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Henrietta Ogochukwu Mark is the brain behind Lagos-based Henrimac Cakes. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she shares experience-based ideas on the art of cake making, the opportunities and challenges, how to start and excel at running a cake-making business, thriving during pandemic among other issues.

How would you describe the business of cake making?
TRUTH be told, it is a hectic but fulfilling one because, this is a business that you might have just N1000 in your account one moment and the next moment, someone calls to order a wedding cake worth N150, 000 or more. This is the benefit of having a skill; you will never go hungry. This has happened to me several times, helping me take care of financial responsibilities and more.

Abroad, you have ‘Cake Tasting’, why don’t we offer such services here?
I used to do this before, but it was thoroughly and badly abused by our people and I was compelled to stop. Some people want to come and taste all the cakes in the bakery first before talking about price, whereas in the western world you referred to, there is a paid appointment, which covers the cake tasting, except, of course, you already know what you want then you just have the usual appointment where you discuss what you want for your wedding cake. They conclude price and go on to choose flavour, it is not even to taste. Do you see the difference?

There are clients here who would insist that they must taste your cake first before they order from you. They don’t do like that over there; you can’t just walk into someone’s shop and demand to taste her cakes. Of course, if you have made payment into my account and you want to have a taste of my cake, you’re entitled to come and have a taste; I know you mean business then. Some people, it is after eating that they will now start pricing the cake even after I have wasted precious time and resources on them. I don’t do that but if you have made the payment, there is room for that, it is included in your payment and you can always choose flavours.

What kind of cakes do you enjoy creating more?

In this industry, we have different styles and methods; there are some people that add pastries and cookies to their cake. This is great, but I mostly stick to wedding and birthday cakes; I don’t do cookies and pastries for now. Well, they say, ‘Never say never,’ but for now, I want to focus on cakes and now, I have developed over 15 cake varieties I offer clients.

Are multiple smaller cakes more cost-effective than a single big one?
I think it depends on the client. With the present downturn in the economy and further worsened by COVID-19, with no parties or weddings, I had to improvise and explore other options. Before now, I didn’t do smaller cakes, but now, customers tell me they don’t want big cakes but small ones, so I had to start it. Smaller cakes are not really cost-effective, but I understand we are all trying to balance with the current situation in the world.

How do you source clients in these tough times?
Mostly from referrals, they call me up. Sometimes, they say they attended a party where they ate a cake I made and want me to make one for them. Instagram has also been very helpful in sourcing clients. People also tell me they referred their loved ones and friends to me and I am thankful. In all, it is the grace of God that has been helping me.

What stands you out in this business?
For me, it is not just about designs; it is about the cake inside. But at the same time, if you have seen my work, if it is not neat, then it is not from me. I have someone who sent me a message; she told me she went to a party and the celebrant who is also a mutual friend, had various cakes but she identified my cake out of the several on the table. It felt very good to hear that because a neat cake is my trademark. I believe that the eyes eat first before the mouth and more importantly I want people to eat the cake and come back for more. No matter how small or how big it is, it has to be neat. No matter how beautiful, intricate a design is, if it is not neat, the beauty reduces.

If a simple design is done on a cake, even if you put a small flower there, the beauty pops out. However, it is not all about the design, the taste is also very important. A lot of people these days are more concerned with design rather than the actual taste but no matter how beautiful it is, if the taste is not so great, people will not come back for more.

Are you training other women to take up this skill?
Right now, I don’t, but I have a blog, Cake It With Henrietta, which I started in order to help upcomers. Not all of us are blessed with money or funds and I know what it means to start with nothing. Even when I started the blog, I know the kind of negative criticism I encountered because no one was doing what I was doing. I was giving out free recipes; everyone was busy hoarding recipes. My critics said I was giving away for free what people should be paying for, but I was unperturbed and told them that it was my way of giving back to others that really needed it. I have been down that road before, being unable to pay for expensive training classes and all and I had to resort to watching Food Network before I got a hang of it.

What would you say has been the lowest point for you?
In my early years, a client slapped me after I made an error. I put the wrong temperature on the oven so the cake was not properly baked inside. I delivered it, they did not eat it immediately; I think the next day or so. When they finally cut it, it was smelling; it was for her child’s birthday. That experience made me stop baking for six months. They almost beat me up thoroughly and I cried for one week straight.

My husband consoled me, reminding me that I was still new in the business and mistakes are bound to happen. He encouraged me to continue baking, that practice makes perfect. I refused, saying I didn’t want to touch my oven anymore and would try my hands on something else, but my husband countered my decision, advising me that I was perfect at my craft. He pointed out that he noticed I was always happy whenever I was baking. He encouraged me to go to baking classes to learn more rather than just via the Internet.

For those six months, I worked on being better and I got better indeed. That was four years ago and now, I have my own recipes and teach interested individuals via my blog. Also you know our work is all about recipes; it is not like tailoring where a person has to cut a pattern. Our work is quite straightforward, what you need is recipe, once it is written down; you give it to staff to implement.

Speaking of staff, once they stay with you for a month, they assume they know it all; steal the recipes and disappear, believing they have gotten your recipes not knowing that more will come. If you think you have taken what I’m using to excel in my business, God will surely raise another medium. It is not just about having the recipes; do you know all the intricacies involved in baking?

It really amuses me when they play these pranks, thinking they’re smart. I’ve also had an issue in the past whereby someone called my staff and was telling him to send my recipes, but unfortunately for the person, my other girl was around. The staff was asking which of the recipes the person needed if you can imagine. I usually have hem sign a non-disclosure agreement, but even at that, how will you know what they do behind your back? Even when they sign, I can’t tell what they do after work; I can’t be going through their phones to know whether they sent someone recipes or not. There is no way you can prevent people from stealing from you in this work, it is difficult. For now, I don’t know how to control it; it is really a very difficult situation.

How do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from the personality of the client. I had issues when I made red velvet cake for a customer, she always ordered vanilla cake and she has been a loyal customer for years. I thought she didn’t know that we do red velvet and chocolate and decided to surprise her. She booked her cake and I said let me do something different for her. So, when I made the red velvet cake, she called me and was screaming, ‘what is this occultic red cake?’ I had to apologise and she asked why I didn’t make the white cake (vanilla cake) she always liked.

So, for me, if I’m working on your cake, it has to be what you like; I’m meant to serve you and not myself. I will just add a little of me there but it has to be what the client wants because what I like might not be what the client wants. It’s not really about me, I can put little of myself but it is what you want.

What significant challenges are you experiencing that are setting you back?
The prices of the items we use are now double of what was obtainable before and I don’t think most people understand that we have to increase the prices because basically everybody is trying to make ends meet business-wise. A bag of sugar was N10, 800 before, but now it’s N26, 000. Flour that sold for 9800 is now almost N18, 000; butter was also N9800 before but it’s now over N15, 000. At times, they would even tell you it’s not available. The increase in prices is a major challenge for us; I try to communicate with clients to see that ingredients have increased, but most of us still have to do the old prices to stay afloat. If you’re not baking, another person is baking. The price of items is the number one challenge.

Number two is poor electricity and the little gain we get goes to diesel. I have to use diesel because of the fridge, oven and other machines. The little gain we see, we use it to buy fuel and diesel. We are basically working for the government. We still pay tax despite all these hardships. I think everyone is just working to stay afloat, even if N500 is the gain, we will manage it like that.

How has cake baking evolved over the years?
Sometime last year, the baker that made my wedding cake called to tell me that she wants to learn from me. Cake is like fashion; every day, new techniques emerge. A decade or two ago, baking was seen as a skill for less privileged people, but things have changed now. In this axis, we have over 100 bakers. I think the country has also changed our views on skill acquisition because when you carry your certificate from Ajegunle to VI for months, you have to sit down and think of what you can do to feed.

Now, you even have graduates mixing cream, so it’s not just in baking. I know someone that, apart from baking, she goes to work, comes back to bake, trying to do both things. Everybody is trying to do many things at the same time. Some people are now doing ready-to-wear, small chops, food and so on. The economy forced many of us into getting a skill to survive.

What is your advice for women who want to go down this path?
When I first started out in life, I was a jack-of-all-trades. I also learnt how to be a milliner because I tried to add extra to the business; I wanted to do everything at once. Don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades, focus on your strength.

In this industry, you can be good at baking; you can be good at creating sugar crafts used to cover cakes. Don’t allow social media pressure to distract you. Focus! What are you good at? Focus on that and let people know. For instance, if you go to my Instagram page, it’s clear I’m good at baking because I always show the inside of my cake. Focus on what you excel in and make a business out of that.

Source: Guardian

Someone once said food is our common ground, and a universal experience. The fuel that helps us drive through life with ease. Healthy eating is one of the biggest food advocacy in the world, the food we eat has an immense effect on her physical and emotional wellbeing.

Orighoye Dore “Chef Nylah” is a proud food manufacturer, and an advocate of healthy living.  She is the CEO of Nylah’s food and manufacturing company, a business venture that focuses on sustainable foods,  and helps to reduce post-harvest loss. Nylah’s products incorporate fruits and vegetables in their production process. Some of which are artisanal breads, granolas, and lemonades.

The lemonades are made from fresh juices and infused with lemongrass. Which are fantastic immune boosters. The granolas are nut allergy friendly and rich in fiber, low cholesterol and minerals and nutrients. Chef Nylah believes that food is not just about eating but an experience that should be savored passionately. Nylah’s products can be found in all ShopRite stores nationwide and other retail stores in Lagos and Abuja.

Chef Nylah is a trained chef from the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington in Rosslyn, Virginia. With a degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. She is a retired United States Air force veteran where she served as a Nuclear weapon security specialist and an EDC Alumni.

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

Childhood Influence

I was one of those kids that played with cooking growing up. I would make little fires and cook junk growing up. In an interesting way, my childhood did prepare me for what I do now.

Inspiration behind Nylah’s Food and Beverage

I was tired of seeing the number of foods that we lose in the Nigerian market. We lose about $750 billion dollars yearly to post harvest loss. I started asking myself how I could help. What unique products could we at Nylah’s create to do our bit in helping to reduce that number, and how can we help reduce the unemployment rate most especially as it affects women. That was how Nylah’s Lemonades were born. We use fresh juices and infuse them with lemon grass.

The Journey so far

It has been an interesting and bumpy ride to say the least. I have chosen to take every experience good or bad as a lesson in what to continue to do or not to do.

Having my product sold  at Shoprite

I would honestly say persistence. I chased it for almost a year as I tried to grow my reach with other companies. Consistency also contributed to it.

Why I ventured into Granola production

 I always look for the gaps in our industry and try to bridge it. Using natural flavorings in some of our variants as well as focusing on a less served market in the granola industry, we positioned ourselves to serve that market.

Challenges of my work

Access to funds to allow us to scale, Proper staffing sometimes is also a major problem, not to mention the economy and its impact on businesses.

3 women who inspire me to be better and why

Jola Ladipo – Never met anyone as selfless as she is. She forces me to reflect and ask myself daily what I can do better as a person and for others.

J.K Rowling – We share similar stories and I know that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a myth.

My last is to every woman out there who when she gets up, the devil shivers.

Key nuggets on how to become a successful food manufacturer

Keep practicing your craft.

Learn the numbers as they govern your business. This cannot be stressed enough.

Expand your network.

Never stop learning and evolving.

 Being a Woman of Rubies

I inspire and lift other women up. I have created a channel of employment for other women and set them up on the right path.

Dr. Gbonjubola Abiri is a Consultant Psychiatrist, Managerial Psychologist, Professional Speaker and the Medical Director of Tranquil and Quest Behavioral health, Lagos. She is co-author of the book Mental Health in the Workplace. A Fellow of the West Africa College of Physicians (WACP), member of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Employee Assistance Professional Association (EAPA) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA), she has received trainings from the King’s College London, the University of Washington and the prestigious Harvard University, Boston USA. Passionate about research in child and adolescent forensic, women’s mental health, and occupational mental health, Abiri is driven by the holistic view to health. She also uses her knowledge in Psychiatry and Psychology to influence and maximize effectiveness and productivity in the workplace via the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). A Director of Women’s Mental Health at the ASIDO Foundation, she currently volunteers with the Lagos State COVID-19 Psychosocial Response Team in the fight against the pandemic. She also works with the THR media, as a Consultant Psychiatrist, as well as Sexual and Gender Based Violence Advocate. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her drive for mental health and advocacy.

What endeared you to psychiatry?
The vulnerability of the young was the first source of fascination that spurred my interest in Psychiatry. As a child, I had suffered from Asthma; I had many attacks resulting from my frailty as a child and my inability to properly care for myself.

When I presented to Doctors, they barely had the patience to allow me express my symptoms or how exactly I felt. I was challenged to bridge that divide by becoming a ‘listening Doctor.’ I also noticed that as I grew older, people found it comfortable to speak and discuss with me concerning the issues that bothered them. They often expressed their relief after having such conversations.

You currently champion the cause of mental health, what led to this passion?
My passion for mental health was inspired by the need to fill the gap of lack of care for mentally ill persons. Mental health is clearly not given the attention that it deserves, in spite of the associated mortality, morbidity and reduced quality of life. The general perception, attitudes, language and behaviour towards persons with mental health conditions are often those of shame, stigma and discrimination. These attitudes impact negatively on the patient’s perception of themselves and their help-seeking behaviour.

Mental health is extremely important as it has impact on all aspects of our health; our ability to engage in productive activities, cope with the normal stresses of life, contribute our quota to the environment we live in and engage in thriving relationships. We all have a role to play in ensuring mental health for all.

How would you describe your journey so far?
My journey has been a beautifully challenging and rewarding one. My father, who is a Medical Doctor himself, inspired me early enough in life to toe the path of saving lives. In medical school, I took an elective course in 500 Level in Psychiatry at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. It was not commonplace at the time to leave school to go for such a course, but I insisted on having that exposure.

While there, I met one of my greatest influences in person of Prof Olayinka Omigbodun. Working with patients has been extremely rewarding as lives are impacted. My work ensures that patients live their best lives in spite of their illnesses. My work has ensured that mental health is spotlighted, and that mental health conversations are normalised. It has ensured that suicides are prevented; mental illnesses are well managed, and that parental, familial and marital relationships are restored. It has indeed been so fulfilling seeing this turn around. The success stories make the journey worthwhile and fulfilling; this of course makes me want to do more.

Could you share with us some of your activities in your cause for stable mental health?
I am involved and engaged in creating mental health awareness, advocacy and education via my social media platforms and on various print and electronic media. I make use of cartoons, animations and illustrations in indigenous languages to discuss pertinent mental health issues.

In May last year, which is the Mental Health month, I embarked on a 31-for-31 day campaign where distinguished personalities across different walks of life discussed mental health issues in order to enlighten others based on their experiences and expertise. I utilise my expertise and serve as member of the advisory council of Joy Inc, Director of Women’s Mental Health at Asido Foundation and co-founder of the THR media, which focuses on survivors of Sexual and Gender Based violence. I also give mental health talks to a diverse population including children, adolescents, women, men, religious and cooperate organisations on mental health and wellbeing. I currently run a social media series called the ‘#waitaminutewithDrG’ where I deliver pertinent mental health tips in a minute. I also serve as Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Tranquil and Quest Behavioral Health, a premier mental health and substance abuse facility.

In your years of practice, what do you consider issues women face that affect their mental health?
Quite a number of factors impact on women and their mental health causing pressures. Some of these include women’s multiple roles, personal and societal expectations regarding marriage, childbirth, parenting and career, exposure to trauma in childhood, domestic violence, body image issues, issues of self-esteem, self perception and self doubt as well as severe life events that cause a sense of loss, inferiority and humiliation. These factors increase the risk of mental health problems such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, sleep, eating and sexual problems, psychosis, personality disorders as well as substance use disorders.

What is your view about the appreciation of psychiatry in Nigeria especially as it relates to mental health and mental illness?
Mental health and mental health conditions are not given the attention they deserve as they are looked at largely through the lens of religion and culture, which have continued to cloud our judgment with ignorance, stigma and discrimination. In Nigeria and even in 2021, individuals are unlikely to visit healthcare professionals for care at the first instance of a mental illness. Instead, they would visit religious organisations, as the belief is that mental illnesses are as a result of spiritual attacks.

Science has however dispelled most of these myths and misconceptions, as there is more awareness and understanding of the pathophysiology of mental health conditions with causation being linked to biological, psychological and social sources. This is why I have continued to engage in enlightenment, as it is necessary to dispel the myths surrounding mental health and mental health care, as well as change the health seeking behaviour.

Share with us your activities as a volunteer with the Lagos state COVID-19 psychosocial response team?
I have always enjoyed volunteering for causes I am passionate about. It’s such as altruistic act and a way to give back. I have always been motivated by John Bunyan’s saying that ‘you have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you’ and so when the call to volunteer for the COVID-19 psychosocial team came, I heeded it.

Our work in the psychosocial team was largely to provide emotional and psychological support via the telephone for patients from the point of testing positive, to isolating at home or being treated at the hospital, to when they were discharged and continued to need psychological support. We also provided psychological support and training to frontline healthcare workers who were in charge of the patients.

What is your advice to women trying to find a balance in their lives?
Harmony is the new balance. Trying to put too much effort into ‘balancing’ their lives such that work, career, managing relationships and other interests and hobbies get equal parts is not realistic. While work-life balance sees work and life as equally distinct parts, that co-exist and thrive separately, work-life harmony encourages that you look at all areas as part of a whole. It also encourages that you work at synergising all the parts.

It is important for women to identify the areas of their lives and find what work-life harmony means to them personally. Don’t be pressured by other women who seem to have it all together. Be encouraged by them, but not feel inadequate Just ensure that you are a continuous work in progress and that you also make efforts to outsource and ask for help when needed.

How do you balance family and career fronts?
Creating a harmony between family and career, especially in a field that is highly demanding, and lacking in professionals can be indeed tough. The occurrence of the COVID-19 increased rates of mental health conditions and domestic violence. It also led to an increment in virtual meetings, and working from home (WFH) creating a work-hour blur.

Interestingly, my work didn’t reduce and so while everyone was at home during the quarantine period, my team and I worked everyday to ensure our patients got the best care. We also had the added work of doing online sessions. This of course had its effects on personal and family life.

It takes a deliberate decision, effort and action to ensure that I am able to spend time engaging in fun activities and creating memories with my family. There is a lot of dedication to ensure that they also get quality time and attention from me. Learning to outsource certain duties and not feeling like I am superwoman and have to do everything also helps. Plus I carry my family along with my work and decisions as this ensures they are in the loop about my decisions. And of course, sometimes, I shut out the world, by turning off my devices so that I can be mindful and enjoy the seemingly little things and the joy they bring.

Interview By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia for Guardian

There are many emerging female leaders in Nigeria, young women who are breaking boundaries, against all odd, to make their voices count. Ikanna Okim is one of them. A phenomenal woman, she believes she is equipped with everything needed to make a difference in the world. Ikanna is the movement leader of the No-FGM campaign against female genital mutilation in Akwa Ibom State communities where the practice is rampant. A student leader, she is currently the President of the LAWSAN Bar Association, University of Uyo Chapter. Teennation Country Lead for Nigeria and Head of Legals, Ikanna is a prolific writer and has authored five books, which have reached over 1,400 young people in Nigeria. As a result of her commitment to correcting social ills, she was conferred the honour of a Fellow of the African Young Leadership Fellowship in 2018 and in 2020, she made it to the nominee list of Community servants in Akwa Ibom State. She also acquired certifications from different institutions around the world, including University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, Negotiation studies certificates from University of California, Irvine Extension, and Yale University. A child of God and a preacher of the gospel of Jesus, her life principles are integrity, responsibility, and transparency. She shares her inspiring journey in this interview.

Growing Up

I tell people that if everyone was raised in my home, they may never get to see the sad realities of gender inequality existent in the world today. I was brought up in an African home of average social class. My dad is an ace journalist and my mum is a civil servant. We live in Lagos, Nigeria. I have a sister and a brother and my parents never made us feel like we were different – I mean the girls from the boy. I grew up with confidence, more confidence than my peers in school and church. My dad, especially, made me know that I could be anything at all that I wanted to be. My brother could wash plates and I would be trying to fix a bulb. No gender roles. I always came out first right from nursery school as much as I can remember. I never was intimidated by the boys in my class. I could argue with my dad on an issue. I was allowed to have a different opinion.
This is to say that my upbringing gave me zero preparation for the realities outside. Imagine the shock I had to see that the world thinks I’m a second-class human because I am a woman. I was shocked. I once got into a public bus when I went to Uyo for my tertiary education and I came down for a man to enter inside because my bustop was close by – just the next actually. The man became furious. He made a statement I can never forget. When people were begging him to just enter so we could move. He said “God forbid that I would sit inside for a woman, a small girl for that matter”. Wow. You can imagine. I have had many more sad experiences like that.

I can however say that my upbringing helped me develop an unshakeable confidence in myself and I gladly pass it on to other women who did not have the opportunity to grow up with the confidence I grew up with. This makes me feel like a woman on a mission. Other women have to come out of their shells and show the world the stuff they’re made of.

Inspiration behind NO-FGM campaign

I generally started having detestation for violence against girls from 2016 when I founded Fingerprints Group to engage my peers and help them build capacity to fight social issues. We evolved into doing projects concerning the girl child in secondary schools. We went from teaching girls confidence to teaching them how to defend themselves against rape through our #SheDefence series in 3 states in Nigeria. While interacting with these girls, I met girls who were circumcised in cities like Lagos! I could not sleep! The whole genitalia area off! In this time and age! Ha.

I felt heartbroken. Those conversations drove me to make more inquiries and to my shock, people in Uyo local government of Akwa Ibom state, where I am from and where I school, still mutilate their girls. I also discovered that it is still being practised in Oron, Uruan and Itu local governments of the same state in Nigeria.

It is true that the rate of female genital mutilation has reduced in Africa as compared to the situation in ancient times but that is not enough. That it is still being practised, despite laws prohibiting it, is a problem.
I needed people to first come to the realisation that this practice of female circumcision is still going on. By my research, it is prevalent among illiterates in Nigeria and the illiterate population in Nigeria is about 40%. So, you can imagine what these people do to their daughters.
I saw a need to get words out there to those people who do not read or write English, in the languages they understand that Female Genital Mutilation is evil.
Yes, we have many laws which prohibit female circumcision but how can one implement the laws? It is impossible to go round from house to house to tell girls “open your legs, let’s see whether you have been mutilated”. If you’re waiting for the victims to report, that’s far from possible because they don’t even realise that they’re victims in the first place. The custodians of a culture cannot report it. Also, the effect of the laws would only punish offenders and do little to prevent it. I saw that the solution to this problem is a mindset shift. I needed to help people think and see for themselves that they were killing their daughters.

That’s how I formed a team and took to the streets and market places to preach the No-FGM gospel. I also wrote and published a prose fiction to keep driving this conversation around the world and make people know that girls in Nigeria are still being mutilated. This is how I get people to join their voices with mine to save the girl-child.

Impact of My Work In the  Communities I Serve 

My work against Female Genital Mutilation has gone beyond what I saw, even though this is a long-term project. Changing people’s mindset is not drastic. It takes time, especially if they feel they can get away with whatever they do with their own families. Afterall, it’s their daughter, not yours.

Speaking of impact, let me begin from the 5-hour street/market campaign we did to begin the campaign in 2019. We printed fliers in pictures, Ibibio language, English language, pidgin English and every language an average person in Uyo can understand. We also made use of public address systems and aids.

The first thing which made me realise that our work counted was when a woman in the market told me that she was going to circumcise her daughter the following day but she would not because she had changed her mind because of the campaign. She didn’t know that there were dangers to FGM. I shed tears after she said so. One girl was saved. From that day, we had the fire to go on. We have had some positive reponses too. Many people told us that they never knew that FGM had long term effects so they promised never to mutilate their children (again).

I published Black Syrma and kept conversations going on online. I recently republished Black Syrma to push it to a wider audience. When it comes to awareness work, you cannot really match numbers to impact because not everyone provides feedback on what your campaign did to change their minds but that one woman at the market on the first day and the other feedbacks we had proved to me that something is changing in people’s minds.

I recently saw a United Nations report of the elders of a village in Ebonyi state renouncing the practice of female genital mutilation. That’s a stride. Ebonyi state has always had anti-FGM laws but that renouncement by the elders had much weight. That’s the voice of the people saying “No more FGM”.
We are working towards having that in Akwa Ibom. People threatened to pour water on us to send us away for preaching No FGM but things like that don’t deter us. They make us stronger.

Being The President Of A Bar Association In My University, And Managing Everything I Do

I have always been multitasker. At a point, I thought it was a problem because it was difficult to face one thing and do it. When I was younger, when people said they wanted to be a this or that, I couldn’t say it because I had about 10 things in mind that I wanted to be and could be. I recently learnt that it’s not a defect. It’s a super power and super powers should be managed. I cut down on some things according to priority so anything I do now is because I consider it highly important. So, I don’t spread myself too thin but I do everything that I manage to do and do them excellently too.

By God’s grace and without being immodest, I can say that I am an excellent student. I have won 4 major academic excellence awards while in school, even with all the non-academic work that I do.

Something that has helped me which I cannot fail to mention is my journalling life. I am in love with my journals. I have about 3 journals now which I run at the same time. They serve different purposes. In my journals, I write my goals, tick the ones I’ve achieved; I write my fears and my challenges; I write my daily to-do lists. This makes me the boss of my time and life. When I complained to a friend about losing control of my time and I said I don’t have my time any more, he said, “24 hours are enough, Ikanna. Time is a gift from God. You don’t squander gifts”. That has stayed with me. That was how I developed my journal culture. I am in charge of my time. Even my friends know that they cannot barge into my schedules and distort my day’s plans. I live a highly organised life.

Challenges of my work

I do a lot of work – leading LAWSAN Bar, Teenagers at Teennation, No-FGM campaign, Authoring, Mentorship, School work, helping women and girls and so on; but I would like to talk about my work with girls. This is because my major challenge falls in here.

Working to help and protect girls involves a lot of emotions. By research, reaching out or following up a case, I get to interact with victims of abuse. Their stories cut through my heart. Imagine carrying the baggages of many helpless girls at a time. It could hurt and be so destabilizing. Sometimes, I just cry to relieve myself of some hurt. I also pray a lot. That has helped me. I’m a very spiritual person. I am born again in Christ. So I pray and receive the assurances that all will be well and that God has made me a solution provider.

My  view of the legal system in Nigeria

We have a long way to go. I acknowledge how far we have come and the improvements made. I celebrate laws like the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act and other ground-breaking laws which I have come to find useful in the course of my work.

However, the archaic nature of some procedures is worrisome. We need to be able to allow lawyers to start filing cases online from the lowest courts to the highest. My senior friends in other countries tell me how easy this is over there. There is a pandemic. This is enough reason to start putting those structures in place. Also, laws like the Evidence Act should be amended to reflect our present day digital realities.

Furthermore, many times in Nigeria, we have experienced sheer neglect of our laws. Why do we have laws if they would not be kept? We were taught that law is blind and so does not look at the person or his social class. But this is not true of the justice system in Nigeria today.

There’s a lot to complain about in the Nigerian legal system but I believe that there will be a change and the change has started.

3 Women Who Inspire Me To Be Better and Why

My three super women remain the same. I talk about them everywhere:

Dr. Utibe Alex-okoro. A medic and my big sister. She’s my only sister actually. I love the way she sets standards for me without speaking. She shows me how to live by doing it. My sister is not one to talk on and on about being strong. What she does is to be strong. I watch and learn.

Mmanti Umoh. I met her when I could not find my way around my long term goals. She came in and helped me through and has been my friend since then. Her life is a great example of walking on hot water to get to wherever you want to go. She inspires me to never give up.

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi Co. I started following her last year and I’ve been a great follower since then. She represents the reality of women at the work place and succeeding nonetheless. I see her as the ideal woman in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. That’s a book that changed my mind about many things. I want to meet Indra one day.

Being a  Woman of Rubies

I am an outstanding woman. I can go on and on about what I have and what I have achieved but what makes me a woman of rubies is not all of that. It is the fact that there is no other person like me in this world. I am unique, with all my weaknesses too. My weaknesses are beautiful.

Abimbola Ajala is a social Entrepreneur and media personality with over 5 years’ experience working in the Education and social sector. She holds her Bachelor of Arts degree from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife Osun state and a certification in view from Lagos business school.

Abimbola launched her NGO, an organization known as Lend a hand for the development of Africa in 2016. This organization reaches children in poor families in local communities as they provide basic education and health supplies to children in a bid to reduce illiteracy and poverty.

Since then the organization has reached over Five thousand children in schools directly and indirectly across Nigeria, with her various projects and scholarships.

Her organization has been recognized as one of the emerging NGOs in the country. She was nominated for the SMEunder25 awards under the social Entrepreneurship category. She is also the recipient of the Exhale woman International award, in 2018 got awarded as one of the “Talent of the Future” and Lagos state award for humanitarian service also in 2018.

Bimbo is also  youth lead ambassador representing Nigeria, She believes strongly that love helps us reach out to our world faster. She shares her inspiring story with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive interview

Childhood Influence

Growing up was great, large family both nuclear and extended family in a building.(Laughs) However I won’t deny the many challenges associated with that time of my life, having a silver spoon and literally the spoon taken from you can make life unbearable, I believe somehow through my life’s path I learnt to pay it forward which informs what I donow. Reaching out to children in slums and giving them an opportunity to live their
dreams through education. My parents through the struggles felt it was important for
them to get us educated even if it meant selling some properties, I can’t deny how grateful I am that they took bold steps in that regard.

Inspiration behind Lend a Hand For The Development of Africa
Lend a hand for the development of Africa started from a burning desire to see that narratives change. We can’t deny the work that needs to be done in a lot of our public secondary schools and generally at the grassroots. The mindset renewal of the students, infrastructure upgrade and a whole lot. Though an undergraduate at that time I knew I could lend my voice for change, I could help renovate a library, I could get my friends to speak to students on making great career choices, I could get sanitary pads across to young girls in schools as we speak on period poverty and most importantly just like my parents did for me I could beat the odds to make a difference in the life of a child(ren). I decided I wasn’t going to waste any time and I got my friends back then in Obafemi Awolowo University to join me in visiting schools and communities to do some
of these things. Well most of these things

The Journey so far
The journey has been very interesting with different tales. Five years and counting I feel like we just started as there is so much to do. The transition from university to the Real world shook me but I am glad I kept at it. I have had moments I doubted myself and what we do at lend a hand for Africa, I have had lonely paths but the testimonies from our beneficiaries and God’s infinite grace has kept me going.

Supporting 5000 Children
Directly and indirectly we have through our project supported over Five thousand children with our various projects. The padforagirl drive hopes to get girls in schools and communities access to sanitary pads and
also good hygiene information. This platform gives girls an opportunity to interact with doctors
and counselors and share their burdens or challenges with them.( thousands of girls have benefited from this across various communities. The padforagirl drive is also a platform to advocate for better policies as regards avoiding the stigmatization that comes with menstruation.

We noticed that girls who joined our padforagirl drive in schools didn’t have to skip school during
that time of the month, they had sanitary materials and adequate information.

The scholarship scheme has helped get drop out kids and kids from poor backgrounds into school across various levels( primary, secondary and university) recently one of our girls completed her Nd program at the Polytechnic Ibadan and is moving to another phase of her academic pursuit. We also have a young boy we enrolled in a football academy in Lagos, we saw his interest and we decided to give him a platform to shine.

The food drive has been a huge part of our work. We noticed children were skipping classes and school out of hunger and we introduced a feeding plan. However last year we had to increase our capacity here by getting families food during the very crucial lockdown. The number of malnourished kids is on the rise and poverty is a huge reason for this, the food drive helps families thrive monthly and helps children stay nourished.

My Recognition Awards and it’s Impact

All the awards I find important as it’s a reason to do more and also show I am being recognized, I do not take that lightly. However the Lagos state award from the Ministry or Youth came as a huge surprise as I didn’t think we were noticed but kept doing our bit. That triggered something for me.

Representing Nigeria as a Youth Leader
My role as a youth lead ambassador in 2020 gives me an avenue to share authentic Nigeria stories with the world with what I do. I had to also organize with other ambassadors to amplify the work we do as social entrepreneurs and work on solutions that would enable us see sustainable changes in certain areas. Policy implementation was Drawn to help youth engage better in communities. This year I became peer advisor for USAID and Youthlead also and I realized how a lot of people opened the doors for me at various points in my life. As a peer advisor I am opening the doors for other ambassadors this year to use their voice on a global stage. Not get caught up in “we are young syndrome” but give their work their utmost best, I will be mentoring
changemakers from different part of the world and I feel very blessed to do that.

Challenges of my Work
The challenges of the work I do vary from time to time, but I am learning to work through those challenges. Sometimes it’s handling new government policies, other times it’s Funding, sometimes it’s inadequate and skilled volunteers to work on a project. The key for me is to learn how to make things work through the seemingly different season and that has made me somewhat very innovative.

Women who Inspire me and why
I have been inspired by various women and this question seems slightly difficult but for the sake of the question asked I’d say: My mum_ Mrs. Atinuke Akinsanya who showed me through her lifestyle what it means to truly be passionate about helping someone who might not be able to repay you and truly caring for others. Michelle Obama I remember writing about her in business school, so much to say but I will leave it this way, she showed that an “exalted” position can be used to truly impact lives. Mrs. Ibukun Awosika is phenomenal. I love listening to her talk about various aspects of life and how she creates a balance through life issues. Her career path energies me to be more and do more.

Being a Woman of Rubies

What makes me a woman of rubies_hmmmm (smiles) the fact that I am constantly becoming, and creating opportunities for families at various point in my life to move out of intergenerational poverty and illiteracy. I am constantly opening doors for women to live their dreams makes me a woman of rubies.

Our social media handles:
Twitter @lahafrica
Instagram @lendahandafrica

Twitter: @bimboakinsanya

Instagram:@bimboakinsanya

The beauty of life is the power humanity wields , It helps us live intentionally, and hold every human in good light, This is what Sally Suleiman represent as  an extraordinary Humanitarian ,she lends her voice to the voiceless, and disadvantaged persons in the society on and offline.

The   notable  Humanitarian, Strategist, Writer and a Media Personality is also the  founder of The Isolycia Foundation – a Non Governmental organization that focuses on Education for underprivileged children.

She has impacted and put smiles in the lives of many children through her educational outreach.

Sally Suleiman is an Alumna of Middlesex University where she studied International Business and she’s part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Sally through her social media platforms has become an household name, using her voice and resources where it matters.

Sally shares her inspiring journey, and how her mom’s death changed her perception of life in this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere

Childhood Influence

I would say Yes, because I was such a generous and empathetic child. I loved to do things for people, I loved to help the poor. I started helping when I was in primary school, I would give the less privileged my old school items and even share my lunch and lunch money with the underprivileged. So I had that path right from my childhood.

My childhood wasn’t the best. I lost my Mum when I was 5years old. This made me grow up very fast and opened me up to challenges that a 5years old shouldn’t be going through. My Mum was a great woman, she was a teacher, she was my best friend, she was my everything, that was a very painful experience for me and my siblings.

Things changed when my wonderful stepmom came into the home, I am who I am today because of this woman, she made sure that I grew up in the way of the Lord, she taught me almost everything that I know today. I owe my success to her.

Inspiration behind Isolycia Foundation

The Isolycia Foundation was inspired by my love for education especially at the elementary level. I believe that every child should be in school, peculiarly at that tender age. So the Isolycia foundation focuses on education for children in rural areas. We also sensitize parents on the need to send their children to school. I formed the name from my late mum’s name and my step mum’s name.

The Journey so far

It’s been humbling so far. Every challenge I face teaches me a lesson, so I’m grateful.

Supporting the less privileged and using my platform for social good

I love the fact that I wake up fulfilled doing what I love to do. I love the fact that I’m able to touch lives and inspire people. I get messages everyday from people saying how much I inspire and motivate them, this is enough impact for me knowing that I am touching the world one day at a time.

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The Impact of being a  YALI fellow

It has helped through learning by taking their courses. I’m a professional at what I do because of the available resources YALI provided.

Coordinating a  Giveaway platform online

Giveaway platform just like the name implies, is a platform where I give out things to people, this is part of my Social responsibility for being a media personality. I also help promote small businesses through this platform, I open them up to their potential clients.

Positive  and negative side of being a Social Media Influencer

The positive side is impacting lives and making money (LOL), the negative side is sometimes you get misunderstood and you get attacked. You experience bullying, hate and all sorts. But I have learnt to ignore and focus on the positives and those who love me.

Challenges of my work

It could be tasking financially because I do not depend on anyone, I do everything from my pocket. Also managing my time can be challenging. I have so much to do but little time.

3 women who inspire me to be better 

HE Toyin Saraki

HE Bisi Fayemi

And the most recent Vice President of America, Kamala Harris.

These women inspire me in different ways. Their passion, their success, the change they bring in their various fields inspires me.

Nuggets on the power of community service

  • Community service connects you to others. It allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place.
  • Community service increases your social and relationship skills
  • Community service also increases your self-confidence. It provides a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment.

I’m going to leave a quote by Denzel Washington – “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”

Being a Woman of Rubies

I’m a woman of rubies because I stay positive, i inspire and impact lives.

 

Teaching is the one profession that creates other professions. It is the fuel that drives education and make our wonderful Teachers  heroes.
Ericka is one of such heroes, especially at a time like this when the school system have been greatly affected by the pandemic.
She is passionate about her chosen profession, and determined to see her students succeed in Life.
Meet Ericka
Ericka Taylor began her teaching career in 2011. During that time, she came across one 2nd grade student who was struggling with reading. To meet this need, and that of many others, Ericka opened E. Denise Tutoring Services in March 2018. Since then, E. Denise Tutoring Services has grown to include many students, ranging in both grade level and scholastic ability.
Inside the classroom, Ericka’s motto is “Be fair, Be firm and Be fun.” When she tutors her motto is, “Take a breath, the student is learning not reviewing.” This is important because oftentimes scholars are expected to quickly retain information, when in fact, scholars need time to develop their learning and understanding.
Ericka created this company to meet students where they are academically. If a student is in 4th grade but is reading at a 1st grade level, that’s ok because with the correct instruction, the academic gap can be CLOSED. Ericka is certified to teach in the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and is reading endorsed to teach grades Pre-K-4 by the state of Ohio. Being reading endorsed is a fancy way of saying she is state certified to teach children how to read. While she is reading endorsed, Ericka loves to teach math concepts to children in grades K-8.
Although E.Denise Tutoring Services was begun to assist struggling readers, all students can benefit from tutoring, struggling or not. Tutoring helps to bridge the learning gap for all students at all learning levels. Ericka’s ultimate goal in life is to show students that reading is more than a chore; that reading will give them more opportunities and take them more places than they could ever imagine.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, all sessions are held virtually via the Zoom platform. Ericka prefers for her tutoring clients to call her Ms. Ericka.
You can follow her on her social media accounts below
Ig- @edenisetutoringservices
Fb- E.Denise LLC

Ashley Lamothe started working at Chick-Fil-A when she was 15 years old to earn money for her first car purchase. Little did she know that she would become the youngest franchise owner in the history of Chick-Fil-A at the age of 26.

“Chick-Fil-A has been a part of my life since high school, so I don’t feel like I am making history,” Lamothe told a news outlet. “That said, it’s really cool that so many people have been inspired by my journey and that feels like a huge honor.”

Lamothe was selected to open the first restaurant location in Los Angeles. Then, she opened her second location in downtown Los Angeles. With nearly a decade of experience as a franchise owner, Lamothe is focused on building a team of great leaders. Her mission is to help others obtain the same support that enabled her to tap into the possibilities of being a franchise owner.

Creating a Foundation for Success

Lamothe started her journey at Chick-Fil-A as a team member in Atlanta. She continued working at the restaurant as a director on the leadership team while attending Spelman College.

“At the time, I thought it was just a great job to have while pursuing my degree in theatre,” Lamothe shared on the company website, But working at Chick-Fil-A became a window into her future. One day, her restaurant Operator inquired about her long-term goals and recommended she consider leadership opportunities. This interaction inspired Lamothe to change her major to economics so she could build a solid foundation in business.

Lamothe adds, “I’d never considered it. Sometimes you just need someone to help you see your potential,”

After college graduation, Lamothe participated in the Chick-fil-A management and development program. Three years later, she achieved her goal of becoming a franchise owner.

Lamothe shared her best advice for other aspiring franchise owners with Rolling out; “Gain work experience at a local restaurant. A lot of people say they want to own a franchise but have never worked in a restaurant. It’s hard, hands-on work and you really have to know what you are getting into.”

Increasing Chick-Fil-A Franchise Owners

According to Lamothe’s website, she has traveled all over the world speaking to women about economic empowerment. In 2013, she traveled around Europe delivering business education on behalf of Chick-Fil-A. A year later, she led one of the first female-focused business retreats for franchise owners.

Lamothe continues to be a resource for individuals seeking to become a franchise owner. She serves on the Chick-fil-A Operator Support Council and provides tips on social media and her website.

Although Ashley doesn’t shy away from sharing the challenges of entrepreneurship, she also wants others to know that it’s possible to achieve their goals. “Sometimes, you have to just step out on faith. You’re never going to feel 100% certain about your readiness, you’ve got to just go for it,” Lamothe posted on Instagram. “I can’t emphasize enough that your journey isn’t going to be a straight path, but the results will be worth it in the end. I’m living proof that entrepreneurship dreams do come true.”

Source: Blackenterprise.com

Mariam Balogun identified the burden of inadequate funding of the Nigerian healthcare sector which consequently leads to poverty as a result of huge out-of-pocket medical expenses of an average patient.

She decided to do something about it. Mariam, in 2018, founded LifeFund Support Initiative to cater to underserved patients and communities by providing access to quality and affordable healthcare. The organisation’s vision is to help create a nation where cost is not an hindrance to quality healthcare for everyone.

Every month, LifeFund embarks on hospital visits to underprivileged patients on admission in selected hospitals and cater to their healthcare and other essential needs.

LifeFund’s work also involves raising awareness on the importance of health insurance as well as advocating for robust and adequate healthcare financing policy and its efficient implementation.

Mariam is currently a Pharmaceutical Officer at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and is a LEAP Africa Social Innovators Programme fellow (2019/20). She holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Lagos as well as certificates in healthcare funding and management.

We celebrate Mariam for providing healthcare financing support to Nigerian citizens and we’re rooting for her!

Source: Bellanaija

Following the controversy that has surrounded Ebonylife Films, the producers of popular Netflix film “Òlòtūré”, journalist Tobore Ovuorie has made a statement addressing the issue.

It all began after the investigative journalist made allegations of copyright infringement towards Ebonylife Films, claiming that “Òlòtūré” which follows the story of a young, naïve Nigerian journalist who goes undercover to expose the shady underworld of human trafficking is an adaptation of her life story which she wrote as an article, “Inside Nigeria Ruthless Human Trafficking Mafia” that was published on August 2014, by Premium Times.

Ebonylife Films responded to the allegations with a statement claiming that ‘Oloture’ is a work of fiction and was inspired by a variety of true events”. The CEO, Mo Abudu also addressed the allegations in a video posted on her official Instagram page where she said that they sought and obtained the right from Premium Times, the owners of the story, and as such, had fulfilled their legal obligation.

Tobore Ovuorie who said she couldn’t initially view the video as she had been blocked from viewing Mo Abudu’s Instagram page has now responded to the video with a statement “to set the records straight for the sake of posterity.”

Tobore stated that the human trafficking investigation in her story upon which “Òlòtūré” is based had commenced prior to her employment with Premium Times. She insists that the film is not fiction nor about “several other faceless journalists who had done what she did but did not publish their experiences”, but is an adaptation of her work and life story and that it was made without her express permission. “A movie about women victimization cannot end up creating further victimization,” she wrote.

Firstly, EbonyLife claimed that the right to use my life story was legally obtained from my erstwhile employer – Premium Times. Unfortunately for them and as I had earlier informed them through my lawyers, the human trafficking investigation in my story had commenced prior to my employment with Premium Times. It is disheartening that Aunty Mo could in fact mention that she got the right to my life-story (that has impacted on my life since then in many ways) from my ex-employer.

Secondly, I am in shock that Aunty Mo would claim that I was contacted prior to the Movie in one breath and in another breath that the story is not about me but about several other faceless journalists who had done what I did but did not publish their experiences.

If Ebonylife had given me full disclosure from the beginning, we would not be where we are, at this point. Yes, Oloture is an important film to be made but must be done the right way. A Movie about women victimization cannot end up creating further victimization.

Oloture is an ADAPTATION of my work and life-story. I experienced the investigation, the process, and the risks, upon which the movie is based. I also single-handedly authored the publication the Movie relied on. The publication of my experience is what gave birth to Oloture. A Movie about sex trafficking does not need to be centered around a journalist and it does not need to play out the plots of my published story.

Responding to claims that her actions are for money and because the movie gained international recognition, Tobore stated,

My obvious interest had always been to be given appropriate credit for my work, far above the compensatory claim. My lawyers’ letter to EbonyLife had categorically demanded for:

• “Compensation for copyright infringement in the sum of $5,000,000.00 (Five Million US Dollars).

• The immediate inclusion of a proper open credit and end credit in the Movie, acknowledging the adaptation of her work in line with industry standard and practice; and

• Restriction on any further exploitation of our Client’s published life story by your good self, your company and its related companies or affiliates, in any form, including our Client’s post -investigation struggles and experiences, such as her nervous breakdown episodes, which she personally shared with you on set, on or about 6 June 2019 during the recording of the special edition of your program titled: ‘Moments With Mo’ at the Ilupeju recording studio of your company.

The open and end credits of the Movie should be re-edited to read as follows:

Open Credit:
“THIS FILM IS LARGELY BASED ON EVENTS WHICH HAPPENED TO A NIGERIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST IN A 2014 PUBLISHED INVESTIGATIVE STORY”.

End Credit:
“THIS FILM IS AN ADAPTATION OF:
WEST AFRICA| UNDERCOVER INSIDE THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING MAFIA, AN INVESTIGATIVE STORY BY TOBORE OVUORIE PUBLISHED BY ZAM MAGAZINE, NETHERLANDS, ON 22 JANUARY 2014 AND SUBSEQUENTLY BY PREMIUM TIMES, NIGERIA”.

See the full statement below: