Excellence Anurika Joshua is a Digital Skills Expert and Pan African social entrepreneur on a mission to boost the economic development of African women.
She is a Founder, Digital Media Consultant, a Pan Africa social entrepreneur, and a blooming African development expert who has trained and created job opportunities for over 3000 young African Women in the Tech Space since 2019.
With her passion for young women, She founded  Techy Train Incubator, a Nigerian-based onshore and offshore training and outsourcing organization that specializes in equipping African young women and female entrepreneurs with digital skills to empower them to get jobs in their countries and to also maximize remote job opportunities around the world, reducing the gender wage gap and to also support capacity-building among African companies and startups development worldwide.
She started an initiative in 2021 under the Techy Train incubator to train young ladies & women for Free, especially those with financial challenges and with no jobs to cater for themselves and their children.  As there are so many opportunities in the Tech and online space that are yet to be tapped, she believes that with thorough guidance and training she can help women especially those who are suffering in abusive marriages become financially independent with just their phones and data helping them set up a thriving business online.
She then set up The Tech-Up Girls Initiative with her team to empower 5000 young women across Africa with basic digital skills before the end of 2022. So far, over 3330 have been empowered from across 19 countries in Africa and assisted over 400 women in being gainfully self-employed using digital skills.
In 2019, she became a World Bank Fellow, and won the AGS survivor-woman award; in 2020 she won the Wrapper Initiative award by Erelu Bisi Fayemi and became the winner, Mentoring Her Pitchaton as well as the 1st Runner-Up of The Youth Innovation Challenge by The Funding Space. In 2021, she emerged as one of the winners of the Startup Lab Pitch Competition of the Nigeria Tech Summit.
As a Business and Digital media consultant, she obtained certifications from the International Association of Professions Career College, the School of Marketing, and The Call Centre School. She also obtained a Mini Masters in Business Administration from the International Finance Corporation (a World Bank Group) as well as other certifications in business, finance, and marketing.
She is an alumna of the Enterprise Development Centre of Pan Atlantic University; an alumna of the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs and a member of the International Association of Professional Social Media Consultants (IAPO).
To widen her horizon of knowledge to better develop more sustainable solutions towards the socio-economic development of African women and the world at large, she applied and got admitted into a graduate degree program in Global Inclusion and Social Development at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA.
She is a trailblazer who is passionate about using technology to drive change across areas in women, health, and education.
We celebrate her.

Rubies Ink Initiative for Women and Children and Women of Rubies, put smiles on the faces of 100 seniors and vulnerable in Alimosho LGA and Makoko community with it’s Christmas Food Drive initiative. The project which was funded through the support of the public was a huge success.

The team went into the two communities to give food packages to the elderly in a bid to make them happy and feel loved.

Rubies Ink has been into advocacy, empowerment, and development projects since 2008, and runs multiple projects, empowerment workshops, trainings, campaigns, media advocacy, and women’s outreach programs centered around domestic violence, gender equality and women’s health.

They also organize the annual Walk against Rape campaign , celebrated over 1000 exceptional women through their womenofrubies.com platform, and raise funds online  for women and children in urgent need of medical and other support.

Speaking about the Christmas food drive for the aged, the founder of Rubies Ink, Esther Ijewere said;

“Old age is a blessing, we need to continuously make our seniors feel loved and appreciated. The pandemic has taught us to live in the moment and be intentionally kind, that’s one of the reasons we supported our seniors this festive season, In our bid to spread love and light. We appreciate our donors for their unwavering and continuous support over the years.”

The Project Coordinator, Michelle Inegbese said;

“This is what we love to do, supporting those in need, and putting smiles on faces. Our seniors deserve that and much more. We hope to do this more often”.







You can see more of Rubies Ink work on rubiesink.org and womenofrubies.com, and follow their social media handles; Facebook- Rubies Ink Initiative for Women and Children, Women of Rubies, Walkagainstrape. Instagram; @rubiesink, @womenofrubiesng, @walkagainstrape.Twitter; @rubiesinkng @womenofrubies and @walkagainstrape.

Repressed emotions refer to emotions that you unconsciously avoid. These differ from suppressed emotions, which are feelings you purposely avoid because you don’t know exactly how to deal with them.

When you realize that you are repressing your emotions, you have to take drastic measures to stop it for your emotional and physical health.

I have struggled with this for many years,  and it  got intense when life happened.

I look back at some of the challenges I dealt with silently this year, and wonder how I survived.

I was in between repressing and suppressing my emotions just to stay grounded.

I battled with arm injury for many months, was on strong medications, yet I put on a brave front.

At some point, I couldn’t sleep for  months as my pain kept me awake. I’d binge series on Netflix or  pace my apartment, just to get my mind off the pain. Sometimes I practice “Mindfulness” through meditation.

I was struggling with balancing my duty as a parent, working,  home schooling my daughters, and staying on top of things. I’d speak with folks and act “normal” even while I was breaking apart, drained and numb.

I have lived the past 11 months with repressed and suppressed emotions. Perhaps all of my almost 4 decades on mother earth.

I was encouraging people to stay positive, and telling them to keep faith, and keep pushing, yet I as dealing with my own physical pain that almost made me relapsed into depression, maybe I did and wish not to call it that.

I couldn’t lift the affected arm to say “Halleluyah” . Just giving a visual representation of how bad it was lol.

I was sleeping on one side for  months, couldn’t sleep on my back either, as my shoulder blade and back were badly affected.

Esther Ijewere – At the beach In June 2021 for “mindfullness” while battling with arm Injury

While dealing with my physical pain, I had other matters that threw me off balance; from breech of privacy,  Gmail account hacked, laptop bugged,  trespassing, and  attempted theft. Just to mention few…

I almost lost my mind, but for God, my commitment to his word and prayer, plus Therapy.

Through my pain I found a stronger purpose in Christ. I started praying better and objectively without season.

I even turned my prayer to conversations, like God was sitting right in front of me.

I can’t also downplay the role Physio-Therapy played in my healing journey.  Grateful to my Physio-Therapist (s). Two amazing humans who focused on my healing, and made sure I didn’t downplay the level of pain I was In. I guess they saw through my “Repressed emotions” approach. *Laughs*.

However, I had to also address my repressed emotions through therapy, on the count of separating spirituality from reality. I committed more time to Therapy.

I became  intentional with Therapy,  digging deep into my repressed emotions, and sharing some of my painful experiences with my Therapist (s).

What emotions are you repressing or afraid to confront?

How do those emotions affect your life ?

What measures are you taking to address those emotions?

What kind of emotions are you trying to repress? Anger, frustration, sadness, fear or disappointment?

Perhaps you grew up hearing things like:

  • “You don’t have any reason to be sad.”
  • “Calm down.”
  • “You should be grateful.”

Childhood trauma is one of the major causes of repressed emotions, and could lead to chronic illness if not addressed.

It’s not always easy to recognize when you’re dealing with emotional repression, and there’s no definitive test you can take.

If you do have repressed emotions, however, you might notice a few key signs. These signs might show up in your feelings or your behavior — both toward yourself and other people.

People with repressed emotions often have trouble naming and understanding their emotional experience; I do. This can make it tough to describe how you feel to others, but it also makes it difficult for you to recognize when certain aspects of your life aren’t serving your needs.

You might:

  • regularly feel numb or blank
  • feel nervous, low, or stressed a lot of the time, even if you aren’t sure why
  • have a tendency to forget things
  • experience unease or discomfort when other people tell you about their feelings
  • feel cheerful and calm most of the time because you never let your thoughts linger on anything significant or upsetting
  • feel distressed or irritated when someone asks you about your feelings

Emotional repression can affect your ability to:

  • talk about things that matter to you
  • build intimate relationships
  • understand how other people feel
  • encourage of praise yourself

You might also notice that you:

  • go along with situations instead of expressing what you really want and need – I’m guilty of this one.
  • use  TV, social media, or other activities to help you numb and avoid feelings you don’t want to explore
  • spend most of your time with other people to avoid being alone
  • exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors to deal with situations that upset you

If you have trouble expressing or regulating your emotions, talking to a mental health professional is a good first step. A therapist can help you explore potential causes of repressed emotions and offer guidance and support as you begin to address these reasons.

Therapy also provides a safe space to:

  • work on naming and understanding your feelings
  • increase your comfort level around talking about emotions
  • learn more helpful methods of emotional regulation

What worked for me?

  • Using “I” statements. Expressing my feelings with phrases like; “I feel confused. I feel nervous. I feel terrified.”
  • Focus on the positive. I do this through therapy and positive affirmations, using the “I statements”. I often say things like; “I am healed”, “I am whole”, “I am resilient”, “I am a magnet for light and love”, “I am winning at life”, “I am highly favoured by the divine”, “I am at peace”, “I have will-power”, “I am fine”….You can choose what resonates with your situation or midframe.
  • Let go of judgement. No matter what emotion I am feeling , I am learning to avoid  judging  myself I   shouldn’t feel a certain way. Instead, I try finding a reason for the feeling: “I feel nervous because I just read something that triggered me”. “I am afraid because I don’t feel safe”. etc
  • Make it a habit.  I name  and share my emotions with the people I feel closest to, and encourage them to share their feelings, too. That way I create balance.

Above all, I take therapy seriously.

I am still on a journey of healing, and releasing baggages and things that no longer serve me.

I hope you find comfort in my article and confront your repressed emotions before the end of the year.

You can also read my article on Understanding the Impact of Trauma Here  

Sending love, light and peace to anyone on this journey of releasing repressed emotions.

You are not alone.







At least since I became a single parent.

Lamp woman, Robinson Maggie Ihuaku is an Entrepreneur and a Digital sales expert. Her entrepreneurial journey started in her university days where she sold corporate shirts.

She is a Sales coach (popularly known as the millionaire ($) salesgirl) with expertise in  Developing winning sales strategy ,creating a converting Sales & landing page , Copywriting & writing winning sales pitch .

Her mission is to reduce the early death of businesses in Africa by helping them  break sales limit & create a predictable revenue for their business so they can meet their financial goal & also by  training the best digital salesmen in Africa through her startup “iré” to help businesses grow.

She is has trained 1000+ entrepreneurs on digital skills & sales & impacted many lives through her trainings & books. She is also a youth development and mental health Advocate. She uses my voice and resources to train young persons in personal development and entrepreneurship. She also have a support group @the wholeness center that helps young persons handle emotional issues like depression, suicide Etc.
Maggie is a graduate of microbiology and a certified digital marketer. She has worked with influencers on different projects. She is an Ighub fellow , a proud volunteer, a Speaker and a trainer.

She share her story in this inspiring interview with Women of Rubies.

Childhood Influence

I started my entrepreneurship journey in secondary school but officially at the age of 19. My Dad is a lecturer at abia state polytechnic & my mum is a medical social worker at abia state university teaching hospital.When I was young ,I read my dad’s text book on entrepreneurship & business because he is a PhD holder in business administration. During the holiday , I follow my mum to her work place . She told me about the cases she had at work and how she handled it . These two things gave me a foundation in business , coaching & advocacy.

Inspiration behind the Lamp Woman

The name Lamp woman was inspired from the scripture , Matt 5 vs14 & 15 where it talked about us being the light of the world. Just as the name implies, it’s means a woman who radiates light . A woman who  lightens up a place that is dark . And that is what I stand for.

The Journey So Far

The journey has being filled with so many ups and downs but I thank God. After my first business failed , I went through depression & bankruptcy. I almost committed suicide. I was depressed for 6 months . But the Lord rescued me . I had friends who were praying for me & encouraging me . Right now ,everything is slowly failing in place. That experience helped me gain clarity of purpose of what I really wanted . I mean who would believe that A broke 22 years lady hits 5 figures under 5 months .

Being a sales expertise, youth development advocate and navigating different sectors successfully

 I feel so so  good .  You know that feeling you get when you do the things that gives you Joy. I love teaching sales & business. It’s something that gives me joy to see businesses grow. I also love talking to young persons like me especially in areas of mental health (since I’m a survivor) & personal development. For the mental health support group , we have mental health expertise we work with . This makes the work very easy .Navigating these different sectors has being easy for me based on the fact that they all originated from personal experience.

Inspiration behind the wholesome center

My inspiration is the holy spirit & my personal experience. I have being a victim of rejection & depression.I was expelled from secondary school in class 2 (Js 2) just because my dad pushed our matron down with anger .They didn’t just expel me ,They brought me out in front of the whole school & gave me the disgrace of my life .The same  experience almost happened to me at my second secondary school. This incident and many others I can’t talk about gave my heart a crack. While growing up , I believed that I was not good & that people wouldn’t like me ( I still have those feelings even though I have learnt how to handle it). That’s why I still away from people. But the lord is helping me deal with all the pain & feelings . Last year, I got an instruction to start a support group for people passing through the same thing passing through & here we are.

Challenges of bein a social entrepreneur

Funding : we need funding to organize events

Partnership : partnering with experts is not really easy. As a new foundation most of them have their reservations working with us.

Other Projects

I have other projects that are still on the pipeline

1. Iré: Iré is a virtual school that trains result driven sales professionals . We will be launching very soon .

2. Project B &B: it’s an initiative where we move to communities in Africa that and help them harness available resources so they can make money . We also offer them entrepreneurship & sales training .

And some other projects that I can’t take about.

Success story from my work that inspire me

One of my success story is how I was able to move from a broke lady to 5 figures under 5 months. For me it was a big feat. After I lost everything , I started working with in my mum’s poultry farm where she paid me 500 naira just for recharge card. Before then , I already acquired a skill in copywriting . I decided to use my skills to make money. I used that 500 naira to buy data . I sent different sales pitch to different individuals & companies. Luckily , I got a job as a copywriter. That was how I started.

Women who inspire me to be better and why

1. Nwanyiakamu – Mrs ijeoma ndukwe  : I love this woman from the buttom of my heart. The way she took a local product & made it global amazes me.

2. Ibunkun awosika :I love the way she loves God & her business sense. She is my role model because I dream of seating of different board of different companies like her.

3. Ngozi okonji iweala : One word for her is Excellence . This woman is a big inspiration. This is a shining light & I love her. I love her simplicity & her wealth of knowledge.

Being a Woman of Rubies

What makes Maggie a woman of rubies is that I’m a fighter. I have had ugly experiences while growing up but I always fight for what I want . I am very tenacious & persistent. It’s my trademark.

The Nigerian  awareness on issues centered around mental health and youth advocacy

I appreciate works done by some foundations like live your dream , manifest network ,vision alive , shecanwrite  & other organizations. But I think more work needs to be done. A nation is not wealth because of money or other material possession but the human capital she has . It’s only a healthy man that would see the need to develop his or her self. A lot of work is done on youth development but we need more work on mental health .Many young persons are going through a lot . Many have given up on life .

Beyond organizing events , young persons need one on one counseling sessions where they can pour out their hearts.

Follow her on Instagram @maggieflow_
Linkedin@Robinson ihuaku Maggie

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

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

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

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

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

Childhood Influence

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

Inspiration behind D’potters catering

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

The journey been so far

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

 D’potters catering Academy and It’s Impact

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

Educational background, and your aspiration as a woman

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

Challenges of being a food vendor

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

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


Nuggets on how to be a sought after food vendor.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you think the food industry is favourable enough to entrepreneurs

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

Being a Woman of Rubies

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

Maky Benson was born Chiamaka Araraume into the household of Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume of Imo state, Eastern Nigeria. She is a graduate of Energy Economics and a chemical engineer.

She is happily married to Yomi Benson and the duo is blessed with two children, Micah and Eliana. Recently, the economist turned lifestyle and parenting blogger (www.makyscorner.com) published her cook book titled ‘ Micah’s meals’. Micah’s meals is a book which contains several recipes for babies, toddlers and beyond. Her book was inspired by her decision to feed her first child, Micah home-made and healthy food.

Maky (@makybenson on IG) is also the host and co-founder of The Little Foodie Sessions, a series of cooking sessions where you learn everything you want to know and more about how, when and what to feed your little ones.
We celebrate you, Mama Micah and Eli as she is fondly called, here at women of rubies.

Growing up
My childhood did in a way. Throughout my primary and secondary education, I was not necessarily the best student in my class, in fact I was always in the bottom pile in class. I thought I was dull and would never amount to anything good in life, since the notion we always had was that your life is doomed if you don’t do well in school. Things changed when I moved to the UK to further my education. As usual I struggled in the first two years of my A-levels, but I guessed I was still trying to adapt to the system. As soon as I entered the university, everything changed, I became among the top five in my class, I excelled so well and regained my confidence back. I felt I was now where I ought to be in life. Looking back, I realised what happened to me. The standard of education I received was nothing to write home about. My teachers should have done more to identify the subjects I was excelling in and help me build up in that line, but then you can’t blame them because they had more than a 100 pupils to cater to and naturally won’t have time and ability to cater to each person. This is one of the reasons my focus is on education, I believe the standard of education in Nigeria can be better.

Meet Me
I am the Founder and Executive Director of a vibrant NGO, Egunec Education Support Foundation (EESF), a foundation dedicated to creating a better Nigeria through Education and Community Development. I am a self-motivated writer and entrepreneur who enjoys the challenges of creativity. Increasing an individual’s capacity and potential has always been of interest for me, sparking my research to deepen my understanding and knowledge in this area. In doing so I have participated in capability trainings in the United Kingdom, focusing on Customer Service, increasing Job Interview skills, and writing the excellent Resume.

I am currently the CEO of 618Consulting; providing training for fresh graduates and equipping job seekers with the right skills for interviews and structuring CVs for their desired jobs. I authored the book Get your dream job without struggles which is aimed at providing solutions to the challenges job seekers face during interviews.

I am also an event coordinator. I am also the country representative for MasterPeace Nigeria chapter, an award-winning global grassroots non-profit and non-governmental peace movement, currently existing in more than 40 countries across the world. I studied economics from the University of East London and also hold an MSc. in International Money Finance and Investment from Brunel University, both in the United Kingdom..

Inspiration behind Egunec Education Support Foundation?
The inspiration behind EESF is the dream I have that one day, the quality of our educational system can stand side by side that of our counterparts in other countries; affecting lives in very large magnitude.

Being a writer, entrepreneur and a trained economist
I believe that God installed in us so many skills and abilities, focusing on just one aspect of your skills will just be a waste of time. Just like a mobile phone can be used to make calls, browse, chat and do many other things, we also can do same. This philosophy has helped me a lot because so many opportunities present themselves in life. If you don’t take advantage of the different skills that you have, you will lose out much. But to crown it all, it’s just the grace of God at work in my life.

Our projects are structured to deal with critical issues such as poverty, gender imbalance, child labour, trauma, youth neglect and underdevelopment. We are firm that people can be empowered through education and that could mean freedom!

The young people involved in the project usually learn different entrepreneurial skills such as tailoring, bakery, fish farming, soap making, bead making, carpentry, event management, etcetera and eventually start up their own businesses, earning incomes for themselves as well as supporting their families. This goes a long way to reduce unemployment and crime in the society.

Achievement so far…
We have empowered over 40 youths in Nyanya Zaimi, Nyanya village Hausa Gwandara, Gbagalape, Kugbo (1 & 2, Pyape (1&2), and Guduwa. They acquired skills in baking, fish farming, soap making, bead making, weaving, driving and in ICT, in which we partnered with New Horizon, an ICT firm in Nyanya-Maraba axis. The participants also received mentoring for three months, to ensure they perfect the skills and since then they have been able to train others. No doubt, this project significantly reduced the rate of unemployment in the aforementioned vicinities and can contribute to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

My Reward…
Seeing that lives have been improved and changed through EESF. Another is knowing that I am living my dream and in the area of my calling.

My keen interest in economic empowerment and poverty alleviation
Personally I believe quality education should be the bedrock. Women should be taught the importance of education so that they can encourage their kids to go to school. Many of the problems we face as a country could have been avoided if only the government concentrated on ensuring the educational sector is well funded and administered. I believe if this foundational level is good, it will go a long way in empowering children and the girl child especially.

Lack of funds is the major challenge. Unfortunately, Nigerians have not really embraced charity as such, everyone seems to want from you but finds it hard to give. Also, there is wide misconception in these climes that once you are into charity, then you have more than enough. But that is not always the case with people who do charity work.

Managing the home front and work
God blessed me with a supportive husband who makes my job easy. The help I get from him makes joggling the two possible.

Advice for young women in the development and advocacy sector?
Never ever give up no matter what life might throw at you. What is needful is finding out the social entrepreneurship angle of what you do. This will help the sustainability of your organisation.

I am a Woman of Rubies
Women of Rubies are those who impact lives in one way or the other, I believe the work that I do has impacted various lives that qualify me to be a woman of Rubies.

Final words
You can become what you want in life, you don’t need anybody’s approval to launch out there. God has installed so much in you, don’t waste it. The world is waiting for you.

Fatima Askira is the founder of Borno Women Development Initiative; a Maiduguri-based NGO working with women victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in Internally Displaced Persons camps and host communities in Borno state. In a chat with with Women of Rubies , the 26 year old graduate of Botany speaks about her efforts of alleviating the sufferings of the women, most of whom have lost their husbands

Growing up with a Passion
Actually no. I grew up with an ambition to be a medical doctor, unfortunately, growing up, I find things changing and I start to develop passion through looking at how people live, from their day to day activities especially from the poor perspectives. I really do not have an idea of how or what I want to do with that, but I feel I should do something.

Meet Fatima
Fatima Askira was born and brought up in Maiduguri, I attended my primary education in Maiduguri, Secondary school at F.G.G.C Potiskum, Yobe state and University of Maiduguri, where i studied Biological science, Botany. She single living with her family in Maiduguri. From this little background, you will understand that my childhood didn’t in anyway prepare for the work I am currently doing now. But growing up, life changes its faces and then, one has to make a choice of being who is.

Inspiration Behind Borno Women Development Initiative
Borno Women Development Initiative was inspired by my passion to protect/support women and make them independent. As a result of insurgency, people from surrounding towns and villages of Maiduguri found themselves fleeing from their homes, into the state capital (Maiduguri). My observation at the time was, the majority of the people coming in were women and children, and they come in half covered, because they had to run for their lives. This situation made posed for a second to think of a way I can be of help to these vulnerable women. Then, IDPs mostly lived in an under-resourced camp, before the camps become official. I started to collect clothes from family and friends to donate to some of the displaced women and their children. With the help of a social media campaign, my charity drive took a turn from a small-scale local collection into a national volunteer network which brought about many people reaching out to me to donate clothes, toiletries and food to the internally displaced persons from across Nigeria. As a result of the network I was building, I felt the need to formalize the process, so that people will feel safe, and through the process access wider network of support. Then I started an organization “Borno Women Development Initiative’ (BOWDI).

Rehabilitating the women
Rehabilitation and Reintegration is quite a difficult program to run, especially looking at it critically from challenges of stigmatization and fear in our communities today, but if you hold to your mission, gradually you get to a point where you convince people to accept reality. In some cases, it has been successful as some of the women were reintegrated into camps, and those who are successfully returned back to their communities. But in other cases, some of these women are still being kept safe in isolation, until further arrangements are made for reintegration.

Activities of BOWDI
BOWDI is currently running many projects like; 1. mitigating and preventing Sexual and Gender Based Violence(SGBV) within camps and communities around MMC, Jere, Konduga and Mafa Local Government Areas of Borno State. The consequences of every war has its negative effects on the society, as a result, young girls, boys and women are vulnerable to all acts of violence . Child labour, rape, exploitation, domestic violence and many more are few to mention among many other effects. Therefore, BOWDI felt the need to protect the vulnerable groups through sensitization and educating these groups by conducting interactive sessions focusing on effects and ways to protect themselves from falling victims of abuses, we also provide them with the referral pathways to report all cases and get medical and all forms of support for victims. After every Session, we provide them with basic materials for their immediate needs. 2. BOWDI is running 24 non-formal learning centers in Konduga Local Government Area, under education intervention, providing access to education for children, Adolescent girls and youth. From this particular project, I believe that it is not the people who do not want to go to school, but it is lack of access, or necessary teaching and learning facilities. 3. BOWDI is also economically empowering 833 women with business startups as Small Loan Associations across Mafa LGA.

Like every organization, BOWDI apply for funds through call for proposals and expression of interest by donor agencies, Previously, when the capacity of the organization was very low, we solicit for donations from individuals, philanthropists, etc. through fund raising activities and distribution of fliers in various communities, within and outside Maiduguri, and with my personal income to sustain the organization.

Award and Recognition
Over the years, the smile on the faces of those I helped had been my greatest reward. Until recently when I was awarded a peace award by the 2face foundation together with couple of other peace workers across Nigeria.

Being a Young Woman from the Northeast
Some of the challenges I have faced through this work was how to start and moving forward, especially being a young woman from the Northeast, it was very difficult for me trying to get people support the process, as most people initially thought it will not work out. I had to prove that determination leads to success by trying and trying harder until I was successful. Another Challenge is in trying to finance some of the organization’s activities at the beginning.

If I have an Audience with the President
If I have an opportunity to ask the President one thing on behalf of these women, I will request on their behalf for a social investment platform created specifically for their benefits, a project that is sustainable which would exist from gov’t to gov’t. Some of these women are young girls that happened to be victims of early marriage, some of them have a bright future, some can be enrolled back to schools, some are business oriented, they can be supported with startups, some have already existing skills, they can be supported with basic equipment for support. Such platform I am requesting on their behalf will serve both as empowerment and a method to prevent violent extremism in our communities, especially now that we have thousands of unaccompanied children, roaming on our streets because their female parents cannot afford to cater for all their needs.

Support from Nigerians
To be honest, Nigerians have been supportive to our people, but to be precise about the women, there haven’t been specificity in looking at their situation. I can say this may have happened because of the overwhelming situation of insurgency in the region, which left everyone in need of support. But, for these women, i personally feel there is need for a special intervention and support from everyone, especially our women representatives both in government and private entities. I was hoping to see a movement from women all over the country standing out to bring smiles and hope to the faces of these broken women. I am still yearning to see such and optimistic that women all over the world would realize the need to assist.

I am a Woman of Rubies Inside Out
I grew up looking at successful women and hoping to be like them somedays, but in a way I define my success as the ability to touch the lives of the less privileged in a way no matter how little, put a smile on a woman’s face. Even though, I am not only inclined to women, BUT I give them a priority because I see them as a backbone of development that are always neglected or sidelined, and therefore, the society suffered from the consequences of leaving them idle. My work to inspire women and build them into independent/resourceful women, and also a role model to most young women makes me a ‘woman of rubies’.

Advice to Women
I would love to close by telling all women around the world that, we all are responsible for our growth, We are responsible in making our societies prosperous and violent free by empowering and supporting each other through our little different ways. Also, we have to form a bond of sharing our innovations and ideas which i believe will help us transform each other and build more on our individual work in our various fields and communities. And lastly, for our elderly women to consider young girl’s contributions and carry them along as we may have great ideas to share.

Oluwatoyin Onigbanjo is a journalist, teacher, food artist, and baby food blogger, the founder of August secrets, a baby/kid friendly Nigerian food blog, aimed at making kids’ meals fun, simple, and healthy. Toyin Onigbanjo was also the 2nd runner up at Samsung Food art Competition in May. Read her inspiring interview with Women of Rubies.

I think my childhood prepared me for this I am doing today because I have always loved to draw cartoons and tell stories. Everyone in Federal Government Staff School Sokoto knew my sister and I for drawing cartoons, writing stories and also leading at cooking sessions. I have always loved the art of cooking.

Meet me
My name is Oluwatoyin Onigbanjo, a wife, a mother, a journalist, a recipe developer and a children food blogger. I have a B.A in English and Literature, and Masters in Public and International Affairs, but my passion and purpose in life is anything that has to do with the welfare of children and the family. As a single lady, I used to run a club, Treasures Kiddies Club just for children in my neighbourhood.

Inspiration behind August Secrets
As a new mother, I bought 3 full bags of jar purees for my son, but he refused to eat them until I made local foods like Ground Rice with carrots. I realise there are so many mothers going through the same problems of feeding their children the appropriate complementary foods. This is my inspiration for August Secrets.

Like I said earlier, I have always loved to draw and do art with food. I just had to incorporate art into my child’s food to make it more attractive for him, and it has been working. I also do food-art with other adult-related foods

Projects and activities
I am working on having my mini food manufacturing company/outlet in future. My greatest short term dream for now is to be able to advocate and raise funds to take food to children in the IDP camps and other war-prone zones.

On giving up
Yes, because it is not easy at all. I have cried many times to sleep. The only thing that keeps me is the joy I derive from moms who use my recipes and their child eats better.

Greatest reward
The greatest reward I have received is the prayers of mothers who consult me for recipes and foods. I get heartfelt prayers on my mail everyday! After the doctor/nutritionist have prescribed foods for their babies, the next issue is how to cook the foods, and that is where I come in.

Samsung Food art Competition experience
It was a great experience because I dined with great people in the food and art industry. I thank God for those who encouraged me to put in my entry for the competition.

The greatest challenge has been getting people to assist you with information and the next step to take, I had to source for everything myself. Nobody sees the background work that goes into a successful venture. Another challenge also is combining my day’s job with my passion to help mothers. It is really a tough one.

To aspiring bloggers
Find what you love. Work hard. Follow the process, don’t look for shortcuts or try to out rightly copy someone who has been toiling long before you. Seek counsel. Always be open to learning. Let your success be a journey to make impact, and not a journey to perfection. Be yourself. Put God first.

Words of advice to women
I ask for help. Everyone around me now, know this is what I want with my life, and they joyfully support me in my various responsibilities. I enjoy a great support from my husband, in laws and extended family. I also delegate my duties, and plan ahead for my day. Women need a lot of support.

I Am a Woman Of Rubies
A woman of rubies is someone who knows that God has deposited something great inside her, and it can be unleashed with prayers, hardwork and continuous learning. I think I am a woman of rubies because this describes me.

Final word
There is a reason God made you a woman, enjoy your womanhood. Find your purpose in life and seek to fulfil it. Let love be your guide. Do all these quickly when you can, for life is short. Thank you very much.

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.