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week is Farida Yahya, an author, entrepreneur, and startup coach. She’s the founder of LumoNaturals, an Abuja-based natural haircare solutions brand. She’s also a startup tutor and the founder of The Brief Academy, a learning hub for female startup owners.

Farida’s LumoNaturals provides a combination of natural products, techniques, artistic styles and education about African hair and the importance of healthy and natural hair to naturalistas.

In her book Redefining Beautiful, Farida shared her then 10-year old journey in going natural and starting LumoNaturals.

Farida, a BellaNaija contributor was one of the 10 youth leaders selected to meet (the then) UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon (in 2015) to discuss development, climate change and the role of the youths in promoting the sustainable development goals and increasing momentum and ownership in Nigeria.

She’s also a member of a UNDP-selected group of young leaders as part of a technical group for the sustainable development goals to inspire the next generation of leaders on their roles in localising and achieving the goals in sub national levels.

She launched Northernlife Nigeria in 2016, an online media platform designed to showcase the diversity of the people of Northern Nigeria, using multimedia channels, citizen reporting, and creative writing, exploring the rich cultural history of its people. The platforms is working towards changing the narrative of region as one of under-achievers, and engaging the citizens on collective responsibility to solve the region’s challenges.

She’s also the co-founder of Ja Muje, a platform for citizen-led, community-driven action towards achieving sustainable growth and development of Northern Nigeria, with a focus on education, health, business and innovation. The Forum employs an innovative approach of combining conversations, a think tank of researchers and a mentors’ program to build a community of changers and youth leaders.

Farida has a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Maiduguri and had work as a laboratory assistant in Dangote Flour Mills in Kano.

Farida was on Leading Ladies Africa’s “100 Most Influential Women in Nigeria” list in 2020.

We celebrate Farida for being an inspiration in entrepreneurship and for her work in achieving the sustainable development goals, especially in northern Nigeria.

 

Have you ever wondered what your college career would have looked like if you’d been more prepared for it? Or, do you hope that today’s youth would know more of what they’re walking into, to determine if college is or is not for them? Nitiya Walker is making sure that those hopes, dreams, and questions you whisper to yourself are answered and made into a reality.  

Nitiya, an entrepreneur and trailblazer, has created hope under the chaos of COVID-19, with the first college preparation program geared toward young women of color. Seeds of Fortune is a New York City-based scholarship program with a national reach that aims to financially empower young women of color by helping them apply for college scholarships. With the threat of the recent strain of coronavirus creating havoc throughout the nation’s education system, Seeds of Fortune is a constant that young women can count on to advance in their chosen career paths.  

Even within the constraints of social-distancing, this organization is making sure to provide the resources needed by high-school girls everywhere. Recently, Seeds of Fortune launched its online training portal, the Online College Prep Network, for high school seniors of color. The Online College Prep Network, which includes development scholarship/college packages, career skills, and financial literacy through an intensive online prep process, provides young women with an exclusive network to explore colleges whose admissions offices are currently closed.

Nitiya, who is the founder and current executive director of Seeds of Fortune, holds experience in the field of economic empowerment for women and minorities. Through Seeds of Fortune, she has already helped minority young women earn $6 million (and counting!) in college scholarships and grants. 

In this interview with BAUCE, Nitiya chats with BAUCE about the importance of teaching college and career readiness to high-school students around the nation. 

Looking back to your senior year in high school, what experiences are you providing for young girls that you wish you would’ve had yourself? How do you think having access to these experiences would have changed your college experience?  

Nitiya: As a high school senior, I was provided the opportunity to work with a Girl Scout Troop leader who understood the art of getting college scholarships, this allowed me to have the opportunity to be able to apply for college scholarships. I wish I had understood the different colleges’ rankings that there were colleges that provided more money than others, as well as the options available to me as a minority applicant. It would have opened up my college and financial options.  

seeds of fortune
Photo Credit: Seeds of Fortune

Usually, a life-defining moment births some of our biggest and best ideas in life. What kickstarted the need for Seeds of Fortune? 

Nitiya: It was the moment one of my friends from high school was unable to finish at her university and transferred to college closer to home due to affordability. If I did not have someone that took the time to teach me how to obtain scholarships for college, I would not have been able to obtain the Full Tuition Posse Leadership to Babson College.  

When do you think that it is important to teach young black girls about practicing financial freedom in their lives and why?  

Nitiya: Young women should be taught about finances once they are entering middle school, it is important to start to develop good money habits, by the time they start high school and are legally able to work they would have started to understand money. This includes saving for birthdays and understanding a checking as well as a savings account.  

I think it’s symbolic that the word “seeds” is emphasized in the name of your scholarship program, as it paints a picture of planting something early to reap the harvest later in life. Do you think that patience plays a big part in college readiness while training one’s career and financial management skills?  

Nitiya: We emphasized that there are a process and community to life and the more you invest and perfect your process the more prepared you will be. A seed is planted, however, in order for it to successfully transform into a flower, it must be watered, given sunlight, nutrients to grow into its full potential. We value and provide the ingredients for their success, but they are the ones that must own it and use it to their advantage.  

seeds of fortune program
Photo Credit: Seeds of Fortune

Speaking of patience in the journey of success, I know COVID-19 has had a part in creating a shift within your organization. What’s the silver lining in all of this for Seeds? 

Nitiya: Although Covid-19 has been a stressful time for students at the moment it has provided the opportunity for them to form a community online. Our Seed online college prep platform allows them to have a safe space where they can connect on their concerns for the future, push one another to fulfill their greatest potential, and obtain information to make them more savvy consumers in the college process.  

Many middle-class students of color find it hard to find scholarships that fit them into their category. Their households may make too much to qualify for scholarships that amount to big totals, but do not have a way to fully fund their tuition. What are some tips on how to look for more inclusive scholarships with flexible requirements? 

Nitiya: Students in middle-class families should focus on scholarships that are focused on leadership, community service, status as (women, minority, or career major) and merit-based scholarships. These scholarships are based on their academic achievement, commitment to their community, as well as their ability to enter spaces that are historically lacking diversity. 

They should also localize their scholarship search applying to scholarships offered by the church, mosque, unions, community banks, sororities, and social clubs. Seeds has an online training portal for current high-school seniors to prepare them for what they may be facing in the fall. What is the most effective thing that a high-school senior can do now to prepare them for their collegiate journey?  

Treat the college process as a financial investment, begin researching which schools have high employment rates, understand the  colleges that offer 100% aid to cover college costs, find online programs to become involved with that are connected to their intended major,  request information sessions with admission officers to allow you to stand out in the applicant pool.   

seeds of fortune
Photo Credit: Seeds of Fortune

Being away from family, certain routines, and regulations can lead to over or under doing things that you’re used to having guidance with. In most cases, this can be overspending or purchasing things you don’t need. How can a college student live on an efficient budget, while still enjoying some of the things they love? 

Nitiya: Technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to managing finances in college and keeping track of expenses. I  recommend the Clarity app. It allows you to track your spending on your credit and debit cards, apply for the Goldman Sachs Marcus High Yield Savings Account with a 1.3% interest rate, and eliminate subscription services that might be draining your finances. They also tell you what categories you have been spending heavily on. The more you can watch your money, the more responsible you are able to be with it.  

It is also important that they begin to start emergency savings accounts, keeping at least $500 in their savings account at all times. It is important to open up both a checking and savings account because money tends to disappear easily between food, online shopping, and activities with friends.  

As students enter college, some are applying for internships and jobs for the very first time. With little to no experience, this can seem intimidating. What are some ways that students can practice their career skills while making the application process seem frightening?  

Nitiya: I recommend students create career support networks both virtually and in person. Some of the resources we currently suggest to students are connecting with their career center on campus, the career center has a job portal and staff to review a resume and navigate applications. Additionally entering their resume into minority career pipeline funnels like  MLT, Inroads, SEO, and Jopwell that are able to help screen their applications and sharpen them to become top applicants. Last but certainly not least create a LinkedIn profile. When a student sets up a LinkedIn account – LinkedIn is able to access the strength of your profile, similar to an online job application, who can typically apply directly to jobs through your LinkedIn profile.  

If you could encourage young girls to attend college with one of the most valuable benefit from the experience, what would you tell them? 

Nitiya: College is an accreditation to enter into the white collar workforce, however the brand you build behind that accreditation is the reason why you should go to college. You create networks of like-minded individuals, it transforms the way you view and see the world, and provides you the opportunity to mold yourself with structure into the person you want to become. Life is not what you want to do but who you want to be.  

In my years of law practice, I’ve discovered that a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of putting off all legal issues until they are threatened with a lawsuit. They tend to engage professionals only after a problem has arisen. There is a saying that ‘prevention is better than cure.’ This is quite true. It costs you less to prevent a legal issue from arising than solving it when the issue has arisen

Legal practitioner and author, Ifeoma Ben is the founder of Legal Business Network (LBN), a platform that assists enterpreneurs to build legally protected businesses. She’s also the founder of Justice Vault Foundation (JVF), a non-profit organisation that offers free legal services to the less privileged.

Prior to obtaining a Law Degree from the Imo State University, Owerri, and a Masters Degree in Law from the University of Lagos, Akoka, she had obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religious Studies from the University of Calabar. An associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, United Kingdom (CIArb), a graduate of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered) (NIM) and member of the National Association of Catholic Lawyers (NACL), she has served as the Assistant Secretary of the Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association

(NBA) Lagos Branch and is currently the Assistant Secretary of the NBA, Lagos Branch.

In this interview with NGOZI EGENUKA, Ifeoma, who is a partner with Eminence Solicitors, shares her passion for helping entrepreneurs gain clarity about the legal aspects of their businesses among other issues.

What really endeared you to legal profession?
MY Father read Law (though not practicing law). While growing up, I always enjoyed his conversations and argument with lawyers; I loved the way they presented and analysed issues and I loved the boldness in the way they spoke. They always talked about Law being a noble profession and I said to myself that I would be a Lawyer.

Even after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religious Studies, I was still determined to read Law, which has been my dream course and I’m glad I achieved the dream. I love the Legal Profession; I love solving legal problems and helping people meet their legal needs.

What’s the key focus of the Legal Business Network (LBN)?
The Legal Business Network (LBN) is an entity set up to address the legal problems entrepreneurs face in their businesses. It aims at enlightening and educating entrepreneurs on the legal aspect of business, helping them build legally protected businesses. LBN also organises conferences and trainings for lawyers on topical issues, equip them with business skills and educate them on how to leverage technology to build a 21st century law business.

Recently, the Legal Business Network organised a conference, which focused on leveraging technology to build a profitable law practice. Issues on law firm management, data protection and privacy by law firms, design thinking in law practice, how technology can be used to improve work process and service delivery in law firms, how specialisation and technology can enhance visibility in law practice, building a career in emerging technology-driven practice were addressed.

We also focus on seminars for startups and entrepreneurs, addressing various subjects on law and business, such as legal issues in online business in Nigeria; how to build a legally protected business; taxation; legal issues in real estate transactions; franchising as a pathway to entrepreneurial success in Nigeria. One of the seminars centered on media and entertainment business and discussed issues bordering on creation, protection and merchandising of entertainment brands and products. Legal issues in digital entertainment and social media; contractual relationship between players in the entertainment industry; the role of lawyers in entertainment contracts were also covered.

How important is the knowledge of law in running a business, especially for entreprenurs?
A lot of entrepreneurs fail in their businesses because they failed to get it right from the start. A lot of businesses fail because they do not pay attention to the legal aspects of their businesses. In my years of law practice, I’ve discovered that a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of putting off all legal issues until they are threatened with a lawsuit. They tend to engage professionals only after a problem has arisen. There is a saying that ‘prevention is better than cure.’ This is quite true. It costs you less to prevent a legal issue from arising than solving it when the issue has arisen.

Are there ways lawyers can help entrepreneurs build legally protected businesses?
The first is in creating a better business setup. A lot of start-ups are confused as to the appropriate corporate structure to use for their business. The decision on how to form your business will influence several aspects of the business, which includes how profits and losses are shared, how the business pays taxes and who runs the business. You need to have a legal expert by your side when you are starting a business so as to ensure that you are taking the right step in your business. Based on your needs, a lawyer can help steer you in the right direction in selecting the legal structure for your business.

Lawyers can help entrepreneurs make better business decisions; business owners usually do not have the time to study provisions of the law relating to their business, so they make legal mistakes. Having business lawyers on retainer helps you make informed business decisions in accordance with the law.

In business transactions, entrepreneurs often enter into negotiations and sometimes do not have clear-cut agreements. In some cases, we find out that there was no valid contract only when the matter goes to court. It is essential to have a Legal Advisor who ensures that these contracts are properly reviewed before you sign them. Other aspects lawyers can help are in transactions with other businesses, dispute resolution, intellectual property protection and others.

What legal advice would you give to a business owner and how accessible and affordable are legal services?
Every business needs a legal advisor; businesses should build relationship with a good lawyer early enough in the life cycle of the investment. Your legal advisor will get to know the intricacies of your business and give legal advice when necessary. In fact, every business should have a budget for legal services. Be wise, seek legal counsel and protect your business from liabilities.

Your expertise as a lawyer has seen you engaged in pro bono services under your NGO. What informed that decision?
Justice Vault Foundation was born out of the burning desire to provide legal services to the less privileged in society. I have been a very active member of the Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos State Branch, and had the opportunity to work as the Assistant Secretary of the Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos branch (2017-2019). We worked diligently in achieving the objectives of the Committee in decongesting the prisons.

When I was serving as a member of the Human Rights Committee, we often visited the various prisons in Lagos State and took briefs of some of the inmates. Whenever we visited the prisons, we interviewed the inmates and we discovered that some of them had no reason to be there; some of them were arrested when the police raided their area. A lot of them were awaiting trial and some have not even been taken to court. When we followed up on some of the cases and entered appearance for them in court, a lot of charges were struck out, as there were no evidences to prove the cases.

My experience sparked the fire in me to set up an organisation that will fight for the protection of human rights, especially for those who do not have anyone to speak for them.

Not many lawyers today will engage in pro bono services, especially with the cost implications. How have you been able to fund your charity?
In Justice Vault Foundation, we are working on collaborating with international organisations and other organisations with similar objectives. With my experience in pro bono services under the Human Rights Committee and also under the National Association of Catholic Lawyers, it is always a difficult task. We spend a lot of time and money in defending such cases, but the joy of rendering service to God and humanity will keep driving us.

What do you enjoy most about law practice?
I focus more on corporate and commercial law practice. I love meeting creative business owners and I help them figure out the big legal picture for their businesses and answer their legal questions. I consult for a lot of business owners and help them build businesses that are legally compliant and avoid liabilities; I love helping people solve their problems. I help entrepreneurs gain clarity about the perfect business organisation for their businesses, structure their businesses, enlighten them about legal aspects of business so that they can avoid losing their businesses and investments for going against the provisions of the law. It gives me joy to take people from the state of confusion to being happy and productive.

What keeps you going in your practice? Do you think there are laws that need to be adjusted, rectified, to serve common purpose?
The joy of solving clients’ problems is a great motivation in my practice; I feel fulfilled when my clients are happy and satisfied. Some of our laws need to be reviewed in order to serve the real purpose for which they were enacted. With particular reference to corporate law, the principal legislation is the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990, which is about 30 years old. The Senate recently passed a Bill for an Act to repeal the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 and enacted the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020. The Bill when signed into law by the President will facilitate the ease of doing business and boost investment in Nigeria.

What challenges have you faced in this profession?
As a Lawyer who works for a lot of startups and entrepreneurs, I often come across startups, who complain about not having sufficient funds to pay for legal services; a lot of them consider legal services as expensive. Some of them do not even have a budget for legal services and they tend to run to a lawyer only when there’s a problem on ground, instead of taking preventive measures. It then becomes difficult to strike a balance between helping startups build legally protected businesses and remaining profitable in law practice.

Regarding gender based violence, what’s your advice to women on seeking justice?
Everybody, including women, have the right to fight for their rights. When women’s rights are infringed upon, they have the right to seek justice. Most of the gender-based violence such as rape, wife battery, domestic violence are criminal offences prohibited by law and offenders are liable to be prosecuted in accordance with the law.

Women should always stand up for their rights. Women have the right to live free from violence, to own property and the rest. These rights are enshrined under the constitution and international documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So, to me, promoting women’s right means fighting for justice.

Ezeh Veronica Ogochukwu is the Chief Psychiatric Matron in Yaba Psychiatric Hospital, Lagos and also the CEO of Adicare Rehabilitation Home. A native of Imo State, she’s proficient in multiple Nigerian languages, as she has lived in different parts of the country. In this Interview with Maria Diamond, she spoke about mental illness; the need to care for mentally ill persons and why depression should be taken seriously.

Where did the drive to help mentally ill persons come from?
As a child, I have always seen people stone the mentally ill persons on the street when they ask for food, and it pricked my heart. That motivated me to see what I could do to help them. So, I decided to study Nursing, and afterwards, I went for my specialty in Psychiatry at the School of Psychiatric Nursing, Aro Abeokuta. I did my Masters In Public Health at the College Of Medicine Ladoke Akintola University Oshogbo, and I graduated in 2016. I have been in Yaba Psychiatric Hospital since 1999.

Back then in the hospital, there used to be a Doctor, who used to pick mentally challenged patients on the street to Psychiatric hospital and I was among the young nurses on the team for the clearing service to pick patients on the street. We went as far as RCCG camp to pick patients and at the end of the day the hospital was able to reunite some of these patients with their families. That encouraged me and over time, I started helping people with mental illness on my own with what I have. I had the advantage of languages, as I was able to relate and communicate in different languages to each patient. Once you speak their language, they pay attention to you. Some of them even attempt to hug me and sometimes it really looks crazy on the street. I give them food and help them clean up if they agree.

I had a child that had infantile cancer, Adikachukwu. We noticed he was running a severe temperature as early as three-months old but we didn’t come to diagnosis until he was 4-year old. When the case became so terminal, we searched for help; Lagos State Government intervened, and we travelled to India for treatment. On our way back on August 30, 2018, the boy died

A week before his death, he requested for a birthday gift as his birthday was approaching. He wanted a big celebration with a lot of people, but he died before his birthday. So, while mourning, I kept thinking what I could do to make his birthday relevant despite his demise, since it was his last wish. The inspiration came to me that celebration could come in different form, even if I channel resources into further helping the mental destitute by building a rehabilitation home for them since my interest lies in helping the mentally challenged. So, I registered the home with his name Adicare. Adicare Rehabilitation Home has advocacy section, social support section, counseling, rehabilitation seminar, health talk etc.

What is the target?
I look forward to seeing a society free of vagrant psychiatric patients. It is a dream; I long for it and hope to see a generation free of mentally ill people wandering the street. I cannot do it alone, but I believe it is possible because Lagos State has a centre and all they need to do is to create more centres. I remember picking a mentally ill patient who had a fracture on his feet on the street and I wanted to offer help and the hospitals denied me help. I took the patients to series of hospitals in Lagos and they denied him treatment.

At a stage I had to quietly leave the patient at the last Government Hospital in Gbagada and I walked away. I put up a petition and at the end of the day, Lagos State took the patient and he is at Majidun Rehabilitation Centre. So, really, if government wants to clear off all the mentally ill patients on the street, it is possible.

How do you think government can go about that?
They should sign a mental health bill because when the head is sick, every other part of the health is also in crisis. Also, there should be firmness on the issues of hard drugs and dealers especially amongst the youth in order to secure a safe future for them.

Are you in collaboration with other organisations on this cause?
I collaborate with the Association of Mentally Challenged persons such as World Mental Health Day, World Suicide Day, The youths, churches, and others in the community. In February 2020, we collaborated with Lagos Ministry of Education to create awareness on the causes and prevention of mental illness with focus on drug abuse. Because we see a lot of people on the street with hard drugs and we need to stop it from cradle before it goes out of hand. We picked age bracket 13-19, which falls in the category of Senior Secondary School.

We were allocated to Education District five, which comprises four Local Councils of Amuwo Odofin, Ojo, Ajeromi Ifelodun and Badagry. We covered all these within one month and we were able to attend to 60 Senior Secondary Schools. In every council, we have a centre where new students are brought in and we talk to them about causes of mental illness, preventions and the dangers of drug abuse. During this period, we were able to identify students who were already doing drugs. We discovered that some of them really didn’t want to do drugs, but got involved due to peer pressure; some due to family background, especially those in Ajeromi Ifelodun local council. Some are willing to quit drugs, but they don’t have the motivation. At the end of the day, most of the students agreed to form a group that fights against drugs but for the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic that has placed everything on hold.

Aside from hard drugs, what are the other causes of mental illness?
There are biological causes, psychological, environmental, genetics, depression, etc.

At what stage can depression lead to severe mental illness?
We have what we call reactive depression and endogenous depression. For reactive, patients react to situational crises, for instance, when you lose a job and you begin to withdraw and feel your life is over. However, with medication, you eventually get over it. Endogenous is just within; you can’t really tell what is causing it. It’s like a hormonal factor you can’t fathom how it came to be. No matter what you do, the person is never happy.

What are the major categories of depression?
There is homicidal, suicidal, manic, psychosis, others. Some have manic-depressive psychosis, which is a dual form of depression. A little to the lower side and the next second the person is up and excessive. It is a disorder associated with mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic high

What do you think is responsible for the increase in depression in recent times?
In this era of coronavirus pandemic, many people have lost their jobs; many can no longer provide adequately for their family due to the downturn in the economy. I recently heard a father come up on national radio that the government should open school because his children are eating up all the food in the house. There are a lot issues, husbands can no longer take up responsibilities in the family, and some women are now going into prostitution just to make extra cash for the family.

What is the treatment procedure for depressed persons?
People should know the signs of depression, which includes being sad unnecessarily. Someone who used to be friendly suddenly becomes a sad person and withdraws from people, they start looking as though the entire burden of the world is on them. They begin to talk about ending their own lives because they don’t have reasons to keep living. So, to save the situation, it is important to see professionals; know what the person is going through before administering medication. In management of depression, medication is not the only solution; it goes hand in hand with psychological care.

What category would you place someone who commits homicide, depressed or mental illness?
The cases differ; most homicide cases are more anger issues than depression or even mental illness. Anger can be very suppressing; you let anger in and destruction kicks in. A man finds out his wife has been cheating on him, he gets extremely angry, loses his cool and control, and just kills her. Sometimes without the intention to kill, but in the moment of anger, he kills her anyway. So, except we really assess such murders we can’t exactly conclude that it’s a case of depression or mental illness.

How would you describe the mental condition of the elderly?
As human grow older, our organs start coming down. And for some, recaps of unfulfilled life events affects them and regret kicks in as they count their accomplishment. A lot of issues like loneliness become overwhelming and they begin to have dementia.

What is the future of the mentally challenged?
When they get better, we try to unite them with their families. But for those whose relatives can’t be tracked, they remain in the hospital and get into one or two occupation within the hospital to make money. They live and grow old in the hospital. We call them ‘alaanu’ patients meaning pity patients.

Do patients who live permanently in the hospital get involved in a marital relationship after treatment?
Yes, after treatment, some of them try to come together to marry, but we strictly discourage such relationships. When we see a male and female getting too close, we find a way to discourage it because there is every possibility that their mental illness is genetic, which can be replicated. So, if they get married, their offspring can inherit the illness.

Do you think we have enough mental health hospitals in Nigeria to meet up with the challenges?
In my years of experience in the psychiatric hospital here, I don’t think we’re doing badly at all. As a matter of fact, people bring back relatives outside the country with mental illness to our hospital here and they are always amazed at the rapidness at which these patients recover. The drug is universal. Aside from the drugs, our specialists in the field go extra miles to ensure that the root of the illness is addressed step by step and they recover. So, as a matter of fact, Nigeria has the universal best practice in the field.

How do you handle high-profile patients who worry about stigmatisation?
The management of mental illness has gone beyond stigmatisation with upgraded medications. Gone are the days when patients take medications and the effect makes them look dull and moron. Today, many high-profile persons are on mental medications and you won’t even know because of the transformation.

How do you source funds?
Presently, I have never been funded by anyone. It is self-funded, because of my passion and interest in the mentally challenged persons. However, I’m hoping that we get support from people, organisations, etc. in the future in order to further prevent mental illness in our society.

While bagging a degree, and getting a job is one of the ways to making money, another way, which is often neglected, is getting a vocational skill, and meeting people’s everyday needs in exchange for money.

Our this week Lynda Omerekpe-Ori is helping people acquire these vocational skills and consequently, monetise them. She’s the founder of Cash Your Passion, a virtual skills acquisition hub (e-learning platform specifically for vocational skills).

Cash Your Passion make skills acquisition and mentoring easily accessible to African youths from any location, helping them create jobs for themselves through skills acquisition, capacity development an mentoring, directly from their mobile phones, or any internet device.

Lynda started her career in banking and then had a stint in the professional services industry in London before going back to banking after she returned to Nigeria, working in customer services and corporate communications (digital and multimedia).

She founded Cash Your Passion while working in the bank after she launched a book with the same title. She then got into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme in 2019, where she received a $5000 as one of the entrepreneurs whose business is solving a problem in Africa.

Lynda is also the Executive Director of Operations at The VolunteerNG, a social enterprise with the vision of bridging the gap in education by ensuring as many kids as possible have access to quality education both within and outside the four corners of a classroom.

Lynda currently works as a Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist in one of The Big Four.

She holds a bachelors degree in Microbiology from Igbinedion University, Okada and a masters degree in International Business & Management from University of Westminster.

In 2020, Lynda won the Top Pitch Performance among 10 finalists in the virtual summit for the Forbes and Global Startup Ecosystem’s first Resilience Digital Startup Accelerator in Nigeria – an intensive 4 weeks of digital training to help build and scale the companies for the future.

We celebrate Lynda for helping fight unemployment and poverty with Cash Your Passion and we’re rooting for her!

One of the most powerful communication tools in the world today is “Media”, from print, electronic to social media. We can’t downplay the role of the Media Industry in anyway. It has always been , and will continue to be the major tool of visibility in the world. Elsie Godwin is using her voice as a media girl to add value and contribute to Nation building.

Elsie Godwin is a Versatile Media Personality – Television Presenter/Producer, Social media Strategist, Influencer, Content Creator/Curator, Voice Over artist and Blogger behind the award-winning Literary, Lifestyle and Relationship blog ELSiEiSY.COM.

She is currently a Lead TV Show Anchor & Programs Producer at PlusTV Africa.  She has interviewed over 150 successful business men and women in Nigeria and Africa. She is passionate about telling stories of and having conversations with successful people in order to help mentor the younger generation.

She hails from Abia state, a graduate of Computer Science from the Lagos State University (LASU) and an alumnus of FATE Foundation. She was one of the inaugural members and the first welfare Officer of the Digital Media Practitioners of Nigeria (DMPN).

Elsie Godwin has won awards for her personality and her Blog. Her online activity is playful, easy going with principles. She is passionate about blogging, content creation and New Media. As an influencer who is a google partner, She currently works with various agencies to help share stories of great personalities and brands. She lends her voice in raising awareness on the fight against Rape, Domestic Violence, Mental Health Issues, struggles of Orphanages, unnecessary stigma and so much more. She share her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this motivating and insightful Interview.

Growing Up

Yes, it sure did. I believe our life’s journey starts from the second we are birthed. Our decisions and trajectory will be influenced by our surroundings and orientation. My outlook on life and how I relate with people is largely influenced by my upbringing and the relationship I had with my mother. She was that woman who defiled societal standards. She was pretty open to me in a way that helped me draw wisdom from her wealth of experience. Also, I would say life has prepared me for today and is constantly shaping me for a tomorrow.

My blogging Inspiration

My personal journey inspired this. I needed to share my story, innocently. I just wanted to be open to an audience  that could learn from me and I from them in return. When this urge to share my ‘heartbreak’ story and my opinions started, I knew nothing about blogging. The blog space at the time drove the conversations on twitter (unlike now) and I wanted to add more to that conversation. I was constantly looking at things from a different angle. I realized that my perspectives weren’t really novel but entertained behind closed doors. I got a lot of – “You cannot talk about this”, either because you are a woman or it just doesn’t sit right on the moral compass of some individuals. I constantly battled the idea of me having to experience something but not having the right to talk about it. From my emotions, to interactions’ with people, my expectations, my dreams and even natural occurrences. There were just too many “can’t say” flying around and I wasn’t ready to conform. So I created my space to offload. This space has however, continued evolving as I do as a person and mirrors areas I am particularly interested in. More of Relationship, General Lifestyle and Opinions.

The Journey so far

Its been rewarding. Starting the blog was all the exposure and push I needed. Regardless of how many people do not fully understand the concept and many layers of blogging, I always tell people I was a blogger first, before radio, television, production, influencer marketing and whatnot. Blogging has helped me learn better than education in Nigeria has helped me. I am aware of the choices that are available to me and the right to making those choices or not. Above all, actively knowing that you own a space on the world wide web that can help shape the life of another is a rewarding responsibility that I do not take for granted.

Being a TV  anchor, producer and influencer, and managing it all

Its time consuming but amazing. It is easy for me because I have identified how all that I do connect with my passion. I love helping people foster beautiful relationships and making better decisions through conversations. Know your right, know the facts and choose your poison. And all I do, in one way or the other, help me achieve my passion, albeit in a much broader sense.

My Work at  Plus TV Africa

At surface level I am a television anchor. I am the Lead Anchor/Producer for Tea Time  -a lifestyle and entertainment news analysis program and the anchor and producer for One on One – a show that features no-holds-barred conversation with notable men and woman in Africa. But beyond the surface, I am actively involved in production and programming at Plus TV Africa. From programs ideation, to ensuring quality conversation and standard control. I am part of the programs review committee and we work closely with the Managing Director, Mr. Kayode Akintemi, to ensure that the vision of Plus TV Africa of being objective, fair and balanced is achieved. Producing is a lot of work and its never about you as a person. It is always about the content. You have to be selfless to be an amazing producer and that’s a journey on its own.

The  society and appreciation of  social media influencers 

I think the term ‘social media influencers’ has been watered down in Nigeria. Personally, I loved the idea of what influencers use to be. Influencers never use to set out to become influencers. They just lived their lives and with time you begin to see the impact of their lifestyle and their communication style. But I guess everything evolves and we have to as well. People now deliberately want to be influencers and it makes me wonder what the quality of their influence is. Are you only interested in numbers, thereby being a channel to disseminate information or is your thought process and lifestyle worth emulating and shaping the narrative? I cannot focus on what the society think of influencers without the so called influencers answering the above question for themselves.

Challenges of being a Social Entrepreneur

Attention span for good content keeps reducing daily and its worrisome. Take for example, Big brother Naija reality TV show – I love the show, it is great content and I think its an empowering platform as well. However, compare the attention society gives to platforms like BBNaija and other reality TV shows that can be argued to be more rewarding based on impact on SMEs, employment and the country’s GDP, It’s a far cry. Don’t get me wrong, big brother naija is not Nigeria’s problem and also not the cause of our low attention span but we can be better. And frankly speaking, this is not solely about the youths, its about everybody, old and young. The amount of sponsors a show like The Next Titan can boast of, even in the corporate world, cannot be compared to that of BBNaija and of course, the key decision makers in those organizations cannot be categorized as too youthful. I truly wish we would pay more attention to quality contents and have better conversations.

 Women who inspire you to be better and why

I could mention Ava Duverney, Oprah Winfrey, Maupe Ogun, Tope Oshin,…the list is endless for me. These women have got one thing in common, they are using their platforms and influence to change the narrative. They understand they influence they wield and they are dangerously using it. But then, the everyday woman inspires me, women I have encountered and worked with, Kelechi Okoro of the healthertainer brand, Dr. Iyewande Dada of Mentally Aware Nigeria, Fausiat Balogun of DEVCOMS, Tosin Ajibade of Olorisupergal, Esther Ijewere, Jane Egerton Idehen, Ized Uanikhehi, Sally Kenneth Dadzie, women in my circle and so much more

Every woman is worth more than Ruby, but what makes you a woman of rubies and more

I guess responding to your questions makes me one. LOL. But yea, I personalize everything to make sense of life. So for me, I am a woman of rubies because I am still here, I am a survivor, a warrior, a queen among queens, and I am consciously living a life of impact. I am a woman who supports people. Having interviewed about 200 successful individual in the space of 16months, I am helping tell the stories of success in Africa. I am being the voice of the people and I am helping change narratives and mold opinions for better decisions. I am Elsie Godwin and I am leaving my mark.

What advice would you give a young woman who wants to be a social media influencer

Find purpose and live it while documenting your journey on social media.

A lot of negativity has been linked to Twitter in recent times, as a social media influencer, how do you think we can correct this ?

What do we pay attention to? A lot of positivity is also going on as well on twitter. Our media platforms can help amplify positivity. We just need to stop paying attention to irrelevant sources.

There is a popular saying that the easiest way to a man’s heart is through food; a well prepared meal could make an African man give you a blank cheque some say (Lol).

While cooking shouldn’t define the worth of a woman, It is always an addition when a woman knows her way in the kitchen, Abimbola Oki is helping many women , not only navigate cooking tasty meals, but educating them on how to turn their passion to business.

The founder of  D’Potters Catering Services  which started in 2014, is one of the most sought after caterers in Nigeria at the moment, catering for several top events, and using social media to also showcase the beauty of cooking.

Abimbola Oki decided to turn her passion into a corporate business  by aiming to provide healthy and delicious meals for busy people, thus satisfy their cravings at affordable prices with poise for prompt delivery . Her mission is to provide amazing food experience for everyone irrespective of their status, tribe, pocket and taste

The caterer whose passion started from supporting family members during festivities, share her Inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive interview.

Childhood Influence

 My mum used to sell bread even though I wasn’t involved as per last born child. My sister had a restaurant back then too and I helped to run it. I never thought of running a food business then, but I was able to learn one or two things from that experience.

Inspiration behind D’potters catering

I love hosting people in my house especially during festive seasons. I noticed my guests enjoyed my cooking a lot so much that they give me money. I was still job hunting as at 2013. My husband and I had a discussion about starting a food business and that was how I started fully in 2014.

The journey been so far

Oh it’s been bitter and sweet with so many challenges but absolutely worth it. God’s grace has brought us this far and everything is going just as I wanted it.

 D’potters catering Academy and It’s Impact

Alot of people know how to cook but they don’t know about the food business. I started D’potters Catering School to educate women not just about learning how to cook but also learning about the business aspect. It has been an amazing journey so far. The first set of students graduated last month and some of them already started their businesses and doing well.

Educational background, and your aspiration as a woman

I attended Lagos Anglican Girls Secondary School and graduated from University of Lagos with a BSc in Estate management. My aspiration as a woman is to see my fellow women doing well for themselves.

Challenges of being a food vendor

Trust-Getting customers to trust me, because we usually do payment before delivery. We have been able to build their trust.

Delivery- Getting a trusted delivery company to deliver food on time. There are many cases of food getting sour by the time clients gets it. We have been able get our personal bikes.

Staffing

Nuggets on how to be a sought after food vendor.

 We have been consistent with our principles which is to give customers value for their money

We treat our customers fairly and we don’t hesitate to apologize when things go wrong

We try to exceed their expectations ,this makes them happy to refer us to their friends and families

You helped so many families during the pandemic by providing them with food, what inspired you to do this?

I always love to put smiles on people’s faces whether I know them or not. I have been through the very hard times too so I understand their situation, this is my inspiration.

Do you think the food industry is favourable enough to entrepreneurs

Yes the food industry is favorable to entrepreneurs because many Nigerians are now looking for different ways to ease their stress. Nobody wants to get home from work by 8pm after a bad traffic and start cooking. They prefer to buy food.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I have been able to teach other women how to start their businesses (not necessarily food) and also sell on social media platforms.

Folasayo Adefemi is the  founder of feminitease.com, a multivendor online marketplace for women products and services (SHEmarketplace). Fola as she is fondly called is  very passionate about women and I believe she is called to see women progress and do well in life.

She derives joy from bringing women together and see them achieve their life goals.

Being a single mum of 2, her  passion led to the birth of The sMothers Tribe, a support community for single mums. It is this same passion that has fueled this , “feminitease”,  dream with the primary aim of promoting women business and making online shopping a seamless experience for women.

She shares her inspiring story, the inspiration behind Feminitease.com with Esther Ijewere

Childhood Influence

My childhood played a major role in the woman I am today. I was raised by a single mum and so when my marriage failed and I became a single mum myself, I knew I had to stand out. I had to own up to the status without shame or a call for pity. I consider being a single mum my super power and this is where I find strength to not conform to any societal mentality of who or what single mothers represent.

Inspiration behind Feminitease

I have a desire to see women succeed, to have an easier life than what is readily available in our immediate society. Feminitease represents trading and shopping with ease for women. Women like to own their own corner, we like platforms that brings us together. Research shows that women with a group of other strong women are more likely to succeed. This is the core of the Feminitease vision, to see women succeed in their life and business.

The Journey so far

So far, we are getting a lot of positive feedback and acceptance. We are positive that Feminitease is a need in our time.

 Feminitease helping  user and buyer experience

The platform is available to all, it is free to users, though there are packages for vendors who would like us to promote their products specially for exposure and sales. There are several categories on site and we are creating more categories as the need arise. Buyers will be exposed to variety, they will be spoilt for choice under one platform rather going from one ecommerce site to another. Feminitease is making sure to bring vendors that will cover a woman’s every need. Another good thing is that business relationships will be formed as buyers and seller meet.
We have also created a vendors forum to maintain interactions with our vendors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2764641203747619/?ref=share

My platform for Single Moms
The sMothers tribe, this platform is the magic place for single mums. I started it 3 years ago and I can proudly say that I and many other single mums are better today because of the tribe.
The sMothers tribe was born out of a need for support and fellowship among single mums. There’s nothing as soothing as knowing that your struggles are not peculiar to you, and learning to overcome through the experiences of people who have been through similar struggles and won. We are a close knit community, we grew from strangers to friends until we became sisters. (Sister’s sister 🌻)

Society’s reception to single moms
Not enough but way better than it used to be years ago. At least I remember how difficult growing up as a child of a single mother was for me, the stigma both on mother and child. Society is coming around to accept that life and parenting is not a one way street, there are lots of diversions and intersections along they way. If life happens to you, you make the best out of the experience and ‘happen to life’ too. Motherhood is a blessing no matter the circumstances. Women are coming to terms with their powers are pushing back at society. Soon it would not matter anymore if you are a single mum or not, what would matter would be the impact and difference we made with our lives.

Challenges of being a Social Entrepreneur

They are quite some challenges but standing out among them is getting the right audience and resources required for visibility and growth.

Feminitease in 5 years

Our vision is that Feminitease will be a major tool for growth and development for women in Nigeria and beyond.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I will say I stand out in many ways. I consider myself a unique woman and there’s only one of me. My strength, my resilience, my shamelessness and my pride. My loving heart and my untamed mind.

How to advertise  feminsitease

Feminitease.com is a multivendor website for women products and services. Sign up and advertise your business for FREE to millions of customers.

Promote your business for FREE just by registering on www.feminitease.com

Confirm your registration in your email and start uploading your products. Shikenan!

Please make sure to use your WhatsApp Business Api (link). This is how potential customers will contact you. The platform is completely FREE till September 30th. We will start taking orders for promoted ads from October 1st. I will encourage you to maximize the opportunity.

There is no limit to number of products you can post. Details and descriptions are very key to making sales.

We will create new categories as the need arise, just let us know if your product categories are not listed.There’s a category for services as well.

Our promise is a PHENOMENAL EXPERIENCE!

One of the most marginalized and overlooked set of people in the world are persons living with disability, they usually have to advocate for their rights at different sectors. The world is not complete without us including them into our plans, policies, advocacy and projects. Taibat is one of those fighting for the inclusion of people living with disability.
Queen Fasakin Taibat  Janet ( Nee Mohammed) is the CEO of Ability Plus Initiative. She was the former Beauty Queen ( Miss Philanthropy  Central Africa). She is the the first Miss Deaf Nigeria. Queen Janny, as she is fondly referred to by her fans, went to Irepondun Nursery and Primary School and Ahmadiyya Grammer School, both in Ogbagi Akoko, Ondo stste, for her primary and secondary education respectively.
Queen Janny later proceeded to Federal College of Education (Special ), Oyo to study Computer Science Education/Education of learners with hearing impairment. Upon the completion of her NCE  programme,  she got an admission to University of Ilorin,  Kwara state to read Educational Media and Technology.
She is a leader of repute in many associations and organizations that she had either founded. She has also made numerous outstanding contributions to those she had joined. She is a Women Leader in Abuja Association of the Deaf and Treasurer for South West Association of the Deaf.
Queen Janny is the coordinator of the renown Most Beautiful Deaf Girl in Nigeria (MBDGN). She is also the initiator of the popular Ability Plus TV programme on NTA. An Honourable Member of Nigeria  Disability People Parliament, Queen Janny achieved her dream of working with NTA a couple of years back. She currently works with NTA Headquarters on Disability issues.
With her position as a NTA ,  she has produced many educational news on the national television and on Startime called Ability Plus Focus, where challenges faced by Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria are addressed.
Janet is the Coordinator of Miss Deaf Nigeria and she has been doing extremely well. She organised the first ever Miss Deaf Nigeria pageant.
As the CEO of Ability Plus Initiative and Abuja Association of the Deaf Women Leader, she has done a lot to coach, train and admonish Deaf women in many issues pertaining to their development and survival. She also host an Online Programme on Rape for Deaf community to be aware of happenings around them
She shares her inspiring story with Women of Rubies in this Interview

Growing Up

Like any other child, who dreamt of a beautiful future and live for each day to bring goodness, I had the same. But little did I know that life  will offer me another dimension and another world that I entirely don’t have any idea of. Growing up was good and beautiful, at an early age, I had been leading in my class as the class captain and each term I always was first in class. Until one fateful day, when I woke up and couldn’t even stand, my body was hotter than fire, initially, my sister thought I was faking it until it got so serious. When my mother arrived from market, she had to rush me to hospital where I was admitted and from my minor illness a lot of money was spent, properties were lost. The fact is that my mother could go to any length to lose everything but not her child, so she was so determined to make me recover at any cost. After many attempts to get better and no improvement they had to seek a natural healer, Although, I was getting better, but not very well as I  managed to eat little and sit at the same time.

I woke up one day, and felt that the rain that has been raining for the past three days has to stop as the noise was disturbing my ears, so I asked my mother why the rain has refused to stop for the past three days. My mother was taken aback, she asked which rain was I talking about, and I responded by making the rain’s noise “Ruu Ruu Ruu.” My mother replied, “No rain, nothing like rain at all.” She opened the curtain for me to take a peep outside, lo and behold, it was sunny. Then I realized my life had taken another dimension, I couldn’t hear anything again except the vibrating noise in my head. With every day passing in my life, it has become something I have to ignore in my brain, although it was never easy. That’s how my Journey in the deaf world began. My life changed, my dreams collapsed, and I had to adapt to deafness. It was a battle I fought and was determined to win. Deafness came and decided to rob me of a life full of joy and happiness I had planned for myself, but glory be to God that I have supportive sisters and a mother who stood with me to motivate me and give me a reason to live irrespective of my disability. And today as I have grown up to be the lady I aspired to be I know it’s all God’s will for me. Where there is a will, there is a way. I found my way to what prepared me to this today. I am deaf, beautiful, classy, bold, and I’m succeeding, although I have not achieved my desired goals, but I am on the right track. To God be the glory.

Inspiration behind  Ability Plus Initiative

After I became deaf, I couldn’t relate well with my peer group, I was shunned, ignored and packed to a corner like a pack of cards. The Intelligent class captain Janet is now a deaf; a nonentity that no one wants to get close to, I was despised, and it hurt.

However, I was determined to live my life to the fullest and I didn’t allow the negative mindset of what the society said about me to distract me from achieving my goal. This neglect and exclusion from the people and society who should have given me a sense of belonging pushed me to want to do something to push for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society. There were times I would be watching TV drama and I see family and friends laughing hysterically and I would ask in my desperate attempt to understand what was  happening, they would tell me “it’s nothing, don’t worry, it’s not important.” It was so painful, I also wanted to laugh and understand, but I was deprived of this right to information. Sad. Then as I kept living and building myself, I came to understood that not even the larger community take any cognizance to understand our needs, especially the deaf community that depends largely on a sign language interpreter. It was at my service year in NYSC at the Ministry of Information and Culture that I started educating a few people in my office on sign language and the need to strengthen the sign language advocacy for the deaf at the Press Centre where I made CD in sign language and sign language T-shirts for free, and give it out to staff at the Press Centre.This helped me to get recommendations at NTA to start teaching sign language on NTA.

Prior to this, I wanted to be the Voice for the Deaf and an advocate for Persons With Disabilities on Information Access and Entertainment for Persons with Disabilities. Then I  initiated Ability Plus Initiative.

About Ability Plus Initiative: The world today has witnessed tremendous changes and these changes have their own influence upon humans which includes Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). Many a times, Persons With Disabilities stand a greater risk of falling  prey to the menace these changes cause. In Ability Plus Initiative, we recognize these problems and are powered by the drive to build a society where Persons With Disabilities have quality access to basic necessities that will help build their world and fit into the society. With a solid team of like minds, we work systematically using our core value tools as a solid strategy for achieving set goals. We are motivated by our belief that everyone has a right to the best possible way of life regardless of their disability. We work to become a catalyst for transformation and growth for PWDs through our various outlined programs and projects. We believe that PWDs should be recognized and celebrated. Warren Schmidt once said that “the land of opportunity is an attitude. It is opened to new ideas; a willingness to learn; an eagerness to listen; a desire to grow; and the flexibility to change.” I want you all reading this to Join us as we help PWDs to experience the true essence of this life.

Our Vision: Bridging the gap of inequality and discrimination against Persons With Disabilities.

Our Mission: To build an unending relationship with the society in manners that take into cognizance the abilities of PWDs through our core values.

Our Goal and Objectives: PWDs making positive impacts wherever they go; and the society identifying with these impacts for equal growth drive in our society. We are open for partnerships. Welcome to API world.

How has the journey been since you started?

I must say, it has not been easy. The journey started three years ago, and we have been pushing and trying to ensure we get reliable partners and sponsors, but I tell you it was a big hurdle to overcome. This is because somehow the Voice of the Deaf cannot be heard like her other hearing counterparts, thereby making it so hard for me. A light support I got is to organize program for Persons With Disabilities, mentor them and give them a short time support. Our long term and sustainable support has not so far been met because of lack of partners and sponsors to come forward to help us make this great idea of mine a reality so we can join hand together and say, “Yes, we did this for Persons With Disabilities.”

Our Services includes but are not limited to:

  1. Promote ethics and value orientation for PWDs through community relations and various media platforms.
  2. Persons with Disabilities Citizens’ Rights Advocacy
  3. Grassroots Reorientation.
  4. Provide enhancement projects and empowerment opportunities for PWDs.
  5. Promote and support the recognition of PWDs bravery, socioeconomic participations, and innovative ideas.
  6. Organize programs, seminars, workshops, trainings and events that reflect on our seven spheres of focus.
  7. Co-operate and partner with other organizations and individuals within and outside Nigeria with the intent to encourage generational change and support the wholesome beauty embodied in PWDs.

Our intended projects include:

  1. The Ability Award
  2. Ability Studio
  3. Ability Entrepreneurship Hub.

Granted we get partners and sponsorship for one or two of these projects, it will not only change the lives of PWDs, it will beautify their lives as it’s a lifetime project that provide job opportunities and teach them skills. Reaching this milestone of idea has not been easy, but one day, with the support of you and I, we will look back and praise God.

You are the first Miss Deaf Nigeria, tell us about that phase of your journey?

Seven years ago, I saw Miss Deaf World on Facebook, I also saw Miss Deaf International, and I got inspired by what I saw, so I reached out to one of my mentors who told me there was an established Most Beautiful Deaf Girl in Nigeria on ground where I can easily showcase the beauty and culture of deaf women in Nigeria. It was not strong back then as it was still in its embryonic stage. So I got in touch with the initiator of the organization and we got along well.  In 2016, since there was no fund to organize Miss Deaf Nigeria, I was then selected to represent Miss Deaf World in Czech Republic, 2016. Despite all of our efforts, we didn’t get any sponsor. The dream just died like that, but I knew within me; one day, my dream will come to reality. In effort to pursue my dream, as I love fashion and modelling, in 2017, I applied to contest on the platform of Miss Philanthropy Africa Initiative, the first ever beauty pageant that didn’t discriminate against PWDs. I was enrolled, taught and groomed on that platform, and I contested with 8 other hearing contestants. Lo and behold, my performance, although deaf, won the heart of many and I won and was crowned  Miss Philanthropy Central Africa 2017/2018 Region. There and then, my focus and project was to help the less privileged and persons with disabilities. I also wanted to focus by using my title as an advantage to raise money for Most Beautiful Deaf Girl in Nigeria. I was given a go ahead and the CEO of Most Beautiful Deaf Girl in Nigeria almost lost interest as she had wasted a lot of money on fruitless efforts to build the platform. So she gave me the full authority, and presented all official duties and files to me and in 2018 I become Coordinator for Most Beautiful Deaf Girl in Nigeria.

You are also the Coordinator of MBDGN, what inspired you to kick off the initiative?

Like I mentioned earlier, the desire to be a voice to the voiceless runs in me, I aspired to be a queen and a model. There have been a number of pageantry spread all over the place, the first question one should ask is how many of these pageants are tolling the path of humanity? Another known fact is the inability of a Deaf girl to participate in these numerous pageant no matter how beautiful and intelligent. Even though among these deaf people are ladies and men of intellect and extreme beauty, a fact that the developed countries has capitalized on to promote specialized Deaf Pageants. It’s interesting to know that Deaf Pageant have been going on in the world for close to three decades now without Nigeria’s participation, a development that can no longer be allowed to continue. It is on this note that I have decided to take the bull by the horn; along with MBDGN team to organize the first ever Miss & Mr. Deaf Nigeria Pageant as our first step of preparation towards participating in Miss Deaf Word in Czech Republic, and Miss Deaf International. In November 2019, we were able to organize the first ever Miss Deaf Nigeria on the platform of Most Beautiful Deaf Girl in Nigeria Initiative, and Miss Maria Okese of River State emerged Winner of Miss Deaf Nigeria. We plan to attend Miss Deaf World in Czech Republic in 2021, and hopefully we will get good sponsors to be able to attend and also find partners to host Miss Deaf Nigeria 2021. We hope and believe this will open many people’s eyes to the fact that not even our disabilities can gun us down. We are able, we are beautiful and in our imperfections, we are talented and passionate just like everyone else.

Do you think the society is well informed on how to treat people living with disability, especially deaf people?

I don’t even know what to say, but honestly speaking, we Persons With Disabilities have really tried on part of advocacy and information. For good 16years we have been advocating for the Passage of Disability Bill to be passed into law, and fortunately for us, President Buhari signed the Bill into law in 2019. It’s a whole lot of freedom for us, but sadly with the passage of the law in full force, things are still the same, implementation has not fully taken effect. Nigeria has not fully grabbed this law to better our lives, a lot are still lagging behind, many workplaces like banks, hospitals, and firms are still making the physically challenged —wheelchair users— suffer, many places are not accessible; including hospitals.

For us, it’s worse, many TV and radio house are deaf to our cry to make information accessible by having sign language interpreter on their screen and or make use of Captioning. Only NTA, where I work, is the only Inclusive TV station in Nigeria. The blind are also not left behind in this hard hit, so who do we blame? It’s the society that doesn’t want to listen to us. In conclusion the society is well informed but has decide not to take action, maybe when we start dragging them to court for violating our rights, they will start to do the right things.

What are some of the challenges you experience as a disability advocate?

I’m  losing count of those challenges. The most pressing ones include:

  1. Discrimination arising from or during communication.
  2. Societal segregation: It is assumed that we have no ability to do things, let alone to do better or even contribute to national development. Note that there are deaf lawyers, deaf doctors, and deaf professors amongst us. I’m not the most successful deaf person; there are a lot of us but because we can’t speak, the society decided to shut the only voice we have —our abilities. They don’t believe in us. The society needs to stop looking down on us. I was first human before I turned deaf. So, let us love and value everyone, irrespective of their disability, because no one knows what tomorrow holds.
  3. Marginalization: Sometimes I was treated with disdain. I was ignored and shunned as soon as people knew I am deaf. For instance, I attempted several times to participate in beauty pageants but was rejected time and time again when they knew I am deaf.

Everyone loves me, says I’m beautiful and even clap for me. But once I make a sign that I am deaf all that they have acknowledged vanishes and gets replaced with sympathy and marginalization. Should I start pretending to hide my disability and pretend to be who I am not? That’s not me! This is why I work tirelessly to ensure that the Miss and Mr Deaf Nigeria pageant became a reality to show who we are, what we are capable of and to appreciate ourselves. Sometimes, you have to sing and listen to your own song before others will. I Believe in myself; that’s what matters to me as an advocate and I am positive that one day all I aspire to be shall come be realized because God has my back.

Mention 3 women who inspire you to be better and why?

  1. My dear mother: Mrs Anike Olajumoke Saka My Day 1 supporter. She inspired me to work hard, she instilled in me to wear my scar with pride, she was never ashamed of me being her deaf daughter. She was so proud of me and always protect me, she is a praying mother. When I forget to pray, she was my guardian angel, whom God has sent behind and in front of me to shield me from evil. She is the Jesus on earth for me. The love of a mother is so priceless. Because of this woman, I am still standing on my two legs working hard to ensure she eats the fruits of her labour on me. My Mother. My Pride. I love her so much. ki iku mase pa aalaanu mi. (Amin).
  2. My three sisters: The aro meta lehin mi.(The three stars behind me). They are ferocious, fierce but loving sisters, they inspired me to work as a team. I learnt from them that teams fight, but, find grounds to resolve it. They are my push, the beating of my life I get from them (LOL). This inspired me to be so strong and pursue the path that will send me on a journey to have self-control. Their much nagging made me run and hide and do things independently, today I get my inspiration from them to be me, and never allow anyone or anything stop me from grabbing my dream. They made me realized I should stand for my rights anywhere any place. To the best sister ever who joined hands to make my wedding the talk of town; wherever you may be: Thank you Aunty Silifat Apalowo, Aunty Kuburat Omolola and Aunty Fausat Akintomide. I love you!
  3. Hajia Hamza Jamilah: She is my mentor, my number one push in Disability advocacy. A woman with a good Heart, soft spoken and so understanding. But if I made a mistake, she will ensure I realize it, she does not pretend, she is so real. For all you do, for me, for the Deaf community, I say thank you. She was the success behind Miss Deaf Nigeria, with her networks and recommendations, we got support. May you keep being light to lighten people’s darkness and may your light never go dim. I love you mentor.

Being a woman of Rubies

I have passed through a lot in life and I’ve learnt that the only way to stay down is to look down on oneself, lack belief and confidence and to be narrow-minded. So for me, I have established a higher purpose —to live to help others, look beyond myself and challenges and focus on the opportunities I can create for others. I consider my abilities are strong enough to a point that I believe deafness is an ability. What if I wasn’t deaf?

These qualities made me extraordinary, a woman of rubies and more; a woman who against all odds is making impact and changing the narrative. The best of me is yet to come!

In view of the pandemic, could you share some nuggets on safety measures for persons with disability

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a severe risk to the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities. Here are some tips for my fellow PWDs to take:

  1. Wash your hand with soap and water regularly.
  2. Use your face mask as much as possible when in public.
  3. Maintain a distance of about 6ft.
  4. Cover your mouth in case you want to cough, use disposable toiletries.
  5. For the blind and mobility aids, it’s advisable to use hand gloves.
  6. Chew Vitamin C.

Alot of people are not well informed about “Deafness”, please shed some light on how to support such persons, and how to spot one.

Deafness is an hidden disability, and we are the most marginalized group ever, because people do not see our disability, but the sound in our head is what we have to cope with daily and you all cannot understand. It’s not easy I tell you. Sometimes, people will want to call us, then they throw stones at us, it’s very wrong and unacceptable. Meet us and call us or send someone to call us if we are far from you. Throwing an object at us is bad. Also it’s a bad idea to tell you that I’m deaf and you start raising eyebrow and say “Sorry.” Sorry for what? I am not an object of sympathy. There is no need to pity me, I am OK. The best way to support and interact with us is to learn our sign language, even if it’s just A to Z, or simply using the shape of a heart to say ‘I love you’. Please, do that so you can make them smile. We will feel appreciated and have a sense of belonging. Alternatively, writing will ensure proper information is passed across. Also try and believe in Deaf People, they are intelligent and can do many things except hearing.

We have people that can hear that are beggars. That has not made all the “hearing world” beggars, same goes to the Deaf. Some deaf people are beggars, but majority of us are well to do and hardworking. So believe in us, support our initiative and be a part of the voice to the voiceless. We need each other. God bless you!

We can never undermine the power and influence of life coaches in the society, they help us navigate through life, and put us in a state of mindfullness.  Nike Folagbade is a Family life coach of high repute, she has not only succeeded in her field as a Family life coach, but also determined to help singles find the right partner.

Nike Adedokun Folagbade helps men and women experience emotional healing and personal transformation thereby being able to build healthy relationships. She is a Personal Transformational and Family life coach. A vivid encourager, equipper and nurturer who leads the coaching/consultation services at NIKE FOLAGBADE INTERNATIONAL.

She is a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and a Results Coach. She is also an associate of Family Systems Engineering and an Emotional intelligence/Anger management coach. A SYMBIS facilitator who helps engaged and married couples prepare or manage their marriage well.

Nike was listed among the 2019 100 most inspiring young people in Nigerian. In 2015, she was recognized as the best sexuality advocate and in 2014; she won the third relationship blog in Nigeria.

She is also the Lead Creative director of Hevar Solutions, a business support company for entrepreneurs, personal brands and professionals and the Human Resource Manager at WORITAL, a fast growing book branding and publishing firm.

In 2016 to 2018, she convened EVOLVE SUMMIT, a conference targeted at helping men and women experience healing from emotional trauma and sexual addictions and also discovering the path to purpose. In 2020, she began the HEAL, LIVE AND LOVE SUMMIT targeted at helping men and women experience true healing, their full identity, purpose and building healthy relationships.

She has authored several books, audio tracks and video courses, and featured on several media platforms.

Nike is  currently a relationship contributor on Bella Naija, Punch, Business Day News, Women of Rubies and She Leads Africa. Nike is married to a creative genius, Fola and they both nurture their charming son, KING.

You may also visit her website www.nikefolagbade.com to read more of her soul-healing articles. Her Facebook community also houses many articles and resources with almost 6,000 members.

She shares her inspiring story in this interview with Esther Ijewere

Growing up

I once heard a speaker say that our lives can be segmented into different phases, like 0-10 years representing a time of discovery and age 10-20 representing a time of practice. From the age of 7, I started having a strong interest in love related matters. I enjoyed reading romantic novels, magazines, movies and columns in the newspaper. Oprah Winfrey Show was also a great influence as I envisioned myself hosting a talk show like that someday.I began to write articles in my notebooks till I got busy with school life and daily realities. As at then, I never saw my interests as a big deal, I just felt I would go to school, get a job and build a successful career in Accounting.

While in the university, I felt a strong urge to help people via writing and speaking especially in the area of love and dating. Prior to then, I got bored of the school-church-home cycle. I wanted more out of life so I started to meditate alone. I started to seek and dig within me. I decided to try out new things but it didn’t work out until I saw an inspirational seminar in school which I had to pay for. They invited over 10 motivational speakers, business owners and celebrities to speak on discovering oneself. I was the only one who paid for it amongst my friends. I felt bored at first but at the end of the event, I realized that God had just used one of the speakers to spark up the desire in me to help people. It felt surreal. It felt like a rush of grace as I stepped out and began to truly help people. I started blogging, speaking in my church and discovering more of my skills. I was able to use WordPress, BBM, Facebook and Twitter to reach thousands of people in 2013.

One of the ways that my childhood helped to build compassion in me is that, at a young age, I didn’t know how to process corrections. I always took every misfortune, pain, sickness, failure and criticism as rejection from my parent, God and anyone around me, so I began to seek for love and validation externally. This spurred me into dating for the wrong reasons until I was able to truly discover myself. Now, when I’m helping people, I can see through the lens of their past and how it forms their decision now. It’s been 6 years since I started and I’m so happy to have helped thousands of people to discover themselves, heal from past hurts, choose better relationships, make better marital decisions and grow spiritually.

Inspiration behind  Nike Folagbade International

I started blogging in 2013 as a personal hobby but after helping thousands of people and getting certified in Emotional intelligence, Anger management, Family Systems Engineering, Master Neuro-Linguistics Programming, SYMBIS and other coaching skills, I decided to intentionally build a business and not just a hobby hence I registered Nike Folagbade International to anchor my personal brand. Now, we are focused on helping singles and married via coaching, therapy, counseling, mentorship, speaking, blogging, podcasting, authoring books and other medium.

My vision is to build an institution that will cater for families generally which will include working with singles, married couples and helping with intentional parenting. This also means that we will partner with other coaches and experts in different fields to achieve this. We also want to build an online and offline academy that can train people to prepare for a healthy relationship and marriage. Under the sustainable development goals created by the United Nations, we intend to build stronger institutions and promote well- being because if we can have whole and healthy individuals who are mentally, spiritually and emotionally stable, we can have better marriages and children.

The Journey so far

Wow! I have been schooled in the process. There are many challenges and achievements in the process.

Challenges in the areas of:

  1. Persuading young people to invest in their emotional and mental health beyond acquiring business skills because money isn’t all that is needed in a marriage. Many marriages are suffering because of the individual’s ability to make emotional choices that can positively help them live better. We rely so much on emotions but when frustration sets in, emotions fades and people begin to make rash decisions. We also have to clearly help singles know that beyond praying, they also need to learn the right skills like communication, love languages, self- control and build strong values too.
  2. I have had to experience refining processes as we grow as a business. I have had to also experience transformation in my life so I teach from a place of experience and research. I don’t just teach Googled content, I’m an embodiment of what I teach and that means I’ve had my testing moments also.
  3. Getting financial support hasn’t been easy because brands like to partner more with businesses that are focused on teaching business, finance and related industry. We need more support from the government, private institutions and churches to reach more young people. People are going into drugs, prostitution, extra-marital affairs, and fraudulent lifestyle because they don’t have a proper model from home, or have experienced father or mother wounds, need clarity on their Identity and need to also heal from the baggage they currently carry. We can reach more people if we have the funds and support needed. Collaboration is key.

There have been achievements in the area of being recognized by different platforms for awards and speaking engagements. I was recently recognized as one of the 100 most inspiring young Nigerians ranking 24th in 2019 by Avance Media. It puts smile on my face when I see people become transformed in their minds, health and relationships. Seeing my books in the hands of people also encourages me to write more. There is so much work to be done on the African continent too. There is also the financial reward from helping people too, winks.

Helping engaged and married couples manage their home, with my SYMBIS knowledge 

Save Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS) tool is a pre-marital coaching platform that trains coaches and counselors on how to work with engaged couples on how to adequately prepare for marriage in all ramifications. It also works for the married people who want to relearn what it takes to make their marriages work and be renewed.

The beauty of the platform is that, individuals can log into their personal dashboard to fill the assessment and will be guided by me when they are done. Each person discovers their beliefs in the areas of personality, money, marriage, sex, religion, house chores, health and other vital issues that show up in marriage. It makes my work easier because I simply guide them to fill their assessment which takes about 30 minutes at a go then I give a comprehensive explanation and coaching of how to handle each phases of their lives in marriage. It leads to mind blowing discovery about how they view marriage generally.

I also use Family Systems Engineering skills and assessments to help the married people too.

Launching the Love and Life Hub platform, and helping singles with it

Love and Life Hub is a love and dating platform that is focused on enlightening and connecting singles for the aim of a healthier self and relationship. We have deliberately organized all that it takes for you to discover yourself, learn about dating intelligently, connect with other singles via active interaction, position yourself for an ideal partner and find the right support and guidance needed while dating. It is a combination of courses, coaching, mentoring, connection, webinars, fun, book reviews, resources and support for an active dating life.

You don’t have to take random courses to upgrade yourself, you can easily learn on love and relationships based on where you are in life and your love cycle, which is why we have created an assessment to show you where you are. We want to simplify the dating process for singles by taking them through 5 stages focused on healing, purpose, attracting a partner, sustaining a relationship and gliding into marriage successfully. We will be using a website, virtual coaching hubs and other system in place for every 90 days for each batch plus we have support coaches who will help with mentoring. The platform launches from August 17th, 2020 and every single man or woman from any tribe or religion can join us at www.loveandlifehub.com

3 women who inspire you to be better and why?

There are many women who inspire me and the list will be inexhaustible but I will just stick to 3 like you have asked.

Debola Deji-Kurunmi inspires me because she shows me what is possible as a woman. She leads from a place of personal transformation that she has experienced and every encounter with her shifts my mind and execution rate. She is my kind of woman who is solid in spirituality, business, marriage and influence.

Dr. Anita Phillips because I love how she mixes mental health with Faith which gives a combination of Spirit-Body-Soul healing.

Joyce Meyer because she simplifies many areas that we struggle with in her books and other resources. We share similar vision too and I’m happy at how she has influenced my mind positively especially with the book; “Battlefield of the mind”.

Being a life coach, creative director, wife and mom, and managing it all

People preach balance and I think that it has led to more confusion for me as I tried to balance every areas of my life in the same degree; I have noticed that, in order to live a multidimensional life, there will be priorities and there are areas that can be delegated. Also, there are times that my focus is more on Spirituality and Family, other times; it can be work and health. At different stages in life, I try to put each area of my life in the right perspective but they can stay at different degree. I’m currently learning to manage every area of my life but I also like to focus on 3 things at a time. Each day, I set my priorities and chase after it. I don’t try to achieve everything in a day. I have also learnt to highlight my goals, structure, time it, set reminders and delegate. I also have a team I work with which makes it easier to manage each businesses including having a supportive husband who helps me thrive in all I do but balancing it is still a work in progress and I’m learning to chill.

For instance, I have coaching hours, I have Faith hours, I have work hours, I have Family hours, I have my rest day and many other structure I’m trying to build but it is not perfect yet. I’m a work in Progress. I’m learning to appreciate my growth and leave out the pressure. Our lives are different.

The pandemic has made a lot of Nigerian women vulnerable, What coping mechanism advice would you give to these women at a time  like this, especially those who are almost forced to go back to abusive relationships out of the need to sustain the family?

It can be very hard I must say. These things happen and I don’t blame anyone. We make healthier decisions as we permit ourselves the risk to grow and find help.

It boils down to Identity and Healing. Many people are currently in toxic relationships because they live a codependent life. They rely on others to feel happy, successful or approved. I love a popular saying that; “If you live for the approval of others, you will die by their rejection”. More women are rising up to discover themselves. Relationships do not define you, it should be built with another person from a healthy standpoint.

If you are in an abusive relationship, you may need support and strength to leave because many times, people know they are in a mess but they are so convinced that there is nothing good that can happen if they choose to start again. For some, they don’t even know where to start from. It is fear and fear can keep you stuck. If you are in an abusive marriage, please, take a temporary leave to cater for your well-being, seek for help and rebuild your life. If you choose to go back to your home, it should be because your spouse is willing to use therapy, spiritual help and every necessary action to stay back on track.

Many toxic relationships are built by broken people coming from broken families. People are a product of their upbringing, environment and experiences. If you don’t discover yourself now, you cannot live a better life.

I have discovered that our mindset is where the change starts, if you start to question the beliefs that drives your life, you will be compelled to find more in life. I started helping others because there was a burden in me to grow and serve too.

I will say to ladies that, you are worth more than you are. If you redirect your life now, you will be thankful in years to come. The woman you are now is not the woman you will be in 10 years’ time but the magnitude of your change is dependent on the level of exposure you have and the transformation you permit. Even if you start by reading a book, watching the right inspirational videos, changing your role models and friends, seeking for growth etc. I know that some coaches or motivational speakers may have hurt you but look for genuine people and subscribe to their programs. I can vouch for myself, my goal is your change and it is evident in my work. Start from where you are, most importantly; speak up.

 Nuggets about marriage with us, and why it is necessary to make it work.

First, people marry for the wrong reasons and they leave easily when it doesn’t work out as planned. People marry for sex, money, security amidst other reasons and can easily opt out when those needs are not met. Beyond your needs being met, there are few reasons why you should make your marriage work:

  1. Marriage is a trans-generational decision and you cannot just marry for yourself alone. Whatever decision you make should impact your children and their marriage. The change we desire in the society starts from the family unit but may people don’t understand this hence we hardly build a structure around our marriages. Most people are still suffering from the trauma and patterns of their own family. Be the one to change that cycle by seeking for help and applying the necessary wisdom in your home.
  2. If your marriage will work, it starts with your mindset and the decision to permit yourself to be responsible for it. Don’t always focus on your spouse, be the change you want to see and things will start working well when you have the right mindset, heart and actions in place.
  3. Be humble and teachable enough to take corrections. I think this is one area that I needed to work on too. Your spouse can see you better, they can be the tool of change in your life if you are humble enough to get through life with them.
  4. Engage healthy 3rd parties like professional counselors when needed. Don’t suffer in silence when you can engage a neutral help instead of friends and families.
  5. Learn the right skills and be willing to implement it. Be patient to see the change you desire. Be content with your spouse, people keep thinking they will find a better love out there if they keep flirting. It looks greener on the other side, focus on your home and make it work just like you would do for your business. Be willing to speak your partner’s love language, keep dating in marriage and evaluate your progress periodically.
  6. Be prayerful because marriage is warfare and you don’t always have to fight with words, learn to deal with some issues in prayer and let God rule your heart. I think that some marriages will work better if there is an application of wisdom and a healthy faith life.

 

Being  a Woman of Rubies

I believe that I’m one of the women making the society better through my thoughts and actions. I actively engage many men and women and challenge them to be better than they are currently. I help people live a healthy life emotionally, mentally and spiritually.