Adaobi Alex-Oni has a personality that is predisposed to challenges, creativity. She likes to intellectually stimulate and engage brilliant people from all spheres of life. She is a grass root motivator and the convener and initiator of the ROWEAD and WOW-I initiative.
A seasoned broadcaster and TV presenter, she is a graduate of the University of Abuja and has a main theater Arts in the University of Ibadan.
She spent the last decade of her professional career pioneering and putting together special outdoor games and activities for the excitement of children at various private and corporate events through her organisations. She pioneered the first outdoor water game called water walking balls and paddle boats.
In this chat with Esther Onyegbula, she talks about her foundation, challenges of the girl child in Nigeria, and other sundry issues.
Girl child education
The issue of girl child education- problems confronting girl child education, how to address the problems have been a central discussion in the last decades and our nation, Nigeria, is not an exception. Gender equality in education has been the subject of much debate during the past decades and has become a prominent topic of debate in all countries. In Nigeria, there are large disparities between the level of education that boys and girls can attain. Many girls do not have access to adequate education past a certain age level.
Challenges facing women in Nigeria
Women in Nigeria have had various challenges in order to obtain equal education. Education is a basic human right and has been recognized as such since the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Empirically, rapid socio-economic development of a nation has been observed to depend on the calibre of women and their education in that country. Education bestows on women a disposition for a lifelong acquisition of knowledge, values, attitudes, competence and skills.
Reasons for Disparity
With the advent of Colonialism and Christianity, rigid ideals about gender perceptions were imposed on the Africans mind. Thereafter, the woman’s role has come to be limited to sexual and commercial labour; satisfying the sexual needs of men, working in the fields, carrying loads, tending babies and preparing food.
The disempowering colonial ‘ideology of domesticity’ as espoused by the practice of ‘housewification’ provided the springboard for women’s educational imbalance in parts of Africa. As such, the overall human development in Nigeria is being hindered by this unevenness in educational accessibility across gender categories.
What is this initiative all about?
The initiative seeks to ensure that the African woman as the stakeholder in our emerging African democracies recognizes her rights and responsibilities with respect to good governance, promotion of the girl child moral and educational development, health and social economic empowerment across all strata of the society from the grassroots to the top.
What inspired this movement?
Inspirations come from different angles but particularly, I want to say that the things that have occured in our nation clearly has not made people happy especially as parents, when some children are missing and yet we can’t do anything about it.
The most annoying aspect of this entire situation is the blame game where everybody is blaming the government. At our own level what have we done? So the inspiration for me was looking around and seeing the decay in the society, noticing that things are not going the way they ought to.
That was why I decided to start a movement that will help to change the mindset of the younger generation, change the environment in which we find ourselves, our work places, our homes, the market place. As social beings, humans interact with others.There is the need to exchange lofty ideas.
Do you consider women agents of change?
As mothers, women and sister we need to recognize the fact that we are change agents.There is a need for that change we desire to start from within. If people say the government is not doing anything, we should be able to change things and make government work for us. We should be able to take decisions and stand them with integrity.
The men who are involved in these atrocities are people’s sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers; so women have the power to change the mindset of the upcoming generation to see leadership as a service to self and nation and not just another means to embezzle public funds.
What are the challenges you encountered in organizing this conference?
Well the challenges I faced is trying to galvanize necessary funds to put the conference together. It wasn’t even easy for us though we had some supporters but the major contribution was that it was a self funded initiative. All the same, our partners in the last two editions have been awesome.
I look forward to a situation where corporate organisations would recognize a true course and support it. When you flip through the pages of national dailies you find company’s sponsoring any kind of reality show but when it comes to a project that deals with nurturing the next generation or positively impacting the human mind,which in the long run will help create an enabling environment for them to strive ,they don’t see the need. I pray that they recognize the need, to have a generation with a sound mindset and then support and encourage this project.
What makes this NGO different from others?
Seriously speaking Wow-I is a people oriented, initiative of like minds who desire change. When we embarked on the Ebola sensitization campaign, it was amazing that a lot of people heard of it but they didn’t know much about it. They fear the word ebola but they don’t understand how deep it can go to destroy our economy social and political life. What we have done is to go to educate and sensitize those in the grass root.
Everything is not about money, that we can invest time in the lives of others is part of the change that we are emphasizing.
On what we are going to do differently, the truth is that I don’t know what others have done or what they are doing, because if they have done something fantastic then I will not have reasons to establish this foundation. But all the same we are not writing them off, we are going to encourage one another’s effort to build on human capacity and develop our mind. We can’t give up on Nigeria because Nigeria is ours and all we have got. Our main aim is projecting the Africa woman as change agent.
What about the myth that women are their own worst enemies?
A lot of times women are been lied to that women don’t help each other. My experiences with women have been awesome. Women are great helpers and mentors. We want to grow a new generation of women who will understand the need to carry each and every one of us along. To achieve this there is need for women executive of large and medium scale companies to stand up for young qualified determined women and mentor them. Women must go back to the drawing board and carryout our responsibilities as women.