At exactly 10:42pm on 8th of March 2017, I wrote “Heaven I need a Hug” on my wall , perhaps I needed a hug considering the fact that I have several back logs and I was stressed at the time, but beyond that I wanted to see how people will respond , I wasn’t disappointed with the number of e-hugs I received within thirty minutes BUT two friends had to slide to my inbox and asked me to put down the post, one said it showed too much emotions and the other said “you are too strong to be perceived like a weak woman Esther , bring it down its not good for your brand”. Wetin concern personal brand with emotions ogini?

This is exactly the reason why people suffer and die in silence , imagine if all the people who committed suicide recently  put up a post similar to mine just to let people know they need help and get  such response from their friends?

Please let’s allow people express themselves on social media the way and manner they like, as a matter of fact I want to encourage anyone who is down, depressed or about to give it all up , put up a post and let’s know what you are going through , sometimes the closet people to us are our biggest problem and you cant tell your problem to a problem, it’s fine to seek help on Facebook or any other social media platform or other direct means.

Feel free to write messages such as :

“I am Depressed”
“I need help”
“I need to talk to someone ”
“Please help”
“I need a therapist”
“I need a counsellor ”
Etc etc etc

Just express yourself however you feel and I am sure someone out there will reach out to you. I am positive we have good people who truly care in Nigeria, all you need to reach them is to SPEAK UP!

I have been down that road before, and it’s not just being depressed because life happened or stress, I was in my world, the over analysing and over thinking stage where you feel living isn’t worth it anymore,  and I don’t pray to ever go there again, I was in self denial of my state of mind till a true friend who didn’t judge me asked that I seek help from a therapist . I am a survivor, no shame at all, and a proud Mental health advocate for She Writes Woman

If you need to talk to someone about your problems please reach out to the following people: Hauwa Ojeifo, Oyinkansola Alabi, Praise Fowowe , Laila St. Matthew-Daniel, Pamela Udoka.

I have a listening ear , I will give you a hug, give you my time and attention, walk you through the process but sadly I can’t offer you the professional help you need like the above mentioned persons. Please don’t die in silence , reach out, SPEAK UP and don’t let depression and suicide win.

Kindly add names of other therapist in the comment section ???.

Please seek help….

You are not alone…..

Olubunmi Ajai (Jopa’s daughter), is a campaigner against domestic violence (DV), she also fights for the emancipation of women from the shackles placed on them by harmful cultures and traditions.

She is a blogger, Influencer and founder of GREENLANDS HAVEN FOUNDATION, a NGO that helps victims of domestic violence with emergency shelter and financial empowerment in the form of loans, grants and skills acquisition.

A former Domestic violence victim herself, she uses her experiences to teach other victims that they have the strength to leave the abuse and live fulfilling lives through her campaigns on social media, using the hashtag #LeaveTolive, which has now become a movement. Olubunmi  is also an author and amazing mom .

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

Childhood Influence

My childhood did not prepare me for my advocacy. I grew up in a happy home. My father and mother were happily married till my mother died on her 46th birthday. I did not grow up knowing about Domestic Violence in anyway as my father respected my mother and my mother reciprocated the respect. I grew up in a sheltered home, what you would call an ‘ajebutter’ home.

My parents came to England in the early 70s to school and left me and my two younger sisters, Yemisi and Seun, to be with our maternal grandma. Before then, we had been living in my paternal grandfather, Papa Idunmota’s house and I grew up with a lot of family around din those first few years. Then, when my parents came to England, we moved to Maami’s at Surulere where it was just us three, Mammi and our step grandfather, Papa Macauley, Herbert Macualey’s son. That was such an idyllic time of my life.

Watch:  5 Ways To Stop Being A People Pleaser

Most people who grew up with their grandparents will attest to this – grandparents spoil their grandchildren! I had an idyllic childhood but when my parents came back in the late 70s, I was brought up in a stricter environment. My mother was the shouter and beater while my dad was the quite disciplinarian.

Read Also: Before You Judge Another Single Mom

Inspiration Behind Greenlands Haven Foundation

I actually did not set out to do advocacy in DV. My initial NGO was set up to help indigent Cancer sufferers with their medical bills but it was difficult setting up a pool of fund. What I then started doing was to do fundraising here in England for charities that has to do with Cancer treatment.

My DV advocacy was a spur of the moment action. Yet another DV victim had been killed in Nigeria and it was trending on social media. I got tired of the talking and no action. From my experience, I knew that one of the factors that makes victims stay on is that they have nowhere to go.

A lot of families will not take back their abused children as it is  ignominy for the victims, usually women to come back home. For example, the Yoruba concept of ‘dalemosu’ – meaning someone who has lived with a husband and comes back home is highly discouraged. So, with the help of my Facebook friends, we raised N1m in one week and with that, we rented a flat at Ajah to be our first shelter. We then went on to have other shelters in Ibadan, PH, Abuja, Iju and Sur-lere.

We also tackled another thing that shackles victims – finances. A lot of victims, usually women are financially independent on their abusive husbands. It is pertinent to state here that abuse is not gender specific. A man may also be abused by his wife but our society discourages men from speaking out so, we have very few cases of men reporting that they are abused. The abusive husbands would have initially told the victim to not work or even barred her from working. In some cases where the woman works, some abusive husbands insist on being the custodian and spender of the woman’s money.

To eradicate this financial dependency, we gave loans and grants for business set up. We also trained victims for free in things like sewing, make up artistry and set them up by buying them sewing machines and make up kits. We now hope to set up a formal skills acquisition centre in Lagos where various skills can be learnt.

 Being A Domestic Violence Survivor And Advocate

I really cannot remember the exact moment that I decided to start speaking out about my DV experience. I evolved. When I left my ex, I did some soul searching and realized that I was responsible for some things that happened to me. One of which was that I was responsible for having accepted the abuse. I resolved to never be a victim again and to be the kind of woman that a man would not be able to abuse.

Read Also: I Was Sexually Abused By My Uncle From Age 7

Part of that involves being assertive. I have evolved over the years from being a timid woman who accepted abuse by all, not just her partner but also her friends to being an assertive woman who gives all in a relationship and walks away when that is not reciprocated by the other person in the relationship.

Olubunmi Ajai
Olubunmi Ajai
What And Who Inspire Me

Jane Tomlinson. She was a cancer patient who had been given the death sentence of having just a few weeks to live. She defied the odd and in the few years that she lived after that sentence, she did herculean tasks that healthy people could not do, to raise money for cancer related projects.

Oprah Winfrey. For her humanist approach to life.

Creating The #LeaveToLive Movement And Identifying With The Plight Of Victims

Ah… I have had to sort of caution myself as I became so invested emotionally in what these victims were going through. More often than not, the victims stay on after I and my team would have put things in place to help them so, I now, I try to rein my emotions in. I get a huge feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment when I help or hear that a DV victim have left their abuser. My advocacy is actually not totally altruistic as I do get a sense of pleasure and fulfilment in knowing that I have been instrumental in a DV victim leaving to live.

Greatest Reward

I have not yet gotten my greatest reward. My greatest reward would be that when I die, it would not just be my family and friends that would miss me. I want to be like Dorcas of the Bible. When I die and the whole world feels my absence, that would be my greatest reward.

Culture As A Challenge

Our culture. That is the greatest challenge that I have. Our Patriarchal culture. Timidity is also another challenge that I have. A lot of victims don’t know that they have the strength to get up and leave the abuse in order to live a great life. And of course, funding.

Where I See My Organisation In Five Years

I have registered a company limited by guarantee here in the UK. It is a kind of charity. In five years, I see myself being involved in anti DV activities here in Britain and in Nigeria. I see the NGO having a permanent structure for the skills acquisition.

I see the NGO being an employer of labour and a source of labour for these victims and also helping them to be employers of labour too. I see the British charity and the Nigerian NGO working hand in hand with each other to bring financial independence to DV victims.

Read Also: 15 Signs You Are I An Abusive Relationship

Social Media As a Domestic Violence Awareness Tool And The Role Of Government 

I am glad that with social media, a lot of awareness has been created but there is still a long way to go. A lot of victims don’t have access to SM and don’t have the awareness of DV issues. I want to do a documentary series to be aired on TV in Nigeria showing real life victims like me who have left the abuse and gone on to have great lives. CULTURE still shackles victims.

The government, through it’s various commissioners of women’s affairs and of culture need to embark on a sensitization project to sensitize members of the Nigerian society about the dangers of living with an abusive partner. The government also needs to provide emergency shelters for victims such as the one that the British government provided for me when I fled.

Grants should also be made available to victims to enable them be independent financially. Victims, especially female victims also need to know their rights. A lot of women don’t know that it is only the courts that can grant custody, that custody is not automatically given to the man, and that the child’s best interest is what the court looks at. A lot of women are terrified of losing their children and thus stay on in the abuse for the sake of the children

Skills Acquisition Centre And Other Projects

Like I said, I want to set up a skills acquisition centre, starting with Lagos, and then spreading to other states in Nigeria. I also want to work with the social services here in England to  help DV victims, especially those of ethnic minority origins.

Giving up, never an option

No. Never. I do feel overwhelmed and wish I could do more than I am currently able to do but I have never felt like giving up. Infact, answering this question is the first time that I will be thinking of that as it has never even occurred to me. Like the singer sang, ‘we’ve only just begun’

Inspiration behind my book “Leaving to Live”

The book is called ‘Leaving to live’ and it is about how I left my life of abuse and went on to live a full live. It is a memoir and it serves two purposes. 1- that is to let people in abusive situations or even any sad situation know that they possess the strength to change their situation. If I can do it, so can they. The other purpose is to raise funding for my project – the setting up of the skills acquisition centre. The book is a honest account of my life with my ex, accepting my faults, working on them and how I then turned around my life by changing my behaviour to be able to earn respect ad find love and joy again.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I am not one for blowing my own trumpet so, I would like to leave that to the reader to decide if I am worthy to be called a Woman of Rubies or not.

Final Word For Women Who Are Presently Going Through DV But Are Afraid To Break Free and Speak Up

Please know that you have the strength to get up and go. Don’t give any excuses. Don’t stay for the kids. You deserve to be happy. Your kids deserve to be in a happy environment. If your enemy died of the abuse, your kids might be shunted around or abused. Stay alive for your kids. Stay alive for you. You can do it. Leave to live.

Kemi Oyesola is the  Founder/CEO of How2Think Global Consulting Empire , a platform she founded in 2006 in sad circumstances after she separated from her husband of sixteen and half years. A situation that made her depressed and suicidal, but the mother to 2 adult children and  grandmother found hope in her hopeless situation and she uses her story to teach people how to think outside the box and control  their thoughts when faced with life threatening situation such as hers.  Coach Kemi  as she is fondly called is a certified Gold coach and also an NLP Practitioner. In her words: “I had to think my way into the  kind of life I desired. I had to accept first that I was responsible for where I found myself. Kemi shares her story exclusively with Esther Ijewere in this interview.


I think every one’s childhood prepares them for what they do later in life even if at that time they do not know it. We all at one time or another look back at our childhood and realise that we were like that so that we can do what we do now. My childhood was very happy. What I remember very clearly is that I was a talkative and got reported to my parents by my teachers throughout my primary school years. I also remember that I always wanted to take care of people, whether it was in my home or outside my home. I did not really understand why but I enjoyed caring for people. I was always helping or serving. I did wonder why I loved doing so much work – because, yes it was work. With hindsight which is 20/20, I realise now that I was born to take care of others which is what I am doing now. I talk for a living, whether as a speaker or when I coach or consult.


Inspiration behind How2Think

The inspiration was the breakup of my marriage. I wondered, especially as I worked at it how come my marriage broke up. I knew that I have only this time to live on earth as is; there is no Part B of this life lived just this way. I had to do the best of it as I have it now. I had to be separated from my now ex-husband to live the life I felt I was called to; to do the things that kept burning in my heart to do. I could not run away from it and although it hurt to break up my marriage, I am glad I did. I would not change it for anything. And so, it was at the point of break up I asked God why when the answer I heard was, “It’s because of the way you think. ’And that was how I started the search for what exactly it is to ‘THINK.’ I realised with my findings that I would have to teach others the ‘how’ of thinking because it was this that determined how we live and the results that we get. It is a deep thing, thinking and so many of us do not pay it attention. We need to think about what we think about. And that is how I was inspired to start How2Think Global Consulting Empire.

 Being Suicidal

I was suicidal after my marriage broke up and almost lost it… It was unexpected. It was unwanted. There was much pain and there was a long journey to the demise of my marriage and the consequences of such. I realised after the break up that it was my thinking that had got me where I was. Being a Christian and married to my Pastor, I knew that we had been serving faithfully and so asked God why my marriage broke. He answered, “Because of the way you think.” So, I picked up the Bible to find the word, ‘think.’ After all, I had never heard that word in church. But you know, that isn’t true. What I had not done was notice the word. After studying the Bible for a couple of days, I found the sentence, ‘… for as he thinks in his heart, so is he’ – and have been studying this ever since; and teaching it too. Many are not aware of how they think. It is the crux of everything, absolutely everything in life. Before you do anything, you think. The resultant effect of your thoughts is your character. Like any seed, thought is a seed and will grow. Therefore, you determine the harvest. But the learning was not in the study as it was in the living. After my ex-husband left, I went into depression and was exceedingly stressed but what was different was that I didn’t know.

I lost my hair and for over 10 years it did not grow until my son was almost 20 years old. I became exceedingly poor, so poor there were times I did not have heating in my house; I could not give my children pocket money to go to school; I was so poor I had to be evicted from my house. I was suicidal and wanted to jump from a very high place in order to kill myself. I brandished a knife on my ex husband – I wanted to kill him. I knew then that I was going kuku in the head and it wasn’t good. There are other things that happened to me that brought me to a low place.. That is another story. The highlight of this is that I had to come out of the depression and quit being stressed but I didn’t know how. I sought help from others, but they only told me what I already knew. I was sinking and sought to stay my head above water but I couldn’t find where or how.

A few times, I thought I needed medical help but I knew they would only tell me what everyone else had been telling me. I needed something to help me get out of the morass I was in. It wasn’t until after I knew I was the only one who could help me that it began to sink. I had the problem I was on a mission to teach. I had to overcome this problem otherwise I would be a hypocrite. I had to think my way into the kind of life I desired. I had to accept first that I was responsible for where I found myself. I had to accept that God had done all He was going to do and the buck rested with me. Nothing has been harder than that acceptance. And nothing has been freer than that acceptance. It took me a few years but I did it – and continue to do it. It is a life’s work. I know that I am on a mission, it is not just a vision – to help individuals learn how to think. I believe that your mind is set with your thoughts thus, I focus on Thought Set and not mind set. In fact, I do not teach mindset. I had no choice but to bounce back. At the age these things happened to me, I was in my early 40’s, I had read about so many tragic situations where the individuals ended up dead or their lives meant nothing because they had lost their mind. I just could not end up like that. It was tempting but it was also scary. It also felt like I would be a total failure if I did not overcome the heartache and the sense of failure that my marriage didn’t work. I knew there was a better way and it lay in how I was THINKING. I knew that no one person and no divine entity could make this happen for me. I did call on God for help, but the buck stopped with me. I remember at the point that I wanted to jump, hearing the voice of God telling me how strong the person was – who was the reason I wanted to jump to kill myself. That annoyed me. And it was enough for me to hear it, think about it and change my mind. But after that moment, I knew it had to be a daily decision to live and not give up. You see, giving up is the first step to becoming suicidal. Once one gives up, there is no reason to carry on in life; for what do you want to carry on doing? I decided to win in life; I could not be among those who lost. What reason would I give? It just didn’t make sense.

Instilling Values in my Kids

One value I have instilled in my kids and how I balance work and home life That one value I have instilled in my children is that they must win; they can do anything and they are not allowed to be stupid or poor. Winning is non-negotiable.

Balancing Home and Work

I balance home and work life by working from home and working for myself thus I have better control. Also, my children are adults now so it makes things so much easier although when they were younger, I was a housewife and worked from home when I started my business. If I had to go out as part of my business, I took my children with me. Even now, if my grandchildren must be with me and I need to speak at an event, I take them with me. It is important to me that they see what I do and learn too.


What and who inspires me

What inspires me is the work ahead that I still need to do. The fact that I can, except I decide not to. The fact that the work ahead is given to me because I can do it not because I cannot do it and so must work hard at it. Who inspires me are many – individuals who have faced hardship and overcome. Individuals like Les Brown, Nick Vujicic, Eric Thomas and others like them. They have made it through tough times and did not give up. They could give reasons today for their failures or inadequacies but they forged ahead. Now, for me, that is inspiring.


Greatest reward

The greatest reward is when I see the change in those I have helped. That change, the transformation is what I aim for. I must see it otherwise I have not done my job and there is no reward.




Not being able to reach those I would like to work with because they do not see the necessity for knowing how to think. But more than that, when I can speak to clients, I have the awesome job of helping them understand the priority of knowing how to think. This is a huge challenge, but we get there in the end.


My perception of women in my industry

Women are amazing within the coaching industry and need to know this. The ability of a woman to want to help others and to start a business despite all the moving parts, is simply wonderful.


On giving up

Oh yes, of course I have had times when I want to give up. And I did give up on my business a few times but would come back. I have stopped that now because I find that success does not come to those who give up. Success comes to those who persevere and keep doing what they must do.


I am a Woman of Rubies

First, I love the ruby. I love red, it suits me and makes me glow. Red is a personification of who I am and what I stand for and one of my brand colours. A Woman of Rubies is a strong woman, I am strong; an able woman, I am able; a woman who believes she is unstoppable, am unstoppable; an indomitable woman, I am indomitable and a Woman of Rubies is a winner, I am a winner, period.


Final word for women who are thinking of going into the coaching and motivational speaking industry

Yes, one word of caution. Mind your own business with all you have got. No comparisons. Your business is yours and it is your responsibility to make it the very best that you can make it. Excellence is a non-negotiable. But before you get into business, be it coaching or any other kind of business, count the cost and hire yourself a mentor or coach. You will need their guidance on your journey. Do not go the journey on your own. It is harder and longer that way.


Ogechi  was raped twice at the age of 16 on different occasions while hawking  , the mother of  four and graduate of Economics from the University of Ibadan  is also living with HIV, a discovery that almost shattered her dreams and made her give up on life. The only child of her mother and staff of the Nigerian society of engineers was all over the internet last week when she opened up about her status and also shared her story and deepest pain. Though Ogechi runs her own company while still gainfully employed , she is determined to use her story to touch lives and also change the perception of the society about  HIV and  stigmatization.


My background and Story
Yes, my childhood experience was characterized with hard work, which propelled me into becoming an independent woman. It gave me the sense of understanding that no one owes me anything, it made me understood that I am responsible for either my success or my failure. I was born into the family of Eight Children, and I was the last born but unfortunately, I lost Seven of my Senior Siblings, making me an only child. I lost my father too, as a child, hence I was singlehandedly trained by my mother.My mother was a petty trader who hawked on different seasonal fruits, ranging from oranges, avocado peers, banana, etc. And when in, out of season, she trades on kola nuts. While growing up, I watch my mother cried every night, her pains was greater than I could imagine, I couldn’t proffer solution, all I could say then whenever she cried was “Aunty ndo kwanu” (Aunty sorry) yes, I call my mother Aunty till date.
The pains of losing her Seven Children one after the other to the cold hands of death was excruciatingly great to her heart, to a point she almost lost hope that she had me. At any little experience, she would wish she wasn’t living, she often makes reference to them. I assured her and reassured her each time she cried that “I WILL BE TO HER, WHAT THE SEVEN DEAD CHILDREN WOULD HAVE BEEN TO HER”.

Raped twice while hawking
My growing up was like hell, I would hawk from 6am-9am before going home to prepare for school, immediately after school, I would hit the street again to hawk, that was our only source of livelihood, the proceeds were used for our feeding and my school fees and books, during holidays, my effort triples. My Hawking experience became bitter when I was deflowered by raped at 16, in 1996, I lost my virginity. Nothing could be done to the guy who did it because his father was the chairman of one of the local government in IMO state then, so my mother dare not raise such accusations against the high and mighty. My experience became more bitter when I was raped for the second time by gangs of men in pretense of trying to buy my market, they successful cornered me and over powered me at Ekeonunwa market Owerri. I hated hawking, my passion for education grew, my dream to become someone influential and rich grew, my vision for life became my burning desire. I was determined by quest to take care of my mother and make her proud, hence I wasn’t ready to allow any challenges deter it. I kept pushing on.

Journey to Lagos
After my secondary education in 1997, I journeyed to Lagos in 1998, life was hell, at a point, I lived in an uncompleted building for over a year without anyone knowing that someone lives in there, because I would leave there as early as 4 am to go to where I worked as sales girl with a salary of 3,000 and would come home very late, the supermarket I worked for, used to close by 10pm, before I would get home, it would be 11pm.
When I had a change of work, I worked for Linar Pharmacy at Salvation road Opebi, Ikeja. Seeing my boss children who were schooling at University of Lagos, my enthusiasm for education and good life intensifies the more. I reassured myself of my dreams of becoming a graduate. Then I knew I won’t just sit down and dream, hence I changed my job of a sales girl to a cleaner, so that I could attend my computer school.While in computer school at Allen avenue, Ikeja, I became very close to one of my course mate “Late Akpa Elina Odachi” (may her soul Rest in Peace) whose father was a Soldier and mother was a mobile Police Officer, they were living in Sam Ethan Air Force Base, Ikeja. She noticed that I was living in an uncompleted building, and sought to know why, I explained, she highlighted the dangers of me staying in there, should area boys become aware. So, she suggested to take me to her parents in the barracks, that was how my how my journey to the barracks started.

The beginning of my ordeal
Life in the barracks was sweet till I started dating a Soldier, pregnancy came, children came, no marriage, the sweetness of my soul was taken away, I was abused both by the father of my kids and his relatives. I was abandoned, in fact the soldier worked his posting out, that was how I started hawking again, joined cleaning work to it, to sustain myself and kids, in 2005 I decided to become a soldier through recruit, I bought the Air Force form, took my kids home to my mother. It was in the course of medical screening, they found out that I was pregnant again for my soldier boyfriend again, hence I was dropped. All hope to good life were lost. My soldier friend still insisted that there will be no marriage.
My suffering increased, the sisters of the father of my kids would mock me, each time they saw me hawking oranges in the street of Oshodi, Lagos or they saw me sweeping the blocks of barracks, they concluded that I wanted to entangle their younger brother with pregnancy to gain marriage, they were all graduates, I was just a WAEC holder, cum an orange seller and a cleaner. The disparities between us were much, the gap was too much, they saw nothing good in me, Their constant mockery was a reminder to my ambitions.

The need to double up for survival
In 2007, I doubled my cleaning work alongside my hawking business with the view of saving more money to go to school even if it is on part time bases. I swept the barracks and washed the gutters from 4am – 5:30 am, moved straight to oshodi market to buy my oranges before 6:30am, then prepared before 7:30 am to Pacific Access Limited, to clean their office, by 9am I am through with all cleaning work, I would go home, rest till 12pm, then wash my oranges, and hit the streets for my hawking business. Some days, I would make sales ranges from 3,000-5,000 per day, then get monthly salary of 5,000 for cleaning the barracks, also 5,000 from cleaning Pacific Access limited. In a month I  have savings from incomes ranging from 30,0000-40,000. My hope for school started rising.

The “Plot Twist” moment
On August 29, 2007, I came to clean office as usual, I found a Wednesday Punch Newspaper on my boss table, dated August 28, 2007, 1 flipped through the pages, I saw job advertisement for junior staff with minimum of Diploma and must be computer literate. I checked out for its location and organization, it was Abuja, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, National Headquarters, National Engineering Center. My instinct told me to apply, I came home and told everyone, they all discouraged me, except one officer, Warrant Officer Ogumuyiwa who encouraged me to try my luck. I did, passed the aptitude test and interview and was given the job. I assumed office on 16th November, 2007, that was beginning of my breakthrough. My dreams became true. I found favour among my colleagues, Management Staff and the entire organization favored and blessed me. In 2009, I gained admission to study Financial Accounting at Fidie Polytechnic Gboko, Benue state, I got my National Diploma in 2011, in 2012, I gained admission to study B. Sc. in Economics at University of Ibadan, Oyo state through Direct Entry. My dreams to become a graduate and take care of my mother came true against all odds, against all my failures and challenges, I conquered my fears and dismay.
I became a mother at age 22, a single mother of four children at age 28, started higher institution at age 29, owned a car at age 31, became an Oracle Database Certified Expert at 32, a landlady in Abuja at age 33, a graduate of Economics 2015/2016 at 36, established BDMG Resources Limited on 5th April, 2017, before my 37th Birthday. Currently writing my ICAN and ACCA Professional Certification Exams. Above all, I am still gainfully employed with the Nigerian Society of Engineers, “the engine room of my breakthrough”.

My Motivation
God is my all in all, His grace, favour and mercy found me was sufficient unto me and  became my enabler, my mother is my Rock, my children are my motivators, The Nigerian Society of Engineers (The best Organization) was my strength, and MY VISION WAS MY DRIVE.

Heartbreaking moment I found out my HIV status
My only regret was becoming HIV positive, but I thank God that all my children are NEGATIVE and their father is also NEGATIVE. Surviving the reality of living with HIV became my greatest challenge, my worst nightmare, the thought was killing, the pains was excruciatingly great, better imagine than experiencing.
HIV is a management disease, and not a killer disease, it is the fear of stigmatization and discrimination that leads to living in self-pity/denials which leads to AIDS, which is the killer. I conquered the FEARS . I became adherent to my ARV, today I am gladly living positively healthy with my viral load undetectable and high CD4 count.

Initial reaction
I felt terribly bad, for months I lived in denial, I found it difficult to accept, I felt disappointed in myself, I thought I had become a failure, I was at the verge of giving up, but the thought of how my kids and my aged mother would survive without me changed my mind, hence I came to reality with my new-found status. I decided that I will live and I will conquer every fear associated with being HIV Positive, I braced up and started making website research to understand if truly victims of HIV can live a normal live. When I found out that it was possible to have an undetectable viral load and high CD4 count even with the presence of HIV in the blood stream, then I decided that I would be an example of such. Today I am happily living that fulfilled life.

Why I opened  up about my status
Smiles…My inspiration was drawn from the knowledge I gained while studying what HIV entails. Applying the things, I learnt from the HIV health counsellors while being counseled and my personal research from World Health Organization (WHO) and USAIDS websites proved to me beyond every reasonable doubt that HIV is not a killer disease, if only victims adheres to their ARV drugs. Hence my passion to see people live above their fears of HIV grew. My enthusiasm to change the Myths people held about HIV grew. I knew that I needed to lend a voice, I understood that such long held Myth about HIV can only be changed true a healthy life of a testimony from a victim of HIV.

Becoming a single mum at 28 and balancing it all
Yes, I became a single mother of four children at age 28, prior to that, I had already been gainfully employed, hence I had inflow of cash. Nevertheless, I was able to balance motherhood, job and academic career with the assistance of my mother. I stopped my mother from hawking to enable her live with me. She was saddled with the responsibilities of taking care of my children after they returned from school on the daily basis while I concentrated on my job and the pursuit of my academic career.
 The Joy of being my own boss and still gainfully employed
My driving force was my vision of becoming influential and rich. Having tested poverty, I told myself that I will plan my life very well to escape poverty. Living a life of poverty is liken unto living in hell, hence I never wanted my children to experience what I encountered, hence the need to plan for better stream of income became my driving force.

Other Projects
I am a networker, indulging into divers networking marketing. I believe that wealth is not gotten through one stream of income but through multiple channels of activities that yields money. I am also a freelance writer, with www.upwork.com.

My most ever regarded reward was the award of “THE MOST IMPROVED STAFF OF THE YEAR 2010” by The Nigerian Society of Engineers, National Headquarters.

Nigerians not well sensitized on how to respond and relate to HIV victims
No, Nigeria and Nigerians needs more sensitization on HIV and its management. Records has proven that we are still holding firm to the Myths we believe about HIV. Nigerians still believe that the virus can only and strictly be gotten through sex. Some are of the opinion that it is an airborne or a highly contagious disease, hence their attitude of stigmatization and discrimination is unavoidably evident to victims of HIV. Some see it as a spiritual attack, hence resorted to seeking prayers and miracles against seeking for medical attention, they Christianized it to a belief of an act of witches and wizards. Very ironic.

If you had the opportunity to proffer a solution to HIV victims, what would it be
1. I will first help them to conquer their fears by understanding that nothing is capable of killing your soul except what you yielded to.  2. I will teach them boldness to accept their new status, no one can make you worse off, without your consent, hence they need to understand how to kill the greatest enemy of their boldness which is SELF PITY.  Above all, I will help them to delete the concept of seeing HIV as a spiritual attack

I am a woman of Rubies
My Braveness and heart of determination distinguishes me as a woman of Rubies

Final word for women who are passing through Challenges and living with HIV

Trust in God, the author and finisher of our faith and never give up on yourself

Anthonia Ojenagbon, Survivor & Ceo Silton African Kitchen

Anthonia Ojenagbon is rising from the ashes of adversity and inspiring others to do so through her story. Her dream is to help victims of sexual abuse find a voice by encouraging them to speak up and break the silence. She has turned her lemon to lemonade by speaking publicly about her experience and how she was able to go through the healing process after her uncle abused her as a young girl. She shares the story of her rise from the ashes to glory and how her business took her to Aso rock to meet the Former President of Nigeria in this interview.

Early Beginning
My mum was a full-time housewife while we were growing up and my father was in the military. Things were tight and we could hardly make ends meet. Having three square meals a day was such a big deal. Then I grew up and got married with a firm decision to contribute to the home by assisting my husband as best as I could. I really wanted to be useful to myself and my generation. I wanted to be able to feed people because l understood while growing up what it meant to be hungry.

Meet Me
My name is Anthonia Ojenagbon, the first of nine children. I am a product of Wavecrest College of Hospitality and the Pan Atlantic University. I am the lead chef at Silton African Kitchen.

Somehow a friend took me to a church and the pastor counselled on how to make my uncle stop what he was doing to me. The night after the pastor spoke to me, my uncle came again but this time l shouted with everything inside of me, pretending I was having a nightmare. I kept shouting until everyone in the house woke up, trying to find out what was wrong. Although I did not tell them what the problem was, that was the last time he tried to touch me. But by then a lot of damage and emotional harm had already been done. I became a shadow of myself because l felt l had offended God and that was why He allowed this evil to befall me. l lost every sense of self worth and my mind was in turmoil. I became very bitter towards men and hated them until l met my husband who is a complete gentleman. Since we got married, he has never ever made reference to my past and has never judged me.

Healing Process
The trauma and psychological effects of sexual abuse and rape are grievous was filled with hatred and bitterness. I was ashamed and felt guilty because l could not understand why this happened to me despite of the fact that l was brought up by Christian parents. I battled severe depression for a long time and eventually checked myself into a depression facility to seek professional help.
The healing process was not easy. l had difficulty making lifesaving decisions. L had sleep problems. l got to a point where l knew l needed help but did not know where and how to get that help.

Then one day l watched Funmi lyanda on New Dawn on NTA where a survivor of rape was interviewed. There and then l knew it was called child sexual abuse and the first step to healing was to talk to a trusted person. The guilt of sexual abuse and rape is such a heavy burden that must be broken, so I looked for an aunty to talk to. Luckily, l found two ladies who were not professional counsellors but were willing to hear my story and not judge me because we live in a very judgemental society where sexual abuse and rape is considered a taboo and victims are blamed or treated with disdain. I learnt to forgive myself because l always thought it was my fault. Thank God for social media, l decided to tell my story and the comments and responses have been phenomenal. l am now a trained emotional intelligence coach and a counsellor of traumatic and troubled children.

As l searched my mind, l just heard peppered snails; So during lunch break l started telling my colleagues that apart from making hats, l also sell peppered snails. That was how the business started. Now we make peppered snails for bigs events and offer office and home delivery services. We now also fry yam and plantain in addition to peppered snails and guinea fowls for events. The snail business won me the federal government of Nigeria YouWin grant for women and I was also one of the 1000 entrepreneurs selected from all over Africa by the Tony Elumelu Foundation for a grant and mentorship. We also run the breakfast canteen of the Central Bank of Nigeria Lagos Office. We actually provide full-fledged indoor and outdoor catering services now and run or manage corporate canteens.

Giving Up
When l first started the snail business, l was selling because my colleagues in class and members of staff were buying. l did not however think about what would happen after the course at the Pan Atlantic University. But after the course, getting customers became very difficult. l tried all the traditional methods of marketing l knew, but at the time nothing seemed to work. With time I started using social media. Before then, it was really frustrating and I even became severely discouraged and almost gave up.

My biggest reward so far was when l was invited to the Aso Rock State House to exhibit my snails. lt was such a dream come true for me. Again, I am also able to support my family in whatever little way I can and also a few other people who need help. But nothing compares to the excitement of hearing that I am an inspiration.

Challenges of Running my Business
In my catering business one the major challenges we faced initially was brand acceptance. It was difficult convincing our target audience to believe in our brand, but now the story is a lot different. Then in my social work it is difficult to convince people that I am speaking out because l want to be a beacon of hope to other survivors who have never spoken about their abuse and rape before.

Sexual abuse and rape is a cankerworm. Society still does not understand that survivors suffer a lot of emotional pain, loss of every sense of self worth, are severely depressed as a result of the abuse and rape. Society still is not sensitised enough to know that a lot of survivors are suicidal and are becoming more violent towards the opposite sex. Society still does not know all hands should be on deck to fight sexual abuse and rape and minimize it to the barest minimum. Parents should begin to talk to their children from an early age, victim should no more be blamed or shamed, survivors should not be judged because already they have suffered and are still suffering psychologically. We need more counsellors; in government hospitals they should be trained to attend to survivors when they come in. Survivors should not be stigmatized. Sometimes people disallow their children from marrying someone who has been sexually abused and raped before. All that has to stop.

Being a Woman of Rubies
OK, l think am a woman of ruby because l have excelled in both business and life generally inspite of what life has thrown to me. l have not allowed the abuse l suffered to keep me down. I have turned my lemon to lemonade by speaking publicly about my abuse so as to bring healing and hope to others who have also gone through similar experiences. I have not allowed my background and experience in life to keep my back on the ground.

Kathlyn Eyitemi was sexually assaulted at the age of four, endured physical and verbal abuse from her dad and was raped few months to her wedding. Her mother committed suicide when she was fifteen ..She was engulfed in self-denial and condemnation and was silent about it for years till she got healed .Today, she is the president of Sisters Interact Network, an interactive NGO for hurting women, providing emotional healing to victims of rape and abuse. She shares her story in this interview.

This is my story!

My story began at age four when I found myself in an abusive situation while I was living with my grandmother in the village. I cannot say for sure when the abuse started but by age four I could identify that my older cousin was having sex with me in my grandmother’s house. At age five, I moved on to begin living with my father in port Harcourt and he turned out to be verbally and physically abusive. I endured verbal and physical abuse till I was in my mid-twenties.

Raped few months to my wedding

While I was a student in the university, a few months to my wedding, armed robbers burst into my room at night. They yanked part off part of my hair off my scalp, beat me mercilessly and and two of them raped me. I momentarily lost my mind and stayed numb for a long time. In the morning I went to the hospital to get help. My fiance understood when I called him to tell him. He immediately came to pick me from school. Haunted by the memory and the pain, I lost confidence in myself and lived in fear for a long time.

Finding healing

Six years later, I found healing in God. And when social media came I figured I needed to create a platform where women could open up and talk about their pain and their issues and they could seek help as well. I also wanted to provide an opportunity to reach teenagers and make counseling available to them because as a teenager I was in a lot of pain and confusion.


Breaking the silence

I decided to break the silence on my rape experience about five years after the incidence when it dawned on me that several women had been through the same ordeal but they couldn’t talk about it for fear of being singled out and stigmatised. They were just hurting in secret. I knew if i spoke out, it would help many of these hurting women because then, they would know that it happens to other everyday women. When I founded Sisters Interact Group on Facebook five years ago, I wanted it to be like a therapeutic space where women could frankly speak out about their deepest hurts. At the time I was hurting so badly from all the pain I had been through. I hadn’t gotten over the shock of my mother committing suicide when I was just fifteen. I had been verbally and physically battered in the home where I grew up with my dad and step mum. I just finally wanted to let out my pain but I wanted it to be rewarding. I wanted someone to glean something right from it and find succor from knowing that we could pray for each other and be there for each other. I figured I would impact more women if I just told them my story on the group wall so everyone could read. When I did that, the responses were just amazing. Those who had been rape victims began to talk and others were just so supportive.


From being a rape victim to being a survivor

It was hard to get over the humiliation and the pain. The feeling of being violated had lingered for years. Many times I felt dirty and worthless. There were times I blamed myself for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The guilt always surrendered to anger

Because absolution never came. I never felt free of the need to want some kind of revenge. I felt like I would kill my attackers if I ever had the opportunity. But God began to do a work in me a few years after the experience.

Engulfed by self -condemnation

Stigma? Not quite but the self condemnation i felt was worse than any label that anyone could have put on me. I hated myself so much. I felt suicidal. One reason why i didn’t take my life was because i kept telling myself that i didnt want to end up like my mum. I didn’t think it was right for me to take my own life. It just didn’t feel right. But i really didnt feel like i had much to live for. I was by myself a lot. After I got raped, When the incidence happened, in the morning neighbors who knew robbers had attacked me came in and they sensed that I had been violated so they asked me, “did they rape you? I said “no they didn’t”. I felt so ashamed. And I felt like they were not the people I could tell stuff like that to. When i went home from school, I spoke to my sisters about it. But they had no words for me. They just starred at me in shock. And that made me feel like I ought to shut up about it. Although my fiance at the time who is my husband now was very supportive. He just stayed and made me feel like I could pull through it.


Bishop TD Jakes Impact

The person who has impacted me the most in this my journey is Bishop T.D Jakes. He has a word for hurting women like no other preacher does in this time. I feel power flow through my veins just hearing him articulate the sermons that are crafted by the Holy Spirit for hurting women.


The Next Generation Project

The inspiration for the Next Generation Project came shortly after I left secondary school. I was a young adult then. I started thinking to myself that there are a lot of teenage girls who may have been subjected to abuse the way I had. Because for me as a teenager in secondary school, my self esteem was very fragile. One thing that really affected me was my inability to relate with the fact that I had lost my virginity. I didn’t know when I lost it, didn’t have the power to make that choice, someone had ripped that power of choice from me. I often wondered at the possibility of my being a virgin when someone had obviously broken my hymen long before I was five years old. So when girls talked about their virginity and stuff like that, I felt uncomfortable and confused and tongue tied. The worst part was if they asked me if I was a virgin. I felt really tormented by the memories from childhood about the episodes of me being molested.

Giving up

Yes. Absolutely. You know every vision will be tested by the firewood of life and my vision has been tested on many fronts. I deal with women. My business is women and women are very complex and delicate people to manage. So there are all kinds of discouragement coming from them. The same people you set out to help betray you and hurt you so bad. I think it’s part of life because in the end they are still human too and like most humans their weaknesses can become venomous. But in all, I love these women because inspite of some bad episodes, the majority of them have been my biggest support and inspiration. Of course there have also been monetary challenges too because I didn’t start out with sponsorship, we have funded our programs from our personal pockets through the years and it can be quite challenging when you see the pile of bills to pay and you just don’t know how you will pull through.


Greatest Reward

My greatest reward is seeing the faces of the girls that we are able to reach through the Next Generation Project and our Eve Care Programs. Sometimes women cry in my arms. They spill out all the bottled pain and i just hold them close and let them cry rivers. Its part of the healing process for them. When we go for teenage counseling in secondary schools and higher institutions, hearing their stories of incest, rape and domestic abuse, I know we did the right thing by embarking on the project. Apart from providing toiletries and school materials for these girls, One of the things we do is to provide medical care for girls infected with STDs.

The lifeline

The advice I have for rape victims is to first of all, get medical help, seeking counseling and talking to people who can help you. Bottling everything up causes more psychological damage. Because the more the incidence keeps playing out in your mind, the more insane you become with pain and anger. But talking to someone lets off steam and if you get professional and godly counseling, you get clarity about what has happened to you and you are better equipped to deal with it through therapy. I also think society should be more open and sincere about dealing with the menace of rape.


Why I am a woman of rubies

I am a woman of rubies because I have been cut out of difficult circumstances and in the end I have emerged stronger like fine stone. What the devil meant for evil, God has turned it around for good and he is using me as a battle axe against the forces of evil today. My story has become an inspiration to hurting women.