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

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

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

 

Childhood Influence

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

 

My Passion for Music

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

 

The Journey so far

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

 

Performing with A-list artists

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

 

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

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

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

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

Challenges

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

 2 Women Who Inspire me to be Better and why

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

 Being a Woman of Rubies

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

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

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

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

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

Other Projects and Activities

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

Nigerian artiste I’d like to collaborate with

I would love to collaborate with Simi and Davido

C-MI brand  in 5 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Childhood Influence

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

Inspiration behind Every Child Initiative

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

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

The Journey so far

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

Being a survivor of sexual abuse, and finding closure

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

Volunteering for several organization & giving back during the pandemic

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

 

My Certifications, fellowship and momentum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges of my work

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

 

3 women who inspire me to be better and why

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

Being a Woman of Rubies

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

 

On  educating children early

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

 

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

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

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

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

Childhood Influence

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

Inspiration behind Stop the Abuse Against Children and Women Foundation

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

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

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

Impact of Stop the Abuse Foundation since Inception

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

 

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

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

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

Challenges of my work

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

Other projects and activities

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

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

3 women who inspire me and why

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

To women in abusive marriages  who are afraid to flee

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

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

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

Being a Woman of Rubies

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

Mental Health is often misunderstood, especially by those  who have never suffered from it. It is not well prioritized in our society as people are not well informed on what Mental Health actually looks like. Dedoyin Ajayi is changing that narrative.

The psychotherapist with a specialty in Emotional Health and a diploma in Professional Counselling is using her social media platforms to advocate and educate the society on Mental Health.

She’s also a certified Neuro-linguistic practitioner from the Academy of Modern and Applied Psychology. Dedoyin has a thriving counseling practice with an average of thirty hours per week, vested into both virtual and physical counselling sessions. She currently serves in the capacity of a consultant therapist three organizations, and specializes in helping individuals with suicide ideations, depression, childhood trauma, existential crises, and personality disorders.

She shares her inspiring journey exclusively with Esther Ijewere in this educative and insightful interview

Childhood Influence

It started when I was 7 years old. I remember that I’d fantasize about having an office where people came to cry. I’d give them a handkerchief and calm them down. As soon as they felt calm, they’d go outside and pay my secretary. I never quite understood the picture my imagination was painting, but I knew it was my very first inclination towards preparing me for my present career path

Why I pitched my tent in the  Mental Health sector

As a child, I had a profoundly small stature and I was bullied a lot because of this. It created a deep seated low self esteem that led to feelings of bitterness, resentment and inadequacy. I recall that I badly wanted to talk to somebody that wasn’t family. I knew something was terribly wrong and I needed help. I however didn’t know who to turn to. This helpless feeling drove me to a decision: being that person for other people. I wanted to be able to have the listening ears I didn’t have. This led to a voracious research about the mental health sector. My findings were very discouraging at the time, seeing as therapy wasn’t widely accepted and in some cases, even still being stigmatized. I however couldn’t deny the deep longing within me, to tread this path and here I am.

Being a psychotherapist, Neuro-linguistic practitioner, consultant and staying grounded

To be very honest, I’m not yet proud of how I manage it. Thankfully I have a wonderful support system in my husband and a few close friends who are to it that I rest and take my structured breaks. Sometimes I go through mental burn-outs but these episodes are becoming few and far between. I’m however learning to really prioritize my own mental needs as well.

My Mental Health advocacy on social media, and its impact so far

I became an active mental health advocate in 2018. This stemmed from a discovery I made, which was the fact that the Nigerian mental health community was grossly under-represented on social media. We have a few people doing great things but there was a huge content and information sparsity that needed to be addressed. It’s why I decided to become a voice of mental health for the Nigerian community. As for impact, the response was very discouraging at first, but I continued. The past one year has however been explosive. The feedback has been wild to say the least. I’ve had people sending me DMs, telling me how a post I made was specifically for them and this spurred them to book a session. Little by little, the stigmatization surrounding mental health is thinning out. The narrative is changing! I’m super excited.

Why the Government should support the Mental Health 

First and foremost, it’s no news that the government has been very laid back about the mental health sector, especially considering the fact that an average Nigerian today, has a pertinent issue bothering them. The need for structured emotional support cannot be overemphasized. I’d suggest that the government looks into building Walk-In Therapy Centres just the same way we have clinics. This would enable people to readily have access to subsidized mental health care. There should also be a massive Nationwide awareness sponsored by the government, with the aim of sensitizing people about their mental health. The more conversations we have about the mental health sector, the more growth we would experience as a country.

Challenges of my work

The primary challenge is stigmatization. A lot of people reach out to tell me about friends or family members they’d love to recommend therapy to, but would never be open to the idea of speaking to a “shrink” after all they are not mad.

Another issue is social support. While receiving mental health care, it is imperative that the patient has an effective support system which would further facilitate their recovery. Imagine having to go to work during a depressive phase because your boss doesn’t believe that depression is a valid reason to be exempt from work! This needs to change. All hands must be on deck to help rewrite the narrative about mental illness being a sign of laziness or cowardice.

Other projects and activities

Presently, I co-founded a mental health awareness initiative themed HEART CAFE with Olamide Ogidan-Odeseye (@larmmy). It’s a weekly meeting that is held on Twitter every Friday, where people come to unburden, network and most importantly receive psycho-educational tips that keep them up to speed about mental health. I also run a YouTube channel (Thededoyinajayi), where I get to talk about mental health issues as well as conversations surrounding relationships and lifestyle.

What I enjoy most about my job

The fulfillment that comes with seeing a client recover! Most especially suicidal clients. There’s nothing quite like it. I’d literally be grinning from ear to ear in gratitude and satisfaction.

3 women who inspire me and why

One of my major inspirations is Dr. Thema Bryant; a clinical psychologist practicing in the USA. She’s someone whose consistency serves as a major motivation.

Another woman who inspires me is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It’s her self confidence for me. The very fact that she’s able to rock her traditional attires in foreign or westernized settings is a reflection of her healthy self perception and the strength of her persona.

The third woman is Rinu Oduala (Savvy Rinu). She displayed a unique and uncanny strength during the whole #endsars campaign, and her intelligence is phenomenal. These three women are most definitely huge sources of inspiration to me.

When a person should seek therapy

Asides mainstream mental health issues like clinical depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and so on, therapy should be sought the moment you notice any alteration in the default emotional state. Feelings of deep sadness, incessant worrying, loss of concentration at work, relationship issues, abuse of any kind, frequent change in moods, loss of interest in activities as well as a deep gut feeling that something is wrong. The truth is ANYONE can come for therapy. Even if it’s for a holistic checkup. We all could do with emotional support systems.

Nuggets on how to stay mentally and emotionally balanced

To stay mentally and emotionally balanced, the very first step is SELF AWARENESS. You can’t manage what you don’t understand. Afterwards, it’s important to be intentional about taking mental recuperative breaks. It’s a form of self-care. Going for walks, swimming, taking dance/ music lessons, exercising and so on can serve as activities you can engage in during a mental recuperative break. Another vital thing is to filter through your relationships. Humans play a major role in our mental well-being. Surround yourself with people who genuinely love and validate you. Above all, never hesitate to seek help. Very important.

Being a Woman of Rubies

My implicit faith in humanity. I strongly believe that if we have a love-themed world, everything would be more colorful and beautiful. The fact that I choose to heal the world one heart at a time, makes me a Woman of Rubies.

***Dedoyin Ajayi can be reached on social media : @thededoyinajayi on IG, @dedoyinajayi on Twitter. A detailed overview on the services she renders are on dedoyinajayi.com

 

Life they say is a series of building, and there is no good innovation without human impact. It takes a certain level of bravery to dare to be different and thrive in the STEM sector. Multi-award winning social innovator Amanda Obidike is one of the women breaking boundaries in STEM globally.

The technologist and scientist is the founding curator of the WEF Global Shapers, Ozubulu Hub and Executive Director of STEMi Makers Africa. Her role in this position is to provide leadership, strategy management and oversee the design and implementation of sustainable Community projects and STEM Education across 19 Sub-Saharan countries by preparing the next generation of Africans with STEM lucrative skills for Africa’s workforce.

In addition to STEM, she addresses thematic topics on Social Innovation, Data Science, Youth Development, Entrepreneurship and socio-economic policies. In 2020, Amanda received several awards including the Global Award for Achievement by TechWomen 100 and 30 Under 30 Inspiring Leaders of Africa.

Amanda got an opportunity to be trained by IBM in Business Intelligence/Analytics after 8 months. Upon completion, she took the initiative to serve as a knowledge panel in preparing Africans with 21st-century skills and future-focused options for an emerging workforce.

This was her inspiration, her driving force to starting STEMi Makers Africa.

She serves as a Mentor in the New York Academy of Science, Cherie Blair Foundation, the 1 million Women in Tech, Global thinkers for Women where she lends her voice, knowledge, and serve as a role model to girls in Africa.

She currently serves on the Leadership Team of the 500 Women Scientists, USA and Trustee Board of the MAI Foundation. The amazing amazon shares her inspiring story with Women of Rubies

Childhood Influence

I never had a background in Technology and Engineering. I have always dreamed of one day leading currency operations in the Central Bank of Nigeria. Growing up, I was a curious, adventurous, and daring girl. I went to different secondary schools cutting across 3 different geopolitical zones in Nigeria, gave myself to community volunteering, travelling, and learning how to do business.

Inspiration behind STEMi Makers Africa

STEMi Makers Africa emerged when I suffered underemployment and depression in 2O18. The meaningful and lucrative jobs available required technical skills that I didn’t originally have after graduation. Nigeria also began to transfer major resources and job opportunities to skilled professionals and expatriates due to a lack of competent and domestic STEM workforce.

STEMi Makers Africa was founded to address the leaky unemployment pipeline and break the wall of Inheriting fragmented and disconnected education institutions in Africa.

If current trends continue, by 2050 some one-third of Africa’s one billion young people will lack basic proficiency in math, reading, and STEM subjects. Millions will be unemployable and unproductive. To remain competitive in a growing global economy where 96% of jobs are now automated, we are raising African talents and achievement in STEM Subjects, and Skills of the Future by empowering Educators, marginalized communities and students to be self-reliant or effectively transition from education to employment.

Impact and testimonials since inception

STEMi Makers Africa is a non-profit organization that builds diverse African talents with lucrative STEM resources, skills and currently designed a national innovation base that supports key sectors of the economy, including agriculture, energy, healthcare, information and communication technologies, manufacturing, and artificial intelligence.

We have maintained one of the greatest strategies in helping 78+ communities in 19 African countries and 30,000+ young people develop job skills, improve educational outcomes, provide opportunities to succeed and we are planning ahead not to leave the younger generation feeling displaced and inheriting a more fragmented world than we live in today. Through our innovative approach to education and capacity building, we emerged winners of the 2021 Stroeous award for Global positive Impact on Innovative Solution, became a Falling Walls Berlin Engage Finalist for Breakthrough of the Year in the Digital Education category, 2020.

Just recently, one of our Educators who was a recipient to our first STEM Integration training for Educators got accepted for a 4 year USA Teacher Exchange Fellowship, which is renewable. We recorded 51 Internship and job positions for our project Kuongoza mentees program alone for 2O21.

Journey so far

The journey has been rocky, yet tremendous. There are times we get concerned about resources, partnerships, effectively managing operations across other African countries, but we keep pushing and leaving an indelible mark that can one day inspire esteemed organizations to collaborate with us.

Managing it all

My dear! (laughs)

I believe it’s due to the value I bring and the confidence people have in me. Majority of what I represent sprung from people’s recommendations, and organization appointments. I count it an honor and do my best to serve in the best capacity I can.

Awards and recognition

I was given the Global Award for Achievement by TechWomen 100,  in recognition of leading the way for future generations of tech talent, shaping the future of the technology industry and having a responsibility as a role model to share my experiences, laying the foundations for others to follow in the wake of technology. My driving force as an African woman who was under-employed and depressed is to Build an “Africa By Us, For Us” ecosystem that prepares diverse young talents with future-focused options in STEM lucrative pathways to become more experienced for Africa’s workforce. As a social innovator, I strengthen competencies, empower the next generation of Technologists, Engineers, and Innovators by training Educators with new, research-based instructional pedagogy, hands-on resource tools to ensure their students are allowed to solve ill-defined problems, make real-world connections while deepening their content knowledge and preparing them for STEM careers.

Kuongoza Mentoring Program

Our Project Kuongoza Mentoring Program has made significant strides and supported 195O+ women aged 15-35 access new markets, work flexibly and integrate these learned skills needed for the workplace – after being mentored.

Second, the STEM Integration for Educators as an ongoing partnership with the U.S Consulate General to cultivate a STEM Workforce, streamline STEM Education and refine Educator’s instructional pedagogy where students are allowed to solve ill-defined problems, make real-world connections while deepening content knowledge and preparing them for STEM careers. We have further inculcated these educator projects across Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Cameroon.

Representation  of women and girls in STEM

Women make up half of the total of Nigeria’s college-educated workforce, but only 11% of the technology and engineering workforce are women. Research shows that girls start doubting their STEM intelligence by age 6 and continue to lose confidence as classes become less gender-balanced and more intimidating. Whatever the cause, it’s clear that parents, educators, allies and we as a community must work together to show girls that no subject is off-limits simply because of their gender.  Women and girls remain underrepresented in STEM and this is why we combine proper preparation in middle, high schools and universities, offer hands-on resources and opportunities, and provide young girls in Africa with women role models and subject matter experts in STEM.

Challenges

Resources like human resources, resource tools, access to investment and partnerships.

Other projects and activities

Mentoring Support:- Since 2016, I mentor at the New York Academy of Science, Cherie Blair Foundation, Global Thinkers Forum where I offer mentees academic, business support and invaluable life skills to thrive.

Policies:- In addressing policy concerns that revolve around governance and public administration, I serve as Assistant Director in Public Relations to the Nigerian Global Affairs Council.

Children Development and building:- I offer psychosocial development support and community management in the Royalty Children’s Network.

Gender Issues:- I offer pro-bono technology services to women Entrepreneurs, to help them incubate, innovate and commercialize their ideas and also serve on the 500 Women Scientists Team.

3 women who inspire me and why

Tobiloba Ajayi is transforming the face of cerebral palsy in Africa through advocacy, counselling, capacity building, referral services, and educator training. I am inspired by the work she does in the Let the CP Kids Learn, a foundation she founded out of a desire to change the prevalent narrative about the intellectual capabilities of Children with Cerebral Palsy

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is showing us that it is possible to dream, and excel. She became the first woman and African to be Director-general of the WTO in March 2021

Melania Trump continues to serve as an ardent advocate for children and devotes her time and efforts to helping young people navigate the many issues they face in an ever-changing society. In 2018, she announced BE BEST, an awareness campaign that strives to promote a world for children based on healthy living, kindness, and respect.

Nuggets on how to be successful in STEM as a woman

  • Be fearless. Be free to Dream. Be free to collaborate. Be free to ask questions. Be free to excel and Be free to succeed.
  • There may be hurdles in the journey but please maintain focus. STEM is a wonderful decision anyone can make. Feel free to reach out to the peers you admire or professionals in STEM who could share their stories, tips and advice that can help you in the field.
  • Get yourself a mentor and advisor.
  • Volunteer with community led organizations who are driving STEM Education.
  • We need more women in STEM fields. ILO stated that Women are 30% more likely than men to lose their job as a consequence of automation and low STEM skills.
  • There is a lot we can do in this field for our better livelihood, economy and improving retention of young women in STEM Careers.

Being a Woman of Rubies

Proverbs 31:10 says “Who can find a virtuous and capable woman? She is more precious than rubies.” A Woman of Rubies is full of wisdom and strength. She is an enabler, a teacher, a friend, a community mobilizer, tenacious and kind. Yes, I am a Woman of Rubies.

You can reach out to Amanda via the links below

Twitter @amandachirpy

Instagram @amandachirpy

Linkedin Amanda Obidike

Facebook Amanda Obidike

 

 

 

 

 

On the 8th of August, 2021 and to mark the one year anniversary of the tweet chat #GetTalkingWithEsther, hosted by Esther Ijewere, Kemi Oyesola, a coach, director of How2think Global Consultancy, and survivor of domestic violence was invited to speak on the topic “Leave to live: My Domestic Violence Experience.”

It was a moment of real truth and baring her journey, her mistakes and most importantly, her recovery and rebirth process.

Kemi Oyesola, our guest at the popular tweet chat dropped a lot of nuggets that had attendees reacting in awe.

Here are excerpts from the conversation and how it all went down.

 

This tweet chat was a moment of learning and unlearning and one thing that was constant in our guest’s response is the God-factor and how much role your thoughts play in shaping your life.

Those who attended the tweet chat testified to how much they learned when the Host asked them to mention what stood out for them. Here’s what they have to say about it.

Coach Kemi Oyesola is a living proof that you can rise from any hopeless situation. As long as you can find the strength, courage and determination to do so.

Find out more about the rest of this insightful tweet chat via the Twitter handle of the host or simply follow the hash tag #GetTalkingWithEsther on Twitter for updates on the next one.

Sarah Kuponiyi is a passionate youth leader whose work cuts across gender equality and sexual reproductive health. She is also a 2019 nominee for 120 under 40 New Generation of Family Planning Leaders, recipient of Sustainable Solutions Africa 30 under 30 2019 and Cohort 15 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) emerging Leaders Program West Africa.

The founder of  A Well-Informed Adolescent  (AWA) Initiative, an organisation where she leads the team in creating and managing Safe Spaces that ensure young people can achieve their potential by enabling them access to essential services. She recently launched Alora Reusable Pads, a social enterprise to address period poverty by creating eco-friendly menstrual hygiene products freely distributed to in school and vulnerable girls and sold at affordable prices to the public. As a Beijing +25 Eagle (women advocate) for UN Women Nigeria, she uses her skills to advocate for upholding of human rights for sexual and reproductive health as the key to ensuring that women and girls can be equal and free to make decisions in all spheres of their lives, without discrimination, violence, or coercion, and with the assurance of their dignity upheld.

She shares her inspiring journey, her passion for development work, and  endorsement of different Government parastatals  in this interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

No, I don’t think my childhood prepared me in any way for what I do now but I can say it’s part of what inspired me or should I say it is one of my why(s) in doing what I do now.  Growing up, it was awesome experience, had a lovely family, hardworking and sacrificial parents. Life itself was not so smooth not so rough; it was a beautiful as well as hard a journey.  Becoming an adolescent I realized I was a lone ranger hardly had friends, there were issues around self-identification and family challenges I had no one to share with, my parents were not available for those kind of talks and I always bottled them in. I was at the receiving end of my parent’s emotional breakdown when they separated and there were days I felt like running away, if there were safe spaces then that I could trust and go to it would have been helpful but I sucked it all in same with my siblings but in all right now I look back at my teenage self and I can say I am proud of that girl, the woman I have become is proud of the young teenage girl I was, she survived the lassitude of life, rode the rough waves graciously and got ashore unscathed, like not all adolescents could have been strong enough to to pull through without losing hope or sight of the goal.

So what I do now is to provide safe space services I couldn’t get at my time for adolescents and young people alike so as to enable them share their challenges, give a listening ears to them, let them know being stuck in the dark is not forever for those going through challenges and provide them tools and resources they need to make informed choices about their life, health, career etc so that they can transit to healthy adults without letting the light of their mind go dim even as the voyage on life’s journey.

Inspiration behind  “A.W.A” 

So what I went through growing up like I explained earlier inspired me to start A Well-Informed Adolescent (AWA) Initiative, which started as a community based project in 2018 to provide adolescents in rural communities an inspiration to live beyond their present definition, to aim high and think big and not let their background define them. Like the name of the organization, I am eager to have adolescents, who are well-Informed about the stage of life they are in, help them answer all the burning existential questions they have about their life, their overall health, their career, provide them guidance and tools they need to make informed choices by themselves. We achieved this through use of Multisectoral programs that link health to education, recreational activities, skills acquisition, youth club activities, school-based campaign, safe space services, advocacy and peer health education. Over the years the organization has grown to be more encompassing we also work to reduce gender based violence by educating women and young people about harmful gender norms and practices that contribute to Gender Based Violence in our society. We address issues around sexual violence; educate women and young people about their sexual reproductive health and rights. We provide parenting support programs, school-based dating violence prevention programs, & community based interventions to build equitable gender norms & attitudes in boys & girls. We provide sustainable livelihood programs for young women and girls through economic skill training and acquisition program. Nonetheless our primary core focus still remain investing appropriately in the health and development of young people and we continued to strive towards improving the health and development of this unique population sub-group

Inspiration behind Alora reusable pad

As a younger girl who stayed with her father, I could not afford to buy sanitary pads for myself due to how pads were unaffordable for someone like me, neither was I able to ask him for such due to culture of shyness and silence. Likewise, working on school health outreaches made me realized this situation has not change and the Story is what cut across all region of the country; Nigeria is one of the countries that place a heavy tax on menstrual products. Without access to proper menstrual products, many girls miss classes and older women are unable to attend work A pack of sanitary pads cost an average of $1.30, even as an estimated 44% of Nigeria’s population (87 Million people) lives in extreme poverty earning less than $1.90 per day, women and girls may delay urination and defecation but it is not possible to stop menstrual flow. The lack of affordable sanitary products also exacerbates anxiety and stress during menstruation and increases their vulnerability to gender based violence and sexually transmitted infections. Alora Reusable Pads was created to solve Period Poverty by producing and selling eco-friendly reusable menstrual hygiene products from specialized fabrics that are comfortable to the skin, hygienic, and affordable. Alora Reusable Pads are made for every woman and girl. It is affordable, easy to use, comfortable and available in three sizes with varying thickness to fit every woman at all times. It is made of several layers of absorbent fabrics including cotton and water proof fabrics and it has numerous benefits such as  saves you money, very economical, environmentally friendly, safer for the body, fashionably feminine and very affordable.

The reception since we launched

Wow, the reception has been awesome. We have received considerable acceptance in the development space and government parastatas because it is a sustainable way of solving period poverty but for individuals we realized there is need to do more awareness creation on reusable pads in Nigeria, it is still a new niche and awareness about this would help influence mind shift and behavioral change which help increase acceptance. Notably to note is our Alora Pads has been purchased by the following;

  • Cross River State Ministry of Women Affairs purchased Alora Pads for its UNFPA funded dignity packs distribution project in Cross River State.
  • Ekiti State Governor’s wife Her Excellency Erelu Bisi Fayemi purchased Alora Pads for her Keep Girls in School Project for world menstrual hygiene day 2021
  • NGO in Adamawa KPANG SURRI Foundation purchased Alora pads to commemorate World Menstrual Hygiene Day
  • NGOs in Calabar Gender and Development Actions (GADA) and A Well Informed Adolescent (AWA) Initiative Purchased Alora Pads to commemorate World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021
  • Alora Reusable Pads was invited by Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Abuja, Dame Pauline Tallen in commemorating World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 at the Ministry Complex in Abuja.
  • Official presentation of Alora Reusable pads to United Nation Population Funds (UNFPA) Calabar Sub office
  • Discussion on period poverty on HitfmCalabar with Abenmire Ade where we shared sustainable solutions to addressing this menace; one of which is Alora Reusable Pad
  • We are so excited as our founder and team lead got profiled by US Mission to African Union on the celebration of International women’s day 2021.
  • Gate Way Excel Collage Otupka Benue State purchase alora pads for their gate way pad up project
  • Alora reusable pads was endorsed by the UN Women Nigeria.

Being a certified adolescent sexual health professional, running my organisation, volunteering for several international organisations, and managing it all

(Smile) well, let me honest not easy, reward of hard work is more work but because all I do is what I am passionate I enjoy it and I give it my best, I prioritize my schedules and deliverables, I have calendars and to do list, I set reminders, I delegate where necessary and most importantly I work with awesome amiable teams both at AWA Initiative and with Alora Pads.  Our board of trustees, staff, volunteers and supporters are all amazing.

Challenges of my work

Time consuming, Mentally stressing -My life is all about work with little or no time for other things of life but lately I am making conscious effort to live a balance life.

Challenges involves in handling   Gender based violence prevention at the grassroot or community is having to contend with community gate keepers and community strong holds (laugh) let me not go there while for young people it just a matter of them trusting you enough and the work becomes easier.

Other Projects and activities

We have done various projects and here are some of them

  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2018
  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2019
  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2020
  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2021
  • Women Voice Leadership Project in partnership with Child Care and Adult Protection (CCAPI) and Action Aid Nigeria funded by Global Affairs Canada
  • UNESCO/Society for Family Health Spotlight Initiative potlight Initiative Project Activity 4.2.4 which is aimed at ”Strengthening the capacity of youth network (Civil Society Organisation) to carry our peer education and support young people to access Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and SRHR services” in Cross River State

Here are the Programs we run at A Well-Informed Adolescent  (AWA)  Initiative

  • Tackling Gender Based Violence; A weekly program that offers crucial approach to poverty reduction, economic development and a key to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Friday Talk Date: In this event we provide adequate age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to adolescents at the youth resource center
  • Safe Space Activities: We provide youth friendly services that cater for the overall development of young people
  • Health Programs
  • Livelihood Programs

 3 women who inspire me to be better and why

I have plenty women ooo but since you asked for 3 here are they

  • Dr. Yolanda N George-David also known as auntlanda, I met her while I was still in secondary school through a radio program tag “Sharing Life Issues” wow she inspires me to do better because despite her own life issues that she could use as a legit excuse to just remain in her corner yet she leaves everything to give her all to total strangers, mehn its wow. And she first exemplified this bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to me mehn Mama has plenty PhDs in Neurology, Obstetrics and gynecology, psychologist etc an OAP, a wife, mother, farmer, business mogul, caterers etc she literally made me believe I could be anything I set my mind on and work towards.
  • Mrs Emilia Eyo-Effa, I met her while working at my first NGO work ever she was the Gender Specialist, currently now works with USAID, seeing her transition from jobs to jobs gives me hope that I can achieve my career dreams in the development sector, all I need to do is work hard and be consistent. She also an amiable supporter of our organization, she is one of our astute board of trustees who always open her arms and doors for me, to advises me using her wealth of professional experience I am so glad to be in her circle and to have as a board of trustee for AWA Initiative.
  • Michelle Obama, reading her book titled “Becoming” gave me a glimpse to her life, her roots, how she came of age, her family, her life as the first lady. Reading about her triumph and disappointment made me realized I am a work in progress I have not arrived or gotten to my final destination and that in every of my life phase I keep working, keep learning, keep living and keep becoming the better version of myself always.

To young women

Self Identifcation, Self-worth, Self-value. I would tell them to work on themselves first, evolve or commence their journey of becoming before getting entangled,  and I would tell them to be strong and not lose sight of their goals not be distracted by society but rather press on and be the best version of themselves that they could be.

Future of Alora Reusable Pad

At Alora Reusable Pads our vision is A World without Period Poverty, were every woman and girl can have their period with dignity. Our Mission: To be a leading producer of affordable, eco-friendly, comfortable reusable pads in West Africa and to address period poverty through distribution of reusable pads and provision of menstrual health and hygiene management programs. We hope to reduce poor menstrual hygiene by 30% in Nigeria (and Africa) by 2025.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I am a Woman of Rubies because contribute to developing my communities; I empower women and girls to become change agents.

Awards and Recognition

National Gender Youth Activist for United Nations Women HQ, Beijing eagle (Women advocate) for United Nations Women Nigeria. A 2019 nominee for 120 under 40 New Generation of Family Planning Leaders, recipient of Sustainable Solutions Africa 30 under 30 2019 and Cohort 15 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) RLC emerging Leaders Program West Africa. Immediate past Deputy Coordinator YALI Network Cross River State, She is part of the Cross River CSO Gender Responsive Budgeting Monitoring Group, Cross River State CSOs Network, and Cross River State GBV/SRHR Network respectively among others.

 

Mary Izobo is the founder of The Amazon Leadership Initiative (TheALI), which aims to empower women and girls, provide support networks, mentorship, career guidance, education and capacity development to alleviate gender inequality.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) in French Language from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland; a Barrister at Law (BL) from the Nigerian Law School, Nigeria; a Master of Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria, South Africa; and a Master of Laws (LLM) in Rule of Law for Development from Loyola University Chicago, USA.

She is currently studying for a Doctor of Laws (LLD) with a focus on International Governance at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She has worked for the United Nations (UN) the African Union Commission (AUC), the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the Institute for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

She talks about her journey in an interview with Women of Rubies.

Inspiration Behind The Amazon Leadership Initiative (TheALI)

I was inspired to start TheALI because of my passion and concern (love) for human rights particularly women and girls’ rights.

Impact on society, andTestimonials since inception.
The Amazon Leadership initiative (TheALI), is a not-for-profit organization. It was established to empower women and girls, provide support networks, mentorship, career guidance, education and capacity development to alleviate gender inequality in line with aspiration 6 of the AU Agenda 2063 and goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030. TheALI envisions a world where everyone has equal rights and opportunities – inter-generational equity.

The impact of TheALI on women and girls includes the advancement and empowerment of women and girls for the fulfilment of their rights, development and wellbeing. We do this through mentorship, career guidance, education and capacity development. We provide education for young women and girls including career guidance in their chosen career fields. We also currently mentor several girls and young women across continents as mentorship is at the heart of TheALI. We have also been able to educate and provide capacity development for young women and girls through webinars, training and informal meetings. Topics of the webinars and training TheALI have covered, include five of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: Women and girls’ education, the girl child, women in governance, gender and generation equality, and gender-based violence. All of these webinars, training and informal meetings were well attended by individuals who are set to change the world around them. You can find the links to these webinars and advocacy work here.

We have also been able to carry out advocacy programmes for the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of the girl child using the bottom to top approach to place a girl child at the centre of Africa’s development agenda. In 2020, TheALI collaborated with the Graça Machel Trust (GMT) in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child through an intergenerational dialogue on the theme ‘She is Equal.’ We brought together girls’ representatives from the five regions in Africa (Central, East, North, West, and Southern Africa) to afford them the opportunity to share their concerns and challenges primarily to inform and influence the advocacy agenda for girls within the African continent. With this intergenerational dialogue, we were able to create an interactive platform for these young girls who presented the barriers that prevent them from enjoying and fulfilling their rights as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as we proposed solutions to these barriers.

You have hosted and organized several empowerment programs and conferences how do you manage it all and what drives you?

On how I manage it all, I am constantly motivated by my passion for human rights, gender equality and equity, the importance of learning, sharing and imparting knowledge, partnerships, and collaborations. What drives me is hard work, commitment, consistency, dedication, passion, and above all networking because as they say your network is your net worth.

What are the important aspects you’ve noticed about Africa as someone who has worked with the African Union? What are the things you wish were done differently when it comes to the female gender?

There are so many important aspects to Africa that I have noticed guided by the values and ideals of the African Union. To begin with, I would highlight African Unity. The African Union is the Pan-Africanist continental organization that we have in terms of bringing African people together and formulating the standards for promoting democracy, human rights and pioneering peer-review between and amongst States in Africa.

Another aspect is the role of the youth in nation-building in Africa – Youths are the cornerstone and bedrock of any society, and their role cannot be underestimated or overemphasized. As fuel is the driving force of any vehicle, so is the youth of any nation. Africa has the youngest population in the world where 60% of its population is under 25 years. This means that the average percentage of the youth in any African country is approximately 30 to 50 per cent. Africa must utilise its youths in the development of its future vision and direction, by engaging them in the decision making processes. It is critical that youths play a crucial role in building social cohesion, economic prosperity, and political stability in any nation. This must be done through inclusivity and democratization. In 2018, Ms Aya Chebbi was appointed by the African Union as the first African Union Youth Envoy. This is a step in the right direction for the African Union as there is the need to do more by including the youth in leadership positions.

 

What I wished was done differently when it comes to the female gender is what I constantly advocate for – gender equality and equity – Give women more representation. In the past few years, the representation of women at the top leadership position in Africa and also at the African Union Commission has improved and increased but we need more women at the top leadership levels. In the history of the African Union, we have had only one female chairperson, Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and for the first time ever, we have our first female Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa. The AU needs to continue to advocate for the inclusion of women in leadership positions.

What are some of the challenges of your work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major restraint on everyone. The work that we do at TheALI involves a lot of outreach, advocacy and travelling. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our capacity, outreach and advocacy programmes. Thus, to manage the present realities given the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to use Zoom and other online platforms as a working method.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have carried out a lot of advocacy programmes virtually by bringing together notable male and female leaders to continue to discuss issues around the achievement of gender equality and equity. We have also carried out work particularly in relation to women and girls in the context of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rights of women and girls.

However, because these events are virtual, the actual impact on the ground is not one that we would expect without COVID-19. As a result, TheALI is strategizing and revisiting the work done virtually to assess or measure the impact done on the ground where it matters and concerns all beneficiaries. In addition, at TheALI, we continue to make financial adjustments as adequate funding has not been forthcoming and consequently, the capacity of TheALI has suffered from resource constraints.

Other projects and activities?

We are currently working on two major projects slated for the second half of the year 2021 focusing on empowering women and young girls.

3 women who inspire you and why

Mrs. MOE Agbebaku-Izobo (my mum) is my greatest inspiration. She supports and guides me to become the best I can be. She is a pillar, a backbone and a constant reminder that my dreams are valid. Besides my mum, three other women who inspire me in no particular order are: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization; Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Women (UN Women) and Mrs Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the United States of America. These women inspire me because they have broken down barriers and shattered glass ceilings in achieving their dreams, pioneering their fields and taking up spaces in male-dominated spheres. These women are strong and phenomenal and bring a realization that your dreams are valid only if you dare to dream. They are the epitome of Black girl magic.

Could you share some brilliant insights from your life experience?

Some of the brilliant insights from my life experience include studying for my law degree, qualifying for the Nigerian Bar, practicing as a Human Rights Lawyer and receiving recognition through numerous awards for my educational and professional experience.

What makes you a Woman of Rubies?

I believe I am a Woman of Rubies because I greatly care for others, value humanity as well as human rights and most importantly, I am a staunch advocate for gender equality and inter-generational equity.

You can follow Ms. Mary Izobo on any of her social media handles below

Email: info.theali.org@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/izobomary/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IzoboMary

Facebook: https://facebook.com/IMaryIzobo

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryizobo/

 

 

Social media has opened u​s to ​ a whole new world of content and skit creators. Anytime you need a quick laugh throughout the day, you can check your timeline to see silly skits, dances, and voiceovers.

There is an abundance of hilarious men and women on social media making us smile, thereby improving the mental health of a lot of people. While there are so many well known and upcoming content creatives out there, some stand out because of their aura and mode of delivery. One of such people is the incredibly talented and beautiful Ope Keshinro,​ popularly known as SwitOpe.

Ope is an on-air personality, a voiceover artist, and an actress. As a lover of arts from a young age, she honed her talents in secondary school, where she was always either in dance or drama groups.

She then went on to further refine her budding talent at the prestigious University of Lagos where she graduated with a B.A degree in Creative Arts (Theatre Major). She currently works with HotFM Lagos 93.3 as a radio host where she hosts the midday show.

More recently, SwitOpe has harnessed the power of social media to gain widespread popularity with her comedic skits where she portrays several characters to hilarious effect. She was recently featured on CNN alongside other content creators.

Ope is currently expanding her talents to the big screen and will be featuring in several upcoming movies.

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

Growing Up

I was born and brought up in Lagos, Nigeria. Growing up was fun for me because I have four siblings: 2 sisters and 2 brothers, so I had playmates.

My dad still tells stories of how I used to mimic any and everything that happened at home or in school while he was away, and immediately he gets back I would describe and act it out to him.

I was also always in all the plays, dance groups and choir groups in school. Because of my interests in the arts, I went on to study Creative Arts (Theatre major) at Unilag where things started becoming a bit more serious for me and I started thinking about doing this as a career. So yes, my childhood played a big part in preparing me for what I do now.

Inspiration behind “Switope” platform

I have always had the ‘Switope’ handle across all my social media platforms and I got the name from one of my sister’s roommates in university that year, Sonia.

She asked me to help her with something and I did without hesitating and she went on and on about how sweet I was and then called me ‘Sweet Ope’, I liked it and changed my Facebook name to that, and the rest is history. I also did not start out thinking I will use social media to showcase my talents. However, as you know, I have always had the passion for entertaining people and during the pandemic and lockdown, I felt that I could entertain and help put some smiles on people’s faces and things took off from there.

The journey so far

It has been a long and interesting journey. I tend to look at an artist’s journey in 3 phases, learning, growth, and established phases. Looking back now my learning phase started from my acting and dancing in primary school. Without learning those basics, I would not have had the skill and confidence to go down this path. However, In the past year, I have moved into early stages of the growth phase, I’ve added more dimension to my performances, and I’ve matured a lot as an entertainer. I expect to continue this growth phase over the next few years and increase my versatility. Following that, I am looking forward to getting into the established phase and there is still a long way to go so watch this space.

Being a voiceover artist, actor, content creator, and managing it all

With such a busy schedule, I must be focused and extremely organised. I have a well thought out schedule that helps to compartmentalise and deliver in all aspects of my life. For example, I have set times for my radio show which do not change, so I can plan around it. Outside of those set times, I search for new content and practice my acting lines. I then ensure that I give myself enough time to record and edit any videos I need to post. My days can be long but because I’m doing what I love, it is very fulfilling. 

My CNN feature

it has only been a few days so it is hard to say how it has affected my journey so far.  But one thing is for certain, it made me realize that indeed, people are watching.

Challenges of my work

As a creative and a content creator, you need to ensure that you are constantly keeping things fresh and ensuring you are hitting the right notes with the intended audience. In the world that we are in nowadays, a lot of people are one-hit wonders, and it is very challenging to ensure that I don’t fall into that trap. So, I have to always keep my content fresh and engaging.

Other Projects and Activities

I am a radio host and a certified voiceover artist and you probably must have heard my voice on an advert/jingle or on my radio show. I am also an actress and I have featured in a few acting roles. Most recently I featured in a sitcom which will be out soon. I am very keen on getting more prominent acting roles and I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities in this area.

3 Women who Inspire me

Genevieve Nnaji, because growing up, I watched her and really wanted to be like her some day and seeing that after many years she’s still very relevant in Nollywood is something huge.

Funke Akindele Bello, also because I grew up watching her and people say women are not funny, but she is one of those that have changed that narrative.

Beyonce, because I admire her work ethics, I haven’t worked with her yet but It’s not easy being a mom and an entertainer and she pulls it off effortlessly.

Nuggets on to become a good content creator

Be creative and always think of ways to stand out. Someone has probably already done what you want to do but yours can be more creative or more Inspiring or even funnier. You need to constantly think of what makes your craft unique.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I am a woman of Rubies because I am inspiring, and in my own little way, I try to make the world a better place by putting smiles on people’s faces.

You can connect with Ope via her social media platforms below;

Instagram : @Switope

Twitter : @Switope

Tiktok : @switope

Facebook : Swit Ope Keshinro