Girl Child


One of the biggest challenges of the Girl child in Northern Nigeria, is the way they are mostly objectified or given away in marriage at an early age , thereby making it difficult for most of them to get basic education or even have access to infrastructure that prepares them for the Future.

Jennifer Agunloye is giving these girls hope through her G.I.S.T foundation ( Girls should Thrive), a  Kano based registered NGO focused on raising female leaders from disadvantaged communities through entrepreneurship, education and technology. The  award winning writer and internationally trained civic leader certified by the university of Nebraska, Lincoln is passionate about community development through women empowerment.

She is a Certified leadership coach, who is inspiring youths and raising female leaders from disadvantaged communities across Africa through the Tagit academy.

She’s also the founder of Herfreekan Ventures, a social enterprise set up to empower women financially and Co-founder of Agric-farms enterprise focused on reducing hunger and poverty through agriculture.

She is impacting the lives of the girl child and women through her other initiatives like “March against hunger project”, “Safe Space Program” and Support Her Effort (SHE) , which focuses on supporting women with small businesses hawking in the street in different slums. So far Jennifer has  empowered over 50 girls and reached over 3000 families in Kano state.

She shares her inspiring story with Esther Ijewere in this motivating and eye opening interview, highlighting some of the major problems of the girl child in Northern Nigeria and how she’s amplifying their voice to give them hope.

Childhood Influence

My childhood did Infact prepare me for this even though I didn’t realize it then. I was overweight as a child and that made me grow up with a lot of self esteem issues. Though I was lucky to have encountered the right set of people who saw my potential and nurtured it, I noticed that a lot of girls were growing up with terrible self images for different reasons are were settling for less in life and this was putting them at a disadvantage. This was one of inspiration for going all out with our organization. I also went to school with a lot of girls with amazing potentials but have just refused to dream because of the environment they were growing up. There, women were just considered just good enough to be wives and mothers so any woman with a dream was considered abnormal.

Inspiration behind GIST

I started GiST as an online blog focused on inspiring girls to dream and believe in themselves. But after my university education I returned to the community where I had my secondary school education and I realized that most of the girls were now young mothers of 2 – 3 children with no source of lively hood. The level of poverty and abuse in that community was increasingly in an alarming way and worse the younger girls were headed in the same direction. I knew that if something was not done, the numbers would just continue to sky rocket. So it dawned on me that the people who needed what I was sharing on my online platform were not on the internet. They were on the street and in those villages and undeserved communities. This was what inspired the Girls Should Thrive Initiative to become what it is today.

Combating the demoralization of the Girl child in Kano

Our work is focused on getting the girl child to see herself for who she really is – A beautiful brilliant human that can achieve anything she sets her heart to. We focus on challenging her mindset. Getting her to see herself differently, to believe in herself and make an effort to change her life and not give up no matter what life throws. Simply put, we believe that when these girls allow their potentials to gain expression everyone will have no choice but to reckon with them. This is how we confront the demoralization; getting the girls to see that they deserve better and are capable of more.

Impact of our activities in Northern Nigeria

Through our March against hunger project we’ve been able to enlighten over 3000 families on the importance of Educating their female children.

One of our major success stories is Maman Amira, the mother of a crippled girl who we met living in the street during our March against hunger project. We fixed the roof of her house and empowered her to start up a business. Now Maman Amira has a poultry business which is empowering 6 women through a community-based cooperative and Amira is now in school preparing to sit for her final exams.

Also, through our safe space program we’ve provided in depth leadership and entrepreneurship training to over 1000 girls have so far empowered over 50 girls like Kudirat who has now registered her business and reached over 3000 families.

Challenges of being an Advocate

One of the major challenges I’ve faced is the challenge of keeping the girls coming for our trainings. The girls usually have to be provided with incentives to keep them coming for a while before they realize the value of what they are being given. Since Our organization has operated largely based on donors for individuals and private organizations it has been very difficult to provide those incentives and hence we loose some of our participants along the way and usually have to go back and start afresh with them when next we come for the next batch of training, hoping earnestly that they would follow through till the end.

Our Empowerment programmes

The Support Her Effort (SHE) project was inspired by one of our March against hunger beneficiaries who had given up on her business after facing some challenges but decided to pick it back up after we spoke to them about the importance of entrepreneurship. An elderly woman with the responsibility of training her grand children because their father (her oldest son) is epileptic. She collected some goods on credit and started all over. After I spoke to her I just realized there are many like this woman who are making intense efforts to keep there businesses alive so they can make ends meet. We decided to start supporting such women to encourage them and boost their businesses. The project selects one woman a month and at the end of the year we select the most outstanding one among who has done amazingly well with the investment and give her an even bigger investment. Our goal is to increase the frequency to one woman weekly and take the project to the next level of training this women on how to grow their businesses and select at least 10 women annually to qualify for more funding.

The plight of the Girl Child in Northern Nigeria

Well we’re not where we want to be but we’re definitely not where we used to be. Things have improved significantly to a large extent. I don’t believe girls are being treated as they deserve. A great number of people still see girls as nothing but sex object. They measure her worth by how “sexy” she is or how well she can cook. That’s a huge disrespect to a person created by God Himself with amazing potentials. So honestly we do have a long way to go but like I always say, while we are demanding that society stops obejectifying the female specie, we should all empower these girls to be confident enough to demand for their respect which is what we do at Gist.

If I had the opportunity to share my thoughts about the Girl child with the Kano State Governmen

I’d say you are missing a lot when you don’t empower your girls. There is so much potential buried in those girls that can solve most of the challenges facing the society today but if their potential is not developed, they cannot even try. I must commend the government though. They are beginning to make efforts in that regard and its encouraging but they can do much much more because there isn’t much time. We have to save the next generation from being partakers of the effect of marginalization of girls.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I think what makes me a woman of rubies is my passion. My deep seated passion to see women rise. To see women break barriers, over come limitations and be all they can be. I see it as an honor to be gifted with such drive to contribute to women’s development in my own way and it’s such a blessing to be able to do it in Northern Nigeria. Reading about the qualities that women of rubies should have, I felt so honored to see that I have come to embody some of these qualities over the years through my experiences and God’s grace. It’s such a privilege thinking about it. I don’t take it lightly in any way.

Dear Marginalized Woman

My final word of Marginalized women is this: it won’t always be like this. A time is coming when you will be everything you dream you’d be. A time is coming when you will get an education with ease, you will have a voice in things that concern you and your children. You will give expression to all the gifts that God has blessed you with without being afraid or ashamed. The time is coming when you won’t be careful to raise your head high and be confident in yourself and in your dreams. That time is close. So, don’t give up yet.


Popularly referred to as Dr. Kel, Dr Kelechi is a resourceful Medical Doctor who possesses excellent clinical skills as well as good relational ability that has won the trust and endearment of her patients and the general public, both offline and online. A public health enthusiast, health communicator, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Advocate and content creator.

Dr. Kelechi is the convener of the “Healthertainer” brand which promotes total health and wellness across all social media platforms. The brand is renowned for stirring up trending conversations with regards to important and prevalent health issues and proffering solutions to the dire health challenges faced in Nigeria. She is also the founder of HEAL for Africa & Pay attention to her, two initiatives aimed at promoting health education and female hygiene. She is committed to promoting health literacy globally with verifiable successes in effective health communications and generating active participation and engagement among people. Kelechi currently works as a physician in the Kogi State Government House Clinic, Lokoja while she runs her platforms. The foremost health activist shares her inspiring story with me in this educative interview.

Childhood Influence

Yes, my childhood prepared me for what I do now. I grew up in an environment filled with love and excitement. I am the 10th child of my father and 3rd from my own mum. We didn’t lack anything growing up. (I am from a united and peaceful polygamous home. We were fondly called “The Okoro House of Commotion” because of our family escapades. LOL. such sweet memories). I had all the emotional, moral, spiritual and financial support any child needed, however, as I began to get older and see life from my own eyes, I realized that there was more to life. Interacting with other children from less privileged homes made me realized how lucky I was and also taught me to be sympathetic toward other people’s plight. Subconsciously, I grew up with a resolve to show affection to everyone around me, especially those who couldn’t afford the luxury.  Another period that prepared me for what I do today was going from a period of plenty to nothing. This was during my university days. Every family has their financial ups and downs and when we faced ours, I had a personal experience of what it meant to have nothing and my resolve to attain the capacity to always help the less privileged grew even stronger. It was during those trying times that my entrepreneurial spirit was awoken. I learned how to earn money not only for myself but to cater to the needs of others. Let’s just say, I have always taken it as a point of duty and privilege to be a source of hope, help, and inspiration to others.

Inspiration behind “Healthertainer” & “Heal for Africa”

The word “Healthertainer” was originally coined by me from two words I love and can totally relate with: Health and entertainment, representing my profession and my personality.  The brand was born out of my desire to make health palatable and relatable for the layman to understand. While in medical school, I noticed a communication barrier between doctors and patients which resulted in poor patient outcomes. Patients did not understand their conditions or the role they needed to play in ensuring better outcomes while managing their conditions. Also, I realized that many Nigerians are suffering and dying from preventable illnesses and complications of diseases which could have been prevented or even better managed if detected early. This was largely due to a lack of proper health information. I decided that when I became a doctor, I would simplify health information delivery and improve healthcare in Nigeria using the preventive approach. I am currently into clinical practice but spend a lot of my time using innovation and entertainment to drive health advocacy both offline and online. I use my social media platforms to promote health in an entertaining manner without losing the core message and more Nigerians are becoming more interested in learning about their health. My brand is barely 2 years old and it has grown a community of over 100,000 followers across all platforms. In less than 2 years, my brand has become the ‘go to’ when it comes to social media health advocacy. I can proudly say that the Healthertainer brand has blazed the trail for health influencers in Nigeria.  I  have inspired and mentored more medics to use social media to promote health and wellness.

Of over 180 million people in Nigeria, Only about 98.3 million persons use the internet. This means that the remaining 81.7 million will not have access to all the information available online. This informed my decision to start a non-profit organization (Heal for Africa Initiative) that carries out health advocacy in the local communities. Heal for Africa initiative was born out of the desire to reach out to the underserved populace and more impact lives. Before I started my own initiative, I had volunteered for other NGOs as a resource person and sponsor. I also did a lot of personal charity, randomly helping people in need. In 2017, I decided it was time to start my own thing and build a structure that would outlive me and also provide a bigger platform to grow more leaders and touch more lives.  HEAL stands for Health, Education, and Advocacy for better Livelihood. This acronym embodies our core aims and objectives. We are committed to “healing’ Africa, one community at a time. (www.healforafrica.org)

Being an advocate and working in public health sector

I must say it is not easy at all having to combine my 9 – 5 job, the Healthertainer Brand and directing the organization’s projects, but somehow, the work gets done. Having a supportive boss who also happens to be a member of the board of trustees, has helped a great deal to make things easy. Having a reliable team we call the “Heal Tribe” as hands and legs of the organization also keep our projects running even when I am not available. All this is time-consuming, but striking a balance and managing time effectively helps. Although sometimes it gets overwhelming, we are, however, working hard to develop a structure that can be self-sustaining.

Impact of “Pay Attention to her” Initiative

“Pay Attention to Her (PATH) project focuses on Reproductive Health outreaches for adult women; menstrual hygiene management and sexual health outreaches for adolescents girls and females in their early adulthood and Sexual Health outreaches for adolescent boys and males in their early adulthood (Pay Attention To Him). On the 28th of May, 2018, we launched the PATH School Tour to empower girls in public schools and rural areas. During this exercise, they are enlightened on their role as nation builders in addition to sexual health education and menstrual hygiene management. All participants are given free sanitary pads and personal hygiene products ( Soap, liquid antiseptic, toothpaste, tissue paper, deodorant, etc). We also enroll them into a network we call the “Big Sister” network so that we can have a sustained communication with the girls.  So far, over 2,000 girls in 3 public schools have benefitted from this exercise.  The experience has been fulfilling. After each program, the immediate impact is palpable. The girls gain a new sense of belonging and self-confidence. You can visibly feel their excitement and gratitude as they finally find a safe place to seek more knowledge about the biological and emotional changes that come with puberty. The reassurance of a brighter future as they interact with our female guest speakers. Our programs have attracted the likes of the Secretary to the Kogi State Government, Mrs Folashade Ayoade, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mrs Petra Akinti Onyegbule,  Mrs. Bolanle Amupitan, Kogi Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Sanda Musa, Special Senior assistant to the governor on Women and Child Development, and other prominent and inspiring role models in the community.This year, we will be rolling out more initiatives to cater to the women, adolescent boys and young adults in line with our goals, vision, and mission.


After our lectures, we gift the girls with disposable pads for just one or two menstrual cycles. That is not enough. How do we guarantee that they have sanitary materials for the next? We want to offer more sustainable options, but they come with challenges. The reusable cloth pads are more sustainable but the challenge that comes with this is the lack of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in public schools and rural areas.  Another option is the use of Menstrual Cups, the challenge here would be low acceptability due to cultural and religious beliefs.

Our society doesn’t see the need to talk about menstrual hygiene. It is perceived as a taboo or a filthy experience that should be spoken about only behind closed doors. As a result of this, a lot of young girls go through their initial experiences with so much confusing and guilt.  Another major challenge we face is funding for projects. 90 percent of funds used for projects are personal. The other 10 % comes from a close network of friends/ family and also from my online community. We have plans to improve fundraising efforts via sales of branded items, membership and sourcing for grants to help us make more impact this year.

Other Projects

Heal for Africa has another project called HEAL THE SLUMS project. People living in the slums are denied basic rights such as good food, healthcare, shelter and potable water which makes live unpleasant for them. This project is dedicated to this group of people to show them affection during festivity periods. The Heal The Slums project is also an avenue to interact with community leaders and other stakeholders to conduct a needs assessment around basic amenities and discussing means of meeting those needs. It is our way of reaching out to underserved communities to show affection and inspire hope. So far, 4 Communities in Kogi State have benefitted from this program. Outside the hospital and civic space, I do public speaking, compering corporate events and volunteering with other organizations to drive other SDGs.

Last year, I partnered with another brilliant Doctor, Chukwu Analo on the “Health Simplex’ brand. Health Simplex is our own little innovative contribution to the actualization of the Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 17:  for Good health and wellbeing and Partnership for the goals. The mission is very simple, Incorporate Information and communication technology and Health as to provide good health for all. This is a project to look out for this year.  (www.healthsimplex.com). So you see, I am a serial hustler. Lol.  I do a lot of “small small” businesses here and there to augment my salary as a doctor so I can keep funding my passion.


My greatest reward is the satisfaction and recommendations I get from doing what I do. I really didn’t know how impactful my work was until people started giving testimonies of how my life of impact has spurred them to start their own initiatives.  Also, putting smiles on the faces of our beneficiaries, inspiring hope and having so many young people look up to me has been a source of joy and motivation for me. In barely 2 years of my service to humanity, I have seen how much impact these little acts of kindness here and there can ignite in other people’s lives and I want to keep being a vessel of impact in my community.I am motivated by the results so far and I want to keep doing more. Another great motivation for me is the impact it has on my own life. I am becoming a better person and enjoying the fulfillment and peace of mind that comes with supporting others.

High rate of depression & why Government should intervene

I think depression seems to be on the rise because more people are beginning to admit that they suffer from it.  The problem has always been there, but poorly diagnosed.  Although there is still a high level of stigmatization associated with depression these days people are more open about it. Another reason is that people are allowing the pressure of the modern world to get to them. The high expectations from society and the quest for fame, luxury and money are also driving a lot of youth especially, to anxiety, depression and eventually suicide.  Depression is no respecter of socioeconomic status, Rich people get depressed too, but poverty and scanty livelihood have also been implicated as risk factors for depression. What the government can do is to improve the economy and also help spread awareness on mental health issues. Expert management of depression can be expensive so the government should support.

On giving up

Many times I have felt like giving up. Many times I have felt frustrated, underachieved and underappreciated for all the hard work I put in. But, in my lowest moments, testimonies from people I have helped indirectly or directly spur me back into action.

I remember when my first Instagram account was hacked at 28,000 followers, I was downcast. I didn’t know where to start. In fact, I decided to throw in the towel, but I couldn’t because people kept on calling to find out when I was coming back online, narrating how my page had helped them in one way or the other. I had no choice than to start all over. The funny thing is, when I started all over, that was when clients started requesting my service. I had paid my dues and it was time to reap what I had sown. I started earning a lot from my Healthertainer platforms, working with local and international health brands. It felt good to earn money while living my passion.

Who and What Inspire me to be better….

I am inspired by every strong woman out there who are excelling in their various spheres of life despite the odds against them. I am inspired by people like Oprah Winfrey, Taraji P Henson who kept believing in themselves and pursuing their dreams till they had their big breakthrough. I spent 11 years in medical school ( Studying medicine in Nigeria is a major struggle, story for another day, I promise) and graduated at the age of 28, I felt as if I had wasted so many years and I didn’t have much time to leave a meaningful life. I can proudly say that I have achieved so much between the age of 29 till date (I turned 32 on the 2nd of February, 2019). I haven’t gotten my big breakthrough, but I have activated the process that will get me there.I have a lot of young people who look up to me. Small me, and I am already a mentor to many, This inspires me to live a life worthy of emulation.  I don’t want to be anybody’s role model, I do not want to be put on a pedestal, I just want to groom more young people to aspire to do better than me and be a source of inspiration to the next generation.

One thing I wish I could change in the Health sector

I would like to talk to medical students and prepare them for life after medical school. All we learned in medical school was how to save other people’s lives but not how to survive in the real whole. We need more than medical knowledge to survive after medical school. The whole is changing. I want to educate medical students on the need to develop other aspects of their lives and also equip themselves with survival skills that are not in the school syllabus. Medicine in Nigeria is no longer a “rag to riches” story, gone are the days when you graduate from medical school, save house job money and buy a “Camry I don buy my own”. After the internship, the real struggle continues. In a country like Nigeria where doctors pay is not commensurate to the service rendered, extra skills are important for survival. I have been able to survive the system so far because of my entrepreneurial and social media skills.

Being a  Woman of Rubies 

I guess I have earned the “woman of rubies” title because a lot of people recommended me on your platform (Smiles). Seriously, I am honored and humbled to be recognized as a woman of substance. A woman who should be celebrated for her contributions towards making the world a better place. Women of Rubies are women whose stories are inspiring hope and transformation across the globe. Women who have managed to maintain a sane work-life balance as they voyage the path of self-discovery and actualization. Women who are supporting and encouraging other women by sharing their hope-inspiring stories and practical tools to achieve their dreams. I believe that my life and activities in the last few years have depicted these values. Ruby is a precious gemstone that epitomizes passion, confidence, courage, determination, adventure, and vitality.  The ruby stone is also known for its durability, hardness, and luster.  I can proudly say I am a woman of Rubies because I share these same attributes with the Ruby stone.

Appreciation of Female doctors In Nigeria

Doctors are not appreciated generally in Nigeria, both male and female. I don’t think there is any marginalization of the female doctors in particular.

Health Nuggets

“Women need to make their health a priority. An unhealthy  woman cannot run her home effectively”

“Regular health checks can save your life.”

“Screen and get vaccinated against  the Human papillomaVirus (HPV) vaccine  that causes Cervical Cancer.”

“Adopt a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits that reduce your risks of developing other cancers.“

“ Learn how to do the self-breast examination and always check your breasts for changes that may be symptoms of breast cancer. Early detection is key.’

“MOVE! A sedentary lifestyle predisposes you to obesity and heart diseases. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day five times a week. Don’t wait till you enroll in a gym. If you can’t brisk-Walk, skip, cycle, run or jog around your neighborhood, JUST DANCE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM.”

Like a phoenix, Jennifer is rising from the ashes of adversity and inspiring others to do so through her story. As a survivor of Domestic Violence, she believes that girls and young women access to education and health service is fundamental for sustainable development in Nigeria. Jennifer grew up in a broken home with rough experiences of abuse and neglect. Her parent divorced Nine months after her birth in Eastern Nigeria. Her Father showed no interest towards her education.

She was raised by her single mum, grand mother, uncles, aunties, and people. As a girl filled with many ambitions despite her experiences. she was determined to further her education. Today, Jennifer Umeh is a graduate of Mass communication from The Federal Polytechnic Offa. The pioneer of Hope for African Girls Initiative (HAGi) an organisation founded to Educate Girls to be empowered enough to stand up for themselves and to discover their self-identity through quality education and empowerment. She is also the founder of a fast-growing clothing brand that has received massive support from Nigerians on social media since inception .  A vision that was born out of her bullying experience as an undergraduate. She shares the story of her rise from the ashes to glory in this interview

Growing up

I was raised by my single mum, grand mother, uncles, aunties, and people. As a girl filled with many ambitions despite my experiences. I was determined to further my education. With my decision making ability, i believed that if i could go to school, I could gain knowledge and skills access limitless opportunities and reach my potentials in life. As a survivor of Domestic Violence, I believe that girls and young women access to education and health service is fundamental for sustainable development in Nigeria. I grew up in a broken home with rough experiences of abuse and neglect. My parent divorced Nine months after my birth in Eastern Nigeria. My Father showed no interest towards my education, Coping With the Status Quo. I must say that even though my background is not pleasant, it stirred up such compassion for those from similar backgrounds. When I was 10years, I finally went to stay with my mum and her husband (step father) supporting her with my siblings as the eldest. All of this built a resilience within me, strengthened my heart and reminds me daily that ‘I can’! I can do anything I set my mind to. I can be the best version of Chinonye that there will ever be. I can achieve. I can inspire. Regardless of my background. We know that seeds grow best in the dirt. My background may have been messy, dirty, whatever we want to call it, but it provided the best environment for the seed within me to grow and produce more seeds to encourage others! I learnt never to allow my circumstances to inhibit my growth as a person at all! If I have a goal, I will go for it.

Meet Me!

I am a 23 year old lady,  I recently graduated from The Federal Polytechnic Offa, Kwara with a Higher National Diploma in Mass communication. I am now a corps member serving at Umuokanne Comprehensive Secondary school, Ohaji, Egbema in Imo State.

I am the pioneer of Hope for African Girls Initiative (HAGi) an award winning Organisation founded to Educate Girls to be empowered enough to stand up for themselves and to discover their self-identity through quality education and empowerment.

My skills include Public speaking, Teaching, Writing, Counselling and Leadership. I am a Campus Correspondent with The Nation Newspaper and  Mentor a Girl Child Fellow , Educate a girl Scholar and a fellow of  Nigeria students leaders program. In 2016, my projects won the best community development project of the year organized by SLAM initiative. Recently, I was awarded the African Youth Academy Service Award, for my selfless service and  contribution towards the development of young African Leaders and was granted the designation of a FELLOW of African Youth Academy. I recently launched a clothing line called Blinky Creative Collections.



I started a non-profit organization called Hope for African Girls Initiative in 2016 to transform the lives of marginalized community girls through quality education and empowerment.  Our work is to promote creative learning by providing platforms for girls and young women to explore and develop their innovative ideas. Since inception, we have been able to groom young women to be responsible citizens who can actively participate and communicate with the world in a spirit of compassion.

My mission is to foster an educated and compassionate new generation of young African Girls who will use their education to improve their lives, help their country and contribute to the world to help maintain peace and prosperity for all. My focus is on educating the girls and also educating their families and communities and improving their support system.


My Inspiration

The inspiration was after I attended the ‘Educate a Girl Nigeria’ workshop in Lagos. The workshop was an eye-opener for me as I became aware of too many illicit behaviours bedeviling the girl-child around the world such as child marriage, sexual assault, violence against girls, and lack of access to education, among others. I saw the need to help young people, I desired to speak out so that my voice to be heard. I said to myself, if only my voice could change the status quo of girls in Africa, why should I hold back. I approached some NGOs indicating my interest to serve as a volunteer. But to ensure I have a louder voice and a wider reach, I founded Hope for African Girls Initiative (HAGi) at the beginning of this year. As an undergraduate then, I was motivated to work in places where I could contribute and provide value. I have performed excellently in different roles like taking care of children in my church, and taking up leadership positions in my school and any organization I found myself.

Launching a clothing line

As an undergraduate, life was good. I was more extroverted, I made new friends. Although, it was also a time of bullying for me. I blink frequently when I speak. I never got bullied over it. People who know me or have met me before understand how my eyes work while I talk, even if most times, I try to control it.

In my 300 level in school, I was faced with the challenge of speaking up for what is right, even when over 200 students in my class refused to talk because of fear and intimidation from lecturers. But I decided to speak up that day to the chagrin of the naysayers even if my voice made no difference to the situation.

After that, the friends of the guy who was involved in this case formed a gang against me. They made mockery of me in class. I couldn’t walk in peace on campus without being bullied by those guys. And as days passed, their gang multiplied with fans. The bullying continued in different WhatsApp groups and while lectures went on.

The group dissed me right in my face. I was heartbroken and I didn’t know what to do. But it was only the beginning. The group tormented me. They named me Blinky-Blinky. They called me terrible names – some, curse words – and spread sexual rumours about me. I almost became insane that when I got back from school one day, I ran to my room and cried. I stayed in my room and drowned in tears for hours. That was when I decided to take the law into my hands with the help of a friend who stood up for me whenever I was bullied. He encouraged me to report to the security unit before it went out of hand. I did so and the guys were picked up by the school security. It was never intentional but these things were out of my control. Many students face trauma like this but they have no way of handling it; they end up becoming losers.  I finally felt good knowing that I had a voice. Most of my course mates were so proud of me for the move. I was with new friends who liked me for who I was. But I knew the fight was not finished. One day the worst happened; I was bullied right in the lecture hall when a lecture was going on. As one of them shouted ‘Blinky,’ they laughed and distracted the lecture. I could do nothing but allow the tears from my eyes. When I got home that day, I thought of the best way to deal my bullies.

I customised T-shirts and wore them to school. I gave some to my friends to put on. On the T-shirts read, Blinky Smart, Blinky Beauty, Blinky Money, Blinky Blinky, Bullying Ends With Me, Blink Against Bullying, etc.

My T-shirts garnered some fans. I sold them not only to my course mates but to my friends on Facebook. Boom! It became a business. I was happy as I was making money from it. I started helping people to customise their shirts for free. I did both free and paid jobs depending on who I was dealing with.

I went the market where they sold hand-me-downs and selected the good ones. At home I washed them, ironed them, customised and sold to friends. The demands got higher as people asked for something better. I pitched my idea on Facebook about my interest in shirts business and I was lucky to get selected by Edu Shine Foundation. I was funded with fifty thousand naira to support my business. I registered for printing training where I learnt more about shirt printing and branding. I graduated from using hand-me-down T-shirts for my customers to using jersey. But today, my shirts are brand new, 100% cotton material with warranty.

The business helped me a lot to overcome my bullies. I did not just overcome them; I have made money to pay my remaining fees and for my needs as a student. I have assisted two of my friends to pay their tuition, too.

When I got bullied then, I got offended and asked God to take my life. Do you know how it feels to be bullied by the same group of people with a specific motive? Most nights I felt like crying my eyes out. I asked myself, Just because I blink my eyes frequently when I talk, does that mean I am not equal to others?  I tried to control the blinking but I can’t cheat nature. I never created myself. God did.

Blink against Bullying Project

I recently launched a campaign Blink against bullying. It’s a campaign to eradicate all forms of bullying and empower the victims with knowledge as weapons to fight back against oppression. I am currently running a 30 days self-esteem challenge for Students of Umuokanne Comprehensive Secondary School in Imo State, the program is designed to raise the self-esteem of young females in Africa and around the world. It is aimed at emboldening females to self belief, imagine and pursue a future of greatness. To achieve this goal, we have developed a 30 day self esteem handbook containing 30 inspiring stories of African Females from different ages, background and cultures who defied odds and societal stereotypes to achieve greatness and their dreams.


My brand in the next five years..

In five years, I want to be able to get bigger contract from big companies and organisations. I want to own a big fashion house, where I can print all kind of T-shirts, Polos , Hoodie with no restrictions. I want to champion the war against bullying by making different designs of beautiful Tees that people can order on our website and rock to promote the fight against bullying.



I had many challenges running my new enterprise, from being confused about if my business was worth focusing on to how to get new customers and grown the business larger, to dealing with branding with people’s feedback on what I was going.


 Tara Durotoye is my biggest Inspiration

Tara Fela Durotoye inspires me. She started house of Tara in 1998 at the age of 20 from her living room, as an undergraduate at Lagos State University. Sometimes she would go from house to house to makeup for brides. But today she has one of the biggest and the first makeup  school in Nigeria. She worked hard for it. I am really inspired by her story.


Being a Woman of Rubies

I am a woman of Rubies because I share similar stories, challenges, pains and scars with other women in Africa trying to make a difference and live a life of true meaning. I am a woman of rubies because I care about helping girls and young women to be better


Advice to young  women

I just want to encourage women who are going through some similar experience. It gets better. It can be hard. You want to give up. But you have to be confident. Don’t let it get to you. If you’re suffering, it will get to the time that you’ll be proud of yourself for all that you’ve been through. If anyone judges you, it is their own problem. They have no idea what you go through. Do they even care? They probably can’t even handle what you deal with. But you can. And you’re still here going on with your life. That’s why you can be proud of yourself.





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Adepeju is a girl development advocate, inspirational writer and a penultimate law student at the University of Lagos. I am passionate about the development of girls and believes that if girls are properly equipped with decision making skills, they will make informed decisions regarding their sexual life, education, career and life generally.

She started her organization; Vibrant Girls Development Initiative at the age of 16, a youth led organisation committed to the development of girls. The organisation engages in mentorship sessions, sexual education, girl-child advocacy, sexual abuse awareness, educational and career development. Through VGDI, she has developed communication, public speaking, writing, team building, analytical, leadership, problem solving skills among others.

“In 2014 when I started Vibrant Girls Development Initiative, I lost my dad earlier in the year. I could have remained in that state and play the victim’s game. But no, I told myself that I needed to make a change and help girls become vibrant women. I had no father to connect me, says Adepeju as she shares her story with me in this interview

Growing up

I had an interesting and challenging childhood. Being the first child of four children, my dad always ensured that I make decisions which affected myself and my siblings. I think now that I am managing a non for profit, empathy which he taught me comes to play. I now care a lot about girls, my team and people around me generally.Aside having empathy, I had since childhood learnt some Do’s and Don’ts of Leadership. As a leader, I now listen and care a lot about everyone. My parents made me unlearn imposition of wills, uprightness, and rigidity. My childhood prepared me for the path I’m towing now. I learnt not only to look out for myself but to always consider others too. I didn’t grow up like other children. I grew up thinking about myself and others.

Meet Me!.

Qaozara Adepeju is a girl development advocate, a writer, speaker and a budding lawyer. At 16, I pioneered Vibrant Girls Development Initiative, a youth-led non for profit organisation that is committed to the development of young girls especially those below age 20. I am currently the Executive Director of the Initiative.I had my primary and secondary education in Ibadan and Lagos and I am currently a penultimate law student at the University of Lagos, Akoka. As a law student, my interest span across corporate and commercial law, intellectual property law, finance and tech. I look forward to businesses thriving by using my knowledge of the law to improve the status quo of business persons and companies.I enjoy mentoring girls and inspiring them with my stories and inspiring stories of other girls and women. In my spare time, I enjoy planning events or volunteering for noble causes.

Starting Vibrant Girls Development Initiative at age 16

Having spent 12 years living in Isale Eko, Lagos Island, I discovered that it was a thing of pride and joy for teenage girls to be pregnant. Many see it as an achievement or an event that earns them respect among their peers. I used to be very angry anytime I see a young girl with big belly. I can remember a day I complained to my brother, “These mothers don’t have the financial resources to cater for their babies and they make us suffer more in the country by adding more pressure to the economy.” Then, I had a close friend who got pregnant while in secondary school. Also, the training and guidance I received from my parents helped me in making decisions. Knowing that a lot of girls do not have such parents, I dreamt of having an initiative which will provide such guidance to the girls. At 12, I emerged the Lagos State Champion of the BRF Quiz Competition where I met with a lot of state dignitaries.At 13, I was sponsored alongside some others by the Lagos State Government on a trip to the United Kingdom for two weeks. All these I believed groomed me to be better, and not all girls had this kind of experience. Thus, I felt a need to start an initiative to give girls adequate sexual education and also guide them to become vibrant women in the society.

Impact of attending training and leadership skills workshop while in secondary school

In my first year in senior secondary school, I had my first leadership training with LEAP Africa. The training aside from teaching me qualities a leader should possess, gave me practical steps on how to drive change. The training manual helped me in goal setting, carving a niche for myself, planning, budgeting, crafting vision and mission statement among others. A year after attending the training, I read the manual again. It was this time, I started forming an intention to drive a change. I was unsure of what to do. At a time, I thought about advocating for recycling. Later, I thought of raising awareness around bleaching of the skin. However, I was testing my skills. During these times, I started setting personal goals and crafted personal mission and vision statements. So, when I founded Vibrant Girls Development Initiative, it was easy to set goals, create vision and mission for the organisation. The LEARN Summer School Programme also helped build my creativity and communication skills

Reception and Sponsorship are my biggest challenges

The first challenge which I think is common is financial challenge. We face difficulties getting funds and sponsorships from organisations. For example, our annual Project, the Empower Her Project is the only Project yet which requires a lot of funds. Corporate bodies don’t really support much in the end, we fall on individual sponsorship as well as people within our network. Another challenge is the reception from some schools and organisations. Due to the fact that we are young, some schools and organisations don’t attend to us well. Sometimes, I insist that we be treated same way older people are treated. This is very disheartening.


My greatest reward is in hearing stories from the participants of any of our programmes recounting how it has changed their lives. Recently, one of the teachers from one of our beneficiary schools told me how she looked forward to this year’s conference. Another thing I get joy from is when any of my girls uses the words I always say to them to soothe me anytime I am facing challenges. This has happened to me countless times. All these and more are my rewards.

My organisation in 5 years

In the next 5 years, I want us to have reached out to more girls not just in Lagos but in Nigeria. I see a VGDI where our impact will be felt nationwide our name will be a household name among girls. Also, I want us to be internationally recognised as an organisation working towards reshaping and grooming young girls into vibrant women. Similarly, I see you directly investing in the lives of girls through scholarships, training or fellowships.

Felt like giving up in the beginning

The first time I felt like giving up was when we started in 2014 and all of the girls that used to attend the mentoring sessions stopped coming. My motivation waned and I had to give it time to re-strategise and rethink. Also, in our first two years, I felt like giving up when because of my age, I was belittled by some people. We had issues getting venue for our programme, we had issues with funds and among others. But my team members have been ever supportive. They have taught me that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

Who and what inspires me to be better

The first person that inspires me is my mum. She lost her husband in 2014 and didn’t allow this to affect her. She is an epitome of courage, strength, diligence and excellence. Her life is just full of inspiration to me. Many times when I need someone to lean on, she is always there for me. Sometimes, all I need from her is a hug. Also, Mrs Bisi Akindele inspires me to be the best. She has been very supportive from the inception of Vibrant Girls Development Initiative. I am inspired by the story of a widow who struggles and educates all her children. Or by the story of a challenged student who excels. Or by stories of professionals and how they climbed the ladder.What inspires me is the fact that there is no room for average. If you want to succeed, do so gallantly and vibrantly. Don’t be average.


Well, at first it wasn’t a smooth entry. But with time, I have learnt to collaborate, leverage and reach out for help.In the first year, I was still trying to understand the environment. I didn’t know how social media could be used effectively. I didn’t know much about grants. I didn’t know many people with like minds. But, from the second year, I started to reach out to people, network with others in the same sector, look out for grants, attend events and seminars and lots more. Now, I can say that I have quite a number of young people in my network who have passion for development and are doing well. Also, I have learnt the art of storytelling and use it effectively to tell my story and what I do.

Being a woman of rubies

Ruby has represented nobility, purity, and passion through the ages. It is a stone of sentinel. I am a woman of rubies because I have stories of struggles, stories of failures, as well as stories of my successes. In 2014 when I started Vibrant Girls Development Initiative, I lost my dad earlier in the year. I could have remained in that state and play the victim’s game. But no, I told myself that I needed to make a change and help girls become vibrant women. I had no father to connect me. I had no money. I had no clue of the challenges ahead but I had passion and a good team and 4 years down the line, I am still here making impact. I am a woman of rubies because I do not allow my age to be a barrier to me At first, the age was a barrier because people do doubt what I was doing but now, I leverage on the age to get what I want . I am a woman of rubies because I am not perfect. I do not have it all.

Advice to young girls like me

Make yourself valuable by acquiring skills. Do not play the pity game. The path will not be smooth. The road may seem long. The darkness may seem to last forever. Nevertheless, you have to keep at it against all odds. The world is changing; new skills are needed to meet up with the changing world. Get prepared and brace up.

Hannah is a 29-year old fashion designer who is contributing to girl-child education in Makoko, a floating slum in Lagos.

Hannah is helping the girls build a better future by sharing her skills with them and also engaging the services of her husband who works as an English Language tutor.

Hannah, who is also a teacher and an entrepreneur, makes clothes for people living in Makoko and elsewhere in Nigeria.

Hannah is trying to help women by sharing her skills with them, so they can succeed in business as she did. She speaks to BBC Minute about her work.

Watch below.

Credit: Bella Naija

As the chief foreign affairs executive in the Obama Administration, the US Secretary of State – the Rt. Hon. John Kerry in between managing global trouble and flashpoints China, Syria, Iran, Israel and Brexit, has met with 14-year-old Zuriel Oduwole in his office at the U.S. State Department in Washington DC, to honor her.

He commended Zuriel for her ‘clarity of purpose’ in her fight for Girls Education in Africa through her Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up project and her other secondary initiatives such as her filmmaking class for unemployed youths. She has now taught filmmaking to more than 305 youths across 4 African countries – including Namibia, Kenya, Mauritius and Nigeria. The secretary was impressed that a student from her first film class workshop in February 2016 – 24 year old Namibian Anna Kalola, produced her first documentary just 9 months later, in November 2016 in Windhoek.

“I don’t believe there is anyone out there under the age of 35 doing anything nearly as much as what you are doing,” the Secretary told Zuriel. “It is incredible you have seen clearly the importance of these global challenges, and taken bold steps to do something about them. As far as I know, you are the world’s most powerful Girl, but you probably just don’t know it! You are inspiring and empowering Africa’s youth, and that is powerful”. “I try, Zuriel replied,” but Secretary Kerry responded saying ‘No, you are not trying, you are a doer, and we like to recognize talent like yours”.

Zuriel asked Secretary Kerry what his most difficult challenge was in the last four years as Secretary of State. In one word, he replied ‘Syria’. He explained the difficulty was because of the various proxies and complexities of dealing with many factions with varying interests in the country.

Secretary Kerry told the  young, independent filmmaker, who has now met one-one-one with 23 World leaders, addressed more than 24,900 children across 11 countries on Education, and who was invited to speak at the UN last September, that because of her continued development work, she might one day be a future U.S. Secretary of State, or as many in the diplomatic circles now believe, perhaps the youngest UN Secretary-General in history.


Zuriel thanked the Secretary for not leaving out the issue of Girls Education in his programs over the last 4 years, and hopes the next US Secretary of State continues with Secretary Kerry’s policies, when he or she takes over after January 20th.