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A woman who can multitask successfully has mastered her craft and knows how to navigate her chosen career path. Nora Agbakhamen is not just a woman who wears many hats, she has recorded success everywhere she uses her skillset.

She is one of the most influential Nigerians on LinkedIn who is making the motherland proud. Nora helps businesses get seen and paid through content and storytelling. With over 10 years of experience as a content creator and writer, Nora Agbakhamen knows how to help brands increase their credibility, visibility, and profitability.

Nora Agbakhamen is using storytelling to make brands more visible
Nora Agbakhamen

A graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Maiduguri, she holds a certificate in Persuasive writing and Public Speaking from Harvard University (HarvardX), a certificate in Investigative Journalism from BBC MacArthur Foundation, and several certifications in storytelling.

In this interview with Esther Ijewere, Nora shares her inspiring journey and her passion for storytelling and branding.

​Nora Agbakhamen’s Childhood Influence

As a little girl growing up in North-Eastern Nigeria, I loved to listen to beautiful narratives, and my dad was a powerhouse of tribal lore. While my mum believed in instant corporal punishment, my dad had a unique and memorable way of instilling discipline. He would tell us stories from the Bible about people who acted up and the high price they paid.

He would also share accounts of those whose conduct was above reproach and the beautiful rewards they earned. That profoundly affected me, and those stories played a significant role in molding me.

So, very early, I learned that the best way to impart moral instruction is through storytelling because you remember the lessons long after they cease to be told.

Why I Pitched My Tent In ​Content  Creation and Media Sector

Almost every adult had a transistor radio in the North where I grew up. My dad had one, and most evenings, I’d sit with him while he listened to the news.

This piqued my interest in journalism, and I became intentional in watching the news. I particularly loved listening to Eugenia Abu, Ruth Benamaisia-Opia, Fatima Abass Hassan, and Hauwa Baba-Ahmed on NTA news those days. So when it was time to go to the university, my choice of Mass Communication was a no-brainer.

For content creation, I’ve always loved to educate and share value. Back in my university days, my classmates would come together and ask that I summarize our notes for them before exams. I would explain what we’d been taught but use relatable examples to help the point stick.

They lived for those moments, and it was a privilege to see how those explanations helped all of us ace our exams. The more I taught, the more the points stuck with me.

So I took the same love for teaching into the storytelling aspect of content creation. I went into it with the one aim of serving. I wanted to share whatever knowledge I had with my audience.

Nora Agbakhamen’s Journey So Far

​When I started as a brand storyteller on LinkedIn in October of last year, I had 90 followers.​ One year later, I’ve built an over 100,000-strong community who come together to enrich each other by consuming my content and sharing heartfelt comments, tips, and suggestions for the benefit of others.

​Challenges 

You know LinkedIn is a global platform. I’ve had folks send me private messages with a dose of racism. ​I’ve also had people drop comments like “this is not Facebook.” This is LinkedIn, where you share your career wins.​ ​Were it not for the overwhelmingly positive feedback I got from others on the platform, who knows if I’d have thrown in the towel by now?

Thankfully, I persevered, and today I can tell you that among my clients are Bank executives, Architects, Accountants, Founders, CEOs, etc.​ ​I work with them to increase their reputation in their various fields so they can become more visible and profitable.​ ​It’s a win-win for us, and I shudder to think that there was a time I gave up.

How Nora is helping ambitious women to monetize their knowledge in LinkedIn

 

How ​My Work Has Inspired Other Women Around Me​ 

I’ve mentored women, particularly undergraduates on LinkedIn, and the regular thank-you emails I get from these ladies are like the icing on the cake.​ ​I’ve had female undergraduates email me to say they started content as a side hustle because of the daily tips I drop on LinkedIn. That, for me, is the ultimate reward.

​Other​ Projects And Activities

I am currently running a 7-Day Personal Branding Email Challenge for entrepreneurs and 9-5 workers on LinkedIn.​ ​Many are busy folks with little time to listen to or read long courses but want to build a sparkling brand online. So I created these daily email challenges to help them lay the foundation for a rock-solid brand so that they can become visible, trusted, and profitable.

Every day, for one week, they receive emails explaining a brand-building activity. Then I give them tiny tasks they can do immediately to increase their reputation on LinkedIn.

I’ve also worked as a brand influencer with local and international brands on LinkedIn. I do my due diligence before recommending any brand to my community. So any brand I feature on my page is vetted.

I’m also coaching ambitious women who want to monetize their knowledge on LinkedIn. This coaching is a 1:1 tailored for each client. So once every week, I go on a Zoom call with them. We review our wins and work on further steps to take them closer to their goals.

​How I Became A  Top LinkedIn Influencer ​and Marketable ​B​rand

My watchword has always been to deliver top-notch service. I didn’t start content creation with profit as the drive. I was happy to share what I’d learned over the years with my community.​ ​I stayed consistent and built a niche around storytelling. Those who loved what they were learning tagged others to my page, and before long, I had a reputation as a “brand storyteller,” and my following grew exponentially.

 3 women Who Inspire ​Me​ and Why

My mum (now late) Rose Ubek – taught me early on the value of service and hard work. She never believed in giving you fish because she was one to teach you where and how to get the best fish.

 Amanda Cryer – This woman is a compassionate Social Impact influencer on LinkedIn who looks for ways to support other women’s businesses.

Every other woman who lives a life of service – Women who mentor other women and hold their hands so that we can shatter glass ceilings together.

Nora Agbakhamen as a brand storyteller

 

​To Ambitious Women Constantly Judged By Society

Don’t listen to people who want to pull you back. To every woman out there, there’s nothing more inspiring than a woman who knows what she wants and dares to pursue it.​ ​So get up, take back your power and lead your tribe.

 To Women ​Who Can’t Market Their Brands And Business Properly

Firstly, if you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to market your brand. LinkedIn boasts over 850 million members in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.​ ​So whether or not you have a job or business, you have an incredible opportunity to place yourself at the front and center and attract the opportunities you crave.

For other creators out there, please don’t just sell your offers. Instead, share values your readers can run with and use to better themselves.​ ​Take a genuine interest in your followers; sometimes, it takes a good word of motivation to help someone be the best version of them. Pay attention to that young lady that reaches out to you via private message to ask for tips, suggestions, and recommendations.

Being a Woman of Rubies

My God-given desire is to see other women thrive both personally and professionally.​ ​If every woman lives a life of service together, we will succeed and leave no one behind.

​To a Young Person On The Verge of Giving Up​

Please don’t give up. We, your sisters, love you and can’t wait to see you thrive.

​My Work-life Balance Routine

I’ve implemented systems and processes that help me maintain a work-life balance.​ ​For example, even on lazy days, I have planned my content to auto-post at a particular hour, so my audience is not starved. This helps me have time for my family and loved ones.

Connect with Nora Agbakhamen:

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A popular wealth creator once said: “When money realizes that it is in good hands, it wants to stay and multiply in those hands.” That’s what Vanessa Ideh Adekoya represents in her industry. She understands the power of merging financial Literacy with creativity. Vanessa has managed to turn YouTube into a lucrative business, and she is now teaching other women how to do it.

In April 2020 she joined Youtube and started creating content around trending topics, and in June 2021, the certified financial education instructor (CFEI) and former accountant decided to start from scratch and build a brand-new channel called, Launch To Wealth.

The platform has now evolved into a goldmine, making Vanessa one of the top black Youtubers in the world. In November 2021, she made $23,700 from her YouTube channel in just five months of launching it, and her subscribers increased significantly. The inspiring financial coach has turned her hobby into a career, and she is reaping the fruit of her labour, hard work and tenacity.

In this Interview with Esther Ijewere, she shares her passion for gender equity and how she is using her platform to teach women the importance of financial freedom.

Vanessa Ideh Interview with Women of Rubies
Vanessa Ideh

Childhood Influence

Yes, My childhood influenced me in a way. I can look back on my childhood and find patterns of creativity and expression through words.  At the same time, I have always been good with numbers so I knew that whatever I would do as an adult had to allow me to use those skills simultaneously.

Why I Pitched My Tent In the Financial Literacy Sector  

Making a mark in the world of Financial Literacy as a digital creator is me coming full circle with myself. For as long as I have known myself, I have been a confident speaker and creative thinker but growing up in an African household, I thought there was no way for me to express my natural talents and be financially stable at the same time. You were either a broke artist or an educated professional. So, I decided to be an educated professional and it doesn’t get more professional than being an Accountant.

However, after landing a job at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, I quickly realized that I would never feel fulfilled if I did not have room to be creative and to speak often as part of my job. That was when the search for an alternative path began. I had coffee chats with people who worked in Marketing, PR and other communication-heavy fields but it wasn’t until I found a brand called Clever Girl Finance that I felt like someone had created exactly what I wanted to create. I did further research and found that she is a Certified Financial Education Instructor so I became one too. The rest is history.

The Journey So Far

It’s been Amazing. On many days, I feel like I am living in a dream because I recognize how much of a privilege it is to show up as your full self, work in a field that you were naturally designed to work in and make a difference in the lives of many. I see it as God’s goodness and I never want to take God’s goodness for granted.

Challenges I Encounter In My Line Of Work

It depends on what room I am in. In some spaces, the challenge is explaining what exactly I do for a living. In other spaces, the challenge is finding the right people to join my team so we can move the vision forward. However, regardless of the challenges I face, I still find joy in doing what I do.

The Society and Its Support For Content Creators

It is a relatively new field and so people don’t understand it enough to appreciate it. It is only a matter of time, though. I see that changing in the future.

Vanessa Ideh - Founder of Launch To Wealth
Vanessa Ideh – Founder, Launch To Wealth

Other Projects and Activities

I am currently working on a project that would shed light on the creator economy. It is something I am so passionate about because it is the reason why I am able to do what I do in a sustainable way.

What I Enjoy Most About My Job

The level of impact that my work has. People literally pray for me every day because I expose them to opportunities that they otherwise would not be exposed to.

 3 Women Who Inspire Me And Why 

Bola Sokunbi, the CEO of Clever Girl Finance. I love the fact that she was bold enough to build a platform centered around women and money. Those are two subjects that get me fired up and as far as I’m concerned, she is a blueprint.

Tara Durotoye, the CEO of House of Tara. I love her love for life and for people. She wears many hats well and I think that is not easy for anyone to do.

Myleik Teele, the CEO of Curlbox. That’s a woman who believed she could and did. She built a social media community and then turned around to create an amazing company around the needs of the women in her community. That’s remarkable; in my humble opinion.

How I Use My Passion For Financial Literacy and Gender Equality To Create Room For Other Women in Our Industry

I actually have a closed community for black women in the financial literacy and media space. It’s one of my most recent projects and something I am very passionate about. I love to see women thrive and succeed.

One Thing I Wish To Change In The World

I would make room for more black women to thrive. We need more women at the table.

How To Empower Women In The Society

Teach them how money works. I don’t think women can be empowered if we aren’t financially empowered.

Being  A Woman of Rubies

My audacity. I think it takes a lot of courage to break away from a traditional path, tell yourself the truth about who you are and then find or create a path that allows you to show up as your best self. Many more people would do this too if they had the audacity so I would say audacity makes me unique.

To Young Women Trying To Navigate Their Path In Life

I will probably say 2 things:

Who you are is enough. Find where people like you get paid and go there

Give yourself options. You never want to be in a situation where you feel stuck so ensure you make decisions that open you up to multiple opportunities

Take a look at other related interviews we’ve had in the past:

Like a phoenix,  Lesley-Ann Forbes  is rising from the ashes of adversity  and inspiring others to do so through her story. Lesley is an embodiment of inspiration, determination and focus. An amazon who is using her God-given talent to touch lives and make a difference In the world.  Lesley’s authenticity is her signature.

She has been a corporate training professional in the telecom industry for over 10 years. Teaching and helping develop others is her passion. During her professional journey, she has facilitated hundreds of training programs and initiatives for some of the major telecom companies in Canada such as Sprint Canada, Rogers and Fibernetics.

Her voice has been received by many and her authenticity to see others shine has created many professional partnerships.

Her platform, Forbes Voiceover was birthed from the energy of that community. Many have commented on Lesley’s profound depth, warmth and articulation in her voice. This has rippled into many requests for her voiceprint to be the voice of their company’s brands. Lesley’s journey is to evolve into other areas of the voiceover industry including radio, audio books and animation.

She shares her Inspiring story with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive interview

Childhood Influence

My childhood into my teen years created the fabric of my life and the passion I have to do the work I do. My parents are immigrants from Trinidad I am their third child and the only one born in Canada. Although I was afforded the blessing of a loving family my journey had many difficult aspects. My parents had a tumultuous marriage and my mother didn’t live in Canada during my formative years.

Her absence and the absence of the example of how to demonstrate and curate self love, self trust and confidence in my abilities, created many wounds. I was always looking for external validation acceptance and love in all the wrong places with all the wrong people.

When I became pregnant at the age of 18, I was a very wounded child who now had to raise a baby boy into a man.

At the time I felt completely alone unworthy of love and not enough. Being abandoned by my son’s father and the absence of my mother were the seeds of my self suffering. Gratefully as I grew into a mature, independent woman I realized the journey of raising my son was my grandest and most grounding root to EVERY aspect of my life. Much has come full circle gifting me with wisdom, strength, grace, faith abundant blessings and most importantly purpose.

Being a leader of LIGHT & mentor for young girls and women especially single mothers is my purpose. To inspire a change in the narrative of their thinking to honor their journey, their children and their power, is my heart’s greatest desire.

To cultivate a connection with their divine source trusting it and using it in every aspect of their lives. To inspire and demonstrate self loving habits including teaching our children how to love and accept themselves.

Inspiration behind my book “Never Perfect Always Blessed”

My writing was inspired when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Due to the progression of her disease, I was unable to have depth filled conversations with the woman I adored and loved so deeply.

Writing was cathartic for me. It helped me to navigate through certain aspects of my life and also reflect on the enlightened moments and lessons. When my mother died, I read the chapter I wrote about her to the congregation. I explained that I intended to turn my writing into a book to honor her legacy and all that she poured into me especially my spirituality.

Lesley Forbes Voiceover
Lesley-Ann Forbes facilitating her Voice for the Soul Workshop to parenting youth shelter

I hoped sharing my stories would help others to know the difficult moments in our journeys are not punishments from GOD they are simply teachers of growth, resilience, wisdom and perspective – you cannot know LIGHT without knowing DARKNESS.

GOD will not bring you to it without bringing you out of it – anointed, loved, accepted and forgiven ALWAYS

Motivation Behind Forbes Voiceover platform

Being a professional voiceover artist was universe gifted. I never had an aspiration to be a voice artist – to be completely honest I didn’t really like my voice I always thought it was too deep for a woman’s voice.

My career as a corporate trainer afforded me many opportunities to speak and teach in front of many groups and classrooms.

My voice was always complemented for its depth and diction. Being in telecommunications I was asked by clients to use my voice for their automated systems. My voiceprint was used by various businesses and extended across the tri cities of Cambridge, Kitchener- Waterloo and surrounding areas.

I was never compensated for my talent but my VOICE was everywhere so to speak (: When my employment ended with my last corporate company, I decided to launch Forbes Voiceover.

My client base was already established and has since doubled. I now have 3 professional artist that have joined my team. Our team’s portfolio of talent includes French Bilingual business automation, voiceover highlighted in the first emancipation film made in Canada, audio book narration and informational videos.

We are aspiring for more opportunities in animation, radio and commercials.

Ripple Effect Of Training People To Find Their Voice And Career Path

My training and facilitation career afforded me the privilege to mentor and professionally develop many souls. I’ve since seen many of my students excel and expand tremendously in their careers. I want to believe my contribution made a difference to their belief in themselves to learn and grow. Being an adult facilitator requires the skill of motivation, empathy and zero arrogance.

Adults don’t learn because to tell them to – they learn because they see the benefit of skill growth impacting their lives and personal development. You won’t gain respect just because you’re standing in front of a room lecturing your knowledge.

The ripple I believe I have created is human authentic connection rooted in another’s souls climb to success. Souls are sent to each other for a reason. I certainly don’t remember the names of my students from over the years but they are definitely an integral part of my life’s fabric. Their connection mattered just as much to me maybe even more.

I love what I do and I know my corporate path served its purpose in various ways including becoming a successful entrepreneur, speaker and spiritual coach.

The Journey So Far

The journey has definitely strengthened my FAITH, self discipline, a “JUST START” mentality even if I don’t know my next move and the greatest fulfillment of self rewarding and inspiring energy.

Being the CEO & creator of your own brand takes courage. Getting up every day and putting forth that mustard seed of faith and dedication to move forward.

Even if its just POSTING a small WIN or initiating a willingness to learn a new skill or approach to doing business – consistent effort of planting those seeds will bear fruit.

Each member of my Voice Over artist team was universe attracted not intentional; And whatever I’ve needed with intention, I knew GOD had not brought me that far in order to drop me. Once I trusted its manifestation and once, I surrendered the control and the how, it manifested and continues to do so.

Most importantly, I have also cultivated much SELF trust and a “I am enough” mentality. I created it so I have the power to cultivate its success. I am extremely proud of Forbes Voiceover and Never Perfect Always Blessed. They are my manifestations of God’s divine will and my purpose.

Read Also:  I Have Taught Over 10 Thousand People The Power Of Real Estate In Canada

Challenges 

The challenges I’ve encountered the most have been truly refining and defining my brand and whom I want to serve. I launched Forbes Voiceover then launched/published my book Never Perfect Always Blessed under my company name as it was my written voice. But I wanted to also serve young women teen and single mothers in their self love and spiritual journey.

I’ve been told my voice is soothing to listen too, so using Forbes Voiceover as my platform to use my voice in various aspects was my intention. Unfortunately, I still found my brand was not clearly defining all aspects of me. Gratefully the universe afforded me a Brand mentor to work with so I am in the process of refining my brand name and areas of service.

Forbes Voiceover will always be a part of my brand family but the forefront of my brand name will become Lesley Ann Forbes – As I am my brand.

 Voiceover
Lesley-Ann Forbes

My  Journey To Wholeness

My journey to wholeness healed me. It taught me self love awareness, reflection and most importantly it solidified my commitment to trusting myself and allowing my divinity lead my life. It’s cultivated my courage in many ways because when becoming your authentic self unapologetically, it requires maintaining and drawing boundaries on my energy, loyalty and being governed by my own values.

Other Projects And Activities

As I continue to refine my brand, I will be expanding my passion to mentor and facilitate self love retreats. My biggest seedling project is creating a 2-day weekend retreat with young females and single mothers.

I want it to be two days of various impactful fun activities, guest speakers with powerful positive woman and self love workshops. I’m trying to create greater visibility to my serving by hosting guided meditation workshops & book readings in Kitchener, surrounding areas and my home city Scarborough.

I’m also hoping to have more opportunities to facilitate my Voice for the Soul workshop in schools and non- for-profit organizations and youth advocate organizations.

What I Enjoy About My Job

I love teaching I love connecting authentically with other souls. People easily gravitate to my energy. I’ve been told that I make people feel safe to be vulnerable and open up about what hurts their soul. It’s a privilege to be invited into someone’s journey and inspire light into their darkness. I know this is my soul’s purpose.

 3 Women Who Inspire Me And Why

The first woman is my mother Pearl Theresa Legerton Forbes . She wove the fabric of my relationship with GOD, Spirit, Source in how she raised me. She taught me the foundational spiritual values that I use to navigate through the world and toward my light when things are dark or challenging.

Iyanla Vanzant – First black woman I have seen in the media that made such an impactful healing ripple for black women, men and families. She has a fierce love of God and her knowing of her truth, spiritual gifts, worth and power. She is raw, real and compassionate energy. She demonstrates her trust of GOD’s will to navigate and enlightened her in her healing journey with other souls. She is a pivotal inspiration to my drive to want to make ripples of change and healing in the hearts of our younger generation of women.

Viola Davis – There’s something about Viola Davis that inspires me to always remain true to myself whenever I see or hear her speak. She has a grounded energy and a truly empathetic nature to the human experience. I see it in her passion to be her characters unapologetically with fierce respect for capturing truth in their story. She reminds me regardless of where this journey takes me to always shine in my truth with grace kindness and pure willingness to be real in all of it. She’s confident, classy and a true queen. I’m inspired to succeed with the same authenticity she exemplifies as well as the with the power & liberation in knowing that I’m worthy of it! She’s a super star that I see myself in, in various ways. Her shine does not blind it makes me proud.

How I Stay Grounded  As a Writer, Public Speaker, Advocate and Coach

My management of all of it is truly much easier than it was when I was in the corporate world. The titles you listed above are what the human world would use to describe my gifts. My spiritual world uses my soul to drive those titles because they come very naturally to me. They inspire my joy and drive to help others. I’m also a huge advocate for my OWN self love, so maintaining healthy practices like meditation/prayer, Yoga, running and reading all pour into my love cup.  I maintain healthy boundaries in order to ensure I can abundantly pour into others to inspire them to their own light, healing and self love.

Read Also: Helpful Tips for Single Parents-How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

My Thoughts On The Representation Of Black  Women In The Movie Industry

As a young girl I remember my mother and I watching the movie Lady Sings the Blues with Diana Ross & Billy D Williams – That movie was one of the first memories I have of seeing a black star on film. Then I remember watching the movie Roots with Cicely Tyson.

Both movies moved me to watch but the strife and dysfunction of the stories although true, left the impression that strife was always going to play a part in the roles of black women in film – painful circumstances we had to fight to get out of to live the dream.

Gratefully the evolvement of the roles black woman play in film has become more powerful, functional, dynamic and wealthy. Including animation and fiction films. Black women are beginning to be seen as leaders, courageous, magical and most importantly greater represented than it was in my younger days. The only black cartoon I ever saw black characters in was Fat Albert.

We’ve come a long way but I still believe we can BE more represented holistically as I know film does not only include actors and actresses. Film makers and creators contribute to the representation pool too they tell our stories …So integral

One Thing I Wish To Change In The Art And Media Industry

Resources mentors and opportunities to launch new and original ideas to bring community together to inspire help and be a representation to our younger generation. I found it difficult to find organizations to collaborate my vision with. Emails rarely get read and follow up even less. Having more opportunities to network with likeminded and up and coming mentors that are willing to contribute their time and experience are priceless gems to someone trying to navigate their way through red tape.

On Women Who Are Trying To Find Their Path In Life, Especially Single Moms Doing It Alone

As the single mother of an adult man, and who had to do it alone, my heart and soul would share these words with you:

Accept that it will never be perfect and you will make mistakes so don’t riddle yourself with guilt. God knew what he was doing by blessing you with your child. And your child chose you as their mother so consistently give yourself grace & forgiveness. I would tell her no matter how hard it gets never lose faith or stop talking to God. His divine will does show up when you least expect or in disguise of what you may be expecting. I would tell her not to compare herself or judge herself against others.

Read Also: Before You Judge Another Single Mom

Not everything is as it looks. Make time to connect authentically with her child or children. Build TRUST with them. Even when they mess up or disappoint you, be reminded that they are souls that have to learn and test their values through their own experiences too.

Lastly, I would tell her to trust her self and her self integrity – I was once told by an acquaintance, that I vulnerably opened up to about feeling guilty that my son didn’t have his father – that if I had opted to bring a man into our lives to live with us it may have given my son a better experience to becoming a man. Interesting how people feel entitled to place judgement on your life because you’re doing it alone.

Forbes Voiceover and Esther ijewere
Lesley with Esther Ijewere at the Black Women Film-TIFF Picnic In Toronto

My son has told me MANY times how grateful he is that I did raise him independently without bringing a man into our home. Although he was aware of the men that I dated, he always knew our home was sacred to us and only us. That was an integral safety value to my son due to the absence of his father. Trust your gut and never betray yourself or your children for the opinions of others.

One last snip it – find time for yourself – even if it’s eating your favourite chocolate bar in your car – alone listening to an Anita Baker track (SMILE) take a minute, breathe, dream and know your turn will come. Be patient and know the true joy will be seeing the fruits of all that you’ve woven into your child/children manifest in the human they become and the human YOU are becoming.

Being A Woman Of Rubies

My passion to serve, inspire, fulfill my GOD defined purpose to lead healing for young women, single mothers and souls in suffering makes me a Woman of Rubies. I am using my LIFE to inspire the LIGHT in others. So many of us are just existing we are not truly living. Living requires true engagement and courage to be authentic in honor of the journey that GOD has blessed you with regardless of the external circumstances.

Forbes voiceover
Lesley-Ann Forbes holding a copy of her book “Never Perfect Always Blessed”

The message is you ARE enough you ARE worthy of happiness & abundance, and you ARE loved – the universe IS on your side. GOD lives within you and you are never apart. He’s doing it FOR YOU not TO YOU. Trust your journey.

Connect With Lesley:

Instagram: LAF0227 and Forbes Voiceover

Facebook :Lesley Ann Forbes

TikTok : Forbes Voiceover

LinkedIn :Lesley Ann Forbes

Email :Lesley@forbesvoiceover.com

Toll Free: 888.920.6319

“Grab a copy of Lesley’s book! As a single mom I am inspired by her depth, tenacity and passion for humanity. This book is a must-have for every woman, especially single moms who are trying to find their light again.”

– Esther Ijewere

 

Esther Ijewere
Esther Ijewere with a copy of Lesley’s book

I never imagined I’d be a single mom one day. I grew up believing one day I would marry, stay married  and have kids. Nothing prepared me for this lone parenthood journey. Absolutely Nothng!

Now….that’s not a complain. I have been on this journey for 7 years and I’m getting better at my solo parenting life, taking each day as it comes and intentionally staying happy for myself and my amazing children. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but It’s a job you do with relish and pleasure, and with the understanding that “You are doing your best.”

While I won’t like to go into the context of my lived experience, and why I became a single mom, I don’t wish whatever led me to this journey on my worst enemy. We live in a world where people only ask the “why” questions when they meet a single mother instead of understanding the “how”, they are ready to judge and throw you under the bus even without having the full picture.

If you had to choose between being a single mom or being married to a man who is destroying your soul, you would choose being a single mom every time. I’ve been through some experiences in my life but nothing quite prepared me for my separation.  It hit me hard, it hit me deeply.

Read Also: Esther Ijewere: My Personal Experience With Repressed Emotions

With two children who are just 1 year and 7 months apart, I had to teach my mind to be stronger than my emotions.   I had to learn how to filter my connections and disengage from folks who were bent on misunderstanding my plight.

The Emotional Struggle Of Being A Single Mom

I quickly got used to being a single mom. It wasn’t too difficult. I had been living in an environment where I constantly had to fight to protect myself and my children. The hardest part I think was the emotional torment I was going through which everyone suffers during a messy separation.

When you are a single mom, you don’t always get the luxuries others get.

You can’t ask your partner to watch the kids while you go to the gym or walk around the block.

I am not too much of a social butterfly but I know the importance of socializing, and having support. When I started coming out of my shell to share my story and build a support system, things changed.

Starting From Rock Bottom As A Single Mom

Moving out of my home country was one of the most difficult, yet necessary decisions I had to make.   I had less family support and the responsibility of solo parenting became even greater. I remember how I couldn’t sleep that first night  as a lone parent.

Adapting to single parenting was a little tricky and I sometimes felt like some people don’t  understand how difficult it is. Single parents hardly ever get a break, unless they have a strong support network or family willing to step in but all too often that is not the case.

Financially raising my children on my own is difficult. As a single mother the income was much less than that of a couple with kids and I often felt the pinch on the purse strings. The money goes as fast as it comes, that’s even If it comes at all.

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

Working As A Single Mother

My plan to dive right back into work was stalled because I wanted to be a present parent. I was so attached to my girls that I almost made a decision to be a stay-at-home mom, but how do we survive If I don’t get up and play my part. The sacrifices I had to make even while working has stalled my career growth.

Sadly, the world would view you as weak or incapable, when In actual fact you are slowing down so your children can fly in the future.

Don’t Judge Single Mothers

The thing is I do think there is a stigma even in today’s society when you are a single parent. Rather than sit and judge it would be better for people to help and support. It’s better to ask questions than assume a woman just woke up and decided to be a single parent.

You never really know how or why they ended up a single parent, so please the next time you see a single parent, let your sense of empathy over-ride your judgement and assumption. There are women who have gone through situations they are still healing from. Don’t judge or nail them to the cross.

Some parents split up, others lose partners to cancer and horrible diseases, others were just unfortunate to meet the wrong partner, and while they can walk away from that person, they won’t do that to children they brought into the world.

I guess the point I am trying to make is we should worry less about why someone is a single parent and think more about what we can do to help and support because single parenting is not easy.

The Loneliness

One thing I really didn’t expect was the intense isolation that comes with being a single mom. When you’re married, you’re often so used to your partner’s constant presence that you can crave having the house to yourself—an evening alone seems like bliss from a distance.

The Mental Stress

This is the part of the journey no one warned me about, but it’s the reality of every single parent. There is one  parent to go around now and my kids definitely feel it. You feel it too. You are constantly on a think and plan mode, what they wear to school, what they eat, making the best decisions for them, putting them first.  It’s alot for one person, and it affects your emotional wellbeing sometimes….

Anyway, I’d rather learn how to de-stress and handle what I can than go back to what broke me.

Vetting Of Potential Partners

With all this independence and empowerment, I’ve become very unwilling to give up or even share my new life with anyone. I’m being cautious. I’m wary of needing someone too much, of leaning on them instead of myself.

Perhaps this is the effect of living with an abusive partner who stressed me mentally and emotionally, and now I don’t want to give up the healed version of me to someone who probably has his emotional baggage too.

I set my dating boundaries from the get-go, It probably makes me come off as a little on the edge. You know what they say about life being a teacher? You learn the hard way, but don’t become hard, be smart. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case for abusive partners, they move on easily.

Read Also: Esther Ijewere: Helpful Tips For Single Parents

When a car hits a person, the accident victim might spend the rest of their life nursing the Injury. The owner of the car probably won’t feel the impact of the accident. He would still live his life and drive round, while the victim nurse the pain. That’s what I tell folks who judge and are quick to say, things like, “Oh, but the person you claim is abusive has moved on”…

In conclusion, before you judge another single mom, remember you didn’t live through their pain, If you don’t have kind words to say to a lone parent, please, don’t say anything at all.

Life is hard for many already, don’t make it harder. We are trying to make lemonades from the lemons life threw at us.

Are you a single mom? Would you like to join a group of for single mothers for financial support and empowerment ? Join Single Moms Ville 

Dedication

I dedicate this article to all the single moms out there, and to Late Dr. Olabisi Igbalajobi , who was a member of our community, and one of the first women I I spotlighted as a Columnist in Guardian Newspaper. May her gentle soul rest in peace.

Olabisi Igbalajobi
Late Dr. Olabisi Igbalajobi

 

About the Writer
Esther ijewere Is a multi-award winning Social Activist, Journalist, Writer, Best-selling Author,  Host of the Youtube syndicated show;  #GettalkingwithEsther  and a certified PR expert with over 10 years of experience. Esther has spotlighted over 1000 women across the globe, Interviewed First ladies, A-list celebrities and giants of different industries.  She is the Editor-In-Chief of  Women of Rubies, and other development initiatives recognized globally. Follow her  on Linkedin,  Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

When a woman is determined to win in life, nothing can stop her. Nnenna Uboma is a woman who understands the power of consistency and the importance of living intentionally.

She is the Chief Strategic Officer (CSO) of Beyond Math, an initiative she started during the COVID lockdown, alongside her teenage children, Jasmine and Jami. Beyond Math helps kids to develop and retain in-depth analytical, complex problem-solving skills required to succeed.  The Canadian based initiative provides a strong STEM based capability to excel in mathematical and quantitative discipline.

Nnenna Uboma

Nnenna Uboma is also an Analytics Senior leader and has over 20 years of experience leading high performing analytical teams to develop industry edge solutions in one of the leading financial institutions in Canada. Her passion for tutoring and coaching analytical professionals over the past decade made her a sought-after speaker at different conferences across the globe. She has mentored many successful professionals in Analytics.

The amazon whose teenage daughter is the CEO of Beyond Math  spends her spare time nurturing High School kids in Leadership and Entrepreneurship skills. Nnenna was recently recognized as one of the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women. She shares her inspiring story with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

My father was a successful lawyer, Barrister AT Udechukwu. He wanted me to be a lawyer basically because he thought I could put my perspectives rightly on the table. He marvelled at  my ability to ideate quickly. I did not pursue the law profession as I wanted a career in STEM.

However, my childhood which included visiting many legal courtrooms enhanced my logical thinking which I find very beneficial as a data analytics professional. I call myself a data solicitor which basically means I present my perspectives in a business court room instead of a legal courtroom. In my perspective, I am living the childhood dream of my father as a (data) solicitor.

Inspiration behind Beyond Math

During COVID, we were locked down at home and I wanted something worthwhile that will keep us all motivated at home. Beyond Math was birthed by my daughter Jasmine Uboma who is a second-year student. Beyond math kept myself and my two teenage children, Jasmine and Jami connected during COVID. Three of us authored Beyond Math workbooks. I led the project and managed through the cycle to ensure it was birthed. Math was something we had in common.

Read Also: I have Taught Over Ten Thousand People The Power Of Real Estate In Canada

My Role As A Senior Analytics Leader

I work in one of the leading financial institutions in Canada as a Director. It has been a journey in the analytics field. A career I pivoted into when I arrived in Canada. I remember analyzing the job listing on Indeed at the time and noticed SAS being mentioned in many of the analyst roles. Building a career in analytics involves knowing how to code in tools like SQL and use visualization tools like PowerBI.

Challenges 

The technology field is always evolving, and new applications are introduced into the market continuously. I built a niche for myself in Business IT as a Business Data Analyst which simply identifies me as an end user and removes the burden of learning the configuration of every new tool in the market. It is a very stable career path.

 Why I made My Daughter The CEO of Beyond Math, And How I Discovered Her Talent 

Yes, Jasmine Uboma is the CEO of Beyond Math. I am only playing the role of a mother and nurturing what you see or do not see is one great role of mothers. I see the best in people and with the methodology of “make believe”, we achieve a lot.

Jasmine is a very shy lady and introvert by personality, but I think I have succeeded in making her a talk of town. She recently got appointed as the Executive Director of External Affairs for Women in STEM, Western Ontario. She is one to watch out for.

My Thoughts On Kidpreneurs

From the production of Beyondmath, kids need a role model and a mentor to look up to as they take on very challenging tasks, such as being a kidpreneur. One thing I did at the time Beyond math was being authored was to roll my sleeves and carry the blocks as well.

Jasmine and Jami authored the 256 pages of Beyondmath while I did the editing and publishing as well as marketing. We raised over $5000 from Kickstarter pre-launch. They could see my real involvement and not just dishing out tasks. This kept the motivation going. With kids, playing at their level makes a great difference.

How I am Using My Organization To Create Room For Women In The Community

I participate in many immigrant platforms in Canada and have volunteered as a guest speaker or panelist in many of the community functions. I have also mentored many young women like Jasmine who are playing in their respective careers today. It’s been very fulfilling seeing my mentees grow. I also support immigrants who want to play in any data field with coaching and mentoring.

One Thing I Wish To Change In The Education Sector In Canada

I think that the classroom does not represent today’s digital environment. Students have still been taught with curriculum developed many decades ago. I think that subjects like quantitative reasoning should be introduced early to kids which is one of the reasons I love Beyondmath workbooks.

Nnenna Uboma

3 Women Who Inspire Me and Why

One woman that inspires me is Michelle Obama. I took a picture mimicking her pose. It is all about ‘Becoming’. It is either you own your story and write it or others write it for you. One fact is we are all becoming. It is not a matter of where you come from but where you are going. We are all becoming!

As a child I was very playful but quite intelligent. It took someone to get me focused and forced me to have dreams. My mom put in a lot to get me where I am. The dining table, study time, her tears when I don’t get the first position and many more. She remains my inspiration. At 80years, she proofread and edited my books. She is an English graduate. Mrs Uzoamaka Udechukwu is a lady. I admire her strength and passion to see those she loves to succeed.

Read Also: I Started Immiducation To Give Immigrant Professionals Access To Careers In Tech- Janey Buzugbe

I admire Jasmine a lot. She is my daughter but a very respectful and responsible young girl. There is a saying that one can only be a shepherd when you have a sheep. I am so excited to see how she has grown especially as we worked on the establishment of Beyondmath. I am happy to have the privilege to build with her what my mom built with me.

Other Projects and activities

I am authoring another “Lessons to my younger self” which is currently with the publisher. The book is designed to colorfully attract young adults. It will also be published as a journal which will allow readers to write their experiences as we go through my lessons.  Currently I am doing my Phd. and hoping to celebrate my graduation soon. I am also a leader in church and in everything that I do, spreading the word of Jesus is at my core.

My Work-Life Balance Routine , How Manage It All As A Mom, Wife and Business Woman

This is a question I get very often. How do you do it? It is mainly about delegation. Appreciating, trusting, and accepting what others do for you knowing you can’t do everything by yourself. It must not be perfect, it’s all in perspective. Give opportunities for coaching and growth. I am also good with prioritization. I focus on things that are critical and spread the projects out. Giving myself sufficient time has helped me mentally not to be in a race with anything.

Nnenna Uboma

Being A Woman Of Rubies

I see myself as a role model for my younger self. I have had my own rough journey of which one that comes to heart, was being told in my early career that I could not climb the professional ladder because of my Igbo accent. It was hurtful but at the same time great motivation to be my better self. My story is an inspiration to many like me as they try to navigate corporate Canada.

You can connect with Nnenna Uboma on Instagram- @triplejcounsulting or call: +12896278486

When I saw Janey Buzugbe at the Elevate Festival in Toronto a few weeks ago, speaking passionately about Intersectionality and diversity, and how she’s been able to navigate the tech  sector as a black woman in Canada, I knew I had to share her story to inspire other women.

Janey Buzugbe is an energetic entrepreneur and tech partnerships leader who believes in living life by giving; what she has to give is humanity at the intersection of business and technology, and she is doing so significantly.  She heads the Black Innovation Programs and Partnerships at the DMZ – the #1 University based Incubator – providing leadership and support to 400+ Founders across 5 programs with resources and access to 30+ partners to support their Startup growth.

She is the founder of Immiducation, a community-first Startup that supports over 17000+ immigrant professionals with career-readiness skills, a career network, and access to careers in Tech. Over the past decade, her tech career has spanned the corporate, non-profit, and Startup worlds in digital marketing, program and product management, recruitment, and Tech partnerships.

The amazing entrepreneur holds an undergraduate degree in Information Technology, postgraduate certificates in Media and Account Management, and a Master’s in Management Innovation. She is also the host of JaneyofCanada; a YouTube channel providing career and settlement advice for immigrants.

Janey Buzugbe shares her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this Interview.

Read Also: 16 Inspiring Nigerian Women Making A Difference In Canada

Janey Buzugbe
Janey Buzugbe

Childhood Influence

I grew up the first daughter of a military father and a very ambitious and entrepreneurial mother. Growing up watching my mom working on several businesses in addition to a not-for-profit as well as growing her career in public service, I thought for sure I did not want to be her. Never thinking that this entrepreneurial spirit was already coded in my DNA.

Moreover, specifically, my career in Tech Partnerships and people-facing roles definitely is aligned with how I grew up, pretty much being the family organizer and manager; going to an all-girls’ high school where the foundation for the confidence I have was honed; playing sports to competitive levels; as well as being the youngest in my class, yet course leader for 5 years all through my Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology. So, I am no stranger to leadership and being in male-dominated spaces. So, yes, my upbringing prepared me for life as a social entrepreneur and a leader in Tech

 Inspiration behind Immiducation

When I moved to Canada in 2015 as an international student, I found that as a Newcomer, even with some guidance from family, I was making some mistakes and missing out on real opportunities that translated to money or career growth in Canada. So, at first, I started a YouTube channel, JaneyofCanada (Janey Buz), to share my learnings. For Example, my video “Top 10 things everyone coming to Canada should know” now has over 150k+ views. As this channel and my career grew, I would get inquiries to speak on how I grew my career to leadership in such a short time and on the channel, I would get inquiries about certain professions and regions in Canada I could not speak to as those were not my firsthand experiences.

After coaching more than a few people, I realized the challenge of underemployment – not getting work in your field of training and/or earning way less than the average Canadian – was a pervasive problem.  I heard it very clearly in 2021 to build a community of like-minded professionals to support each other and bring forward-thinking employers to the community to engage and hire from.

Truth is, you become what you see, so we created a space for high-achieving newcomer professionals to see what they could become and access support in becoming that.

Read Also: I Have Taught Over Ten Thousand People The Power Of Real Estate In Canada

How My Involvement In settlement Of  Newcomers, Black Innovation Programs And Partnerships Impacted Me As A Black Woman

This is an interesting question. At first, I did not identify as a Black Woman. Coming from Nigeria, I believed the term ‘Black Person’ referred to melanin-blessed folks who were born and/or raised in North America. You see, I was just a Nigerian woman. The thing about labels and identity is, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you see yourself as if other people see you differently. I quickly realized that everyone saw me as Black and so I began to learn about my new identity.

As I learned, I experienced the diversity of different Black people, then I also realized my privilege of being a debt-free, well-educated, family-oriented African woman. I realized that these privileges and others are not available to every Black person but also, even with the privilege, the playing field is not leveled for us. Then, I made the decision to put my energy and passion into being a champion for the under-represented, whom I prefer to refer to as ‘Underestimated”. This has impacted the way I see myself and the world around me. That there is power and strength when the world does not see you coming!

My Passion For Issues Centered Around Intersectionality, Diversity And Inclusion

My passion for the cause stemmed from my experiences as an underrepresented, (underestimated) Newcomer, African Woman. I want people to stop and think when they say things like “Your English is so good” or assuming because I am Black, I can rap, twerk or I do not have a dad in the picture.

This way, they are assuming something (often negative) of a person because of how they look. Instead, they could be curious without demeaning a person. That initial statement could sound somewhat like this “Is English the main language where you are from”? This turns an assumptive statement into an open curious conversation and makes the person on the receiving end feel included.

Janey Buzugbe
Janey Buzugbe

Challenges

To shed some more light, in Canada, as I have now grown to Leadership, I have experienced what is colloquially known as “performative or optical allyship” where people want to come of as forward-thinking, so they want to have a Black women leader as part of their organization or project; to nail the diversity picture but they often miss the mark on Inclusion and belonging; where your ideas, thoughts and culture are not welcomed or celebrated.

The Audience Reception And Lessons From My Panel Session At The Elevate festival

I learned that the sky is the stepping stone for us women. I learned that we often, especially as women, buy into some negative assumptions that keep us stagnant. For me, being in the innovation space and even part of a selection committee for a Venture Capital firm, I believed being a solo founder is a deterrent in getting funding from external investors but here I was sitting next to a solo founder who had raised some good money from Investors.

So now with every deterring thought, I try to counter it by asking  myself, “ Janey, who told you that this is true?” and “is it absolutely true for everyone?” . I also learnt that my story is important – to continue to share with boldness and humility. People need to see what they can become or at least validate that they are not alone.

Read Also:  How Chioma Ogamba Is Helping People Achieve Their Immigration Dreams

Thoughts On The Profiling Of Black Women, And How They Can Be Supported

Yes, Black women are underrepresented, and we face the double-bias of being Black and Woman. However, we are still a force to be reckoned with – we are just underestimated. To Black women, find yourself a support community that will build you, you can learn from and help you on the days you feel low.

This is very important! Not sure where to start, check out Immiducation. And to allies, try to move from being passive to active, reach out of your comfort zone to communities you don’t usually find yourself. You support one Black woman, you support a whole generation – this is more than being an Ally, this is being a Champion.

How I Am  Using My  Organization To Create Room For Black Women In The Tech Sector

For me, it is important to create opportunities that I wish I had and I want to see for myself. So firstly, 90% of my team at Immiducation are exceptional Black women whom I am eternally grateful for. When we have our monthly coffee chat with industry experts, I aim to have Black Women or other people of colour because I believe you become what you see. We plan on launching a mentorship group in the near future solo for Black women

Why I Started My Youtube Channel; Janeyof Canada

I  had my YouTube Channel in my head for many years before I created it – a lot of people had told me my energy was very good for the media. However, it took me a while to start because I needed to figure out what type of content would truly be helpful for my audience while not being something I would get bored of. So after a few tries, I landed on content to support other career-minded newcomers.

This was how Janey Buz (JaneyofCanada) was born in 2016. So as I progressed in my journey through 3 Study Permit applications, 1 Work Permit application,  1 permanent Resident application and 1 Citizenship application; all of which I did myself, I wanted to share with others my immigration and career journey. Now, the channel community has grown to over 18,000 with about 1 million views.

Most impactful, is the 100s of emails from grateful people who share that through my videos, they have landed in Canada in either their dream school or as a permanent resident and didn’t have to spend money using agents or consultants. I am on a mission to democratize immigrant success for my generation and beyond.

3 Women Who Inspire Me  And Why

My mother – Janey Buzugbe (Snr); She taught me many things I know about being a strong, Christ-loving, entrepreneurial and career-oriented woman with a personality that lights up a room while putting the people in her life, her family as priority

Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson – My mentor; she taught me that I matter, her energy is through the proverbial roof; something I thought I needed to shrink about myself. She’s taught me that this energy is exactly what the world needs!

Beyoncé – Just because! Her creativity and business sense is one to be reckoned with. #WeRunTheWorld

Read Also: Meet Maryam Muritala, The Entrepreneur Giving Canadian Vendors Visibility

 To The Woman Who Has Lost Hope Due To Marginalization And Lack Of Support

Please do not give up. Go where you are celebrated and not tolerated. Quit fast, quit often if the environment is deteriorating your mental health and self worth. Join a community and share/confide with people who can lift you up. You are the CEO of You Inc., so do what any CEO would do. To help your confidence, keep a list of things you have achieved, compliments and positive feedback you have gotten over the years – I call this your “Brag book”. This is your weapon to combat imposter syndrome or feeling inadequate. Trust me, your brain does not hold as much as you’d like to think. Write it down.

JaneyofCanada
Janeyof Canada

My Work-Life Balance Routine

I never miss out on my sleep and catching up with my loved ones. I also try to take walks and dance in between meetings. I am learning now that “NO” is a full sentence and trying to practice that. It took me landing in the hospital to start to prioritize my health and I promise you; it is not worth it. Work will always be there and so would be others to do the work. But my life – my time on earth, I have only got one.

Being  A Woman Of Rubies

My God-given strength and ability to bounce back and push myself, surrounded by incredible support, to be a better version of Janey than I was yesterday because I truly believe that this is how I can live out God’s purpose for me.

You can see more of Janey Buzugbe work here: https://www.immiducation.com/

Click Here Watch Short Video of Janey Buzugbe  speaking at the Elevate Festival

 

At the peak of her happiness, Late Dr. Olabisi Igbalajobi, a lecturer at Joseph Ayo Babalola University lost the treasure that gave her joy. The gifted educationist lost her dear husband barely after three years of marriage and also lost her job. This devastated her and made her almost give up on life. She shared her survivor story in this interview with Esther Ijewere on the 13th of August 2016.

Sadly, Dr. Olabisi Igbalajobi died a  few days ago (8th, October 2022) after a brief illness. She was an integral part of our Women of Rubies facebook community and our Single Moms Ville Group.

In her words; “Yes there were times I was at cross roads and felt like giving up but could not bring myself to doing it. I love my kids so much and they are my driving hence the strong will and determination to keep pushing, striving and smiling.”

Olabisi Igbalajobi
Late Dr. Olabisi Igbalajobi

 

Growing Up
My mum told me as a child that I love to write that many times I would scribble on the floor and ask her to read out what I had written. I also loved to gather my friends together and teach them sometimes it could be in form of a church service (childish plays). I loved group discussions and most times I used to be the initiator and the lead discussant. My dad also wanted me to be in the academics and propelled me towards it. Unfortunately, he died before I bagged my Ph.D. degree. My mum usually tells me in those days that she saw me as a teacher. So I would say all these contributed to what I am doing now.

My Foray Into Teaching
I am Olabisi Igbalajobi, born and bred in Lagos on October 2nd in the late sixties. I am a proud indigene of Efon Alaaye Ekiti state. My secondary school was at Federal Government Girls’ College Owinni Hills Oyo, Oyo State. Memories of Oyo days still flood my memories. I thank God that I was able to graduate from owinni. After secondary school, JAMB was not so friendly as I could not meet the cut off mark for my preferred course of study and in my daddy’s voice. “I cannot beg anyone for your admission, go, prepare and do it next year”.

I got an admission to study Forestry in the then University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State but before resumption when most people asked me what course I was admitted for majority would say “Ha! Asogbo (Forest guard) I was devastated and wondered what they meant by such, as God would have it not quite long I got another admission letter to study Farm Management and Agricultural Extension at the Federal University of Technology, Akure. In my first year I told my dad I did not like the name and would prefer to seek admission at Ife to study Agricultural Economics. As God would have it not quite long, the nomenclature was changed.

I benefited from the scholars stipend from management as I was a University Scholar from my second year. Incessant strikes kept us in school more than necessary, I eventually graduated as the best graduating student in my class. No wonder I was advised to come back to the academics by the then Head of Department late Professor P.B. Imoudu, my daddy wanted it but my husband whom I had married some few months before the final examination could not withstand a long distant marriage.

Read Also: 16 Inspiring Nigerian Women Making A Difference In A Canada

Coping With losing My Husband And Job Loss
October 5 1996 was the beautiful day I married my sweetheart, John Omotoso Ojo, a God-fearing, devoted, husband and father. However, after marriage, I could not get a job all through, despite appearing at several interviews. I remember being told at an interview that people like me would always go back to the academics, yet I wasn’t employed. I had my son in October 1997 yet I had no job .

My husband was very supportive and ensured we lacked nothing as far as his purse could take us. In January 1999, I got pregnant with my daughter still there was no job.

By 9th July 1999, with an almost 2 years old boy, a six-month-old pregnancy and still jobless, sweet John bade the world farewell. Till now, I still cannot understand the circumstances of his death but one thing it did was to devastate me. I almost went into depression thank God I was pregnant God used that to help me out, because I was eager to see the face of the baby conceived in love.

It was not an easy journey when John died but I thank God for my family who stood by me. On October 5th 1999, my supposed 3rd year wedding anniversary, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter (her daddy’s look alike). I began thereafter to do petty business travelled to Abeokuta, Cotonou, Togo etc. anywhere I could get things to buy and sell.

I remember very early on my very first trip to Cotonou, my mum came to my house to pick my daughter and took me to the woman who was taking me down. It was a very emotional morning; tears filled my eyes this was 6 months after my daughter’s birth.

I did not get back to my parent’s home till 11: 00pm despite leaving Nigeria at dawn. My baby was still sucking, my breast were swollen and painful, I got to my parent’s house to see my dad (God bless his soul) carrying my daughter singing and dancing to pacify the wailing child.

That night we agreed that I would not embark on such journeys again. Easier said than done, I have lost count of how many trips I took thereafter.

Olabisi Igbalajobi

Taking Up Another Job
Later, I took up a teaching appointment organized by the PTA of a secondary school not too far from my house. The salary was small (N3500), but it was better than me sulking at home and wallowing in self-pity as I had kids to look after. In 200l, I dusted my certificate, rejected self -pity and depression and went back to school to pursue my master’s degree.

While at this help came through one of the WAEC marking team heads who informed me of an impending interview in the Ekiti State Ministry of Education.

I was favoured and I taught at the government Science College Iyin -Ekiti from 2002-2006. While there, I took the opportunity of enrolling at University of Ado Ekiti (now Ekiti State Univeristy) for a Post Graduate Diploma course in Education (PGDE).

I resolved to train myself and the children along the way, while I went back to study, my daughter was with my parents while my son was with my brother-in-law any opportunity to be together I quickly grabbed, their long holidays were spent with me. Meanwhile I was still selling clothes and materials by the side to meet whatever I was earning to sustain the family.

Enrolling For Ph.D.
After my masters class, I enrolled for my Ph.D. at FUTA and it was the year 2006 that Joseph Ayo Babalola University started. I bless God for the role He allowed the deputy chairman of council and his wife to play in my life. I got employed brought back my kids and since then I’ve been enjoying the grace of God in JABU and have also completed my Ph.D. degree in Agricultural Economics.

Read Also: If Your Husband Does This 14 Things, He Is The Best

Giving up?
Yes there were times I was at cross roads and felt like giving up but could not bring myself to doing it. I love my kids so much and they are my driving hence the strong will and determination to keep pushing, striving and smiling. No one would ever believe I was going through all these because for long, I talk about my late husband, John in the present tense. When women talk about their marital experiences, I contribute to the conversation as if my marriage was still on. I said to myself, “After God, the only one who could ever make me happy is me”. The statement has been working for me because I use it to spurge myself on.

Olabisi Igbalajobi
Late Dr. Olabisi Igbalajobi

Challenges of being a lecturer
The major challenge I face in my line of work is the unruly attitude of students to their studies. I love serious-minded and focused students and most of the students who had undergone tutelage under me will attest to that fact. I am a principled and highly disciplined teacher when it comes to my work; I love to impart. It is a passion borne out of my love for education. I try as much as possible to encourage and counsel such students. It gives me great pleasure to see them respond truly to such counsel.

“Stop wailing in self-pity”
My advice to every woman out there who might be facing similar challenge is this ‘Stop wailing in self-pity’. Stop blaming others for whatever has happened. One of my favourite mantra is this: When something is done and you cannot undo it, move ahead”.

Some years back I made a striking statement on a radio show. I said: ‘Your determination to succeed rests on you. Your kids need you; do not abandon them. Be resolute, be determined, be prayerful, find something doing and keep keeping on. Surely there is going to be light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Read Also: Two Time Cancer Survivor Marries For The First Time At 73

Being a woman of rubies
What makes me a woman of rubies is that I have gone through great challenges as a widow and I did not engage in self-pity. With God, I rose above such challenges and tried as much as possible to survive despite all odds. I am still pushing on, I am not yet there but I am better than what I used to be. I thank God I don’t look like what I have been through. I pray my story challenges, inspire and bless you.

We celebrate the life and times of Sis Olabisi Igbalajobi.

A famous writer once said; “To be successful in real estate, you must always and consistently put your clients’ best interests first. When you do, your personal needs will be realized beyond your greatest expectations.” These words best describe multi-award-winning Canadian real estate agent Deborah Ojo, CEO of DeborahHomes.

Deborah Ojo  started out as a class teacher before she established DeborahHomes, a company she built on the core values of honesty and integrity spiced with an uncompromising stand on professionalism.  The amazing entrepreneur who is also known for strategic and focused approach is a real estate agent with RE/MAX, the largest Real Estate company in Canada.

With over 10 years experience In the Real Estate sector, she has taught over 63 seminars and counting to minority communities on how to Own their own piece of real estate free of charge as a way to give back to those communities, and helping women who have passion for the business find their path and earn a living.

Deborah Ojo has built a solid foundation of clients in her community through her professionalism, attention to details, and commitment to always put her client’s needs first. The Human Resources Management graduate and amazon shares her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere In this Interview.

Childhood Influence

My success was due to no small degree to the lessons of my childhood. Despite not having much, my parents worked hard to manage the finances of the home.  My mum was a primary school teacher and sells fabrics to her colleagues. Our family finances were more stressed when my dad lost his job after 20 years service in the bank, we had lost our major source of income.  I watched my parents stretch out every penny to make our finances work.

You know what this experience taught me? My dad sat me down, he said “Oluwatosin, the best advice I can offer you now in order to thrive in your future endeavours is to think DEPLOYMENT instead of EMPLOYMENT” , Having seen how deplorable a worker is in the hand of their employers, not minding the sacrifices and how committed they are to their employer. This simple advice was stored up in my mind since as a little  child I was then and has guided me to shape who I am today.

Fast forward, I decided I wasn’t going to dedicate my life to an employer who can let you go when you need them most. The foundations of my financial literacy, management of funds and business are all attributed to childhood, it taught me to keep going no matter the defeat into the stepping stone of opportunities.

Deborah Ojo

Why I Pitched My Tent In The Real Estate Sector

My inspiration was drawn out of my WHY? My WHY’S range from having financial freedom, ability to travel the world without an employer giving a time limit, building a legacy for my children, helping the underserved communities and marginalized sectors. Spending quality time with my family, especially my husband. When I had the desire to own a multi chain of real estate, I had no way or resources to act on it.

As an immigrant in Canada, I see firsthand how hard it is for my parents to secure accommodation.  I saw how people of minorities are underserved in securing rental units and owing their real estate portfolio. The systemic biases ran so deep that I took it upon myself to change the narratives and I decided to start educating people in my community on how they can become homeowners and not just helping their landlord to keep building wealth.

In my then 2-bedroom apartment, with a family of seven, my dream was born. I decided I was going to own a multi apartment building where I will give minority communities opportunities to rent / own safe and affordable apartments in Canada.

How Deborahomes became one of the most sought-after Real Estate agencies In Canada

As a child I was ambitious, I wanted to know how wealthy people became so successful, I threw myself into research and I discovered the answer was Real Estate, but I had nothing to start with. I quickly discovered Real Estate is a male dominated industry and my goal is to inspire other younger women to see that a woman can be a household name and make it to the top. I dared to be different, to me you owe the world that much to be the best or nothing else. Many women just like myself have so much to contribute to this universe but somehow are subjected to believe it’s hard to achieve. I decided on strategic meetings, which had enlightened countless numbers of women in our society, and helped them bring out the genius in them. Most of them are highly successful in Real Estate Ventures.

Challenges

Some of our greatest opportunities could be dressed in defeat.  I had nothing going into this career than a desire to be great and affect lives. There was no mentor that looked like me and many of my colleagues will bully me in the years to come, I mean, I was young, a woman of color with no sales background who dared to not be a regular 9-5.

When I started, because of my sharp change in career, alot people had thought there wasn’t alot of minority women making it big time in Real Estate, but I blocked all the naysayers, I wasn’t afraid to change my circle of friends, you know what they say that if you want to know your true friends, start a business.

\Well, it happened, my friends couldn’t trust me with their business but I quickly made new friends that are my best clients till today. You know what else I did, I studied and learned all that was available to know in Real estate that my colleagues started to respect my expert knowledge. That really helped me to climb really fast in my career.

I actually told myself that if I put my all into this and it didn’t work for 6 months, I will go back to my old job, But God so good, I closed a couple deals within the first couple of months, that validated me. I knew it would work and I have never looked back since. I can never underestimate my husband’s sacrifices in building the brand Deborahomes. Many people that know him, know that there’s no Deborahomes without him.

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

Thoughts on the real estate market

It’s a moving train and this Current Real Estate market is not an exception. A Lot of people try to time the market, invest when its low and cash out when its high but the market is a fast-moving train with many delicate intricacies, you can not possibly time it but you will do well to build your team of professionals like Real Estate Agents, Mortgage brokers etc to advise you of the right strategy depending on the market circle. Deborahomes provides consultation to its clients on how to strategically grow their portfolio to maximise returns,and by the way, it’s a great time right now to buy Canadian Real Estate, due to interest rate hike, The market is down about 20% in the Greater Toronto area so if you buy now, you will have position yourself for huge profit in the future

DeborahHomes
Deborah Ojo

What It Takes To Own A Home In Canada

1.Good Credit – a good credit is 680 points and above, if you plan on buying a house, work on building and checking in on your credit score. Think about it this way, your credit rating is the only thing on paper that a lender can consider to evaluate whether you are trustworthy enough to lend to.

2. Income – A lender will use your income to calculate your affordability. The more you earn, the more loans you can potentially qualify for.

3. Down payment – As a residence you can put as low as 5 percent down of the purchase price if you qualify. As a non residence, in most cases you will need 20-35% down to buy a home

How I am using Platform  create room for women in the community

I use my platform to teach new immigrants and underserved communities about the importance of Real estate ownership. Held free training / Webinars , I have taught over ten thousand people the power of real estate. I also help  women understand the power of their voice and how to use it . In dealing with families I have discovered many women had no clue to their family finances or the courage to think they too can be a decision maker and their opinion matters. I would ask women what they wanted in a home and they would simply say whatever my husband wanted. I wasn’t raised like that and since I married me and my husband believed in tabling all our opinions to help us make the best decisions. Two is better than one and if women simply keep quiet then they are cheating their homes, their generation to contribute the ideas. I use my platform to encourage women to speakup, in family decisions and even in their career. I have also mentored other female agents to become successful in their real estate careers

Read Also: I spent Many Years In The Background Observing And Learning 

One Thing I wish to Change In the real estate sector

Oh I would totally go paperless, there will be no longer paper contracts to save the planet. I’m all for reduce, reuse, recycle. I would reduce the  red tape around the new development approval process. This will help speed up new home construction and make more housing affordable especially for minority communities who have been severely underserved.

Deborah Ojo

3 women who inspire me and why

These people have different levels of success in different expertise, business, and lived in different parts of the world but what is common among them is they all had dreams, followed by lessons learned and then success. It proves that success leaves clues, I believe to be success, follow who knows the road, we don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, sometimes, copy the model.

My mum is my greatest inspiration, as a child, she didn’t have shoes to wear, she hawked, slept on the streets but yet did not make excuses for herself, her success is not by chance or luck, she had a burning desire for success and she converted all the opportunities she had into success. She has a remarkable mindset to never give up. She recognises no defeats.

Oprah is another person that inspires me, as a visible minority, she was born into poverty and now one of the richest African – American of the 20th century and the greatest philanthropist in U.S History. Oprah overcame many obstacles in one of the worst era in the United States where blacks were discriminated against but she overcame those obstacles through prayer and  hard work . Oprah’s wealth and fame is certainly no accident, as she believes that luck is simply “preparation meeting opportunity”.

Sheryl Sandberg , an immigrant who moved with her parents to the United states in search of greener pasture and with focus, rose to the position of COO at Facebook, becoming the company’s second-highest ranking official. This woman has exceptional leadership skills. During her time at Google, she grew the ad and sales team from four people to 4,000.

 Other projects and activities

We were real estate investors before I became an agent, when I say we, I mean me and my husband. Personally, we focus on flipping houses, long term buy and hold, Private lending and Land development. There are lots on the horizon that I do not have authority to announce yet but let’s just say we plan to buy multiple doors before the year runs out.

Read Also: Chioma Ogamba Is Helping People Is Helping People Achieve Their Immigration Dream To Canada

My work-life balance routine as a  mom, wife, business owner and mentor

I have an amazing support system, my amazing partner who lets me fly as high as I want. I couldn’t have been here without him. When I’m home I’m a mother and a wife, when I’m at the office, I am not burdened with my home because I know he is  home, and I have learned to give up on lots of things that don’t add value to me or my goals. I learned quickly to spend QUALITY time with family. I have also mastered the act of delegating roles to trusted team members, I don’t do everything  because I’m not good at everything. I focus on my core competencies alone and I consistently revalue our business to find ways to improve efficiencies.

Deborah Ojo-DeboraHomes

Being a Woman of Rubies

I have met many people that have told me how inspired they are by me. Sometimes when we are doing something you do not know who is watching but people are mostly inspired by how I juggle my big family and my business. I say it is knowing who are in Christ, I am Deborah to my generation and my husband, and I am conscious about our callings to our generation. Real Estate is my platform to preach the gospel. The gospel of come and see how I became a millionaire and you can be a millionaire too. We are called to abundance! I believe my talents are not for me alone so I  pray hard and work like I don’t pray. Clear communication has been the key to having a successful marriage and a successful career.

Contact details & social media handles

 Instagram @deborahomes

Facebook @deborahomes

Twitter @deborahomes1

Linkedin @deborahomes

Website: www.deborahomes.com

Contact:  +1647-705-2487

 

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

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

Joy Eseoghene Odiete J'odie
Jodie

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

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

Childhood Influence

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

My passion for music

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

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

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

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

Why I took a break from music

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

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

Seeking for support publicly

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

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

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

Joy Eseoghene Odiete. J'odie
Jodie and her son

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

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

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

Inspiration behind my song “Kuchi Kuchi”

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

Other projects and activities

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

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

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

My coping mechanism as a special-needs mom

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

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

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

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

How my participation in West African Idols impacted my life

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

Joy Odiete J'odie
J’odie

What I wish to change in the Music industry

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

To Special-needs mom with no support system

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

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

The society and its reception of special-needs parents

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

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

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

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

Being a Woman of Rubies

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

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

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

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

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

Esther Ijewere- Women of Rubies
Esther Ijewere

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

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

Read Also: Esther Ijewere Listed As An African Woman In Development

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

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

In this interview, she bares all with Vanguard Newspaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch: 5 Ways To Stop Being A People Pleaser

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

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

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

Read Also: How To Understand The Impact Of Trauma

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

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

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

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

Women of Rubies

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

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

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

Kindly mention some of the lessons life has taught you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Also: 9 Powerful Ways To Be More Confident

Who really is Esther Ijewere?

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

What principles have worked for you over the years?

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

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

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

Esther Ijewere

Who are your role models?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you rejuvenate when your energy is down?

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

Watch:  How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

How do you unwind?

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

Connect with Esther;

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

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

Twitter; https://twitter.com/estherijewere

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

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

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