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A notable Author once said; “There is no friend as loyal as a book”. Reading is like a voyage through time, the more that you read, the more things you will know. We can’t downplay the culture of reading, and authors who write and curate the contents we digest.

Award-winning Amazon bestselling author, Esther Enewerome Odafe is one of such authors promoting reading culture, and also helping professionals, entrepreneurs, organizations and individuals fulfill their dreams of becoming published authors.

The famous writer has worked with local and international clients to birth top-notch quality books that reflect their personal or business brands with 0% plagiarism. Her passion for equipping individuals with the right knowledge and skill set for decent work and economic development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 8) has led her to birth a Facebook community of passionate and talented individuals who want to earn from their skills and grow their business.

Esther was shortlisted for the 2018 African Writer’s Award- Flash fiction category; 2020 SME100 Nigeria 25Under25 Awards- Creative Writing & Content Creation category; and her book won the 2021 Bookney Book of the Year Award.

She is also the founder of The Midas Touch Literary Services and co-founder of Bookney. Her works have appeared on local and international magazines, blogs and television programmes including Writers Space Africa magazine, Freelancers magazine, and Patabah books blog

She shares her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive and insightful interview.

Childhood Influence

Growing up, my parents would buy me storybooks to read, and I believe it was their way of helping me to cultivate a reading habit. The great thing about reading is that it sharpens your mind and makes you want to bring your imaginations to life through writing. Today, as a ghostwriter, writing a brilliant book involves a lot of research, which has to do with intensive reading. So, yes, my childhood prepared me for what I do.

Inspiration behind  Bookney and From Hobby To Career Africa

Bookney was founded by me and Precious Osikha in 2020. In 2019, we noticed many authors complained about intellectual property theft, people selling their books and making money off them. This was what prompted us to start a unique and safe platform for book reading and publishing with better incentives for both authors and readers. I started the Facebook group, From Hobby to Career Africa out of a passion for equipping individuals with the right knowledge and skill set for decent work and economic development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 8). My goal is to help passionate and talented individuals who want to earn from their skills and grow their business.

The journey so far

 It has been an interesting journey so far, but not without challenges. However, persistence and seeing the bigger picture of my dreams has kept me going.

Being an author, ghostwriter, editor, and managing all the hats I wear

 For me, it all boils down to knowing what jobs to take and how to arrange my schedule. Anytime I feel pumped to work, I do all the ‘heavy-lifting’ jobs and reserve the more fun ones for when I am lethargic and need an energy boost.

Ripple effect of training 100 newbie writers

This is certainly one of the most fulfilling things I have done. Getting testimonials and seeing milestones from past students about how they have put the training to use either by working for companies or running their businesses makes me happy. Also, helping clients who never thought they could become authors write their books and become bestsellers is fulfilling.

Challenges of my work

The major challenge for me would be meeting several deadlines around the same time. As someone who wears many hats, jobs come in at different times with varying deadlines. Sometimes they are so close, and it becomes hectic meeting those deadlines.

3 women who inspire me and why

 My mum is my number one inspiration because of how resilient she is. The next person would be Esther Ijewere for her doggedness in helping people notwithstanding the outcome. Last but not the least, I would say to myself because of how determined I am to achieve my dreams.

Nuggets on how to become a successful ghostwriter and editor

The first thing I would recommend is love knowledge. Whichever way you want to gain knowledge about new things is up to you although, I would recommend reading wide as your best shot. Also, develop the habit of being meticulous if you are not, because you need this trait to deliver excellent work. Finally, learn the act of marketing your services and closing sales because without sales, you are just not in business.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I am a woman of rubies because I am valuable, strong, and giving. Every business venture I have started, every book I have written, has all been intending 

Contact details;

Social media handles:
Instagram: @enewerome
Facebook: Esther Enewerome Odafe-Ohakah

Petra Akinti Onyegbule wears many hats graciously, the hardworking sociologist and political communications strategist with experience which spans 15 years in the areas of advocacy and public relations campaigns in the public and private sectors is also a successful entrepreneur and advocate.

She was the Chief Press Secretary to the Kogi State Governor between 2016 and 2019, and Senior Special Assistant on Electronic Media prior to that.   Her foray into advocacy started in 2006 on the Advocacy efforts of the Catholic Church on Oil and Gas Resource Utilisation in Nigeria.

She is currently the founder of Tiny Beating Hearts Initiative where she rallies support to save premature babies using her resources and mobilizing skills to create awareness on prematurity in Nigeria.

Petra is also the director of Libraprime Communications – a public relations agency that has pitched and executed strategic briefs, leveraging strong media contacts and reach in the industry ecosystem, for delivering high-value to client projects. The multi-tasking entrepreneur is the brain behind fast rising clothing line; Anike Robert Clothing (ARC) a brand that provides integrated marketing for experiential and point of sales channels.

She shares her inspiring story, her passion to save preterm babies, and how her clothing line is gaining momentum in this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere.

Growing Up

I never really thought about my childhood in relation to the work I have done since my adulthood. But I would say that I grew up in a liberal environment; where even though, it was not the norm to question myths, to question how things were done, to question culture, I was too inquisitive to obey the rules. I have such an inquisitive mind that it was just natural for me to question. So I kept questioning and I kept doing what I now see to be some sort of informal and loose advocacy because I wondered why things were done in a certain way and why they couldn’t be done in a certain way. So it was informal but you know, yes, I did that. I was encouraged by what I saw my mom and siblings did to always speak and stand up up for those who couldn’t do so for themselves. So I would say that yes, in some way, my growing up helped. But more importantly, I grew up having some sort of self-independence. I could do a lot of things for myself at a very early age. So it helped shape my perspective on life and the fact that If I want or need something done, I have to work for it. Yes, it did.

Tiny Beating Hearts Initiative

The inspiration for Tiny Beating Hearts Initiative came from experiencing prematurity from my own daughter who was born at 25 weeks. She was in the neonatal intensive care unit of the national hospital, Abuja for 80 days. She was so helpless it broke my heart. She couldn’t even breath on her own for so long and she had to be on assisted respiration. By the time she was discharged, and we went home, the experience was a different level from what I had in the hospital. Going home meant I was the nurse, I was the primary carer and that I was basically responsible for her. A lot of responsibilities that the doctors, the nurses and the other health workers took on in charge of her in the hospital were transferred basically to me. And in the hospital I saw how tough it was for some families. Oh they  had it tough and rough. Showed me that there is a socio-economic nexus to survival of premature babies and small babies. So I set up Tiny Beating Hearts Iniative to advocate for the rights of every child to live  regardless of the socio-economic background into which they are born and to also help provide material and psychological support for parents with premature babies, the kind I didn’t have twelve years ago when I had my own baby.

The journey so far

The journey has been tough, chiefly because it takes its psychological toll on me and on some of the team members I have worked with over time. I have never had to make it an organisation where I paid people to work with me to ensure that the vision is kept alive. I have always relied on volunteers. It’s been tough, because it’s the same people over and over again, who have been supporting us. Of course, there are situations where in certain places, it is so difficult for us to get access to facilities with incubators. Facilities that are actually well equipped to take on these babies and we have to teach Kangaroo Mothercare, excellent hygiene and nutrition so that bigger premature babies can have their shot at life and are saved. So it’s been tough but what keeps us  going is the fact that you know, you see babies whose parents appear helpless, are actually helpless at the time when they need our intervention and you get testimonies from their parents 5 years later, 6 years later, 10years later and they are saying thank you and they are giving you progress reports. It makes all the stress, makes all the efforts, makes all the heartache worth it. Of course, we had situations where that no matter what we did the baby didn’t survive, that’s really heartbreaking. But over all, it’s been a fulfilling experience because the whole essence is to ensure that no child is left to die regardless, so long as the heart is beating however tiny, it deserves to live. That’s the philosophy. And so we go out of our way, we bend over, backwards we go above and beyond to make sure that happens. Our supporters and partners, they’ve been very steadfast, as a matter of fact, their belief in the project is what has kept us going for long. We are grateful to them and we are thankful for all the lives we have been able to save.

Libra Prime Communications

Libra Prime Communications is a perception management firm which deals largely with regulatory compliance audits. What we do is we undertake perception management on behalf of firms and sometimes, individuals. It is a PR firm but PR in such a way that when firms have issues with their regulators, we step in for  independent audit on whether the firms have complied with recommendations by regulators.

Politics and Advocacy

I didn’t switch from politics to advocacy. Advocacy is what I have always done; my first job post NYSC was as an advocacy officer on a Catholic Church’s project. I have also done advocacy as an independent consultant for a long time. I worked at CBAN – Credit Bureau Association of Nigeria as the first Executive Secretary and Advocacy officer. So advocacy is what I have always done, that’s my major forte. Politics is ubiquitous and I am very interested in the political processes because they determine governance to a significant extent. drawn to politics because there is nothing we do in life that  politics has no bearing on, so I decided to be involved in the political process. I have not switched, I basically just do both hand- in- hand. Because when you talk about advocacy, you are advocating for something to be done, for a policy to be implemented or promulgated. How do you do that without getting involved in the political process? I mean the very basic definition of politics is who gets what, when and how, the how could be through advocacy so I think they both go hand-in-hand. But I have not even left politics. I didn’t switch, I am still a politician. Because I believe that we need to get involved. We need to get involved as much as possible in the political process. Otherwise we lose all the rights to complain about how certain things are done or not done. So it is not a switch. It is just that at the moment, I am giving more prominence to the job which pays me. Because politics is not my job as it were. Unless at a time when I was appointed in a political role. I was given a political appointment in my state, I did a job. But day-to-day politics doesn’t feed me. And I think that every politician needs a job to go back to everyday. That you know, puts food on the table, that adds to the economy which is what I do with LibraPrime Communications and Àníké Robert Clothing.

Work-Life Balance

I am not going to lie that it’s been easy being a Mommy whilst businesswoman and an advocate. It’s not easy. It is not easy at all. But one thing that has helped me is having a supporting husband, one who sometimes steps up when I have to slack on my duties as a wife and mom. Because something always gives; when there is credit somewhere then an account has been debited. So when there is a credit on my advocacy part, it is probably because my business woman role is suffering or my role as a wife is taking a hit or my role as a mom is taking you know, some hit. So at the end of the day, my balance is in getting people to help, getting people to step in when I am unable to be there. So we just continue to balance it up that way. It is not easy, I am not going to lie. It is not easy. Having a husband who supports, family members,  having a good structure in the office, at work,  having a good business partner, a good social support system,  they all help. And these are how I balance my roles as a wife, an entrepreneur,  a consultant and an advocate on multiple issues.

Motivation behind Anike Robert Clothing Line

I love casual wears. There is a saying about wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeves. I love to wear my feelings on my body. So sometimes I brand   the way I feel and I wear that feeling as a tshirt, tracksuit, hoodie, sweatshirt. I  realised along the line that i couldn’t be the only one whose dressing affected their   moods. I am a mental health advocate, and I strongly believe that the environment,  that the way we dress, our outlook, and people’s perception of us affect our mental health. What better way to control people’s perception of you at first glance than appearance? So you have a philosophy, an outlook, what we sum up as attitude?  You should give that attitude a 100%, brand it, wear it. So that is what the Àníké Robert Clothing is about.

There is an economic side to it,not course. I needed something for daily income, you know, like a side hustle. But somehow, it’s such that, it’s surpassed my expectations such that it is now as important as  LibraPrime Communications as the main game.

And my journey in the last one year has been phenomenal; a testament to my philosophy that everything in life has got its pros and cons. Because you see I owe part of the initial success of  Àníké Robert Clothing partly to the pandemic. Because more and more, the way people work and live generally has changed; with companies telling people to work from home,  people not necessarily having to meet at a particular location for a meeting and so more and more, people had to and having to a little less formally. People are beginning to go casual. People are beginning to wear their attitude. So these are some external factors that have  contributed to the pace with which we are growing. Others are the fact that we sell more than the quality of our clothes, which is great if I say so myself; we sell pleasant business experience which keeps over 80% of our clientele as repeat customers.

In the next five years, I see this brand having its own factory and scaling up in the manufacturing of shirts, hoodies and tracksuits. I  see us going into other areas of merchandising and clothing and hopefully, that will happen in the coming five years. That’s the dream.

There have been a lot of challenges of course, but the rewards, both monetary, growth and  lessons  learnt have been awesome.

Challenges 

Number 1 challenge I faced at the beginning and for months  was staffing . Getting my staff to  understand the concept and embody the spirit of excellence, now that was a challenge.  But we have surmounted the hardest part of this and continue to strive to be better. At ARC, now they know that there is nothing like “na small remain. Díẹ̀ lo ku. It is nearly perfect”. If a customer has paid for something, then we’ve got to deliver that. We have all adjusted to this philosophy and making excellence a culture.

The other challenge would be electricity. The erratic supply and rates. Tariff has changed twice in one year. Yet, I don’t get optimal value. Then inflation. My goodness! Production cost keeps fluctuating and highly unpredictable. That’s quite unnerving. Because it makes planning more difficult.

Everyday, there is a price increase in this and that. And this makes the market unpredictable. This unpredictability of it affects me a lot, it leaves me in a fix. Sometimes, we say “oh, the difference is just ₦20 per piece or yard for this particular material but then  I calculate how many of that item I am getting and there are times I  want to throw my hands up in the  air.

3 Women who Inspire me and why

The first person who inspires me to be a better human is my mom. She is incredibly kind, compassionate and humane. That inspires me a great deal. I learnt about dignity in labour and contentment from her. And regardless of everything life has thrown her way, her spirit has remained strong. Even her name inspires me because it becomes some prayer for me every day – Oluwamajente – God, please do not let me be disgraced. Let me not fall from this pedestal. So her life, her person, her name inspires me.

The second person is Prof Dora Akunyili for being a woman of strong conviction and sticking no matter what.

Since you’re limiting to three, the third will be Indira  Nooyi, the former president of Pepsi Co.

Women’s participation in Politics

My views on women participation in politics is that it is not enough. We need to do more. We really  need to do more. And that we need to have an agenda. We need to go all the way, we need to be with partners who understand what it takes for a woman to be involved in politics and would support us to make the sacrifices that a woman needs to make in politics. Now, I think that women also need to, we are doing it, we are doing it; more and more, women need to develop thicker skin because there is a lot of slut-shaming of women in politics. However, it is not going to stop, it is not stopping anytime soon. So whilst we continue to make that advocacy so to say let us deal with women on the merits of their credentials, on the merits of their capacities, and on the merits of the value that they can bring into the political space and processes, we also need to continue to forge ahead and ensure that if there’s a meeting lasting into the dead of the night, we are participating all the way and not giving excuses. We should not expect anything to be handed over to us on platter. And we should understand that we need to be tenacious. Of course, there are challenges of money politics, prebendal godfatherism, etc but if we are focused and purposeful and ambitious, something will keep giving until we have a whole new structure and system and landscape. Do I see myself contesting for any position in the future? I say never say never but I do not see myself contesting.

Advice to young women trying to navigate through life

My advice to young women who are trying to navigate through life and find their purpose is this: YOU ARE ENOUGH. Live your life, make your mistakes but always learn from them; when you fall, you rise. Never stay down. Never ever, allow anybody define you by what you’re not. Never allow anyone define you by your limitations. We all have strengths and weaknesses; we can continue to work on our strengths and we develop our weaknesses to ensure that our weaknesses do not define us. In the age of social media, a lot of people are under pressure to fake it till they make it. How about work the course till you become a force? Behind every story, there is a history. Therefore, look for the history and learn the lesson therein.

If you’re reading this and wondering how you can save a preemie, please reach me.

I am also an advocate of mental health, I champion destigmatisation of mental illnesses and encourage those who suffer any illness on the spectrum to seek help.

Folakemi Adesina is the Founder of Do Good Charity Initiative; a foundation through which she has impacted well over 5000 children and women across different states in Nigeria. She is a seasoned lawyer with exceptional work ethics and a passion for Property Law and Company Secretarial Practice.

 The Olabisi Onabanjo University graduate, and award winning innovative leader is the Lagos State Coordinator for Good deeds day international, a global movement for doing good, she is also the Ambassador for Global Impact Network.

Under her leadership, Do Good Charity Initiative launched JEANS FOR SOCIAL IMPACT PROJECT; where used jeans are upcycled into eco-friendly school bags. This project has impacted over 2000 children in underserved communities

Folakemi is a passionate change agent and humanitarian fuelled by real life situations of children and women living in underserved communities. She strongly believes in poverty eradication amongst people

She  is happily married and blessed with kids. The amazing amazon shared her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive interview.

Childhood Influence

I was born into a Godly family. My parents were educationists and disciplinarians who valued education and believed in raising a child in a Godly way. As the only girl in the family, I was taught to be useful and responsible, engaging in different activities in the house. I learnt how to work with others, lead with confidence, and contribute my quota to my community in my little way. My parents actively participate in community services in church and with their permission, I started volunteering at a tender age. Growing up, I was essentially taught to stand up for what I believe in.

Inspiration behind Do Good Charity Initiative

I am happy to be amongst people making positive changes in the world. I founded Do Good Charity Initiative because I want to give children and women a VOICE and a chance at a better life. I started volunteering at a very tender age, as far back as 2004. My volunteering experience started with Garnet Youth Foundation in Osogbo, Osun State. As a serial volunteer working with children, I had a better understanding of their struggles. I have seen how hard children and women work to meet their basic needs. This fueled a desire in me to address real-life situations of children and women living in slums and underserved communities. The organisation was founded to lift children and women out of poverty.

Our activities include (but not limited to):,Food banking, Love Without Limits (an annual food and clothing drive outreach), Jeans for social impact (school bags and shoes swap program),Undies for every child (awareness on prevention of child sexual abuse), Women Empowerment programs

The journey so far

The journey has been fantastic, filled with different experiences and challenges. Putting smiles on people’s faces makes me fulfilled. The major challenges that comes with running an NGO are Management and Fundraising. As a nonprofit organization, we rely solely on public financial support, and seeking such funds comes with accountability and transparency on public benevolence. To ensure this, we carry out in-depth research to identify the most vulnerable, ascertain their exact needs and work towards meeting those needs.

Jeans for social impact project

Growing up as the only girl in the family was so much fun. My mum made it a priority, despite all odds to always give me the best. She so much believed in UPCYCLING – not that I knew what it was called at the time. But you see, she never allows any of her Ankara (printed) or lace materials to go to waste. Before you know it, an ‘anko’ (uniform attires) has been made from those materials for my brothers and I; with matching slippers for me.This fueled my passion when I founded Do Good Charity Initiative; to address the physical and psychological needs of children living in underserved communities. JEANS FOR SOCIAL IMPACT was born out of a desire to meet the major needs of children while saving the environment. It is an upcycling project where jean wears are turned into school bags and lunch boxes for children in need of them.

Textile waste is the third-largest contributor to dry waste in Nigeria and is a massive environmental problem. Therefore, if a pair of jeans is upcycled, the electricity and water needed to make a new product can be conserved.

Impacting over 5000 children across Nigeria through my work

As an advocate, I’m able to go beyond ‘passion’ and ‘talks’ to identify needs and solve tangible problems people (orphans, widows, women, and children living in slums) face. Illiteracy is part of the non-education problem, with Nigeria having one of the highest out-of-school rates. This is why I’m working to ensure that these children are enrolled in schools; provided with books, bags, shoes, uniforms, and encouragement. Beyond immediate needs, empowering women through vocational training, to be able to cater for their children, are parts of the projects I am working on. I believe, and it’s important, we don’t leave any child behind because they all matter. Anybody can be an advocate for anything as long as the interest is honest. I also feel that there’s so much more I need to do so, so many lives to be touched

The  society, the act of giving and it’s knowledge of Charity

To an extent. Nigerians are known to be among the most generous people on the planet. In a recent global survey conducted by the World Giving Index, it was discovered that almost two-thirds of Nigerians spend time helping another human being.

The goodness of heart of the Nigerian people is reflected in their donations to the needy. The act of giving brings together Nigerians, to help them achieve a common goal of helping those who are less privileged than them. However, we need to keep creating awareness on generosity and kindness; celebrating acts of giving and the importance of giving back to the society.

Challenges

Getting the required funding and sponsorship to support our projects is one of the major challenges we face. From companies to partnering with other Non-governmental organizations, to seeking support from our local audience, this challenge has posed itself as an opportunity to put our best foot forward by engaging in strategic communication, follow-ups, networking activities, and strategically positioning ourselves for better prospects. There’s still a long way to go through.

Another challenge we are faced with is identifying beneficiaries that are truly in need and streamlining their numerous needs. With operations in one of the largest cities in Africa, the rate of poverty and illiteracy is relatively higher. However, we can only reach a number of communities (and people) due to limited resources.

Some other challenges include; lack of fairer distribution of resources, political interference in development issues, and the lack of potential human resources. As a humanitarian, I believe in empowering people and as we seek to expand our reach, we ensure that whatever resources we get are fully utilized to meet the direst needs (in line with the organization’s mission and value).

 3 women who inspire you to be better and why?

Malala Yousafzai, her story inspires me a lot and I admire her love for girls and her passion for access to quality education.

Mrs. Ibukun Awosika is another extraordinary woman who inspires me through her works. From her teachings, I have understood how I can multitask; being a wife, a mother and at the same time a workaholic. She’s one worthy of emulation.

Michelle Obama. She stands out as one of the most passionate and accomplished First Ladies in history because of her charisma, compassion and powerful speeches. I’m also inspired through her works with girls – funding girls’ education and tackling everything from leadership to poverty.

Being  a woman of rubies 

Folakemi Adesina is a woman of rubies and more. She is just the right blend of beauty and brains. Comfortable in her own skin, releasing positive vibes, innovative, and with quick wits. I’m a lady of good values and one of those unique individuals with a heart for humanity.

Other projects and activities

Good Deeds Day is an annual tradition of good deeds. All over the world, hundreds of thousands choose to volunteer and help others, putting into practice the simple idea that every single person can do something good, be it large or small, to improve the lives of others and positively change the world. I’m privileged to be the Lagos State Coordinator of Good deeds day Network

Good deeds day was launched in Lagos state on October 6th, 2021, Lagos is the commercial nerve center of Nigeria. The city is home to so many wonderful organizations working hard to make Nigeria a better place. A lot of young individuals are hungry for change who are willing to devote their time and resources to making the world a better place. We want these individuals to be part of this network of change agents within Lagos and other states in Nigeria. Our aim is to make this day where we will bring together all good-doers, volunteers, charity organizations, schools, universities, religious groups, companies etc. to do good. The initiative’s aim is to promote generosity and Kindness. The initiative makes it easy for people to #InspireGoodness. The next Good deeds day comes on April 3rd, 2022. The initiative allows citizens across the globe to make a difference in their communities throughout the year.

According to a notable artist; Art should be something that liberates your soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further.” This is what Stephanie Unaeze’s Modern Afro-Pop-Surrealism artwork represents.

A self-taught  Visual Artist currently living and working in Lagos Nigeria, her practice aims to understand and document the effects that society, culture, and tradition have on the proverbial self. Tackling issues such as globalisation, post-colonial consumerism and identity. She credits her multicultural upbringing as one of her main influences.Through her form, which she describes as ‘Modern Afro- Pop- Surrealism’, she is able to juxtapose fact against fantasy traversing through the conscious and subconscious with ease.

Her work acts as a conduit for history, bringing it into the new age whilst maintaining its authenticity. Stephanie uses her art to express and document the nuances, complexities and layers that surround the modern African lifestyle. With the use of patterns, geometric design, and vibrant colours, she evokes the strong flavours of the continent and the spirit of its people. Her use of minimal, often faceless figures, projects the idea that the self is always present through cultural shifts, new forms of expression and societal changes. The talented artist shares her inspiring story with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence
Growing up, I was a very shy and introverted child, who loved reading and drawing. My Father was a Diplomat in the Air-force, so we moved around a lot; I got to live in a lot of different places and experience different cultures and different ways of living. Books were a form of stability for me; being able to escape into those worlds helped me deal with the constant changes happening in my life.

I first started drawing by copying the illustrations I saw in the books I read. I was enthralled by the striking simplicity of Nick Sharratt’s illustrations and that inspired me to want to create my own. Fortunately for me, I always had Art teachers who saw my talent and encouraged me, especially my art teacher in my first secondary school (St Mary’s College Bishops Stortford ) who enrolled me into a gifted and talented program for the Arts, which opened my mind to the idea of being an Artist.

Why I Became a Visual Artist
On my 21st birthday, I went to the MoMa (Museum of Modern Art, New York) to visit the Warhol Exhibition. I had been a huge fan of his work (as well as other artists such as Frida Khalo and Kehinde Wiley). But something about seeing his work in person and hearing them talk about him and the impact his work had on society and modern culture made me realise that Art was more than just visual images. It’s a way to tell a story, capture a time, speak up about injustice, and for me personally an opportunity to change the singular narrative of Africa and African Art.

The Journey So Far
My journey since I started has been filled with ups arms downs initially, because I didn’t go to Art school; I always felt that I was at a disadvantage. There are so many opportunities Art school gives you to connect with established artists and institutions that I just didn’t get, so I always had to work twice as hard.

I’ve been working as an artist professionally for about five years and there were many times I wanted to give up, because my works weren’t selling and people didn’t understand my style, but I pushed through because I knew I was offering something new that people weren’t used to. I’m still on my journey and I know the best is yet to come.

Modern Afro- Pop- Surrealism’
‘Modern Afro-Pop-Surrealism’ is a mix of several art genres that I draw inspiration from. Surrealism is about the sub-conscious, the dreamlike, quintessentially an expression of the subconscious, made famous by artists such as Salvador Dali. Whilst Pop-Art is more culturally relevant and was created as a way to introduce art to masses by depicting popular culture and imagery in striking compositions and a simplified art style, whilst taking advantage of modern technology such as screen printing, digital art and photography. With my work, I aim to merge these two concepts together in a modern way to showcase African Culture and lifestyles.

Inspiration Behind My Work
It’s very intentional. With my work, I aim to show black people in a divine light. I also believe that artistic talent is a gift from God.

How Twitter Helped My Work
In terms of visibility, it’s been really impactful, it helped me gain a new audience and with how important social media is in these times, it’s really great to have something like that happen.

The pandemic and its impact on my work
I worked through the pandemic and some of my pieces were influenced by what was happening around me and around the world. I honestly think that making artwork was what helped me keep my mental health in check and provide a sense of normalcy.

Challenges as a Visual Artist
I’m a self-taught artist, so learning my craft was a challenge, learning how the art world works was a challenge and learning how to create a career from your talent was also a challenge.

Three Women Who Inspire Me
Lynette Yiadom Boakye, my sisters, and Maya Angelou. Each of these women inspire me with their resilience, hard work, determination, and grace. They’ve taught me to never give up and to always focus on reaching my maximum potential.

Being A Woman Of Rubies
What makes Stephanie Unaeze a woman of rubies and more… her spirit, her determination, her kindness, and her ability to overcome everything that is put in front of her. She is a woman who knows herself and her worth.

Other Projects And Activities
I have a functional Art studio that I just started, Stephanie Unaeze Studio’s. It is a Functional and Applied Art Studio that draws inspiration from the Mbari cultural practice of Eastern Nigeria, inspired by the idea of making art more accessible, interactive, and tactile. Using locally sourced and crafted sustainable materials from around Africa, our goal is to transform the everyday and mundane into art, creating a more enriching life experience.

The Art Industry In Nigeria & Female Artist
The art industry in Nigeria right now has an amazing crop of female artists who are making powerful work and showing these works across the world. What we have now is a good foundation, but we need to build on it. We need to go to the grassroots, primary and secondary schools and put structures in place that will allow more girls to rise up and become the future female artists that will one day lead the industry.

Popularly known as Niyola, Eniola Akinbo is famous for her unique voice and stage presence. With a music career spanning over 20 years, the former EME artiste has paid her dues in the entertainment industry.

Niyola’s late father first noticed her talent when she was 8 years old. In 2000, she took part in a talent show and emerged as the first runner up, which marked the beginning of her journey in the music industry. Aside from singing, she has also done soundtracks for movies.

While her journey has not been a walk in the park, with determination, Eniola has managed to stay relevant for over 20 years. She recently made her acting debut in Kunle Afolayan’s movie Swallow, where she played ‘Tolani.’ She shares her inspiring journey, goals, challenges as an entertainer, and how she’s been able to stay grounded in this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence
I grew up in a large family where it was literally always like a movie set; different characters, different age groups. Incidentally, my dad was one involved in each of his children’s day-to-day lives; he noticed things even my mother didn’t. He was the one who discovered and really helped me nurture my talent. He had incentive parties every year where whoever came top of their class would be awarded a price. We would come up with acts for the day of the event; singing, action drama and other fun stuff.

Most importantly, he made me write songs for morning devotion and took me to my first concert at age 8 or 9; it was a Funmi Adams concert. So, there are different things in my childhood that prepared me for where I am now.

Why I Pitched My Tent In The Music Industry
I stumbled on the Nigerian music industry at an early age through a talent hunt I did, and I just somehow found myself delving deeper and becoming more grounded. I had the likes of Sound Sultan, Faze, Paul play and many more encouraging me to forge ahead

Staying Relevant Since 2000
It’s a tricky one, but I honestly think that the fact that we are doing this interview in 2021 is an answer in itself. I think I have somehow managed to; I don’t know how, but I am grateful to God.

My Acting Debut In Kunle Afolayan’s Movie Swallow
It’s one of those experiences that will forever be a milestone. It’s new; it’s different, and a learning curve, which I am so intrigued by. I have always been a fan of Kunle Afolayan; I never dreamt that I would one day star as a lead in one of his works. It’s particularly interesting and significant for me because everything about Swallow is authentically Nigerian! The writer, Sefi Atta, wrote the story.

It’s the perfect film for anyone to find out what Lagos and Nigeria truly was like in the 80s, and that could explain a lot about certain belief systems and behavioural patterns in our society today
Playing ‘Tolani’ In The Movie

Too many to mention, but it’s the age-old ‘To thyself be true.’ At the end of it all, it’s important to know oneself and always do what works for oneself and not bow to peer pressure, because the grass seems greener on the other side.

Plans For The Movie Industry
Anything is possible. I am open to exploring anything that helps me express myself, so, I am open to it. Yes!

My Music Career And The Next Phase
I have been working on music mostly for film and other artistes, so you will probably find music I have performed on like King Of Boys and Swallow. There are two others coming soon, which I am not sure I am allowed to mention

I will be releasing Niyola music at some point. I wish I could say when, but I honestly can’t for now, as I am not quite there yet; I am working on it though

Challenges As An Entertainer
Hmmm, I think about having so many ideas and choosing the ones that best express what I am feeling and intend to share in that moment. Sometimes, how you feel months ago when you wrote a song or four isn’t the same as when you’re done with it. Most times, it’s important for me to share what I feel, so I move to what I am feeling and it could be an endless cycle.

That’s why we have teams that help us because we can’t separate our emotions from it. Also, the fact that everyone has an opinion about what’s best for you or feel that you’re made of stone and don’t have feelings; it’s hilarious and can be frustrating.

Three Women Who Inspire Me To Be Better And Why
Too many, but I will try to narrow it down and bring it home.

First-person is Chimamanda Adichie; She is so intelligent and unapologetically herself. She inspires me to wear my Africaness

Secondly, Kemi Adetiba is a good friend of mine and that woman is forever trying to do the impossible, and it’s all so selfless because it’s never for herself. She’s also not afraid to be vulnerable and I think that’s a huge strength in itself; that’s inspiring for me.

Finally, Sarah Jakes Roberts; I love anyone who loves God. She wears it boldly and she shows that knowing and serving doesn’t make you any less cool, it’s in fact a superpower. She inspires me to draw closer to God

Being A Woman Of Rubies
Being a woman at all, and getting where I am, despite the odds stacked against women in Nigeria and in the industry I work in.

Other Projects And Activities Aside From Movies And Music
There’s definitely more of me that I would like to share in due time, until then, please watch Swallow, stream the music and thank you so much for your continued unwavering support; I do not take it for granted.

Rafiat Atanda is a Communications Officer at a leading financial institution, and with a heart in the social impact space. She is a 2021 Carrington Youth Fellow, 2021 Margaret Ekpo Youth Fellow, 2020 ONE Champion, Advocate, quintessential Public Speaker, Host, and Freelance Presenter with over five years of experience.

In her capacity as a 2020 ONE Champion in Nigeria, she was privileged to join the high-level Tortoise G7bn Summit and shared her thoughts on the kind of leadership the world should be aiming for.

Also, she has hosted a number of top-level events, judged several debate competitions, moderated a number of panel sessions and trained individuals in the art of excellent public speaking. A one-time presenter on LASU Radio 95.7FM and “Insight on Politics” on LTV, she continues to trailblaze and inspire action whenever she talks. She is the host of “TalkWithRaffy” on Instagram, a platform where she teaches people how to speak and communicate effectively.
Rafiat Atanda is passionate about women, girls and youth.

She shared her Ruby Girl story with the team.

1. Tell us about your childhood, Rafiat. What was growing up like for you?

Growing up was a blend of fun, fear, faith and hope. Like many kids in semi-urban areas, I grew up playing table tennis with boys, seasonally going to Mr Biggs, defending other girls from male oppression, living with caution because my parents were principled and entrenched in spirituality. It was a tough environment characterised by juvenile delinquency, little or no regard for education and other social vices but thankfully, I had parents who checkmated my steps and served as great anchors; instilled a profound moral compass in me; taught me the way of the Lord; charged me to believe in myself and not be defined by my immediate environment; and taught me that being female, even in a male-dominated world is a rare blessing. I didn’t have access to luxury but I had access to parental guidance, and the understanding of what genuine love for humanity is.

2. ‎Have you or people around you always known you would be interested in public speaking?

Yes. I have always had an undiluted love for public speaking. As a student of Sari Iganmu Secondary School and undergraduate at the Lagos State University, I represented my schools in different debate competitions and won trophies. This interest spurred from childhood; I loved talking. I remember how I used to rush to put on the generator, whenever it was time for “The Debaters (a debate competition for adults organised by Mo Abudu) “and there was no power supply. After English tutorial classes taken by my teacher Ganiu Bamgbose who is now “Dr Ganiu Bamgbose”, I would consciously practice speaking right with my good friend Grace Uzoh.

Communicating with poise and the right diction became a crucial component of my being. People always told (they still do) me that they like the way I speak and at some point, my coursemates at the university labelled me “Diction mistress”.

It’s been quite a ride, so they’re not surprised I’m interested in public speaking and communication.

3. ‎Can you enlighten those who are currently nursing the desire to be a Margaret Ekpo Youth Fellow or Carrington Youth Fellow someday how they can achieve this ambition? Also what do you intend to do as a fellow?

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to learn, engage and impact through the Margaret Ekpo Fellowship and Carrington Youth Fellowship. As a corporate communication officer, it’s delightful to know that the little work I do in the social impact space advancing the lives of youth, women and girls isn’t so little after all. For anyone willing to be part of these incredible initiatives, I implore you to put in the work and tell your stories the right way. Endeavour to increase your digital footprints with inspiring and humanised stories. Organisers are looking for passionate and empathetic changemakers; you need to demonstrate that you are the one they’re looking for. Also, seek guidance from alumni; it will help strengthen your application and increase your chances of being selected.

As a Carrington Youth Fellow, I currently work with the civil liberty team and we are looking to work on a project based on juvenile justice. This project is dear to my heart because upon my visit to a correctional center, I noticed that these juveniles are not adequately prepared to be well reintegrated back to the society. It was a devastating experience and I have never stopped thinking about them. I will be engaging individuals to teach these kids monetisable digital skills, as well as work with other members of my team to better ease the entry and exit process of these juveniles.

On the other hand, I have realized that there’s the feminisation of poverty, the erasure of women in history and the underrepresentation of women in governance. So, as a Margaret Ekpo Fellow, I intend to document the stories of women- past and present- as well as champion or support empowering initiatives that will help more women take up leadership spaces, be economically buoyant and live wholly as humans.

4. Judging by your years of practice in the Communications sector, what have you noticed most organizations and institutions are lacking and need to improve on?

Lots of organisations are upping their communications game. It’s interesting seeing how they strategically jump on trends, engage influencers, put some marketing budget on traditional and new media advertising, and try not to hard-sell their products or services.

However, I believe that many organisations still need to learn how to humanise their stories, especially by standing with the people on issues affecting their collective existence. No sitting on the fence; they should join them or back out! No more robotic response to customers, too. In addition, organisations need to ensure they’re domesticating their communication assets.

5. ‎Any particular or general challenges you encounter in the course of practicing and teaching public speaking? Any tips on how you have been able to overcome them?

The challenges I encountered as an early stage public speaker were:

– Overcoming stage fright
– Speaking with confidence, clarity and the right diction
– Getting the right response/emotions from the audience

Here are tips that have worked for me…

Every time I get to talk about public speaking, I particularly share the power of the “3Rs”; Research, Rehearsals and Reflection.
I have come to realise that the challenges I stated above stem from a lack of mastery of the 3Rs. Before you speak to an audience, endeavour to have researched about them and the topic of discussion. This will influence your 5Ws and H. Remember people have come, so you can educate, entertain and inform them.

In addition, you must rehearse your presentation. That is, practice! Do this with friends, family members or even the mirror (the mirror is my best part). Treat it like the serious business that it is. You can not master what doesn’t matter to you.

When you reflect on your speech beforehand, it gives you an idea of what the tone of your voice should be, your choice of words, your looks, etc. You’re ultimately doing this to elicit some kind of emotions/feedback from the audience.

For the challenges stated above, the 3Rs have helped me address them. When you have sufficient knowledge of the topic and people, practice in whatever way you can and reflect, against all odds, you will most likely deliver a memorable presentation.

6. ‎A random fact about your talk show, “TalkWithRaffy.”

The ideas of many of the content I have worked on in the past came while I was in the restroom.

7. To many, feminism means not being submissive, proud, rude and wanting to be in control, what’s your take on feminism?

There are lots of misconceptions about what feminism is in this part of the world, and I believe they largely stem from a place of patriarchal privilege, power domination and unhealthy social constructs. At the heart of feminism is the advancement of women’s issues- ones that everyone should be deeply concerned about. But no, when a woman takes the bull by the horns and decides to deconstruct unprogressive practices, she is labelled “proud, rude, etc.”.

For far too long, the trajectories of women have been laced with underrepresentation and dehumanisation across human endeavours. Women make the numbers but sadly, these numbers are mere statistics that do not translate to shared opportunities. I have met many ladies who have shrunk to fit because the audacity in their voices is a threat that could cost them marriage to a man in the nearest future. They continue to wallow in the pit of social constructs and living wholly as humans does not seem like an option to them.

Regardless of the labels, I understand that a person’s experience can be learned from but not be universalised. Equal opportunity is not a luxury and should not be gender specific. I believe in the social, economic and cultural inclusion of everyone. I believe in the freedom of women and girls to be simply humans who nurture their individualities. This is what feminism means to me.

8. ‎Your major takeaways from advocacy over the years?

– Advocacy isn’t cheap; you need resources (money, time, manpower, etc.) and an undying passion to do great advocacy.
– Emotions alone doesn’t push advocacy, you need facts, a strong network, diplomacy and good lobbying skills.
– When you do advocacy, tell your story in a compelling way. It will not only advance your cause and improve the lives of the people, but aid your personal development.
– You can pursue a career in a different sector and still do great advocacy. I am a Corporate Communications Practitioner who has leveraged my learnings and skills over the year in driving sustainable development. For instance, I ran on online campaign during the rise of the 2nd wave of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria. The hashtag used “#MoreThanAMask” garnered about 2.5million organic impressions.
– As much as possible, advocate without being provocative. A smart advocate doesn’t shut the door; they leave it ajar.

9. ‎ If you were to be the President of the Nigeria, which changes would you implement?

It’s very appalling that politics in this part of the world isn’t largely based on ideas and ideals; but on the size of your pocket and your loyalty to “constituted authorities”. Politics is perceived as a business that people venture into for profit, and not an avenue to genuinely serve God and humanity.

If I were President, I would reduce the cost of governance, so more parts of the budget can be allocated to sectors such as education, health, justice, etc; and passionate individuals are attracted to politics. I would elevate and regard “The Office of the Citizen”, lead by example, entrench the rule of law and democracy, provide an enabling environment for young people to innovate and thrive, and increase women representation in government.

I would improve communications in a way that citizens are addressed with empathy and compassion.
I would strengthen the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, so we produce most of what we consume and eradicate poverty. I would put a strong monitoring and evaluation mechanism in place, so resources are better utilised. My people will enjoy the dividends of democracy and everyone will have equal opportunities to live a life of dignity.

10. Mention 3 women who inspire you and why?

Mo Abudu: What else to say about her cross-sectoral experience, grit, poise, intelligence, persistence and determination. One of my inspirations for being a public speaker- especially, a hijabi public speaker- was watching “The Debater”, an initiative of Mo Abudu. She is an amazon who is constantly changing the African narratives. She wears so many hats, and does so excellently.

The Squad (Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Cori Bush of Missouri): I like that these audacious women represent different “Firsts” and together, they have built a resilient and forward-thinking sisterhood. They will rather be honest and feel the heat, than be neutral. For them, the interest of the populace supersedes the party’s interest. They are smart, knowledgeable, graceful and radical. What a breath of fresh air they are!

Christiane Amanpour:

A stellar outlier and outstanding storyteller. Despite being so long in the game, Amanpour continues to grace our screens with incredible stories of people, places and possibilities. She has shown that hard work and passion are major ingredients to attaining success and significance.

11. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I like the intersection of media and communication, politics, policy and development. In the next 5 years, I see myself occupying an international role that brings everything together and allows me do great, impactful work.

12. If you were given the opportunity to address a group of girls five years younger than you, what will be your advice to them?

You’re bigger than your current environment; don’t let it define you. Own your truths, take up spaces and do not be enveloped by social constructs. Live wholly as humans, breathe! Do not let the fear of failing stop you from trying. Tell your story because no one understands what it feels to be you like you. Seek guidance, you do not have to thread the rocky path of life cluelessly. Embrace humanity and spirituality, it will help you live a more fulfilled life.

_Thank you for your time, ma. We’re most grateful._

C-mi (pronounced C.M.I), Adegoke Adesimisola Alice is a Nigerian born, France based artist poised to take the Nigerian and French scene by storm. She started recording in 2002, heavily influenced by Whitney Houston, Jay-Z and Eve. So she easily swings between Afrobeat, Rap, Pop-Reggae and others.

In 2011, C-mi won the Bitbender freestyle competition in Lagos and then relocated to Malaysia in May of same year, where she released her first single— ‘Nani’. In her music journey, she has shared the stage with 2Baba, Kelly Handsome, Terry G, Morachi among others, while performing in shows from Nigeria to Malaysia and across France, among others.

The versatile artiste, and multi-tasking mom of 4, and wife shares her inspiring journey exclusively with Esther Ijewere in this interview.

 

Childhood Influence

I grew up in a family where music was literally a part of our daily lives. We used to sing and dance all the time. My younger sisters and I would sing while washing clothes and our neighbors would listen and they even advised us to form a group ‘THE SOLAS’ lol. We would make a circle around our centre table and beat the table with our palms to make drum sounds and just sing. Every member of my family composed songs so my Dad bought a mini tape recorder where we used to record every time we had an inspiration. It was so great. I was also very active in the church choir from the age of five. So, yes my childhood prepared me for where I am and what I do right now. I was born in Egbeda, Lagos but my family moved to Ijegun, Ikotun, Lagos when I was about 8.  I am the first of 6 children so I had to grow up and be responsible from a young age

 

My Passion for Music

I have always known from a very tender age that Music is the way to go for me so although life happened, I have always managed to keep that dream alive.

 

The Journey so far

It hasn’t been easy, but I have managed to keep pushing because the dream is very much alive in me and Valid.  I have had a lot of support, disappointments and discouragements from people in the Industry and even from friends and families. I just focus on the good stuff and block out the negativity.

 

Performing with A-list artists

I haven’t had the opportunity to record with any A-list Artist but I have performed shows with them and the one that stood out for me was the ASAM Awards in Malaysia where I got to share the stage with Tuface Idibia. His humility and energy stood out for me, and I am very grateful for that experience.

 

Living in a Francophone country, and breaking into the music industry

Initially it was a great challenge because most of my songs are in English and Yoruba but music is a universal language so the vibe and energy in my songs made it easy for people to connect.  Now I try to infuse French in my songs too, so everyone is involved. I have met great people that have been very supportive of my brand and my Music too.

Lending my Voice to the #EndSars Campaign In France as an Artist

Personally, it made me discover a part of me I didn’t really pay attention to. The movement made me believe more than ever that there is still hope for humanity, anything is possible, and we are stronger together. It gave me more visibility as an artist. I stand against injustice and would not hesitate to lend my voice to any because that makes our world a better place.

Challenges

It’s the same everywhere I guess, nothing good comes easy. It hasn’t been easy getting a lot of paid gigs. I’ve had to do a lot of stuff myself before setting up my team. Getting a record deal is very challenging too.

 2 Women Who Inspire me to be Better and why

My Mum: Because she did not have an easy life but she was very hardworking, very industrious and always did her best to take care of her family and everyone around her. She taught me the act of service, how to be a good mother and how to be kind. 2) Oprah Winfrey : As one of the most powerful black women, Her story is very inspiring and makes me believe that we can achieve anything we set our minds to.

 Being a Woman of Rubies

I am a woman of rubies because I am BRAVE, I refuse to take my God given talents to the Grave, I am also resilient and regardless of all the hardships life has dealt me, I have managed to stay kind, stay true to myself and to my DREAMS .  I am a woman of rubies because I choose to always be positive and see the good in everyone and everything.  I am a woman of rubies because I want to encourage everyone to be the best they can be!  I am a mother of Four. I’m still working on my lifelong dreams. If I can do it, you can do it.

To every woman out there, Why be ok when YOU CAN BE MORE???

Being a mom, wife music composer,  artist, and managing it all

Initially it was a hot mess juggling all these things, but I was intentional about it so it got better.

I prioritize everything. My time, energy, finances, etc. I try to strike a balance and I always pray to God for guidance and help.  My partner is also very supportive so it makes everything easier, I am so grateful for him.

Other Projects and Activities

I am presently working on a lot of projects. I recently released a new single titled HUSTLE, working on my Debut Album to be released in December, just put together a band for live concerts. I am recording and writing new songs and also working on video clips for my singles.  I am also working with an association here in France CULTURE PREMS to encourage other young talents in my city and mentor them. I am also into Events planning and photography so I’ve got a lot of projects I’m working on.

Nigerian artiste I’d like to collaborate with

I would love to collaborate with Simi and Davido

C-MI brand  in 5 Years

In five years, C-Mi would be a household name. My songs would have spread all over. I would be having SOLD OUT shows and my Music and brand would be making a positive impact on lives. I would be giving back to my community.

Someone once said a great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed. Being a photographer avails you the opportunity to see life through other people’s lens of understanding.
Photographers and artists constantly have the nudge to create magic through their work, and that’s exactly what Toni Payne is doing through her Toni Payne Photography brand. Giving life to objects she captures with her camera.Payne wears many hats and has taken her talent to different sectors; from managing some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, directing music videos, expressing her thoughts through poetry, to being an award-winning photographer. The media personality and entrepreneur enjoys working with still and moving images to create visual masterpieces.

Holding a degree in Video Digital Art, her love for the arts dates back from her childhood days. A creative mind, who is also not shy about addressing controversial topics, Toni Payne has morphed over time into a vibrant entrepreneur and entertainment icon. She has set a high standard and a great work reputation for herself in the entertainment industry.

Though her journey has not been particularly smooth, she is still winning at life and living her dreams. She shares her inspiring story and passion for visual art in this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence
I WOULD say yes; my childhood did prepare me for what I do now. Being creative was not frowned upon. We were forced to choose to be a doctor, lawyer, but my upbringing was liberal in that sense and a career in the Arts was not seen as a bad thing.

Inspiration Behind Toni Payne Photography
Asides Toni Payne Photography, I also run a commercial photography business called Osha Creation. I studied video digital arts at the university; I have always had a thing for visually documenting still or moving images. I decided to get fully into photography after I left the music industry. I am a creative person whose mind tends to run at full speed, so, I needed an outlet and found that going outside with my camera calmed me down, and coming up with different photographic creations made me happy.

I always say photography saved me because, at the point when I took up photography, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself career-wise. I knew I did not want to go back to music, I also knew it had to be something I am passionate about and enjoy. So, I chose photography and it’s been the best choice I’ve made.

The Journey So Far
It has surprisingly been great. When I started my business, they said it takes a while to build customers, especially because I am starting from scratch where no one knows my work or me. Within six months, I had my first few clients and it has been non-stop since.

I enjoyed commercial photography and knew it would pay the bills, but my dream was to create Art using photography as a tool and positioning myself as one of the best Visual Artist Photographers of our time.

Managing Some The Biggest Names In The Entertainment Industry, My Make-Up Line And Goals
If I ever decide to go back to music, the money must be right. I did things back then because I had a passion for it, but quickly found out that sometimes, it is best to invest in yourself and your talent. The makeup line, heck yeah, I would; it takes a lot to own a makeup line. I was young and excited and had put so much money in and when I decided to uproot my business in America to come to Nigeria, it wasn’t a smart move.

I believed in the country and was just excited to be able to do something like that there. If I were to do it again, I will stay put here in LA and just let it trickle down to Nigeria via distributors and retailers.

How I Manage And Maximise My Talent
I create almost daily. I am no longer in school, but I am still learning every day. The skills I learned in school are helping me today with my photography. These are lifelong skills that can be applied to so many things. I am still growing, so definitely, I plan to use my current knowledge and soon-to-be-acquired knowledge to advance my growth.

Long-term Goal
I want to be a household name in the Art industry. I want my work in homes and I want owners of my work to be proud to say they own it. All my works are limited pieces, so for collectors, it’s valuable. I want to bring artistic value to the table and hopefully also groom future artists.

Rising From The Ashes Like Phoenix After A Period Of Adversity
I always ask myself this question. Like, how did I even survive that episode, because every time I look back, I am baffled at how I did not break down? I think I drowned myself in my work; I stayed busy and that helped a lot.

Also, I have an amazing family. My family supported me the entire time and made sure I was very ok. I also think God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle. We might all be faced with trials in life to test us; I believe that was my test. I am glad I stayed graceful through it all, because today, I can hold my head up high and say nothing to myself. The strength that I got from dealing with that has also prepared me for the beautiful things that are coming my way now.

Achieving Work-Life Balance As A Single Parent And Career Woman
It means getting up and just getting things done. I try to do a to-do list, but my day also has to be scheduled around my son’s schedule. It can be hard balancing time because it feels like there are never enough hours in the day, but I do my best. The only issue I have is that I hardly get enough sleep.

Lessons from some of my life challenges
Protect your peace. Don’t trust anyone 100 per cent. Those who claim to love you can harm you, so stay vigilant. Stay graceful and work hard. Never let people’s opinions of you affect you or your daily bread; they will move on to the next topic soon enough.

Trust your heart and stick to your convictions. One million people will give you advice, but always remember that the only advice that matters is the one your heart gives you because it’s you that will have to live with your choices. Be a good person and trust God

Being A Woman Of Rubies
I am resilient, strong, and passionate.

Other Projects And Activities?
Right now, I am 100 per cent focused on the visual arts. I spent the majority of my career doing one million things at once. This time, I just want to enjoy what I am doing and focus on growing it. I have chosen it to be my career legacy, so it requires my full attention.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
My grandma, my mum, and my aunts (more than three lol); I see how they go about their daily grinding and living and loving and that inspires me.

One Thing I Wish To Change In The Entertainment Industry
Structure. I believe it lacks proper structure, but I guess these things take time.

Upcoming Project
I recently launched an NFT Collection called Still Life with Food, a collection of digital food photos reminiscent of works from old masters like Picasso. It is also available in prints. I am having talks with a group about bringing my art to Nigeria. The prints are made on metal and are just gorgeous. They are limited edition, so if you own one, you and less than 100 people in the entire world will own any piece you purchase.

If I could turn back the hands of time
I would have started photography earlier and I would have put all the energy I put into music into my own personal work

 

Like a phoenix, Oluwatobi Raji  is rising from the ashes of adversity and inspiring others to do so through her story. She  is a Gender Based Violence (GBV) Advocate with focus on child safety,  and has over 6 years work experience in the humanitarian field. She founded Every Child Initiative in 2019, a nonprofit that educates the public on preventive measures to child sexual abuse and rape of minors using social media and grassroot advocacy as a tool to disseminate her message. Oluwatobi was raped at age 8 by her maternal uncle and survived multiple counts of rape, ten times by ten different persons between age 13-19 years. She as well ensures safe space for vulnerable children living on the street via her partnership with 1 to 2 orphanage homes spread across 36 states in Nigeria.

The  bachelor’s degree holder  in International Relations  and Diplomacy from Iscom University, Cotonou, Benin Republic also earned a Professional  Higher Diploma in Aviation Management from Lagos Aviation and Maritime Business School, Lagos, Nigeria and graduated with distinction. Oluwatobi worked as a Survivor Advocate/Field Officer with Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), Ministry of Justice, Lagos, , with successful effective arrest of domestic and sexual violence offenders in Lagos State, Nigeria.

She currently work as a Volunteer Project Manager at School On The Street Initiative ; a nonprofit that provides access to quality education for orphans and underprivileged children with an establishment of a free tuition school at Iyana-Ilogbo, a rural community situated at Ifo Local Government, Ogun State, Nigeria.

She has impacted over 3000 parents, teachers, guardians and over 5000 children via her house to house sensitization, rural rugged campaign, community sensitization program and face to face counselling. She has taken child safety advocacy to over 5000 households and 20 communities. Oluwatobi volunteers with over 7 local and international non-governmental organizations and this has added to her wide wealth of knowledge in the humanitarian field. She also works as an on-call Professional Caregiver with Flying Doctors Nigeria (FDN), to specifically care for COVID-19 patients. She shares her inspiring story in this article.

 

Childhood Influence

Growing up wasn’t  really fun, though I had a pleasant time with myself as a child. I grew up in a family of 5, with a father whose religion was love for all. I am the first child of my family but my experiences as a child are the passion for in depth love to serve humanity. I grew up having a father, whose only language was love. As a child, the only language I grew up to understand is humanity while my religion is love. After my father’s death, life became hard and miserable with nothing and no one to lean on. We were left in the hands of close friends, who only gave their best as they could to assist us. My childhood experiences made me vow to ensure adequate safety for children in my little capacity.

Inspiration behind Every Child Initiative

Every Child Initiative is a nonprofit founded in January 2019 and advocates against child sexual abuse and rape of minors. The initiative’s primary focus is on ;preventive measures using social media and grassroot advocacy as a means in disseminating my message. The passion was born out of my concern on child safety and my personal experiences. I realised creating safe space for every child is everybody’s business, so the need to speak about child safety was very necessary. In January 2019, we carried out an house to house sensitization, educating parents and children preventing meausres to child sexual abuse and rape. Also in January 2020, I called upon some concerned individuals and advocates to join me in facilitating a Rural Rugged Campaign.

The campaign was organized in strategic local communities of 7 States in Nigeria, same day and time using indigenous languages to disseminate our messages. I have also facilitated the rescue of at least 3 persons off the street to a safe place, 2 children with a pregnant youth inclusive between March 2019 and October 2019.

The Journey so far

It has been quite demanding with several responsibilities, which includes mental tasks, physical energy and financial contributions. The journey so far comes with so many responsibilities, which sometimes results in self-denial of basic needs/amenities. There are moments of discouragement and loneliness but my focus to achieve a set has indeed given me continuous push never to relent.

Being a survivor of sexual abuse, and finding closure

I was sexually violated (Raped) at age 8 by my maternal uncle (My mother’s younger brother) and was threatened by my mother not to tell anyone, which continued till I was  14 to 15 years of age. This horrible and shameful experience opened and gave access to other perpetrators, as I was raped again by 10 different men, 10 times between the ages of 13 to 19years. It wasn’t easy at all for me, each passing day at those points in my life, my only wish was death. I attempted suicide over 5 times as a child and same as an adult. I never received any medical or psychosocial support, which later led to post traumatic stress disorder, depression, low-self-esteem, emotional and hormonal imbalance, suicidal thoughts, aggressiveness, anger and failed relationships. I was able to pull through, when I found my voice to speak out after 22 years of silence. I got support from an ex-partner, he introduced me to his doctor, who later recommended a psychologist and a reputable medical facility to seek help. Just like others, the relationship with this fellow also went down the drain due to the above mentioned and some other contributing factors. Sincerely, I am still healing because I lost everything in my life including family and loved ones, due to the past event in my life.

Volunteering for several organization & giving back during the pandemic

I currently work as a Volunteer Project Manager at School On The Street Initiative; a nongovernmental organization with an establishment of a free tuition school for underprivileged children at Iyana-Ilogbo, a rural community close to Ifo in OgunState. The free tuition school was set up during the Covid-19 pandemic to give back to the community. Also during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a trained member of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, I volunteered to sensitize the community on preventive measures to infectious disease. I also got relief materials of 100 cartons of Lifebuoy &Lux soap from Unilever, Lagos to give out to the community members of Abule-Iroko, as well as sensitize them on personal hygiene. I also received textbooks of about 400 from a reputable non-profit organization, which was donated to 530 underprivileged children in the community. Again during the Covid-19, I was able to impact a life by fundraising for an underprivileged pregnant lady to get delivery items and other baby resource materials.

 

My Certifications, fellowship and momentum

I am a trained anti-corruption personnel from Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) Nigeria in conjunction with and Foreign Corrupt Practices Commission, a Global Youth Ambassador (GYA) with Their World (United Kingdom) 2018 – 2019, African Changemakers Fellow, 2018, United States Government, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI RLC) 2017 Fellow, Accra, Ghana, African Young Leader Fellowship Program (AYLFP) 2019 Fellow, Accra, Ghana, Young World Leader For Humanity, 2018, My Body Is My Body Ambassador, Sheffield (United Kingdom), conferred Ambassadorial Honor at the International Youth Diplomacy Conference (IYDC) 2019 Accra, Ghana, Ambassador for Africa Project Against Suicide, 2020, World Literacy Foundation (WLF) Ambassador, Colombia, 2020 &am 2021, World Peace Icon Ambassador, at World Institute For Peace 2021.

I am also a member of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Lagos State branch. She is an Advance First Aider by rank with successful records of emergency response, as a trained emergency first aid team (EFAT) member such as pre-hospital care, flood, fire, accident, election standby, Ebola virus, measles and the COVID-19 pandemic. I was a frontliner (Ebola Response Staff) during the Ebola epidemic in Nigeria and worked with the Federal Ministry of Health (PortHealth Services) for 1 year at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. I was also a frontliner during COVID-19 outbreak and worked as a Community Search Volunteer on contact tracing with the Federal Ministry Of Health at Alimosho LGA, Lagos State.

On the society and how to treat survivors of Domestic Violence and Rape

The society has so much concentrated on what we call The Blame Game rather than condemning the evil act of rape. 80% of the society still believes that survivors are the architect or causes of their problems. Some people even say to survivors, for this to have happened to you, then you are possessed. This myopic reasoning has empowered perpetrators to develop growth and expand their territories. Survivors of domestic violence and rape must be given adequate respect, regardless of whoever is involved. Domestic Violence and Rape is no longer joke and should be treated with zero tolerance. Until society takes up full responsibility for condemning the act, we won’t achieve a goal or victory.

To Young Girls who want to speak up but scared of being judged

My advice to young girls is to associate with positive minded individuals, whom they can trust well enough to discuss their issues with. They can also reach out to organizations who have existing structures and professionals who can attend to them.

Challenges of my work

As a child safety advocate, I advocate for both boy and girl child. This is due to my understanding that both genders are vulnerable, while the girl child has the larger percentage of vulnerability. When I started advocacy against rape, some people reached out to me to stop talking, so my chosen career won't hinder me from getting married or make friends and family dissasociate from me. This and so many sayings only fuel my energy in doing more. I have been threatened both offline & online social media, I have also received threats of being kidnapped, gangraped and making it public to shut me up. It has been a journey of the last breath, meaning I vowed to ensure my best is invested even if it means giving my last drop of blood. I see this to be a service to humanity, which I have never seen any man who serves humanity in vain.

 

3 women who inspire me to be better and why

There are amazing women I encountered their stories not-in-person but online, such as Dr Helen Paul (Nigerian Comedienne) whose birth was from rape. Joyce Mayer who was raped repeatedly by her father, Pastor Terry Gobanga (Kenya) who was kidnapped and gang raped on her wedding day. These three amazing women stories inspired me to live above my past, impact in lives and make living worthwhile. I also decided not to dwell in the past, make lemonade out of life given lemon which will in return produce beautiful fruits.

Being a Woman of Rubies

Oluwatobi is a gold that has gone through the process, she is a rare gift and unique being. My calibration carries a special identity which fosters so many happenings in my life (No Regrets). I only found mercy and grace in the sight of my creator, which made me stand out despite my rough journey.

 

On  educating children early

Educate children on the identification of body parts from age 3, Educate children on the correct names of body parts from age 3, Teach children identification of a sexual perpetrator and sexual abuse, Teach children keeping secret of any form is wrong, Educate children that, their body belongs to them, no one has a right to see or touch and same thing goes to them. Educating children early enough will not only preserve but keep them safe from this heinous crime.

 

The beauty  of being  a legal practitioner is understanding the plight of those you defend, and advocating for them. Not many Lawyers can mult-itask and deliver successfully  both ways, but Toyin Ndidi Taiwo-Ojo is breaking boundaries in her profession as a Lawyer and Human rights activist. She is not only “walking the talk”, but also lending her voice to the voiceless, vulnerable and marginalized in the society.

The amazing  legal practitioner is also the  founder of Stop The Abuse Against Children and Women Foundation, popularly called Stop the Abuse foundation. The seasoned negotiator and mediator bagged her law degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, also known as the Great Ife . She has worked in various notable firms.

She was one time welfare secretary of the NBA Ota, Ogun State branch and currently a member of the NBA national NHIS committee, she was also at one time the Personal Assistant of the wife of the Executive Governor, of Kogi state , position she held until she resigned in 2017 to face her advocacy passion squarely. A human rights advocate, she sits on the board of some notable charities in the country and has great passion for vulnerable children, women and the environment.

She shares her inspiring journey, and tips on the right way to report cases of violence and abuse.

Childhood Influence

Growing up with a widowed grandmother in the village, it was all too easy to understand the hardship that women and children face especially in a deeply patriarchal society. Also , seeing my grandmother stand up for herself and persuading her kinsmen to sell land for her when it wasn’t the norm to do so prepared me for this future.

Inspiration behind Stop the Abuse Against Children and Women Foundation

 I have always offered pro Bono legal services to indigent people but my vision became clearer in 2015 when a young boy of six years named Promise was stabbed by his mom with a broken bottle as a sort of punishment for allegedly “ defiling” a two years old girl. There and then, I knew I had to do something. Most parents were ignorant of acceptable methods of disciplining, kids were being subjected to the most ludicrous form of abuse in the name of punishment, being raped and maltreated and sometimes needed rescue from even their own parents!

Being a legal practitioner, human rights advocate and managing it all

Honestly, it has been God but having a supportive husband has made the journey easy.

Impact of Stop the Abuse Foundation since Inception

 Oh wow! Stop The Abused was a registered in 2018 and has rescued over 30 young girls from physical and sexual abuse. We have also rescued women from domestic abuse. Our food drives, economic empowerment interventions have affected more than 5000 families and it is still counting. Stop The Abuse Foundation is also keen on advocacy and sensitization and more than 10, 000 persons have been affected through our grassroot mobilization. The far reach of our constant appearances both on TV, newspaper, radio and social media on advocacy and sensitisation cannot be overemphasized

 

What the Government should do to support the Gender Based Violence sector

 I think the government should support critical stakeholders by providing Funds! A gender purse should be set up with critical stakeholders and philanthropists to run it just like CACOVID was set up during the covid crises of 2020.

Most shelters run by private owners are poorly funded. As of now in Nigeria, the cost of justice for survivors is very high! Within Lagos alone to rescue a child, one must be thinking of spending between 40,000 to 50,000 naira at least from providing vehicles from arrest to logistics of investigations with the police. When the suspect is arrested, one also must provide the vehicle to court and a lot of other sundry things. Government should be deliberate and help to see that our laws are more robust in tandem with current realities. This brings us to the issue of access to justice delivery. Countless adjournment makes the victims oftentimes give up but if cases were treated speedily, it would encourage victims to seek for redress in court.

Challenges of my work

Attitude of the society towards gender-based violence is a big challenge. The culture of silence being encouraged by our people is one example, victims of gender-based violence are not “supposed” to speak up talk less of fighting for justice especially when the perpetrator is a family member, their extended family believes that the victim speaking up will break the “unity” of the family. This brings us to victim blaming. The general belief that it must have been what the victim wore or did that seduce the rapist is another sociocultural challenge. Our people see anyone who fights for other women as an oversabi, the challenges are too numerous

Other projects and activities

We currently apart from rescuing victims and offering legal, paralegal, and psychosocial interventions free of charge. We also do food drives and economic empowerment for widows. We are currently looking at building a transit shelter for children. We are also planning a skills acquisition center to help indigent women who are survivors of domestic violence to become economically empowered so as to fend for themselves and children.

 What do you enjoy most about your job? The thing I enjoy most is the smile I get from survivors after a rescue! The smile often carried the whole message of gratitude, hope and relief. Knowing that you have made a difference in the life of someone who has given up hope is quite exhilarating.

3 women who inspire me and why

My grandmother Blackie Ekwutoziam Awana is my first role model, she taught me that women can be anything they want to be! From being widowed at an early stage and quite illiterate, she questioned the tradition of not selling land to women in her hometown even when the woman had the money. She is an unsung hero. Women all over the world striving for a better life, keep inspiring me to be a better version of myself.

To women in abusive marriages  who are afraid to flee

The covenant of life is far greater than the covenant of marriage.

Steps to take to seek justice for cases of domestic violence and rape

For a rape victim, the first is to speak up, do not let anyone shut you up. Speak your truth. If it is a recent rape incident, do not clean yourself(vagina) up and if you must, clean up, use a white handkerchief, tie the handkerchief in a clean white nylon, then go the hospital before going to the police. Call a human rights organization. Better still, call the human rights organization first to give you moral support as you fight for justice.

Being a Woman of Rubies

Honestly, my joy is to see more women and children free from all these indignities.