the pain and bad sides of domestic violence and campaigned against gender inequality.

Her latest film; Mirror is a short film produced in 2022 and which is currently showing on Mightypen TV on YouTube. She is currently working on her first web series, MECHO. A production that highlights the joy and struggles of artisans in a mechanic village.

Opeyemi Olakanmiwas nominated as best scriptwriter in 2021 at the Yoruba movie gist award. She shares her inspiring story with Esther Ijewere in this interview.

Opeyemi Olakanmi Mirror

Childhood Influence

Growing up has to do with what I am and the orientation I have at the moment because I could remember vividly that  several times my mum would call me and said, “look at your front, who do you see? Look at your back, what do you see? You can only see me, right? It is because I’m the only one you have.” As much as my mum was a teacher and my stepdad, a lecturer, I wasn’t deprived of any social life. I have free movement even though I am an introvert. I rarely go out. I am always at home reading one book or the other. I enjoyed reading story books to the extent that I started writing my own stories. I remember I met Agbo Areo, the author of Wives and Mother at a time and I told him how much I have passion for writing and how badly I wanted to be an author but my mum was never in support of that. Though she was a loving mother and wanted me to be something else. I appreciate her for the kind of mother she was and the kind of support she gave me while she was still alive. She raised in me a strong and positive woman. She always made me believe that I can get whatever I want

Inspiration behind Mightypen production

I started mighty pen entertainment as a writer because I believe everything worth doing is worth doing well. My opinion is that as a writer, it is good to have a registered company or brand so that your clients can trust you enough. And this is what informed my desire to get my company registered. It was along the line that I realized that I am more of a filmmaker than just being a writer. I then decided to go to film school and studied cinematography and to know more about filmmaking in general. My desire to be a filmmaker and my interest in contributing my own efforts into developing and expanding the film industry are parts of what made me take Mightypen beyond just a writing company into a film production company. And this is also to help young talents to realise their potentials and bring their dreams to reality.

Read Also: I started Elevate Her UK To Inspire Vulnerable Women

Impact of working on different movie projects

I joined the Yoruba film industry through the TAMPAN president, Mr Bolaji Amusan popularly known as Mr Latin but deep down in me I knew I didn’t want to limit myself into the Yoruba film industry. I want to be an all rounder. I want to be an excellent filmmaker that produces both Yoruba and English movies. And there was an opportunity that came my way in 2018 that changed my mentality entirely.  It was when they shot a project that starred Bimbo Akintola, Rahama Sadau and directed by Taiwo Shitu. I have forgotten the title of the production for that particular project changed my orientation about filmmaking and opened my eyes to see how production should be done properly. It was then I decided to join the English sector of Nollywood. Also, being a writer, a location manager, an actor and a producer has opened my eyes to know a lot of things in the film industry which have greatly contributed to my progress as an independent filmmaker.

The Journey so far

The journey has been rough and tough. Since I started Mightypen Entertainment, it has been tough for me to get jobs from other productions. A lot of people and colleagues stopped calling me for jobs because according to them I am now a CEO and I have what it takes to produce my own productions and that I really don’t need their jobs. In fact, I needed to call producers, production managers, directors etc to say that I am still available for jobs even though I have my own production company. So, the journey has been tough but the passion and the love for filmmaking keeps me going.

My new project “Mirror

Mirror is a short film that talks about child molestation and its effects on the victims and the society at large. I wrote the story to shed more light to the trauma that the victims of child abuse and their parents go through. This film was produced as a result of contributing my voice to the campaign against child abuse and rape.

Read Also: Women of Rubies Was Born Out Of My Passion For Humanity

Challenges

Being a filmmaker in Nigeria is not an easy one at all and you have to be very strong if you want to embark on that journey because it is a journey that is filled with a lot of hurdles. Filmmakers in Nigeria are facing a lot of challenges. Lack of financial support, harassment on locations by thugs, piracy, over expensive locations and security problems. It is a lot

Other projects and activities

My first production as a producer is a Yoruba film titled IRORA which is on YouTube and I have also produced another Yoruba film, ORISUN, which is currently showing on YouTube as well. I worked as a location manager for an English film Last Request which is on Netflix and I’m currently working to produce my first web series titled MECHO.

I’m also a social media influencer and I have worked with different individuals and organisations to promote products and programs on social media. I have worked with Global Factory T-shirts where we organised empowerment programs for women in the slums.

Opeyemi Omobolanle Olakanmi

What I enjoy most about my work

The part I enjoy most about my job is when I employ people I grow up seeing in the movie industry. Having legends, people I adore  and love so much on my set gives me so much joy. When I employed Ayo Mogaji to feature in my first production, IRORA,  I was so full of joy. And another part I enjoy is seeing myself helping young talents in the industry to grow. This gives me a great sense of fulfillment. And the joy of seeing a lot of people seeing and talking about your works can’t be quantified.

Three women who inspire me and why

The first woman who inspired me is my mum. She is my idol and a woman of great courage. I admire her so much and her courage to keep going even in the toughest situation. Whenever I look at myself I see myself in her. She was a great woman. I am very happy to have had her as a mother

The second woman that inspire me is Mo Abudu, the founder and owner of Ebony Life TV and Film. She has been rated as one of the “25 most powerful women in Global Television” by the Hollywood Reporter. She has made a great impact in Nollywood by producing amazing and quality films that have traveled even beyond Africa. She has become a household name.

The third person is Iyabo Ojo. She’s another woman that has made a name for herself in Nollywood. She’s one of the few people that dived from Yoruba film industry into producing and acting in English films successfully. I admire her passion and courage a lot. She is a single mother like me and anytime I look at her, I draw courage from her. These are the three women that have really inspired me.

What  we can do better as a society to encourage more women to go into movie production

For a long time men dominated the Industry and called the shots in the filmmaking industry but now we are beginning to see women taking over the industry by producing and directing great movies. We have seen the likes of Mo Abudu, Kemi Adetiba, Jade Osiberu, Mildred Okwo and many more. So, a foundation has been laid already for more women who are interested in making films. However, we need to keep educating, orientating and supporting women and young girls in the industry. We need to also let them know that aside from beauty, they need talent and that they have to be very humble and respectful because talent without virtue is nothing. We also need to tell them that they don’t need to sell their bodies before they can make it. You don’t have to date anybody.  They must also know as well that the industry thrives on collaboration and not by competing with your fellow filmmakers.

One thing I wish to  change in the art and entertainment sector

What I wish to change especially in the Yoruba movie industry is to stop this idea of a producer also being the lead cast in his or her film. It is getting tiring and boring now. Once people see a Yoruba film, they already know that the lead character is a producer. My argument is that you don’t need to appear in your film as a producer. If your film is good, people will know you. And if you are an actor producer, you can take a minor role because combining producing with acting is not easy and this can make you lose focus and not concentrate on the job. And this may affect the quality of the work. And also I would like to change the habit of not crediting the writers for their works and the ill treatment of crew members on set.

Opeyemi Olakanmi

Being  a woman of rubies

What makes me a woman of rubies is the fact that I have been able to stand out in the industry without any scandal. It is really a great feeling. And also, combining the role of a mother, father and entrepreneur makes me a woman of rubies.

Advice for young women who want to pitch their tent in the movie industry?

For the young women who want to join the industry, I will advise them to have a side hustle. Having a side hustle is very important and this will put money in your pocket because it is not that easy to make money in the movie industry. If you are coming into the industry as a full-time filmmaker it means you’re coming with a lot of money. I understand that the industry is lucrative and it has a lot of financial benefits but you won’t get all the money you are expecting in a year.  So the best thing is to have a financial support system. And lastly,  be humble and be respectful. This will take you far and open a lot of doors for you. It is very important that you must know this.

Opeyemi Olakanmi short film is availale on

 

Like a phoenix, Ebony King  is rising from the ashes of adversity and inspiring others to do so through her story and Elevate Her Uk.  She is a Youth Advocate, Community Leader, and Youth Mental Health First Aider. British-born, with Nigerian ethnicity. Ebony is the founder of Elevate Her UK, a non-profit organisation that provides support to vulnerable teenage girls and young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, where they are mentored, offered skill-based empowerment workshops and outreach. Ebony was brought up in a broken home as her parents divorced when she was a child. During her teenage years she witnessed various traumatic events which led her to rebel.

Ebony was negatively labelled and eventually got pregnant at 18. There was a huge stigma during that time and being a teenage mother out of wedlock, without a university degree and being from a Nigerian background came with a huge amount of pressure and gossip. However, she managed to stay strong and fought gallantly with the bit of support she could get to make herself a better person. She turned a pain to purpose by supporting other teenage girls and young women battling with the same or similar challenges she had faced.

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Since the establishment of Elevate Her UK, she has been able to raise a fully qualified and trained team who, through their life experiences, provide mental health support, inspiring empowerment workshops and outreach, enhancing entrepreneurship and employability skills in young people.

In 2021, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement in Barking and Dagenham, Magaret Mullane, invited Ebony King to discuss how they can make the streets safer together and how she can offer her support to the organisation.

Elevate Her UK
Ebony King

The BSc. Hons Psychology and Counselling studies graduate was nominated Female Volunteer of the Year for Barking and Dagenham Women Empowerment Awards alongside her organisation. This was a milestone achievement for the organisation and Ebony King in person, making them stand out from other non-profits in their local area. Ebony King has gained much recognition from people empowered and politicians in the borough. She is under the Citizens UK Alliance, a people power community organising alliance across the UK. Ebony King also delivers motivational assemblies and youth safety workshops in secondary schools to educate and engage with the youth.

She shares her inspiring story in this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

Growing up in a one parent household from the age of 6, being in the middle of a court child contact battle for years and being labelled as a problem child during my teenage years definitely prepared me in various ways for the work that I am doing now. It made me resilient.

Inspiration Behind Elevate Her Uk

Becoming a teenage single mother, growing up fast, engaging in activities I had no business in and witnessing so many traumatising things with a lack of emotional support or recovery; I always told myself that when I am older, and I have the resources I will help other vulnerable girls that were in the same or similar situations as me.

What Motivated Me To Kick Off #Protecther

The #ProtectHer campaign was a much-needed project that had to be put out as soon as possible. The street harassment, violence against women and girls, gang grooming, peer to peer abuse cases in the UK keeps increasing every year. I also spotted things on social media from countries all over the world.

The young girls I support would share certain experiences with me and I was just shocked that these things were still happening. I was even more disgusted when I found out these things were happening in schools and children were not being safeguarded enough. When I was younger my friends and I were harassed by older men so I was able to understand how frustrated my beneficiaries were.

 Elevate Her UK Ebony King

 The Journey So Far

The journey so far has had highs and lows. However, I must say that one of the main challenges was finding out that there are certain organisations in the same field that could see you as a competitor because they have been doing this for a lot longer than you, but they are not getting the attention or recognition that you are getting. They can bad mouth you to sponsors or potential partners, something that I would never do as I keep it professional. My creativity and unique way of doing things is getting Elevate Her UK noticed. I started this organisation with an open and positive mind. I didn’t know that not everyone’s intentions are the same. I’m doing it for genuine passion and my lived experiences. The young people requesting my services and leaving positive feedback is what motivates me to continue helping.

Read Also: Helpful Tips For Single Parents

My Work Getting the Attention Of  A Cabinet Member And Its Impact

My work getting noticed by policy makers was shocking at first because I didn’t even know that the #ProtectHer campaign would be featured on TV or Newspapers let alone for British politicians to share it on their social media platforms and invite me to their office. I was happy because my voice and all the vulnerable girls that I support were finally being heard.

 My Nomination As Female Volunteer Of The Year

For the Barking and Dagenham Council Women’s Empowerment 2022 Awards in March I was nominated as female volunteer of the year and Elevate Her UK was also given a nomination for our work in our local community. This was amazing because prior to this we had only delivered 1 year of frontline work to young people since the pandemic. This showed us that we are making an impact.

Other Projects And Activities

We have a Youth Safety campaign working with Transport for London (TFL) to allow students to feel safer travelling to and from school. This was featured on BBC News recently. We also deliver free skill-based empowerment workshops to young girls teaching them how to do things such as hair, nails, lashes, self-defence, first aid, driving and more. We do this to promote entrepreneurship and improve their employability skills. We are partnered with secondary schools in the UK and Nigeria to deliver youth safety awareness assemblies and one to one mentoring sessions to inspire, motivate and uplift.

Due to my past experience of being a teenage mum in emergency accommodation we often do outreach in mother and baby hostels within the UK and Atlanta, Georgia. We distribute feminine hygiene products and baby wipes and nappies.

Our Partnership With ASDA, Empowerment And Giveaways

In March 2022, women’s empowerment month, Elevate Her partnered with ASDA, a popular supermarket in the community. ASDA provided sanitary towels and feminine hygiene products to give to homeless teenage girls and young women. Also, Elevate Her UK partnered with a few British public figures such as female rappers Ivorian Doll and Br3nya, very much loved by the youths to boost its empowerment workshops. Among the numerous giveaways by Elevate Her UK to disadvantaged and low-income families, in January 2022, we did a school uniform, feminine hygiene products, shoes and goody bags giveaway. The likes of Toyin Abraham, a top Nollywood Producer and star Actress, were present to grace the event financially and physically. We have  been able to organise several empowerment workshops and partnered with various prominent organisations in the UK. The first series of delivery workshops took place immediately after the first lockdown in the UK. It was done in partnership with Future Youth Zone.

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Future Plan

We plan to organise a project to get young people to start thinking more about global warming and climate change and do more things to save the planet, we also want to establish a sister arm in October 2022, Elevate Her Africa, where they would be reaching out to teenage girls and young women in Africa. This will be replicated in the UK. The project is anticipated to kick off in Nigeria being my place of origin. I also anticipate writing a book to motivate teenage girls and young women struggling mentally and emotionally.

Elevate Her UK Ebony

 To Young Women Living Through My Life Experience

Don’t allow anyone’s negative judgement of you, affect your mind-set. Be positive and believe in yourself. If you don’t know what you want to do with yourself go and do some research, you are never too old to learn. Say no to peer pressure, do not copy others, stay in your lane. Listen to your parents and do not rush to be an adult. If you want to live a comfortable life in future , do not be lazy. Refrain from depending on others anybody can let you down at any point no matter how long you’ve known them, prepare for the worst and you will be disappointed less.

 What I  Enjoy Most About My Job

The fact that I can put a smile on young people’s faces especially the ones that lose hope or purpose in life. They can see that in my life I changed negatives to positives, so they are motivated. I like helping people, if I can’t do it directly, I will refer someone else that can help them.

 3 women Who Inspire Me And Why

Firstly my mother’s hardworking drive is a big inspiration to me because as a single mum she actually tried. I have seen her overcome so many things that I do not have the patience or understanding for. Secondly, I am inspired by all women that are able to face reality and pick themselves up from their struggles and change it around to succeed someone like Oprah Winfrey. Lastly, all women that stand up boldly for their rights are also an inspiration to me. It’s not easy going against the norm to fight for what is right.

 To People Who Stigmatize Teenage Moms

Stop judging! Everybody is going through things behind closed doors. Being a teenage parent is not the end of the world as long as they turn their lives around and get back on track. There are many successful teenage parents nowadays, many of them birthed superstars worldwide.   Identify the reason why they got there and find solutions for them. They need support not stigma!

Ebony Women of Rubies

One Thing I Wish To Change In The World

I would remove all the toxic things and judgmental people so that everyone else can focus on what really matters in life, Peace and Happiness.

Being A Woman Of Rubies

The fact that I can make a positive impact on other girls and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Connect with Ebony King;

Twitter- https://twitter.com/elevateheruk

Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/elevate.her.uk/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/elevateherorg/

Email; help@elevateheruk.org

Women of Rubies was  created by Esther Ijewere to celebrate exceptional women. Esther Ijewere is an enterprising social activist, women’s advocate, columnist, author and the Founder of Rubies Ink Initiative for Women and Children — a non-profit outfit devoted to advocacy, development and social enterprise solutions amongst others.

An Olabisi Onabanjo University trained Sociologist, Esther Ijewere is the brain behind W.A.R. — Walk Against Rape, an advocacy initiative created to lend a voice for the victims of rape and demand justice, an initiative endorsed by the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

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The NGO organises workshops in secondary schools tagged College Acquaintance Rape Education (C.A.R.E) in partnership with the Lagos state Ministry of Justice and the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT). Esther, the initiator of Project Capable; a Lagos State Ministry of Education approved programme, Esther is the youngest recipient of The Idea Builders Women Mentoring Women Award, winning Mentee of the year 2010 and “Women Enterprise Award” from Vital Voices International & Exxon Mobil.

Esther Ijewere- Women of Rubies
Esther Ijewere

She also won the award for “Best Use of Advocacy” from her Alma Mata; Olabisi Onabanjo University in 2012, for her contribution in fighting and creating awareness on Rape.

In 2016 Esther bagged four awards for her platform Women of Rubies, notably among these award is “Young Person of the Year” and “Wise Women in Media” awards.

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She is a Fellow with Vital Voices Global Leadership USA; an organization founded by Hillary Clinton and aimed at empowering young women change makers all over the world.

She unveiled her first book on rape and violence against women, titled “Breaking the Silence”. She is also a columnist with the Guardian Newspaper, her page “ Women of Rubies” a platform used to celebrate exceptional women with inspiring stories, the page is a sequel to her award winning blog www.womenofrubies.com, which is fast becoming the one stop blog for the everyday woman. Esther recently started a platform for men called “Men who Inspire”, to further balance her advocacy work as an advocate, and also kicked off the #GettalkingwithEsther show to spread positivity on social media.

In this interview, she bares all with Vanguard Newspaper

Kindly tell us the story of Women of Rubies, your career path and how it all started?

Women of Rubies was born out of my passion for humanity. I started out as a social activist, lending my voice to victims of rape, and other forms of gender-based violence. This  evolved into the media, which is the Women of Rubies platform where I use my column and blog as a vehicle of social change  to put the spotlight on other women in different sectors who are contributing their quota to nation building and adding value to the society through their work.

Looking back, would you say Women of Rubies and your other initiatives have achieved what it set out to accomplish?

Absolutely! We have accomplished even more than we envisaged ten years ago. Despite the losses we suffered, we have stayed solid and consistent through the years.

Every project we have embarked on has impacted lives and added value. We have served those at the grassroots and the high earned professionals. The ripple effect of the work we do is unquantifiable, and that’s the reason why even after 10 years, with all the bumps and losses we’ve encountered, we are still very relevant in the sectors we represent, because God is fully involved in everything we do.

Rubies Ink Initiative  championed the first of its kind Walk against Rape campaign in Nigeria, The walk did not only encourage victims of rape to speak up, It also became an annual event most of concerned Nigerians and celebrities look forward to. We used different toolkit (workshops, media, information handbook, town hall meetings in different communities) to educate and sensitize the society.

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We also got justice for several victims through our alliance with the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and the domestic and sexual violence response team (DSVRT). The walk is endorsed by the Federal and State Government respectively. We have over fifty celebrities and influencers who are our ambassadors.

They use their platforms to educate the society on the scourge of rape, and aim for victims to get justice. The walk will be moving to other parts of Nigeria this year by God’s grace.

With Women of Rubies, we have given visibility and brought stories of different amazing women to the front burner, featured and celebrated over 1000 (one thousand women) through our Guardian Newspaper column, blog and social media pages.

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We have raised over N5M funds for several women in distress, paid hospital bills, supported widows, paid rent for homeless victims of domestic violence and also re-integrate them back into the society.  During the thick of COVID-19 pandemic, we were one of the organizations at the forefront raising funds for families who were affected, and we continue to support many.

Let’s talk about “Get Talking with Esther”. Can you shed more light on this project?

I am very expressive, I love to write and read from people, I love to celebrate people and give them hope, I love when I can feel people’s thoughts through words. “Get talking with Esther” is just about that.  It’s a #Tweetchat session that gives you the ambience of a show on Twitter.

Basically, using my platform, years of experience, and skill set for social good to give everyone a voice. We fix broken tables, bring “Under the table” conversations to the front burner for positivity. We bring people who share life experiences, healing, and learning. My mission is to use the show to spread positivity on social media, especially Twitter. It will be 2 years by August 13th, 2022.

Women of Rubies

Intimate us about your proudest moments in the last ten years?

There are many proud moments, and it will be hard to pick just one. But I’d say each time I touch someone’s life, give hope to a helpless person, use my platform to celebrate a person who needs visibility and light up someone’s dark path, it becomes a proud moment.

The joy of giving back and paying it forward is innate. It’s my happy place. Above all, being a mother, and experiencing childbirth is my proudest moment. The joy of holding your baby in your hands. It’s unexplainable. I pray every woman seeking the fruit of the womb will experience this.

Kindly mention some of the lessons life has taught you?

Patience; life has taught me to be patient with myself and others. Setting boundaries is also one of the lessons I have learnt over the years. For a longtime, I didn’t have boundaries, and I ended up burning out and feeling used. The moment I started setting my boundaries, things changed. I learned how to say no respectfully without feeling guilty. Setting boundaries has helped me greatly in navigating where and who I give my energy.

Life also taught me the beauty of releasing power and letting go easily. While I am still a work in progress, these lessons have helped me stay grounded and focused.

You have a passion for women and single mothers. How was this ignited?

My passion for women is innate, I mean being a woman, I should love and support other women naturally. However, single motherhood is very personal. I am a single mum, I know and identify the pain and struggles of single mothers. It’s twice the sacrifice, and it takes a lot to raise kids alone. Spreading light to other lone parents is from a place of experience, love and understanding. I wish society would judge us less, and support us more.

Was there any time you had felt like giving in, wrapping your platforms and moving on?

Yes, several times. It’s hard to run an organization in Nigeria, especially when you don’t have core funding and lack committed human power. I almost gave up everything when my marriage crashed. My saving grace was remembering that my purpose is bigger than me, and my light is brighter than being a wife. Each time I have those wrapping up moments, I reflect on why I started and the beautiful moments.I will keep pushing against all odds. It’s an assignment and I have to do it well. Giving up is not an option.

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Who really is Esther Ijewere?

Esther is smart, strong, opinionated, and kind hearted. She is determined, dogged and much focused. She is passionate about issues that affect women and children. She is the Introvert, who loves her own space, the multi-tasking single mum who works hard so her kids can learn all she was not taught. The deep soul, and very spiritual woman who prays a lot. The writer who writes with passion and deep understanding for humanity. The very private woman who prefers to share her work than her personal life. The playful, happy-go-lucky girl who is living intentionally. Esther, like every human is not perfect. She is a work in progress

What principles have worked for you over the years?

Putting God first, staying focused, honesty, diligence and speaking my truth against all odds. These principles have and continue to help me stay grounded.

How did you build such a strong following on social media?

That’s the power of consistency. I have also managed to keep a drama-free life on social media, separated my personal life from my work, and consciously use my platforms to support folks and spread love and light. I have also focused on being relevant and not just popular. I worked hard over the years to make my name a solution to a problem I solve. People gravitate towards value naturally. However, I do not take glory for any of it. I am just a vessel doing God’s bidding on earth. It is my hope that my light continues to attract and touch souls all over the world, even beyond social media.

Esther Ijewere

Who are your role models?

My Mom for being a strong support system and instilling the right values in me. I always tell people that my life, especially my philanthropic side, is a reflection of good upbringing. However, I am a mummy’s girl with a mind of my own.

Oprah Winfrey- Her success and resilience is a vision board of what I intend to be and more. One of my late Uncles; Bolaji Rosiji, told me one time that my drive and passion reminds him of Oprah. It’s a compliment I hold dear to my heart. I wish to meet her someday.

Every woman before me in the development, advocacy and media sector is my role model. I have great respect for pace-setters who gave young women like me wings to fly, the ones who make room for us to grow and amplify our light.

If you were to start all over again what will you do differently?

I will align with people who have more expertise than me, and be more open about my struggles and challenges. Being in a society where you are constantly judged for your failure and mistakes could kill your morale, and make it hard for you to open up.

I am learning how to ask for help and lean on people who can add value to me, and my brand. Life is a lesson, I embrace everything with love, and open to change and best practices.

What is your message to women battling one challenge or the other?

Don’t give up! .There is light at the end of the dark tunnel. Don’t keep your problems to yourself, share with people who can proffer solutions and help. You are not your mistake and challenges, don’t let it consume you. There is always someone out there you can talk to, and ask for support.

Read Also: 8 Ways To Find Hope When You Are Hopeless

How do you rejuvenate when your energy is down?

I meditate, listen to frequency music, practice self-affirmations, focus on my power spot for energy boost, and stay mindful. I reduce my screen time when I am down and just be in the moment, appreciating the things in my present.

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How do you unwind?

Spending time with my kids, Netflix and chill, and sometimes hanging out with friends and family who love me for who I am.

Connect with Esther;

Facebook;  https://www.facebook.com/esther.ijewere/

Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/estherijewere/

Twitter; https://twitter.com/estherijewere

LinkedIn; https://www.linkedin.com/in/esther-ijewere-3a082b2b/

Youtube; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLHFArqRf4HcjiekNGkopow

Email: Admin@womenofrubies.com