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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Yekemi Otaru, an inspirational entrepreneur renowned for her passionate commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion has been named University of the West of Scotland’s (UWS) Chancellor-elect.

Yekemi holds four degrees and has considerable industrial experience in engineering and marketing. She is Co-Founder and Executive Director at Doqaru Limited, a prominent Aberdeen-based sales and marketing consultancy.

Yekemi is also a board member of Interface, which connects a wide range of organisations from national and international industries to Scotland’s universities, research institutes and colleges, matching them with world-leading academic expertise to help them grow. A bestselling author and social media expert, Yekemi is also known for her innovative use of platforms such as LinkedIn.

Yekemi Otaru is the first woman of colour to occupy the prestigious position and as Chancellor, Yekemi will hold formal powers to confer degrees, diplomas and other academic distinctions, and will represent UWS at key events as an advocate and dignitary.

Toyin Odulate is the founder of Olori Cosmetics, an African hair, bath and body care company formulating products for women and children. Her love, passion and obsession for beauty started as early as age seven, but her dream to establish Olori took 15 years to actualise.

A former L’Oreal executive and consumer goods expert with over 18 years of experience across the USA, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, she has managed global beauty, food and beverage brands across Africa and the Middle East, where she honed her skills in the business of beauty, brand marketing, product and business development, as well as distribution and logistics with a focus on the African consumer. After years of nursing the ambition of owning her own beauty company, a hair coloring accident propelled her to produce what would become her first product.

In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she spoke on the world of cosmetic formulation, challenges involved in running a startup in Nigeria and how a plethora of choices for consumers is a good step in the right direction.

Could you take us through your journey in starting your business, how has it been for you?
I’ve had the idea for Olori since my third year in the university. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find makeup shades that suited my skin tone and that I had to mix several shades of lipstick or foundation to get the shade that I liked, so, I planned to start a makeup line. As a child, I enjoyed mixing potions and ruffling through my mother’s extensive beauty counter. I found a little notebook I kept at age 12 where I wrote that I was going to own a cosmetics company. I guess it’s been in my sub-conscious for that long and beauty products development and beauty stores and shelves are my happy place.

I had always ‘planned’ to start the business, waiting on the ‘right’ time, but was very busy building my corporate career. But when I finally started, it happened totally by accident. A few years ago, I had a hair coloring accident that left my hair feeling like hay. I asked my mum to mix me a potion that she used to make for us as kids to care for our hair back then; I used it and it literally reversed the damage and texture of my hair within days. It was then I knew that I had to jar this product and share it with the world.

I sent samples to about 20 friends to try out; they all loved it and kept asking for more. When I could no longer afford to give it out for free, I started to sell it in recycled Body Shop jars. We peeled off the Body Shop labels and created our own Olori labels and stuck in on the jars and that’s how we started. I transitioned from corporate life to running Olori full time almost two years ago. It’s been a very different journey where you don’t have the security and luxuries of a big company environment, but building one from scratch is a very fulfilling process with some frustrating moments but I’ve learnt to focus firmly on the big picture.

You’re no stranger to the world of hair and beauty as you have worked with international brands in the past. How has these experiences shaped your business?
Having firsthand experience at the corporate level working for the biggest beauty conglomerate in the world (L’Oreal) in multiple countries definitely exposed me to the business side of beauty, especially the non-glamourous side, which included long hours of business development, supply chain coordination and management, distribution, marketing, brand development, budgeting and finance to name a few. It definitely gave me the much-needed tools and credibility that I needed going into building my own beauty brand and company from the ground up.

From the formulation stage to branding to marketing and developing retail management relationships, negotiating with salons and distributors… all very grounding experience to build on to get my brand to the heights I want to take it to. Though we’ve accomplished a lot, we’re still very much a work in progress.

Funding is usually a major challenge for startups, how did you get funds to start out?
I funded the business from my savings and personal investments and then started to bootstrap once the business became financially viable. I have recently opened up the business to seed funding to help with our growth ambitions to scale into other markets.

The global beauty industry is a multibillion-dollar sector, which experts have said Nigeria is yet to fully tap into. How do you think we can achieve that?
Don’t underestimate how big the beauty industry is in Nigeria; what we have lacked is reliable data to back this up. The other issue is the relentless currency devaluation, which further shrinks the value of the size of the industry in Nigeria. But regardless of this, Nigeria is a huge contender and player in the African beauty sector.

How best do you think the government, banks and private bodies can support SMEs such as yours to thrive better?
The answer to this question requires three separate paragraphs, but generally, we can already see a shift in private bodies such as venture capital and angel/pre-seed investor groups towards the fintech community; funds are flowing in this sector. But in the consumer goods and manufacturing sector, we are not seeing the same levels of funding generosity, excitement and activity and that needs to change. Government can also assist by making regulatory requirements simpler and more straightforward; the current processes in place take too long.

As an entrepreneur, what are some issues you’ve had to deal with over the years?
Funding has been and is still my greatest challenge.

What keeps you passionate about doing what you do?
I’m passionate about taking an African beauty brand such as Olori to the global stage, where you walk into the big chain stores in the States or in Europe or Latin America and see a proudly African brand on those shelves. I’m passionate about how commerce has the ability to make an impact on the social sector by helping to change lives via education, gainful employment, and innovation.

With so many fake products in this sector, how best do you think this can be stemmed?
I think with an environment as fragmented and as rudimentary as ours (Nigeria and West Africa), our regulatory bodies are overwhelmed and under-resourced. So, the onus is placed on businesses like ours to put in the work to make sure your product is set apart from imitations and fakes and educating the public to know the difference. This problem isn’t going away anytime soon, but there are ways to tackle it even though tackling it is expensive.

How can we create better opportunities for upcoming industry players in the global beauty and wellness market so they can compete with big names?
Through funding and more funding! For brands and companies with a strong proof of concept and in-market stress testing, access to funding and the right partnerships are the only way they have a fighting chance to compete on the global stage alongside the more established names.

What five things would you tell a new entrant into this business to avoid and do respectively for maximum impact?
First, register your business legally; trademark your brand name. Test your products on a sample pool of friends and family over a period of time before going to market. Stay flexible and keep your overheads as low as possible as need-based for as long as possible. Be open to partnerships and collaborations. Finally, know your competition, but don’t obsess over them – focus on your path.

Sourcing materials can be a huge challenge, how and where do you source your materials from?
We source about 80 per cent of our ingredients locally, the rest we source from across the continent or from the most reliable source. We’ve built our supply chain network slowly and methodically over the years and set up relationships with suppliers. It’s a challenging task because for just one ingredient for example, we have about six sources, just to manage disappointments and long lead times.

Tell us something you did/do recently that has turned your business around positively for you?
We invested very intentionally in our e-commerce and digital strategy in January of 2020. We had no idea that a pandemic was looming and that this would be our saving grace just two months later. During the lockdown, we were pretty busy as we had a sudden uptick in direct-to-consumer sales and inquiries, primarily due to the fact that salons were not open, so most people were doing their own hair at home.

This also gave us an opportunity to get direct feedback from our customers and improve our products or services where needed. The overhaul of our digital strategy also got us a lot of international attention from a number of international publications and international demographics. With this, we activated international shipping and this has been great for us.

There are so many products in the market now which can be overwhelming for users, what specific things should users look out for when selecting products?
I think the fact that consumers are now spoilt for choice on the shelves across different categories is a good thing; this was not the case five or seven years ago. Caucasian consumers have thousands of options in every single personal care category, so why should it be different for us?

But to simplify purchase decisions, buyers should seek for ingredients that work best for them. Understand your allergies and avoid products with ingredients that cause such. But the easiest way is to stick to the brand that has worked best for you but be open to experimenting on occasion with a brand or product that you’ve never tried before. You just might find a gem in it.

What is your dream and goal for your brand in the next couple of years?
Dream goal in the next two years is to get Olori on the shelves of major retailers in markets internationally and also to have built a scaled and robust direct to consumer business. Also, to grow our international customer base of black girls and women of African descent from across the globe to become a brand of excellence that they can identify with directly and that represents them and their unique multi-textured hair and skin and personal care needs. We want to be a brand that serves the global African diaspora.

What final words do you want to leave for women?
Playing small does not serve the world, go big and then go home. To a very nice home I must add.

Source: Guardian

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

 

The Prestige Awards was held in the UK on the 3rd of September , and Shulamite Ezechi’s organisation; ANYISO took home  the prestigious charity of the year award.

ANYiSO is a registered charity in the UK that runs multiple projects, seminars, workshops and conferences, and provides support and services for women, young people, refugees, and asylum seekers. The award was given to ANYISO for its works for humanity, and support for women, young people , refugees and asylum seekers.

Reacting to the award , Shulamite said ; ‘’Prestige awards recognises businesses and organisations in the UK that have proven to be the best over the year. ANYISO was nominated, and won ‘’the Charity of the year award.’’ We felt very honoured and we are very proud of the work we do, and moments like this encourage us to do more’’.

Shulamite, an amazing humanitarian, served as a member of the Refugee women’s Strategy Group and has been involved in the review of many policies that affect ethnic minority women and young people. She is on a team of the First minister’s National Advisory council on Women and Girls (BAME).  Shulamite also served as a board member for North Glasgow Community Food Initiative Glasgow, United Kingdom. She is an author and has published many articles..

Shulamite holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Imo State University, Nigeria and a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition and Health from Glasgow Caledonian University, UK and a second Master’s degree in Policy analysis and global governance.

Aside from the Prestige Award, Shulamite has also won many awards including ‘the Inspiration to the BME Community award’ that was conferred to her at the Glasgow City Chambers, United Kingdom.

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

 

Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu (former Regional Director of M-Net West Africa) has been named Principal Head of Content Acquisition for Amazon Prime in Africa.

This comes only a few months after enabling cinemas in Nigeria to be among the few to screen its “Coming to America.” Amazon’s continuing push to acquire a presence in the African market will be bolstered by this new appointment.

Wangi announced her appointment through an Instagram post. According to the press release, she would “define and execute the content strategy for Prime Video in Sub-Saharan Africa, oversee content licensing/ commissioning, selection for US and local film and television as well as build the content acquisition pipeline for local and US/Hollywood content across languages”.

 

Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu was the Director of M-Net in West Africa, having joined the company as its West African regional manager in 2012.

According to her Linkedin profile, “Wangi is passionate about the TV, Film and Entertainment industry and at M-Net Africa, she is committed to growing and transforming the media landscape in Africa by demonstrating thought leadership and driving the agenda for the creation of compelling global & indigenous content that resonates with Africa.”

She was a pioneer in the founding and promotion of the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA).

Congratulations Wangi!

Source: Bellanaija

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