Category

Editor’s Choice

Category

Neya Kalu is the Chairman and Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, founded and published in Nigeria. A reputable news outlet  in Nigeria and around the world. She is also the founder and CEO of Basecoat Nigeria, a nail salon chain changing the face of the Nail Industry in Nigeria.

Barrister Neya Uzor-Kalu has a degree in Law and an MSc. in Finance from the University of Buckingham, United Kingdom. She has 12 years experience crafting and implementing business initiatives across industries. The amazing businesswoman had previously worked in the banking sector, for five years, in the role of Human Resource Manager before her appointment as Chairman/Publisher of the Sun Nigeria.

Neya leads the Board on strategic matters, establishes high governance, and oversees the company’s business. She is also the Vice-Chairman of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts. With a strong interest in social issues and a desire to empower women, Neya works with the OUK Foundation to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs one through six. She shares her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this interview.

 

Childhood Influence

I believe my childhood influenced what I do now, which is to lead several businesses, the most recent being my appointment as publisher and chairman of The Sun Nigeria. My upbringing was fairly isolated, and I had plenty of time to daydream about a lot of things including becoming an entrepreneur, just like my father.

Inspiration Behind Basecoat

I left my job in banking after the birth of my son in search of something that would allow me to spend more time with him, and I’ve always been very passionate about nails. I believe I was the only person in high school/college with acrylics and nail designs, so opening my own salon, Basecoat, was a no-brainer for me. Basecoat has been around for a few years now, and I’m pleased with how far we’ve come.

The Journey So Far

It’s been nothing short of incredible. I never intend to brag, but I believe Basecoat is providing a completely unique experience in the Nigerian nail  industry. Building and nurturing our vision at Basecoat has not been without challenges, but this has not stopped us from providing excellent  service to our customers. A standard that we intend to maintain  regardless of the current economic climate.

How I became chairman and publisher of The Sun Nigeria

Through perseverance and hard work. I’ve spent so many years in the background, observing, learning, and collaborating with the team. I  suppose the time had come for me to take over as chairman and publisher.

Lessons I Have Learned As The Publisher Of A Newspaper Outlet

It’s only been a few months since I took over as chairman and publisher,  but the lessons I’ve learned so far are that hard work pays off no matter where you are in life and that your team is just as important, if not more  important, than you.

My  Thoughts On Fake News And The Importance Of Fact Checking

We’ve seen the damage that fake news can cause in any society. As a  result, it’s critical that people get their information from reliable sources,  such as news outlets or reputable bloggers. Consumers should also be  cautious about where they turn for reliable news. With social media at  everyone’s fingertips, it’s easy for fake news to spread, and while we, the  publishers, ensure that due diligence is done and that any information  published on our platform(s) is credible, the general public also has a role  to play, which means that any news source they get information from  online must be credible.

My Work With OUK Foundation, And Passion For SDG Goal Six

While working with the OUK foundation, I like to think of myself as a secret santa because I am very passionate about the work we do – providing health benefits, education, access to clean water and food, job  opportunities, and so on. We are currently working on providing viable resources for children in some schools across the country.

One Thing I Wish To  Change In The Media Sector

The perception that all journalists want to smear everyone’s reputation. A  good journalist’s job is to report the news as accurately and transparently  as possible.

How Career Women Can  Create Work-Life Balance

I think it’s important to prioritize what is truly important to you and want to  do so it will be easy to navigate and balance out the work-life combination.

3 Women Who Inspire Me And Why

Bella Disu – Her age hasn’t stopped her from attaining her goals.

The Late Dora Akunyili – For her strength and tenacity (May her soul

continue to Rest in Peace).

Amina Mohammed – For the global impact she’s making through her

position as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair  of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

Importance Of  Women Supporting Women

Supporting women is something that I take very seriously and it looks to me like women being the sisters’ keeper. The word “empowerment” is frequently misused. I believe that encouraging women to be better in order to do better for themselves is more motivating because there are some brilliant women out there who just need a little push.

Being The Daughter Of A Notable Politician And Founder Of Sun Nigeria, And The Lessons He Taught Me

To be honest, I believe it is simply being yourself. One of the most useful lessons my father has taught me, and it has truly helped me navigate my career path because hearing a lot of “NOs” along the way, especially as a  female, can derail you and force you to be someone you are not, but you must learn to stay the course and be yourself. Because there is no other you, there is no more authentic you than you. And people just have to accept that.

Being A Woman Of Rubies

The fact that I am one of one makes me more valuable than rubies or any other gemstone on the planet.

To Young Women Who Are At A Crossroad And Trying To Find  Their Purpose

The will to dream becomes the purpose for the vision. It is really a choice  that we have to make. As I’ve always said, if you love something – nurture  it and fight 

A popular author once said that your personal brand follows you wherever you go and sometimes even lingers behind when you leave a room. That’s exactly what Omobabinrin Adeola Osideko is advocating for in the society, training people to prioritise their personal brand and discover their potential.

Trained Accountant, chartered in Nigeria, the UK and Canada, Adeola works full time with the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire, as finance professional.

MINTA (Mummy In the Abroad) as she’s fondly called by her fans, she is a First-class graduate of Accounting and holds an MSc in Accounting from the prestigious University of London. Senior Director of Crystal Edge professional Services (a training and branding consulting company), she is a personal development coach, branding expert and social media influencer. An international and TEDx speaker, she has spoken in different countries (online and offline) and has published six books and 14 e-books. She has successfully coached over 10,000 people in personal development and branding. Over the last three years, Adeola has helped individuals and business owners build strong and reputable brands online and offline. She is also the founder of the Coached By Omobabirin, a Facebook community of over 20,000 members.  The Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire -based coach shares her inspiring story with ESTHER IJEWERE in this Interview.

Childhood Influence
My childhood wasn’t that rosy. I grew up with my two siblings and my mother who was widowed at age 27. Growing up was a bit tough; because she had to solely fend for herself and us from her meager salary as a teacher.

But there are so many things my childhood taught me that I am grateful for today. They are; independence, living within your means, good planning and never being entitled to other people’s things. All these I picked up from my mum who was so determined to educate us no matter what. I picked up these life skills unconsciously, but later, they became very useful to me as I navigate life as an adult.

I grew up as a very outspoken child, audacious and very confident. I am daring about life and would do all I can to get what I want; I believe in the saying that when there is a will, there’s a way. My childhood wasn’t without some cracks too, which affected me negatively as an adult, but self-awareness and personal development have been helpful in smoothing these areas.

In all, my childhood has shaped and prepared me to be the responsible, self-driven, and audacious adult I have grown up to be.

Inspiration Behind Coached By OMOBABIRIN
Coached By Omobabinrin is a Facebook group where people of like minds gather to share values about purpose, business, various entrepreneurship skills, digital skills and so many other personal development skills. The group was founded as a community where people can share ideas and grow together.

Personal development is a necessity for everyone and should be made available as much as possible; that is one of the reasons why the group was founded so that members can learn from one another by posting meaningful content.

Omobabinrin Adeola Osideko

Studying Accounting
Accounting for me was borne out of the passion and love I had for mathematics then. In my early secondary school, I wasn’t doing so well in my Mathematics though, which was a big concern for my mum; she later got a Mathematics teacher for me, which changed the whole narrative. I fell in love with calculation and that made me opt-in for Accounting. And yes, Accounting has been interesting for me; it’s been close to 14 years of practicing and no regret whatsoever.

The Journey So Far
It hasn’t been rosy, but we keep going. The fact that I am only available to manage it part-time makes it more challenging. Based on my choleric nature, I love to be in charge and do my stuff my way (because I feel nobody can do it like me), but I had to learn to delegate and communicate what I want to achieve to my team members, while I watch them do it. This has also helped me raise awesome people with whom I can confidently leave the job, because I trust their abilities. Delegation is one of the major area’s leaders must learn and I am glad I adjusted fast to this reality.

Impact Of Coaching Over 10,000 People On Personal Development
Sasha Azevedo said, ‘when you love people and have the desire to make a profound positive impact upon the world, you have accomplished the meaning to live.’ One of the things that bring so much joy to me is transferring knowledge and impacting lives; it comes so easily. I do it with so much excitement and a sense of fulfillment follows.

Personal Development is a journey that makes us better as humans and I am glad I can impact people to become a better version of themselves on a daily basis; either directly or indirectly.

Being The Publisher Of Six Books And 14 e-books
Almost every day, I get one or two pieces of feedback from people about my books and how helpful it has been to them. My favorite is my first book, Building Great Relationships, because it’s a book that preserves humanity and our social values and humans.

The six books I have published are Building great relationships, Building a personal brand that makes money, The chronicles of MINTA series 1, My dreams are valid, The business of coaching, and The chronicles of MINTA series 2. The other 16 unpublished books and some of the e-books; I use them for my training and coaching programmes.

Omobabinrin Adeola Osideko

Working In a Francophone Country As An Accountant, And Managing Other Commitments
My passion for what I do drives me ‘Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you -Oprah Winfrey.’

When you are passionate about what you do, it will be easy to make room for it, no matter how tight your work schedule is. Yes, passion is the fuel that drives my energy and I have also learned to ask for help when I need it. ‘You are never strong enough that you don’t need help – Cesar Chavez.’ Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you value yourself, as well as other people.

Abidjan as a Francophone country has been a great place to live, although there is a little struggle with learning the French language. To be honest, it has not been easy living in a French country as an Anglophone person, but change is the only constant thing and I just had to adapt. I have a bit of struggle, but my children have been helping me. For children, it is quite easy to pick up the language fast than an adult, but generally, Cote d’Ivoire is a good country; they are hospitable and friendly. Even though there are some of their culture and norms that are strange to me as an Anglophone, we’ve got no choice than to adapt. That is part of what personal development is all about.

Challenges 
There are so many of them, but I will mention a few. Gender bias is still prevalent; some male clients and audiences tend to be disrespectful sometimes and I can attribute that to me being a woman. This may not be true though, but that’s how I see it.

Another thing is having to do so much, managing time and balancing life, family, work, business, faith, and social life. But I have come to realise that at the end of the day, we cannot achieve a balance. Oftentimes, one aspect of our lives demands a lot more from us than the rest. What is important is to prioritise, ask for help and take good care of yourself. Rest, eat well and take a break when the need arises.

Another one is unhealthy competition in the coaching industry. This one is really deep, but then we have got to learn how to manage it. I believe it’s everywhere and as humans, we feel somehow insecure, especially when we have low self-esteem.

Other Projects And Activities
My major project, for now, is The Iconic Brand Award coming up in November 2022. This is the 4th edition, and it has always been within Nigeria, but this time around, we are planning to have it in Lagos Nigeria, and the London United Kingdom.

Entreprenur.com recently released an infographic all about why employees quit their jobs. 82 per cent of employees report they don’t receive enough recognition. The Iconic Brand Awards is an annual event organised by my business, Crystal Edge Professional Services, and it’s all about recognising brands (personal brands and business brands) doing well in their various fields. Asides from that, it’s a networking and dinner event where people can meet, greet, connect, wine and dine and have some really good ‘year-end’ time.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
I admire all women out there doing exploits, but since I am to mention just three, I will go with these three. Dupe Olusola: I met her not quite long on Instagram and I am totally in love with her personality; I love her dress sense and her smartness as a woman. We literally share a few things in common and this made her relatable on all levels. I love how she balances work and her social life; I do not like boring people, so she is a spec of a bubbling career woman.

The second person is Ibukun Awosika: I love her love for God and the things of God. Being a person of deep faith myself, I love people who are dedicated to serving God even in the marketplace place. She is a good example of a proverbs 31 woman; I love her bluntness, entrepreneurship spirit and her commitment to youth and women empowerment.

The third person is my former boss, Morenike Ogunnowo; she is a woman I love and respect. We worked together some years back and since then, we have grown a bond of sisterhood. She is hardworking, kind and very industrious; she inspires me a lot to know a healthy work-life balance is achievable.

My Role As The Editor Of Crystal Magazine
My organisation published a magazine in 2020 called The Crystals. It’s a magazine that showcases various brands and their work; it also has some educational content and industry news. That was the first edition, and we plan to have another edition very soon.

Educating The Society On Personal Branding
Creating awareness online via content creation on social media platforms is one of the best ways to educate people on personal branding. Branding is no longer what it used to be when it is just for business. An individual is a brand and must nurture that brand to blossom.

Personal branding is now important at all levels, unfortunately, most business owners do not realise the importance of personal branding, because they think branding is all about their business only. However, the truth is that if you want to create a successful business, you must create a successful personal brand. Personal branding helps people know you, like you, and trust you. And people who know you will trust you more and do business with you.

Achievements Recorded As A personal Development Coach And Influencer
I started the journey in 2015, took a break in 2017, and came back with full force towards the end of 2018. Since then, it’s been an amazing journey, not without its ups and down though. Some of my achievements are that I have coached, trained, and groomed thousands of people who are also doing well in their respective niches. I am a role model to so many people and I have inspired them positively, which I see as a big achievement. Other achievements are that I have been able to build a lot of brands with my name in terms of businesses and events such as The Iconic Brand Award event, The Global Brand Summit, the Personal branding Affirmation Challenge, Crystal Edge professional services and I have spoken on so many platforms, both globally and locally. I have been able to organise a TEDx event and become a TEDx organizer. I have also received multiple awards from different quarters recognising my works, impact, and influence.

What I Wish To Change In The Branding Sector
It will be to ensure people who portray themselves as coaches and experts, get enough training and certifications. The coaching industry is not well regulated, and anyone can wake up one morning to say ‘I am now a coach.’ As much as we can say this is okay to allow people to become whatever they want to be, it may also mean we will be having some bad eggs with poor quality of services, which may affect the goodwill and reputation of the industry. A well-regulated industry will help to checkmate individual activities and protect the image of the profession. Your brand is your personality; polish it.

Being A Woman Of Rubies
My price is far above rubies. I am a woman of impact who is making a significant change in society. I am a positive influence on young people, professionals, and business owners and I have successfully helped a lot of people build profitable, sustainable, and reputable personal and business brands.

I am a woman who supports other women and is always looking out for how to add value and make significant changes in society. I am a woman who is not afraid to see other people soar; I am a woman of rubies.

In Five years…
I see myself as an industry leader who has built capacity, who has grown, and someone who’s work is now recognised globally. I want to see myself on international platforms more, sharing my message to inspire, educate and empower people. I want to be able to confidently say I have coached, trained, and mentored thousands of people all over the globe.

Advice For Young People Setting Out To Build An Influential Brand
Be focused, avoid distractions, know what you want and go for it, regardless of what people think about it. Be kind, confident, and bold, the world is yours. Growth is not a day work; growth is a gradual process. Don’t compare your journey with someone else’s; your fight is different. Believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams.

 
To engineer a better society we need people of different genders, races and backgrounds solving our problems. Mariam Adeyemi’s  passion and commitment to unlock potential is admirable. With her technology training platform; TechaVilly, she is breaking stereotypes of who a role model should be. Mariam  is a passionate tech enthusiast  committed to unlocking potentials, transferring knowledge  and transforming lives through digitalization and tech training. She is the founder of TechaVilly, a technology training platform aimed at empowering the black community through skills and knowledge transfer. She founded the company alongside her college friend, Omotoyosi Ogunbanwo who is also a tech enthusiast and currently works at Amazon USA. 

Techavilly was founded in 2020 and has trained over 10,000 black people from 2020 till date, helping them to fit into today’s dynamic job market.

She rolled out the company’s very first training in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. She chose that period to give back by sharing knowledge for free and giving people hope for a better life.Thousands of people were trained during the lockdown and some of them got good jobs after the training.

Mariam has worked in reputable companies . She moved to the United States of America in 2017 to improve her skills to remain relevant in the job market. She got her master’s degree in Business Analytics from Texas A&M University in Texas and was privileged to work in companies like Samsung Electronics America and other mid-sized companies in the United States. 

​She is the first female EdTech (Educational Technology) founder to launch an educational communication app in Africa. She is committed to bridging parent-teacher communication while developing and transforming the child in the process. ​ According to Mariam; ​The goal is to expand across African schools and integrate technology into the school curriculum. Discorz App is gradually expanding, and penetration is improving. It is currently available for download on Google Play and App Store. 

​She shares her inspiring story ​ in this interview with ESTHER IJEWERE

​Childhood Influence

Thank you for this question. This is a story a lot of people have been waiting to hear. My growing up was fun even though I came from a polygamous family. It was a large family because of the extended family members around us back then. And you know what? The competition was obvious. I was one of the most stubborn amongst all the children, but there is one thing everyone knows about me. It’s “bravery”. I wasn’t afraid of taking risks and I am still not. The truth is that I burn my fingers sometimes, but that has never stopped me from trying again. 

As a matter of fact, my childhood story is a whole book. Trust me. But I will crunch it as much as I can. I grew up wanting to be heard even amongst my siblings. I wasn’t the most brilliant though, but I was the most daring and my late mom loved me just like that. 

I attended a boarding school for my secondary school education in Ijebu Ode, Adeola Odutola College to be precise. I was super smart, and I ended up as the Assistant Head Girl for my set. I wasn’t made the Head Girl because I didn’t do sciences and I wasn’t as vocal as expected even though I was a top performer academically. Remember I said I don’t give up. With my Commercial & Arts background, I represented the school for literature and debating competitions and I won several awards for the school even more than other categories of competition the school went for at that time. 

I had my bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications at the University of Jos, and graduated with honors. I contested for Student Union positions, but never won. Like I said, I love taking risks and I enjoy learning in the process. 

So, to answer your question, my childhood never imagined what I have become today. Not at all. My childhood wasn’t so fair to me. It projected that I will be a failure and disappointment to my family because I was too brave and outgoing, always willing to explore but God is bigger than my childhood. Here I am today. Smiles. 

​Inspiration behind Techavilly

The skill gap I see amongst the black community is what inspired me to start the company. I started the company with my college friend, Omotoyosi Ogunbanwo who is a tech enthusiast like me. 

You see, the tech industry is so big and trust me, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I believe that Nigerians are intelligent/smart and can have a share of voice in the tech industry if they have the right skills and opportunity. My goal is to help people get the skills required to secure a a six-figure job after training with TechaVilly. I came to America with the belief that I know a lot but realized there is still so much to learn if I must compete globally. So I put in the work and decided to transfer the knowledge to as many people as possible.

The Journey So Far

I will say that it’s been amazing. I never thought people are this hungry for knowledge and are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to acquire new tech skills and knowledge. It’s been rewarding I must say. 

​Why I Pitched My Tent In The  Tech sector

The opportunity in tech is unlimited. I schooled in the US and luckily I had my masters degree in a tech related program. That opened my eyes to what’s happening in the industry and how innovation is changing the world today. I decided to take my share of the national cake. But on a serious note, tech is the future and we must key into this and bring the information, experience and innovation back home. 

​Leaving My Work With ​ ​M​ultinational ​B​rands ​And  ​M​oving ​T​o ​T​he US

That was the most difficult decision I’ve made in my entire life. You know what it means to leave certainty for uncertainty. It was tough but I am glad I made the decision at the time I did. I was doing well in Nigeria as opposed to the belief that people who move abroad were suffering in Nigeria. That’s not true at all. I was living in Lekki, living in my own house and driving a car of my choice. But I wanted more, because I believe I was getting to the peak of my career in Nigeria. I didn’t want to be redundant because age wasn’t on my side either. I knew that the only thing that could make me relevant in my career is learning a new skill and repositioning myself. Then I found Tech. (Smiles) 

The second reason is to give my children a better life and education. I mean, I passed through the American educational system and I can say that the gap is wide compared to what we have back home. My children don’t understand the sacrifice we made for them now but they will thank me and my husband later. We technically sacrificed our career in Nigeria for their future but glory to God, it has paid off. 

​Being the ​ first female Edtech founder to launch an educational communication app in Africa, ​and It’s Impact​

When I moved to America, my little boy struggled to fit into the American Educational system. We moved here when he was seven. He wasn’t happy that he was struggling either. Then the school introduced an app that helped me collaborate and communicate with his teacher to help him overcome the challenges he was having. And boom, it worked like magic. And that’s where the idea came. If something as little as an app can change my son’s story, then it’s worth replicating in Africa. I know that most parents in Nigeria are going through similar situations, it’s also frustrating for teachers to have their pupils lagging behind. It puts a lot of pressure on them. That birthed the Discorz App, to bridge the communication gap between the parents and the school. 

To be honest, TechaVilly and Discorz App have put me out there especially amongst few people that matter here in America. My connection chain changed, and I have more people of like minds in my network. This wasn’t the case before I became a founder. 

​O​ther projects and activities

We have a couple of projects in the pipeline, like TechaVilly non-profit organization for underprivileged Nigerians and a digital Naija in diaspora talk show. Keep your fingers crossed. The goal is to unite Nigerians abroad with the project. 

 What ​I​ enjoy most about your job

I love the collaboration part. The compensation and the entirety of how it makes me feel. 

​The Tech Industry and It’s Support for Women In Tech

Not at the moment. We need more women in tech, this is one of the reasons we are transferring the skills to give more women a share of voice in the room. 

​One Thing I wish To Change In the Tech Sector​

One thing that makes technology evergreen is INNOVATION. Nigeria needs to embrace technology and its benefits to the generations unborn. I will do my part to change people’s orientation about tech. Yes, it has its bad side but there is always a good side to every story. 

​Being  a Woman of Rubies

​My resilience, tenacity, grit, and bravery​ makes me a Woman of Rubies​ and more.

​To the young woman who wants to pitch her tent in the tech industry

I’ll tell her to keep learning and never stop improving. Knowledge is what makes the next person better than you. When you have the right information, you will stand before anyone and speak with confidence. Whatever field you want to major in tech, research the skills, get the knowledge and certifications required to pivot into that field. Trust me, it opens unimaginable doors! 

A famous person once said; “Innovation is the outcome of a habit, not a random act.” That is what technology has done to the world; it made us recognise the power of consistency and focus.

Excellence Anurika Joshua belongs to the crop of women who are making a difference in the world through technology, and lifting other women while at it. She is the founder of Techy Train incubator, a Nigerian-based onshore and offshore training and outsourcing organisation that specialises in equipping African young women and female entrepreneurs with digital skills to empower them to get jobs in their countries and to also maximise remote job opportunities around the world. This will help in reducing the gender wage gap and to also support capacity building among African companies and startups development worldwide.


A Digital Media Consultant, Pan Africa social entrepreneur, and a blooming African development expert who has trained and created job opportunities for over 3000 young African Women in the Tech Space since 2019, in 2021, she started the Tech-Up Girls Initiative with her team to empower 5000 young women across Africa with basic digital skills before the end of 2022. The World Bank Fellow, and recipient of the AGS survivor-woman award is also the winner of Mentoring Her Pitchathon, as well as the 1st Runner-Up of The Youth Innovation Challenge by The Funding Space. In 2021, she emerged as one of the winners of the Startup Lab Pitch Competition of the Nigeria Tech Summit. A trailblaser who is passionate about using technology to drive change across areas in women, health, and education, she shares her story with ESTHER IJEWERE In this interview.

Childhood Influence
Yes, my childhood kind of did. My dad used to have a business centre even before I was born; first in Niger State and eventually in Abuja, the University of Abuja campus precisely. When I was about seven years old, on my birthday, my dad bought me a typewriter as my birthday gift and a book to learn how to type.

My mum used to be an accountant and a clerk with the then NEPA. She knew how to type very well, so she would teach me how to do ASDF and ;LKJ, you know, and all of that. I learnt how to type; that was when I was in primary three. But as I grew up, when I finished primary school, my elder brother and I would go to my dad’s business centre to help him with work. We would do things like photocopy, lamination… of course those are tech skills. So, we did all of that.

Then, when I grew a little bit older, he would tell his staff who were computer typists to teach me the computer, so they would teach me how to type and apply shortcuts on the computer. They taught me, so I knew how to type very well such that when I was in senior secondary school, I think or after junior WAEC, I was typing for money. Then a page was typed for N70 or N100? And we had so many people doing projects. It was a university environment, not everybody could own a computer or a laptop at that time, so people had to patronise business centres. And, yes, I knew how to type really fast.

My brother got more interested in coding, in software, and things like Oracle and all of that and he went further to explore that area but me, I just liked it; I love gadgets a lot. And my dad got me a phone; I think in 2006, I had just finished JSS 3. I never thought that I was going to be doing anything tech or digital skills like this; I didn’t think of it that way. But really, it helped. We would always go to my dad’s business centre to help him and I was exposed to all of these and he would just tell us, ‘don’t worry, when you are in school, when you get to the university, you won’t be stranded; you can always start your own business centre or do something.’

But you see, my story of survival from abuse pushed me to help other women and I didn’t think initially that my background was going to give me ease transitioning to tech. But here I am today; I am doing all of it. I think, yes, a part of my childhood actually prepared me in a way for what I do now.

Inspiration Behind Techy Train Incubator
In 2018, I was 25 years old, a fresh graduate from the university. I had just separated from my then abusive husband and fled with my two-year old son; I had no job, had a neurological breakdown, and was absolutely broke. I was desperate to survive. And while at it, I realised that the African society is not kind to helpless women and there were not many options for me. Despite being a graduate of Medical Laboratory Science, when life hit me hard, like it does to more than 21 per cent of Women in the world, the only lifeline I found to rebuild myself was through technology skills and digital solutions.

As soon as I began to make headway, I was determined to help other women do the same as well. I founded the Techy Train Incubator, a social enterprise to bridge the gender employment gap in Africa by training women and girls on digital skills, equipping them for the future of work and the right employability and helping them get jobs.

So far, I have led a team that has trained successfully over 7000 young Women across 21 countries in Africa on relevant basic digital skills and helped over 3500 outsource their talent globally, thereby fostering the economic development of women especially in Africa.

The Journey So Far
So far, I have led a team that has trained successfully over 7000 young Women across 21 countries in Africa on relevant basic digital skills and helped over 3500 outsource their talent globally thereby fostering the economic development of women especially in Africa. I have won a few grants that have accelerated our work and reach across Africa.

I started a foundation in 2021 funded by the Techy Train incubator to train young girls and ladies for free in relevant technology skills, especially those with financial challenges and with no jobs to cater for themselves and their children. My mission in this is to empower women and youths with tools to work their way out of poverty, care for their families and strengthen their communities. As there are so many opportunities in the Tech and online space that are yet to be tapped, I believe that with thorough guidance and training, we can help women, especially those who are suffering in abusive marriages, become financially independent, leveraging just their smartphones and the internet; helping them set up a thriving business online. It will also prevent more young women from being vulnerable to abuse.

Mission To Empower 5000 Young Women Across Africa With Basic Digital Skills Before The End Of 2022
I set up The Tech-Up Girls Initiative bootcamp with my team to empower 5000 young women across Africa with basic digital skills within three years, starting in June 2021. However, this goal was achieved within a year. So far, over 3330 have been empowered from across 19 countries in Africa and assisted over 400 women in being gainfully self-employed using digital skills. The final cohort where over 1700 young girls are enrolled will be completed by June 24, 2022.

In January 2022, I set-up the Tech-Up Ladies to teach young Nigerian female graduates how to code and become Software Developers. Nine young ladies were trained within 10 weeks for FREE and completed their training in March 2022.

Being A World Bank Fellow, And Winning The AGS Survivor-Woman Award
First, the World Bank Fellow award, I had just started Techy Train not too long ago and then I applied and pitched my business to go into the Access Bank Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton and I didn’t really think I was going to be selected. I scaled through the first stage and then I got selected among 50 women that were trained by the International Finance Corporation and World Bank Group for that programme and it was a phenomenal experience. We went through quite a number of unique business skills training; very practical hands-on and it was just too good. So, after that, part of the award we were given was becoming World Bank Fellows and it’s really a boast. It has been a good one. It is not just about that; it is about the community that we have found and the support and the leverage that we have had since then. The AGS survivor-woman award is something that is very remarkable to me that I just will not forget, because it was my very first attempt at sharing my story, so Mwanga Africa was partnering with the AGS tribe, now Herconomy, to share stories that touch lives. I was very reluctant, I didn’t want to share it and for some reason, I won. For me, it wasn’t that; it wasn’t about the prize money of $1000 that was given. It was the fact that my story was valid; it was the fact that for the first time, I was vulnerable enough to share my experience and it changed my life. I used a part of that money to get my very first new laptop and then I registered for Codecademy to study full-stack web development and that was a journey to greater things in my life.

So, I feel privileged. It also gave me quite some visibility and from then, I saw that I was not alone. So many people were going through the same experience I had, but were not bold enough to come forward and I saw myself providing help and support to most of them.

Society And Its Support For Women In Tech
I think right now, not many women are in the tech space and despite this, I don’t see so much discrimination. I think in the tech space, it is more about how good you are. If you are good, they give you the opportunity; so, it is not about being male or female. At least, I have not experienced that. I even see that they want more women, but we don’t have so many women that are skilled enough to do the job required so the gap is wide.

You see, they always want women; I don’t think they discriminate. I think there is just so much to be done, and I think that more people should support and encourage women to actually go in that field. If it is in that angle, then I think yes, we should support more women to go into tech.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
First, my mum; the woman is so resilient, determined and powerful. She’s one person who if she’s backing you, you can go to sleep. She literally keeps encouraging me. I admire Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji for her tenacity. I admire Dr Lola Adeyemi for her heart. She’s a gift that keeps giving and constantly sees the good in others. In the work I do, I have to keep giving, keep impacting with or without external support and remembering her and what she has done for me, I am encouraged to do more.

Challenges
Some of the challenges I have experienced in my line of work include inconsistent power supply. You don’t have power, you don’t even have fuel to power the generator; it could be a lot of work. Another thing I have experienced is being able to balance work and family; it can be a whole lot especially parenting my son alone. There are sacrifices and things I have to give up to actually make some things work.

Thirdly, it is not easy to build a business with a good structure in Nigeria. Many things, many people want to relate with you one on one, so it was very difficult transitioning that we have a team and this is how things will work.

Other Projects And Activities
We have the Tech-Up Ladies. In the Tech-Up Ladies, the plan for 2022 is to empower 20 young women with software development skills. We have empowered nine already through a 10 weeks programme; they finished on March 31, and it’s been phenomenal.

Now, moving on from the Tech-Up Girls that we are achieving in a bit, we are looking forward to partnering with well meaning Nigerians, Non-profit organisations and people that are interested in empowering women and girls, especially with tech skills in Nigeria and across Africa. We are looking forward to partnering with them to facilitate programmes to reach more people. We have a system that works, we just need resources to channel them to reach more people.

We are also working on leveraging partnerships with other African countries to go there and empower girls there but to use local content for girls in those localities. Most importantly, we are also working on building a marketplace for women in tech from Africa where they can sell their skills to individuals and corporations around the world. The platform is to be built specifically for women in tech and by women. We are looking forward to resources to make this happen.

Being A Woman Of Rubies
It is the fact that Excellence has gone through a deep furnace experience. So, when I teach, I don’t teach from my head knowledge. I know what can work, because it is not abstract knowledge; it is because I have walked the path. I have gone through the pain. I have seen all of it; I have seen the failure, I can pre-empt what will work and what will not work. So, I am not going to give motivational talks or just hype women. I am not telling them where I have not been. I am not bringing them out from where I have not been. I know the road; I have been out of ‘prison’’ so I know how to show them out so that is what makes me unique. Despite it all, I thrived against all odds; coming out and now going back to bring out other people from there.

Advice For Young Women Who Want To Pitch Their Tent In The Tech Sector
I will say come in, come on in; there is more than enough room for you in tech. There is a uniqueness that women bring into developing products that are created in tech that men alone cannot bring. So, I would say please and please do come on to tech; come and humanise technology. We love you, we appreciate you and we would want to see you. I think there is room for you to be all that you can be without limitations, without discrimination. I think more women should come.

Important Tech Nuggets
In transitioning to tech, do not think abstractly; discover what tech skill intersects with your academic background, experience and skills, as well as which will remain relevant down the road. Do not learn a skill just because others are learning as well.

 

 

Temi Marcella Awogboro is a pioneer and change agent passionate about unlocking the transformational power of capital as a catalyst for profound change globally and transforming lives through her work. She has committed over half a billion dollars in impact capital across emerging markets to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Temi is a core part of the investment leadership team responsible for scaling Evercare from inception in 2015 to a global platform comprising 30+ hospitals, 20+ clinics and 80+ diagnostics centers operating across 6 countries. She has been instrumental in leading the investment in building and operating one of the largest and most advanced private hospitals in Nigeria in a bid to transform healthcare in the region. Through her early-stage investment platforms, she is building and cultivating disruptive, transformative institutions that will emerge as today’s regional champions and tomorrow’s global challengers.

Temi was appointed by the President of Nigeria to sit on the Nigerian Health Sector Reform Committee under the Chairmanship of the Vice President of Nigeria. She also sits on the Equality Fund Board of Directors, Evercare Hospital Lekki Board of Directors and the Save the Children International Africa Advisory Board.

A recipient of the Future Awards Africa Prize, Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award and M&A Advisor’s European Emerging Leaders Award, she shares her inspiring story with ESTHER IJEWERE in this interview.

Childhood Influence
I am proudly Nigerian with German and Scottish heritage. I was born in Nigeria, raised in the United Kingdom, and have lived and worked across four continents. My childhood was one of discovery, adventure, and exploration. While I never felt a stranger where I lived, I also never quite fully belonged. This lived experience forced me to forge a strong personal identity that was not wedded to culture, dogmas, traditions, and ideological concepts.

I was inspired greatly by the entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic and tenacity of my parents. My father was a medical doctor turned entrepreneur, and my mother was a Miss Nigeria beauty queen, technology systems engineer, and subsequently joined my father in building the family business that straddled construction, procurement and technology. These influences are intricately woven into the individual and professional I am today.

From a tender age, my parents and close family nicknamed me “Small But Mighty” because within my pint-sized package, came mighty aspirations. As a child, I always refused to be restricted by the limits imposed by external expectations of me, with a burning desire to push beyond the limits perceived in my mind or externally imposed.

Inspiration behind my career path
I am an investment professional with over 15 years of experience in developed and growth markets. I have always been driven by my belief in the power of private capital to transform lives and my passion to unlock the power of capital as a catalyst for profound, sustainable change globally. On this journey, I have committed over half a billion in private capital to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Through my career, I have been uniquely positioned to operate at the intersection of healthcare, finance, technology and impact – often referred to as an Impact investor/healthcare operator by day and venture capitalist by night. As the Executive Director with Evercare Hospital Lekki and previous West Africa Lead of one of the first and largest dedicated impact funds globally, I have been privileged to have been part of the investment leadership responsible for scaling the fund from inception in 2015 to a global platform comprising operating across 6 countries and highlighted as one of the top 50 leaders that will “come to define the world of tomorrow.”

I have been equally driven by my belief in the central role of technology in creating a better world. Through my early-stage investment platforms, Kairos Angels and the Magic Fund, I have invested in some of the best minds and disruptive teams that are emerging as today’s regional champions and tomorrow’s global challengers.

The journey so far
My life’s course has been determined by doing the hard things. My Evercare journey started in 2015, based on my belief in healthcare as a fundamental right. On this journey, we ran into a number of unforeseen headwinds, which nearly stalled the project, not least of which was trying to commence formal operations during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Against this backdrop, it was extremely humbling and rewarding to celebrate the key milestones and groundbreaking feats achieved within the first 12 months of operations at Evercare’s 1year anniversary on March 10, 2022. Some of these milestones include successfully completing several complex clinical procedures in cardiology (five open heart surgeries, two permanent pacemaker insertions), spinal surgeries, first-of-its kind paediatric surgeries in the country and becoming the first facility in Africa to get Safecare Level 5 certification on the first accreditation exercise.

While the journey continues and there remains much work to be done, I am indeed proud of the considerable progress that Evercare has made in the past year and especially proud to say that we are on our way to transforming healthcare in Nigeria.

Challenges
As I reflect on my journey to date, I have faced a plethora of challenges; navigating my career at the epicentre of the global financial crisis, encountering significant resistance trying to break into the private equity industry, navigating the extremely lonely path rising the ranks in male-dominated industries, witnessing first-hand the destructive impact of toxic leadership and failed institutions and juggling the demands of being a present and invested mother to two toddlers, while managing my professional commitments.

I have remained optimistic and learned to thrive under the pressure of doing the ‘impossible’ fuelled by a deep sense of purpose, an unrelenting tenacity, and an unwavering belief in myself. Failure for me is an unavoidable part of living a limitless life.

Other projects and activities
As we step into the fourth industrial revolution, I believe we are called to shape this technology revolution to empower people and create more equitable outcomes for our communities and the world. I am deeply committed to investing in entrepreneurs tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. Through my early-stage platforms, Kairos Angels and Magic Fund, I identify aspirational entrepreneurs building impactful solutions, invest in this talent, provide mentorship, access to networks and functional support to power their trajectory. Across these platforms, we have invested in over 180+ entrepreneurs globally, many of who are already emerging as today’s regional champions and tomorrow’s global challengers.

What I enjoy most about my job
I am passionate about my ability to be a change agent and catalyst to transform lives through my work. This unique positioning has been fascinating and given an invaluable opportunity to work at the forefront of paradigm shifts globally. We are at a unique point in human history where world orders are shifting; new technologies are emerging. I have so many big and audacious dreams and I am excited to continue to bring these dreams to fruition.

Three women who inspire me and why
I live my life trying to take inspiration from everyone I meet. Some women who have made an impression on me include: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who stood out for me as an unapologetic, unstoppable powerhouse, relentless in her pursuit of social justice and quest for equality.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for her role as the female to serve as both finance and foreign minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the visibility she has brought to Africa on a global stage.

Finally, Kamala Harris when in her inauguration speech, the Vice President of the USA urged young girls to “Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

This resonated profoundly with me as a woman who has often found herself in male-dominated rooms with few allies. I struggled with the absence of female role models until I embraced the power of my own dreams and started to see myself as the role model I was looking for.

The resilience of women during the pandemic
As an investor in healthcare, I have witnessed first-hand how women have stood at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis as nurses, doctors, caregivers, innovators and as some of the most exemplary and effective leaders in combating the pandemic. It is no coincidence that women led countries most successful in stemming its tide and impact of COVID-19.

But the pandemic has sadly highlighted the disproportionate burdens women carry and their inadequate representation at the highest levels of decision-making. And new barriers emerged to impede many women’s progress, such as unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty.

Importance of educating and supporting women
I have been humbled by all the coverage and recognition received in this year’s International Women’s month. In particular, I was deeply honoured to have received the recognition by Lagos State as one of the EKO 100 Women. It is said that you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women. ‘Women hold up half the sky’ and I am proud of the fact that His Excellency Governor Sanwo-Olu on behalf of the Lagos State Government took the step to recognise and celebrate the unending commitment of women to a more equal and equitable world.

Most important to me is the pledge to ‘support every effort to achieve a Lagos where all women and girls can live their lives to the fullest and achieve their potential without limits.’ My appeal is to continue to provide women a platform in the mainstream media and outside of 1 month a year. The strides many women are making are world class by any measure and deserve to be recognised, celebrated and amplified.

One thing I wish to change in the health sector
The single biggest issue facing the healthcare industry in Nigeria is the ongoing wave of brain drain, especially of clinical talent. Nigeria with over 40 per cent physician migration remains one of the leading African sources of foreign-born physicians. Evercare with its purpose-built infrastructure, best in class equipment, and focus on achieving quality metrics that meet international standards, is working hard to attract critical medical talent back to Nigeria from the Diaspora, thereby reversing some of the brain drain that plagues the sector.

It maintains a strategic focus of employing, retaining and investing in local resources to ensure a highly experienced, well-rounded, and diverse team, poised to support the advancement of medical care across Nigeria. I sincerely hope that my story and the work the Evercare team is doing, inspires more Nigerians in the diaspora to come back and take up the mantle of leadership to enable the nation to achieve its full potential both in the healthcare sector and beyond.

Being a Woman of Rubies
I love the concept of the Woman of Rubies as a forum for women across various walks of life to share their inspiring stories. As a woman that has risen through male dominated fields, trying to ‘have it all’, I am thankful for the platform to use my story to bring hope, motivate and inspire women all over the globe. I am striving to live life on my terms, fully embracing all aspects of my being and living the highest version of myself each day.

There is nothing that says you can’t be professional, ambitious, audacious, and successful but also be fun loving, free and love fashion. There is nothing that says you can’t hold down a boardroom and hold down your home. Women are powerful beyond measure, when we are liberated to demand and create the life we deserve.

My message to women everywhere is that you are powerful beyond measure, and your voice matters. Do not feel less entitled, expect more, take up more space and demand more, be bold in challenging the status quo. Finally, teach your girls to embrace a world of possibilities, to be proud of their ambition, regardless of their gender. Send them a clear message that they can be whomever they chose to be, and applaud them every step of the way.

I choose to live a life that is purpose driven, passion filled and performance oriented, and continue on my journey not focused on the pursuit of perfection, but led by the voices of those who christened me ‘Small but mighty’. They challenge me to create and compete; to build and nurture; to take risks and to leave my legacy.

 Members of the growing and influential movement of social entrepreneurs and innovators, Catalyst 2030, will gather with world leaders during Catalysing Change Week 2022 in answer to the universal call to find bold new strategies to make the world a more sustainable and fairer place for everyone.

Launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2020, Catalyst 2030 comprises more than 1,500 people and organisations who are active in over 180 countries and who directly reach an estimated two billion people

For five days from 9-13 May 2022, you will have the opportunity to join millions of people across the world at Catalyst 2030’s Catalysing Change Week (CCW). CCW2022 offers the unique opportunity to engage with the world’s most innovative changemakers as they collaborate, co-create and share best practices.

The week-long event is open to everyone who is interested in learning about the growing Catalyst 2030 movement, its work and successes in tackling the root of some of the world’s most difficult challenges, as it seeks to accelerate attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Journalist and Founder of Rubies Ink Initiative, Esther Ijewere, will be hosting the virtual zoom session on Media and Public Policy session on the 11th of May. The session kicks off by 9.30am WAT, and 10.30 CEST.

The speakers​ for the session​ are; Gusi Tobby Lordwilliams of Girl Hub Africa, Senior Software Analyst, and Mental Health Advocate; Larmmy O​g​idan-Odeseye, Journalist and Co-founder; The Gender Initiative ; Ruth Atim, and Communications expert; Rafiat Atanda.

“With over 250 sessions and activities between 9th to 13th of May​​ globally, it is a privilege to be hosting one and bringing such a crucial conversation to the front burner, as it relates to SDGs 3, 5, and 8”, Esther Ijewere said.

Jeroo Billimoria, Catalyst 2030 spokesperson and one of the movement’s co-founders said the event provided a crucial platform for the social innovation community and world leaders to brainstorm and collaborate to explore solutions to these challenges.

“Time is simply not on our side and people are suffering unnecessarily as the UN’s 2030 deadline to meet the SDGs looms. We need to make the most of every opportunity to work together towards making our collective dream of a better world for all people a reality,” Bilimoria said.

“We are excited that Catalysing Change Week 2022 will again bring together a diverse group of experts, social innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders from the private sector and government.  In a spirit of true collaboration we will listen deeply to understand the challenges and collaborate as never before to change the world for the better. Some of the problems that will be tackled include poverty, disease, food security and the pervasive global lack of access to basic services like health and education. Participants will tap into the collective wisdom around systems change while forging partnerships across countries, regions and sectors,” Billimoria said.

We invite the media and general public to join this panel session aimed at highlighting the role of the press and policy makers.

Please register to attend​ the Media and Public Policy  session​ with this link;  https://t.co/rmMhp3ECB1

Register for other Catalyst session​s​ here; https://catalysingchangeweek.catalyst2030.net/events/

​Read more about Cataylst 2030 here; ​https://catalysingchangeweek.catalyst2030.net/about/

Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode is a criminal justice psychologist and prominent child rights, activist. She is the Executive Director of Media Concern for Women and Children Initiative (MEDIACON), a non-profit organisation listed by the UNDP, which works with child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.  

Dr. Princess is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape, who has transformed to become a conqueror and fountain of succour for not only child victims but adult survivors as well. Started the first rape crisis centre in Nigeria in 2005 and reached hundreds of thousands of child victims, their families, and adult survivors of sexual violence. She shares her inspiring story and the inspiration behind her upcoming boot camp with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

OK about my childhood, looking back I will say yes but if I was asked this question maybe like 20 years ago, I would have said NO.  Looking back from where I am now in my life, I would say my experiences as a child prepared me for today. My parents were expecting a boy, and I arrived a girl.  I started in life proving that I am good enough to fill the boy space, and this put an extra push on me. That’s the same way I’ve committed myself to whatever it is I get into, I put myself into…

When I sit back and put on the 3D glasses, looking back, my life and the different experiences I had, yeah, I will say yes. My fighting spirit and ability to focus at one thing at a time were qualities I acquired. Looking through attending a private school, leaving at Primary to join a public school. So, you can see my experiences vary across class.  I experienced all this child I can understand someone from that background, I could really blend into various class sets. This is making made me smile… I was arrogantly stubborn and heady. Imagine me at 15 telling my father that he should focus on his other children, I will sort myself. You are self-made man; I will be a self-made woman. I’ve always been a fighter and that’s what I’m still doing. I stood up for the hurting, wounded, cheated even to my detriment as a child. I never liked injustice.

Inspiration behind  Media Concern Initiative

Starting Media Concern Initiative (MediaCon) has nothing to do with my being a survivor.  I was working with The Punch Newspaper and managing two pages focusing on woman. I avoided doing the regular focus of most women’s section – make-u, fashion, parenting for mothers (lol), cooking, you know home front issues and about how women should do better.  I did differently – having two full pages per week. I began to raise social issues and one of them was on Child Sexual Abuse – no one was talking about abuse. This invisible Tsunami was totally ignored as a nation. The response across the nation was huge. Adults from all six Geo=political zones in Nigeria responded. Over 1000 responses received through the newspapers Private Mail Bag and email. we had bold the private meal bags and middle course my first email was opened for me because My first email address was opened for me in The Punch. The column was ‘Princess’ was my name, so I had to use my second name Modupe Kayode. The response from adult survivors, I think more than 65% were men, women were about 35%. It was scary to see the pain, wounded and still suffering at what they had no control over what happened to you as a child, and the experience (s) still has gigantic impact and influence on adult survivors lives for worse. MediaCon was birthed as a name based of my publishing the issues around Child Sexual Abuse. I left the Punch, joined Journalist against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria, and worked in media advocacy and activism for two years. MediaCon continued its work on low key, educating teens in my living room for those years.

In 2002, I felt really bored at work. I had attained the height of my work and had no more challenges. I strive on challenges. I just needed something else excites me it was no longer exciting, and I didn’t just want to resign, without having something definite. I started feeling like it was time to move on. So, I sought God’s face on What Next? I waited for my church’s end of year event – Shiloh 2002, and I got my answer – Sexuality Minister, between God and I. The answer was the last thing I wanted in my life. Though this affirmed I couldn’t have come up with it myself… I never really imagined that I would have anything to do with the three-letter word – SEX. My personal experience with the word was not encouraging at all. It is like having to live through all my worst experiences again.

Finally, I succumbed and accepted my faith gladly. Then I decided if this the way to go, how best am I going to do it? Then plunged into research. What has been happening in Nigeria? What are they doing? Who was doing what around sexuality? What did they focus on and how? After visiting some organisations, apart from online searches, articles, abstract, reports, etc. I   concluded to settle the organisation’s focus on the Child Sexual Abuse

During the preparation stage, we were working at the back-end strategizing, when I received a call. Till this day, I have no idea who gave the parent of an eight-year-old, who had been sexually abused girl my mobile number. We had to step out much earlier than anticipated.

Very few people knew I was doing this. There was no official announcement yet. The parents of the little girl were both police officers.  This little girl could barely walk properly. She had an infection; part of the presentation was the migration of pin worms into vaginal area.  A doctor joined us in research. I found a Professor, back then he was a doctor – Sunday Idemudia of the University of Ibadan. He was invited to participate in the very first Media Roundtable organised by MediaCon to hold on this topic. That was with the beginning of media roundtables. She (the little girl) ignited my action button, boosted my passion, and heralded the fountain of inspiration. First it was God, you know and then, also the reality of seeing a little girl, who couldn’t walk properly, infected because of sexual abuse by very close family acquaintance – the son of the girl’s Godparents who at that time was a law undergraduate in a State University in 2003.

Together with an awesome take off crew, in addition was collective inspiration. I can’t even make claim to it. The appearance of that family and the timing ascertained we were the right path that and so that was it and there was no stopping us.

Being A Survivor Of Rape And Child Sexual Abuse, And My Healing Process

Hmmm… My healing is all together another phase of my life.

I never shared my sexual abuse experiences with anyone growing up. Though my parents did discover one – he was actually caught in the act- a paternal uncle. l lived with pain that , was that all my father and mother could do to protect me. Back then, my dad told my mum to “…take your daughter and go clean her.” Looking back now, I can see why he called me names most of my childhood. Interestingly enough, I have never seen the part of it, until answering these questions. My dad called me , Ashewo.” It never really bothered me. I never opened up about any experience before or after that.

I started research on Satan and Sex, this was one of the ways to deal with the issue. I enjoyed majority of the consequences of sexually abuse and this I got  to know from researched from mainly the United States. Yet I was born and live in Nigeria.

When my purpose was realigned to help save others, bring hope, healing, and justice… Working with other survivors, working with perpetrators, attending, and participating in strategic events and  self-development programmes. Connecting with therapists, and most of all my faith I God. I began to heal…It is still an ongoing process. You just get better, stronger, forgive and forget.

I fought a long battle. My work at MediaCon also helped.

I still believe that it takes God to heal from these experiences, but therapy is necessary.

Wearing Multiple Hats And Staying Grounded

Indeed, I do wear many hats … uuummm and it can be scary too, even for me…. because there are times when I want to answer what is it, I do, and it’s like bragging … you know, and this never ever my intention.

Sometimes you see me in a particular programme with a title, and then in another programme or event, and I have another title. That’s because I wear multiple hats.

My work in MediaCon is exposed me to many skills, aside the ones I had when starting the organization. My background is writing. I just loved to write, This I noticed in secondary school. Also, I wrote a lot of poems. I was known to do the best love prose… I was not business like, otherwise, all the free write ups should have earned me a fee. Maybe even make a lot … lol…

So here I am coming into this work, of course I had a little background in journalism and so here I am facing this new assignment, I don’t know anything apart from researches, studies, and my experiences as a child victim, and survivor. I didn’t really study journalism, until much later.  just you so you know, I can align with a lot of things. Being a learner and knowing how to ask questions from various angles was helpful and so we continue to work and began to fill the gaps and lapses that we had in terms of skill in terms of qualifications. So much more for me was skill actually and together with my staff, we began to build capacity. Apart from working with the Media to keep this subject in the fore.

My personal capacity grew – as I became a Certified Forensic Interviewer, Trauma Management Counsellor, with criminal justice psychology background. You know just different things, looking at the gaps that we needed to fill up, to enable us to do and give the best. I sought to be on top of the work – Got more training on Crisis Centers Structures, work, and the intervention with survivors; Victim Advocacy; STEPS Counselling Therapy & Treatment; Working with children and teenagers on inappropriate sexual behavior. I was just on a learning spree, with placed me and staff capacity was also being built…

I did a lot of training and have a lot of certifications. I am a Master Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, did Family Systems Engineering; moved to take on How To Think courses. Just empowering myself you know, a Premium Sexuality educator you know and a SGBV response expert, a Child protection and safeguarding policy and procedure strategist. I do consulting in that area I help schools and organizations develop their living and workable child protection and safeguarding policy and procedures. I do forensic interviewing and child interviewing, not interrogation trainings. I love my hats. Like you said I wear quite a lot and how do I manage.  When I was starting out, my husband was supportive. He encouraged me. There were times where, I got to work and will be informed I was traveling same day. When I want to refuse, he’ll say don’t worry. Imagine, I had a wardrobe at work. Yes. With my husband’s permission of course. He encouraged me and kept the Homefront going. Of course, my older children were part of my support system, and my faith in God. They were awesome. They allow my spread my wings.

Nearly 20 years plus in this work, I don’t play with self-care now. Back in the days, even when I do understand self-care, it was something that I made sure my staff and I do. When I noticed they are fatigue, we could shut down the office and just go to the beach and go to the cinema. I couldn’t bear them drained, particularly when they will refuse to take time off. That bunch… lol Watching them and seeing them drained. So much to do, being the foremost organization on prevention and providing crisis response back in the days – opening the first rape crisis center in the country and attending to not just Lagos, but the nation was a lot. Also, I am privileged to have a lot of good people around me um who took me in, some as my mentors and some mentees and lot of sisters from this work.

Lastly, if you know me, I know how to play.  I play a lot and I dance.  I watch movies and play my Candy Crush.  I love dancing and playing with my grandsons. I have three now.

I used to carry work home but that changed a long time back now. I arrive home from work, fling my shoes, start pulling off work clothing and right back on my laptop or attending to the 24hr helpline. That had to stop. Work time, family time. there must be boundaries.

Presently, it is like I’m detached, that’s because I’m no longer emotional about issues. I do empathize. I’m just not into sentiments. The Nigerian factor… I listen but I’m not going to jump straight out… you know when somebody has a case of domestic violence or something like this you see everybody come but that wasn’t me before. I’m calm now, objective about what exactly needs to be done about this issue. It’s not only jumping up and down

What I Enjoy Most About My Job

It will be bureaucracy.  Emergency was not a word that received attention as it should. This put a lot of burden, as child protection and safeguarding issues required on the go. You must submit a letter, which will go through many desks before action can be taken. Sometimes, more danger or even loss of life or family, sometimes, key witness has been taken out of state.

This is no longer the picture, but a lot still needs to be done.  The lack of understanding of the dynamics of child sexual abuse, our laws, multisectoral sector and implementation was a challenge. Because I have been researching on this topic a long time, I understood the law, the legal aspects and law enforcement. It was very frustrating that we had to be filling the gaps at different crossroad. Filling gaps with capacity building of staff both locally and internationally.  Oh my God, one of the greatest things MediaCon enjoyed was that we had awesome funding partners, they wanted to see us grow.

Another challenge was crisis management. It is great to note that there was no funding for crisis management. Crisis management took the magnitude of money. When a case is reported, the organisation bears the cost of logistics for the case – provide transportation for the family involved, food for the family involved, medical, etc. MediaCon relocated five families completely for their safety and most of all for the wellbeing of the children in Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja. The families got rented self-contained apartments, secured to avoid access to the children. I mean gate and basic furnishing to comfortable living standard. Mothers were set up in businesses and school fees are paid for the children. Organisations like ours must be the ones who bear the financial brunt to enable us assist child victims, their families, and survivors with very lean resources. The criminal justice system was not encouraging back in the days, we had a case of a girl who was four when she was defiled, at nearly 12 or 13 years old, we got conviction, after incessant adjournments…

Then investigation, there were lots of bottle necks, there’s so many things we did, such as actually undertake brief investigation, before writing a petition – this happened around 2003-2005. Back in the days, police didn’t work so well with state social workers, this affected children, who needed protection, MediaCon was able to bridge this gap.  Pornography was easily accessible to children, sold on the streets for as cheap as a hundred Naira, child sexual abuse reports were increasing daily. MediaCon and our Children Advisory Board members together with the Ministry of Women Affairs and State Children Parliament acquired over 1000 children appended their signatures to a Save Our Soul (SOS) document delivered to the Stae House of Assembly Speaker and top representatives in 2007.

I brought cases home, working with the Ministries, girls were taken into my home. My family was targeted, to the point we had to relocate within Lagos leaving our property behind. Our lives, that of my staff were in danger many times over. Who would keep us safe? International community supported our relocation. Our office was burgled, only the crisis management laptop was stolen. The attacks were clearly case related… Keeping us safe became a challenging.

Family and so ictal intrusions based on myths, and the devil was a were also a challenge. Knowing the subject of our work – children were mostly abused. More than once, men of God came to my office to plead for an adult sexual molester – telling me how this person has changed their ways and the devil was responsible. Of course, they were arrested right in my office by plain cloth Police Officers – Area G Commander worked so well with us in that regard. The understanding of the society was a huge challenge – lots of interference in the cases. We kept putting up educational, sensitization and Enlightment programmes and materials across 5 languages – Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, English and Pidgin English.

My Upcoming Boot Camp On How To Start Sex Education With Children

About, the boot camp programme- It is about how to start and keep the sex with your children going. This course was first introduced in 2016, on Teachable.com platform and over 250 parents trained. I was just testing the market and it was free. Over the years, more parents and care givers have taken the course and paid for. However, for the first time in this training programme, other experts are joining us.

 We shall be looking at emotional intelligence for the sexuality education talks and looking at how to keep your mental health in check – you know the culture of the generation we are in is quite different from that of parents and adults. We are delving also, on how to think – critical thinking and on the spot thinking when it comes to issues of your children and of course of sexuality and different things that are around us.

In addition, family life as we know it, is not the same. You know deep down that as parents you are not really prepared to even face or acknowledge them. Family cultures, values and beliefs need to be revisited; we have an expert to help us in this terrain.

We shall also looking at inappropriate sexual behavior. One thing of parents shies away from – not wanting to accept your child is misbehaving and for some unconscious labeling and dumping the responsibility as that of the devil, the woman in the village, village people, the mother or siter in law who doesn’t like you, etc.… So, cover them.

 I know that most parents want what is good, even best for their children and must be able to make sure there is balance. Unconsciously too sometimes, parents are the ones, even creating the damage. When you do not know when to draw the line.  The Bootcamp will take incognizance the recent happenings and putting a searchlight at real of things happening around us as regards the sexuality culture of today, and how as parents you can position yourself to do good, better, and even great.

I remember back in the early days of media con talking about 2004 and 2005, there came the era of recording gang rape, recording on mobile phone and sharing – some went viral… It was like teens started creating their own porn. They rape, gang-rape, sexually assault a girl, record the girl and themselves, but without the faces of the boys – show everything that occurred and share it, sheer wickedness. So, we have seen quite a lot and It was horrible. These are our sons living double lives. So many girls were tortured and humiliated. Some will never know how far the video recordings reached.

MediaCon was able to trace some of these girls, got the girls and arrest were made, but they were too much…

 As a person who is very involved in the sector, I’m talking about the child sexual abuse prevention and crisis provision sector, we saw as children to children begin to escalate. Most people assume that sexual abuse can only be committed by an adult. That is what we are used to in the news, but we are finding quite a lot of inappropriate sexual behavior and activities between children. Also, we began to see that children were being convicted on rape cases as adults this happened in United States of America. Quite a lot because we’re monitoring global happenings. Child to Child has been around for a while and has been escalating since then as far back as 2001, escalated about 2012. An example of sexually assaulting rape and video taking was the famous case of the Steubenville High School back in 2012.

Attending this Bootcamp is a parent’s game up…  yes, you’ve just got to game up… no more excuses… The church is not responsible to teach your child, the Islamic educators are not, even to an extent, it’s not the schools responsibility.

Yes, there are some arguments about what the content of school-based sexuality education must consist off… I am in support – what is it appropriate and what is not…

You must understand how you to develop your family safety plan and a lot more that you will get introduced to other things that will be very helpful for your children. So, it’s a course you must not miss, and like I said many experts are going to be a part of it. It takes place from May 1st – 8th

What I Enjoy Most About My Job

 A chance to see there’s a woman and child safe. There’s a home to keep safe.  Living… really for me is saving life – one life at a time.  I love my work. I must say to you, I live by giving hope. I live by providing healing. You know so that’s just what yeah in I breathe every day of my life. I just want to give hope to people and bring healing. I live my work because it gets me to play that role, I love children … This comes naturally to me… Everywhere I go, children are drawn to me everywhere I go in the world … At the airport, you see children drawn to me… It’s interesting that some parents try to keep them back. I’ll plead them that it is okay, leave them. I’m not surprise that I end up working for them and with them. I love it because my experiences tend to give deeper insight into some things. Growing in the work also has given me working experience, which has been quite helpful.

 I love my work I could just wake me up from my sleep anytime, and I’ll jump into effortlessly. I found what I could do for free and get paid for. It is like playing just myself enjoying myself enjoying my time you know giving into a life really meaning.  it’s just so beautiful to be able to do that and when I work with a team, I mean that’s family for me. I have that family culture everybody comes in with one so we can work together. I see you I can talk to you and I’m just grateful for my life, I am grateful to have work and still working with awesome individuals.  Yeah, we have differences, but I love what I do and I’m in it.  if I’m doing anything I mean to it I mean I give it my whole …my ALL

Government And Support For Stakeholders In The Gender-Based Violence Sector

As someone who works in the SGBV sector, the government plays the major role to keep her citizens safe. Provide succour to the wounded, afflicted, and abused, etc.  what can I say…hmmm from when we started back, it’s a bit better NOW… it is better though some of the battles are still the same.  but look at the long journey back and over 20 years, we need to come up as a country with a very comprehensive crisis provision. Crisis provision includes prevention.

We need to set aside and add to country and state budgets – support for stakeholders at the different levels.

Empowering of Criminal justice sector officials and maintain continuous training and retraining by updating and reviewing and working together to discover what would work for us as much as we look at ours and others best practices.

We are far better than where we are coming from… Yet, the hurdles on the pathway to giving optimal care and services still exist. It is no joke really. Crisis response is about life and death sometimes. With a population of over 200 million, we have less than 20 functional shelters. Medicals, Therapy, Relocation, if need be. It is private organisation bearing the cost – that should be government provision. And people should stop believing that NGOs is all about collecting foreign funds. There are people and organisations working tirelessly, even some government MDAs (Ministry, Departments and Agencies). We make laws, and implementation and education of the society to the laws is still a struggle.  The VAPP Act is still crawling – more than 20 states have enacted at State level. Certain laws need to be reviewed and amended.

Shelters are overburdened and there is no financial support, we’ve got to come to accept the reality – you want women to leave abusive homes for where? Yes, shelters are temporary! A woman has finally taken the bold step to walk out of her situation, is a person ready to walk on water. They need more than just shelter, their psychological and mental state requires to access therapy. Most do not get that at all

As a country, and as a government, what are we doing to help to make sure that it’s not just going to a shelter but that you’re going through all the comprehensive care needed before reintegrating into society.

I remember in the early days with we worked with The Real Woman Foundation, they started working with sex workers. They had a home (Still have) supporting rehabilitation and reintegration for those who wanted out. We happen to have a teenage call retrieved from sex work. They offered a comprehensive program – taking each person through group and individual therapy, spiritual program, medical and physical health, and skill acquisition or back to school program. They built capacity before they are reintegrated into society. What I am saying, is for the government to go back to the drawing board and put a budget heading to support SGBV related programmes.

Resources need to spread across board, our legislators, presidency, vice, house of rep’s members, state house of assemblies, councilors- we need to reduce the pay. We need to go too far on where to find resources. How important sis the lives of the women and children of this nation? That is the question they need to answer truthfully.  Enough of collection of heavy salaries and benefits – our people are dying. Nigeria has got to commit money into supporting and providing support for civil society. The few individual homes need to be supported. There needs to be a sit down on the way forward

We are too dependent on international aids. We need to be less dependent on international funding. Where are our philanthropists. Let them arise to put their money where their mouth is. This is not saying Nigerians are not supporting, but it’s like trickle of water in a vast ocean of chaos.

Not all NGOs are syphoning funds, there are organisations tirelessly working hard. It’s time to wake up and put our money where our mouth is.

Governments need to evaluate what they are doing, bring in the academia to work with the civil society and government MDAs to do researches. Let’s create programme that are based on evidence.

 Three women who inspire me  and why

Number one on my list is Lisa Nicholas. The breakthrough specialist. Who lost everything … really had nothing except $12 to her name, a toddler son, homeless and hit Ground Zero. She found her voice, She found her feet, is a blessing globally, changing lives and finally found love too… It’s like a fairy tale too.  I see me scaling… as my life experiences have taken me on similar path. I see the glory… Bearer of Hope and Healing…

Number two, Oprah Winfrey. Born into poverty, experienced multiple child sexual abuse molestations. She rose above al odds. Got into media and rose to become a top talk show hostess, left to start of her own company. She doesn’t only know the onions of talk show, she explored acting and has starred in multiple movies. She runs her own charity that she funds. She is a global influencer. She does a lot to move women forward. She is an inspiration.

Lastly, Diana Ross… This lady still gets me having goose pimples on my skin, when I think of the iconic lady. I love her tenacity, ability to always look sleek. and remaining a legend. Also, how she kept her family private in her kind of world.

What We Can Do Better As A Society To Educate Parents On The Importance Of Having Sex Talks With Their Children From An Early Age

Religious organizations have got to be take a front burner, as they carry a have influence. If a call to home-based sexuality education hits pulpits and they are sharing the importance of sexuality education – it will pay off.

I can never forget way back one time in 2005 or 2006 thereabouts, I was invited to speak at the girls’ camp of one of the Pentecostal churches. In that meeting, I had access to about 2000 girls from ages 5 – 17. I just came to teach them basic child sexual abuse prevention. This meeting became a major milestone in my journey in this work because I was contemplating stopping about that time. What I experienced was too much pain. Asking the Holy Spirit about what He had to share … before the meeting and on my way… was, “My Heart Bleeds.” Nearly 80% of those in attendance had experienced a form of child sexual molestation. On that day, there was wailing! As I am responding to you, I can still vividly see the scenario all over again. I knew I could not STOP working…

There is serious need for the religious leaders to take the topic of sexuality education and other related matters serious. Parents need to join the conversation to understand that they need to take it up as part of their teachings, not just the holy books.  Not just spiritual.

Already, Nigeria has sexuality education incorporated into the secondary school system. Interestingly, Sexuality Education came under comprehensive life skill training. ARFH in Ibadan and Action Health Incorporated worked relentlessly for it to be introduced to schools in Lagos State.

As a nation, we need to create more programmes for parents to know what’s really going on in the world today. Keeping them abreast of related happenings. They need to access more education through trainings and participation. There’s no shame in acknowledging I don’t know about a thing if I don’t. All I should be thinking about is who has it, and that I can learn from.

What is of utmost value is the children and what’s best for them.

I recall my sister and I sharing our experience of when as little girls we used to make our hair – the traditional ‘Didi’ a service provided by elderly women in the Neighborhood. How we use to suffer inhaling, after holding our breath and can’t any longer… terrible odour. Why? In making the hair, they sit on wooden stools, and put one’s head bent low between their open thighs. The offensive odour coming from between their legs was killing. Yeta s children, you don’t dare to say a word. We always cried to have a haircut. My mum overhead us sharing and asked us why didn’t you tell me? How would one frame the words back in the days… You wan die.

Parenting has become intentional above emotional and sentiments. What kind of child are you raising? Parents can also seek, find, and knock and it shall be open to them, as they seek, they find, as they knock, the door is open to them. In other words, you must make the effort – you don’t want to repeat patterns by your parents… Take the great, good and learn from the bad, worse, and impractical.

One Thing I Wish To Change In The GBV Sector, Especially In Nigeria

If there was anything I could do to be changed in the GBV sector, what would that be? This is huge. As a nation, so many things oh!  I’ll just pick one thing. I’m thinking o… this question is killing me … my mind is just blank.

OK one thing … I can do … I’ll say mass awareness and education. This is not sensitization of a community type, but entire nation. Not just in the hand of one agency – but all – Government MDAs, Private Sector, Professional bodies, Non-Profit, Religious Organisations and entities, traditional, Influencers, etc. The police should have a public enlightenment department that is enlightening the public and not just about armed robbery, but every crime including sexual abuse prevention. Educating on what to do, as it involves them and criminal justice sector…

I know some may argue that this has already been done. Yes, I concur, but what are the results… With our massive population. We need to have a With our massive population. We need to have a strategic vision on what we want to achieve as a country as regards SGBV. This is to guide all parties. Knowing how to position and work towards a COLLECTIVE GOAL.

Corporate organisations can sponsor or collaborative. We see how they support BBN, Now, my recommendation is for them to join in the mass education.  We need to get their attention. If it must be musical jamboree, then we find how to link to the message. They can also be a part of supporting sponsoring billboards and enlightenment education in the different languages – like Hausa, Kanuri, Efik, Yoruba, Igbo, Edo, Fulani, Pidgin English, Ijaw, Ibibio, etc. This sis to mention a few. We have over 500 native languages in Nigeria.

It is so critical that we save many lives through education. Education will help us reduce number of abuses, for prevention is better than cure.  Advertising and PR agencies can contribute to developing copies that assist with behavioural changes. This is not a quick fix. It continues intermittently.  We need to come down our high horses and really focus on this for the benefit of our people and for the good of this nation.

It’s so, so important – that this is not a one-off show. It does not need a launching or opening declaration event, etc.  Nigeria needs a vision for SGBV as a nation, so everybody can tap into that vision. Everybody has that vision and work to achieving the set goal. The criminal justice sector, education, local government, influencers, private sector, and other sectors work with the vision.

My question to the government, Oh my God what’s the thing you plan for in Nigeria prevention crisis provision rehabilitation. not just for survivals but also for even the perpetrators it’s so important thank you so much for that question.

Tehila 5

The Tehila 5.0 Initiative

Yes, we are having Tehila 5.0. Four organisations coming together to put this together. Wevvo, Rubies Ink Initiative, Fatimah Balaraba Foundation, Media Concern Initiative (MediaCon), and Safe Space Initiative. The event holds on May 7th

The formation of this union is very interesting. Ideas do not belong to any, they float in the atmosphere, It is the implementers that now own the idea… We were all having ideas, finding that our ideas align in purpose and goal.  Thinking alike. I want to give single mums a day out. Wevvo and Rubies Ink work with them. Safe Space has been holding Tehila foe some years now, and this is the fifth series…

I believe so I began this year with this crazy thing about giving you know doing something special for single moms it’s just my birthday but of course my children recommended mommy just postpone it for now. I was just sharing with the leadership of Safe Space Initiative, Osasu and informed, Ill reach out to Wevvo and Rubies Ink Initiative. It aligned with what Tehila 5.0 is sent out to do. The planning was already in the works. Wevvo and Rubies Ink, Fatimah Balaraba Foundation saw they fitted in and how this can start on the template of Tehila.

Brining in the dynamics of our strengths and joint goal to support women, single mums, Domestic Violence survivors, divorced, widows, etc.  In this program, together we want to make life beautiful for other women. you know particularly those who are affected in anyway and need a break, group therapy, etc. The event offers group therapy, fun, games, dance, lots more.

This edition of Tehila 5.0 is including the children.  The event allows a mother attend with maximum of 2 children. Anyone with more than 2 should watch virtually. Registration is compulsory.

Being  a Woman of Rubies

 What makes me a woman of Ruby …wow I would say my life journey…my wounds… my scars and what I’ve been able to do with them.

 I know it’s so interesting that there are fresh wounds in the journey of life, and then accepting them as part of the journey, healing, bearing those scars and learning from them.

Wearing them like ornaments, then using them for something purposeful like impacting other lives, using it to make sure somebody else doesn’t go through that, and doing that for over 20 years. I have been involved in over 20,000 cases of abuse. I count it a rare privilege. I am still alive to do more.

I wear my stuff – ornaments well. I acknowledge that it doesn’t make me emotionless. I can still cry. If I fall, I dust myself and start that all over. There is a destination, and after that my destination modest nation I’m a woman of Ruby

What I Would Say To A Woman Who Is Scared Of Walking Out Of An Abusive Marriage

what would I say to woman feared working out of course there’s nothing to say to a woman who is enjoying her marriage.

 if you’re going through any form of abuse that demeans you emotionally, financially, spiritually, and sexually – it makes you feel like you’re less of you. Start asking yourself some serious questions.  Knowing your life is in danger and pretending not to see what’s lies ahead of you?

You can only the LIVING can settle and that makes me just want to share a bit in my life’s journey.   I’ve not shared this publicly, so here’s a scoop for Woman of Ruby.  I think I’ve done so in some meetings, but they’re in closed meetings. Now, I’m in that place where I can talk about it.

I stepped out of my marriage for 3years. There was no planning, but it ended up in a separation, and for three years I was by myself. I had to step aside. I stepped out.  I fled for my life. I fled for my life because my life was endangered, and it would have been dumbed to stay behind and become a corpse.

I didn’t want to put my children through that, so for whatever he was going through I needed to leave, and I did. Interestingly, we are back after three years apart. What would have happened if I was dead?

He could also have killed himself or be in jail. There’s so much wisdom in LIFE FIRST! Yes, what I just shared is shocking and this is just rounding it up in brief …  it’s a long story, but I am alive!

 I was scared, I did not know what was going to happen when I left. I was used to being married and it was 23 years in the marriage journey.  I had put in so much and worked every day.

I cried nearly every day for the first 3 months… but I’m here today.  It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I’m not saying that the journey ahead of you is going to be smooth, so don’t think because you need to step out it is going to be smooth sailing. There’s no readymade smooth journey ahead.  No! It’s like stepping on water, but you’ve got to take that step of faith for your life and for your children sake. Leave and be alive! Be bold, have faith- no life is tied to the other.

 In a world where female breadwinners are constantly judged and misunderstood for walking out of abusive relationships, there are women who are bent on changing the narrative, and making sure lone parents are supported, appreciated, empowered and economically stable; Weyinmi Eribo is one of them.

She is the founder and chief community builder of Wevvo Nigeria, a community based platform that supports female breadwinners with capacity development, access to finance, and mentoring across Nigeria.

Weyinmi is a trained geologist cum development expert with a focus on enterprise development, gender and financial inclusion. She has over 10 years of experience across oil and gas, extractives, impact investing, gender lens investing, and entrepreneurship.  She is passionate about the economic development of women and has worked on several international and local projects that support the advancement of (female) entrepreneurship and financial inclusion

She is an Acumen West Africa ’22 fellow, a StartingBloc ’19 social innovation fellow and Regional Chair, West Africa Alumni, a World Bank Scholar, Orange Knowledge Program Scholar, a Cherie Blair Foundation Alumni and an Alumni of EDC.

She is a contributor for a National Newspaper in Nigeria, and was drafted as a member of the ministerial focal group for the design of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund. Her organisation recently signed a partnership with LAPO microfinance bank to financially empower female breadwinners.

Weyinmi shares her inspiring journey and the inspiration behind her passion to support female breadwinners in this interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

I am the last of 6 children, 4 of which are boys. Growing up we all did the same chores, ate the same meals, and mostly attended the same schools. My father was a very liberal man and in no way made me feel less than my brothers and so I grew up in a home with no gender biases. My father was intentional about his family.  His philosophy about life was on humanity, as such men and women play different roles, he believed that we are all blessed and contribute to the value of life. This has played a major role in my work and career path, I don’t cower in the face of challenges and my decisions are not influenced by gender. I am able to take risks and dare to advocate for the causes I believe in.

Inspiration behind Wevvo Nigeria

I was at the airport one day traveling with my daughter, juggling several bags and trying to answer nerve wracking questions about the maternity of my daughter from immigration officials, while also trying to chase down a toddler who was running around. Suddenly a lady came up behind me and offered to help me with some of my bags, and after about a minute asked if I was a single mum. I responded in the affirmative and we both burst out crying, laughing and hugging each other, so many unspoken words were said in less than 2 minutes.

I realized how much pressure female breadwinners carry by themselves, in addition to the stereotyping and stigmatization that the community places on us without any support of any kind whatsoever. I looked out for a group of women like us who could share our struggles together and still find a way to support each other in our work and businesses but did not really find one and so Wevvo was born. A community created to support female breadwinners through capacity development, access to relevant financial products and services and a safe space to heal, grow and thrive.

I have seen first-hand how women who were once strangers have built friendships and sisterhood and supported themselves through the journey of motherhood and self-discovery and we are all getting better for it. It is truly amazing to see and meet women who through shared struggles and values are creating a better life for themselves and their children.

 Why I am focusing on female breadwinners

Wevvo Nigeria is intentional about the women we serve. Although gender issues are cross-cutting, we realized that we needed to speak specifically about female breadwinners because there is an upward surge in the number of female-headed households. The national Bureau of statistics puts that number at about 19%. There are women who are catering for more than 4 children alone, without any form of support, financial or non-financial. These were mere statistical numbers to me till I connected with women in the Wevvo Community who this is their reality. There is no structured support for female breadwinners in Nigeria and that is what Wevvo Nigeria is trying to provide.

Wevvo’s partnership with LAPO Microfinance Bank to support female breadwinners

Firstly, LAPO Microfinance Bank is such an inspiration and the leadership of the organization within the financial sector is a real case study of what it means to patriotic.The project with LAPO MFB started about a year ago where we had an initial partnership to support women who run businesses with loans. The partnership at the time was simply an access to loans for the women in the Wevvo Community. As we progressed however, we saw the need to design a special product that catered to female breadwinners across the country, through the Wevvo Community. This led to the relaunch of these special accounts that have been created now. I must mention that this would not have been possible without the exemplary leadership of the Managing Director, Mrs Cynthia Ikponwosa, the head of communications, Mr Remi Akande and the head of Corporate Planning, Mrs Dorcas Thorpe of LAPO MFB.

These special products include a loan facility where female breadwinners can access loans up to 3Million naira without collateral at 2.5% reducing balance and a savings account with target savings of 15,000 to access free medical health insurance policy for one year and 60,000 for 6 months with the chance to access scholarship for a child. Through these products, single mothers across the country will have access to credit facilities across all the 500 branches that LAPO MFB has, so regardless of their location and economic strata, they have the opportunity to grow their businesses regardless of the kind of business they are involved in.

How my 10 years of experience in  the oil and gas, and impact investment sector influenced my work ethics

Having had years of experience across several sectors, this has helped me in broadening my knowledge and interaction with women and men who are also in these sectors. It has also helped me to understand a cross section of women and what challenges they face at different stages of their careers and life and how this affects their mindsets and sometimes their response to life, as well as the opportunities that exist in supporting women. This understanding has further helped in spurring the right kind of conversations that can create a shift in the way society responds to the issues of female breadwinners and inspires the kind of solutions and empowerment programs we design and create for them.

Challenges

The most challenging issue I face is the mindset of some female breadwinners. Unfortunately, because of society’s narrative of single mums, a lot of women have bought into the victim mentally and this ripples into most other areas of their lives. They assume a defeatist position in the way they react and respond to life. A woman who may have undergone a divorce or broken relationship thinks she is synonymous with failure; a widow assumes she is plagued with bad luck and this keeps them shut mentally and they are not motivated enough to chase their dreams or take advantage of the opportunities we provide.

As an organization, we also face the issue of funding as there are quite a bit of empowerment projects we want to undertake for the women in the community that we cannot run presently. Wevvo has been self funded since its inception over two years ago but I’m hopeful that as we continue to grow, we would find ways to become self-sufficient.

Other projects and activities

Most of my work is built around the support and economic empowerment of women. I am co-founder of an agric-financing company, SEEDS Services limited, which is a social impact organization that provides women with the opportunity to Learn, Earn and Grow. At SEEDS, we support the work of female smallholder farmers and women in agribusiness by enhancing their capacity, creating market access opportunities, and giving them the opportunity to grow and scale their businesses through relevant financing opportunities.

I am also a certified business development service provider and so I support local and international projects focused on building a better entrepreneurship ecosystem and creating more opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed.

 What I enjoy most about my job

Funmi is a hairstylist who had a little shop at the corner of her neighborhood. She accessed a loan from Wevvo and was able to purchase hair extensions in bulk and acquired a few pieces of equipment to improve the services she offered. In one year, Funmi was able to pay her loan back in full, increased her store capacity and employed an extra hand to help with customers. Funmi is just one of the many success stories that have come out of our community. It gives me great joy to see women blossom because this also means an improved access to healthcare, education, and better livelihood for her family. This possibility of improved and happier lives for not only the women we work with but their children and communities, makes it all worthwhile.

Beyond that however, is the privilege of seeing people. This is the hardest thing for everyone.  We don’t see ourselves or others. My job helps me to see people, their challenges, their triggers and trauma which has made me a kinder person.

3 women who inspire me and why

My mother, Mrs Kate Eribo, remains the most tenacious, hardworking and loving person I know.

Mrs Imaobong Amaechi, who is the current CEO of Gobeth Reliance investment company. She is a silent force and does so much with a big smile on her face and so much grace.

Oprah Winfrey, who teaches me every day that you can define life on your own terms.

How we can educate the society on the stigmatization of female breadwinners

We need to call it out. This stigmatization that female breadwinners face has gone on for too long because we have remained silent. The movies that continue to portray single mothers as loose or desperate women looking for any opportunity to “dig gold”, the conversations that make women who leave abusive marriages or relationships as victims rather than survivors, the narratives that female breadwinners are “secondhand goods”, they all need to stop, and this starts with those of us who know better calling it out when people peddle these stories. We all have friends who were raised by single mothers, or were ourselves raised by single mothers ourselves, or a sister, cousin, friend, colleague who is one and if we truly admit, some of these women are the most hard-working women you can come across. We must intentionally begin to create opportunities that support them rather than box them into walls that we as society has created.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I believe that a woman of rubies is one who uses the bricks thrown at her to build stairways for herself and other women to climb up. The average woman is faced with systemic disadvantages and this is mostly as a result of financial constraints and lack of education. I am deeply passionate about the economic advancement of women and will continue to find ways to advocate and support policies and interventions that provide solutions and opportunities for women.

How female breadwinners can #Breakthebias

It starts with the mind. The narratives we believe about ourselves have a lot to do with the way our lives play out regardless of whether one is a female breadwinner or not.  Raising children on your own is not a plague and it doesn’t make you any less than the next person, no one is isolated from challenges, single or not. We must continue to strive for better opportunities and dare to dream for better lives for ourselves and families. We can change these norms by collectively challenging the status quo through education and advocacy.

 

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!

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.