Many years ago Yemi Adenuga, a member of the golden age of broadcasting in Nigeria, left her job at AIT to relocate to Ireland more than a decade ago. After a stint with IBM, she began a non-governmental organization (NGO) which eventually gave birth to Sheroes, an initiative which seeks to honour ordinary women doing extraordinary things in the society.
As she debuts Sheroes in Nigeria via a launch event, she dialogues with Morenike Taire about what has been, and what is to come.
What has the response been so far to your initiative? The response in Nigeria has been very positive and encouraging. Everyone is intrigued by the name SHEROES and ask how they can be a part of the initiative. We get a lot of questions and we give answers. Many have said the projects within the initiative are very much needed at this time and are a welcome development in Nigeria.
The women, youth and Schools that have participated in one project or the other all give positive feedback and we are encouraged to do more. We are happy we are making positive impact in the lives of women and youth and will continue to do so.
We have been running some of our projects in Nigeria over the past 2 years and they have been so well received. We even find ourselves doing more in Nigeria now as people become aware of what we do and want to benefit from them. So the launch in Nigeria on the 23rd March is a formality to let people know that we are here.
But what makes you think that what obtains abroad can be duplicated in Nigeria?
All over the world, regardless of race, religion, nationality and even status in the society, one of the issues that bind women together is the need to be seen, and their voices heard, and not to be limited in the things they can do or achieve just because they are women. Nigerian women have stepped up so amazingly and can stand side by side with any woman from any part of the world at their level. If given half the chance most women abroad have, Nigerian women will do better because circumstances have conditioned them to be resilient and creative, making the best of what they have in the face of little or nothing. The need to be recognised for their efforts and celebrated for their achievements is addressed by our SHEROES Global Awards which has been running in Ireland since 2015 and will be duplicated here in Nigeria.
While girls are often raised to be “good wives”, there’s no commensurate lesson for boys in many cultures. Many boys do not receive explicit encouragement to fully access their emotions and as a result, they are many angry and emotionally unstable men out there in our society today. With the increase in the rate of domestic violence in homes, and with husbands stabbing and maiming their wives on a daily basis, it is important that the next generation of men are deliberately taught how to treat women right, from when they are boys.
This need is addressed by our SHEROES BOYS-TO-MEN project which is designed to help raise Boys to be good men. The Project is focused on giving boys an orientation of becoming good men for our girls, helping them grow into caring, confident, responsible men. The goal of the campaign is simple: TO RAISE GOOD MEN. A good man will be a good husband, good father and a good colleague or boss to the women he works with.
Thousands of students in secondary schools face the on-going challenge of deciding what they want to do as a career when they leave school; hence they struggle with picking subjects for their final exams. Many pick ‘easy’ subjects they believe they can pass, not thinking of its usefulness in relation to a specific career, and others are even forced to go with what either their teachers or parents tell them to study as a career.
The resulting effect is what we see today; thousands of graduates who studied English literature working in banks, some studied Accounting but have turned religious leaders, and many with amazing results are still jobless.
Our SHEROES EXPLORING OPTIONS CAREER PROJECT addresses this issue, creating valuable opportunities for young people to engage in creative thinking, become innovative and develop an entrepreneurial mind-set early in life. The project gives career talks and The ‘EXPLORING OPTIONS’ career book FREE to students and youth, helping them decided on a career path very early in Life. So far, 2,500 copies of the books have been given FREE to students and youth.
I could go on and on, but the point here is that the issues we address in our projects are all so similar all over the world and our projects are developed to address needs and can be replicated anywhere in the world.
You are celebrating ordinary women doing great things. That is a bit different. What do you hope to achieve by that?
There are so many awards programs out there that recognise celebrities and high achievers. The SHEROES Global AWARDs, which became one of our SHEROES programs in Ireland in 2015 is designed to be an uplifting event, where women from every walk of life who inspire, influence and impact are celebrated equally in one big Award ceremony.
The annual Award ceremony encourages individuals to nominate any woman who has inspired or impacted their lives or the lives of others, to be recognised and celebrated as a SHERO. The UNIQUENESS OF SHEROES Global AWARDS is that it is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ recognition Award (can only be received ONCE in a lifetime) and every winner earns the title of SHERO. What we aim to achieve every year is to identify, recognize and celebrate ordinary women who do extraordinary things that positively inspire, influence and impact the lives of others, motivate the SHEROES by letting them know their selfless act of kindness is seen & appreciated, and encourage them to do more while inspiring others to start, or keep doing things to inspire, influence and impact lives.
What are the criteria for choosing the Sheroes?
Our SHERO is that woman who shows strength and courage in the mist of challenges, thrives under pressure, renders acts of kindness in spite of her own personal challenges, gives in the midst of little, triumphs over her circumstances and is an inspiration to people around her, impacting them positively. It could be that pepper seller by the roadside who consistently helps little children cross the road on their way to and from school without even knowing who their parents are, or that little young girl who was abused, but rather than allow the horrible experience of that violation affect her life negatively, courageously decides to use her story to create much needed awareness, waking the consciousness of parents to the reality of abuse in homes.
Anyone nominating their SHERO is encouraged to send as much information as they can about their nominee, because an independent selection panel (Not a panel of judges, as nominees are not judged) first draws a short lists from the many nominations, and the final women to be celebrated as SHEROES are decided by the public through a public voting system. Another uniqueness of SHEROES Global Awards is that there are no finalists in different categories. All women to be celebrated as SHEROES know they are winners before the Awards and come to the Awards ceremony to be celebrated. Their stories inspire, motivating many to want to do good.
How do you intend to sustain the program?
Since we started in 2012, SHEROES Global has not had to rely on public funding to run its projects or programs. We’ve been self-funded through personal support from members of the organisation, the funds generated from some of our projects and with some support from kind-hearted individuals who believe in the vision and want to see it continue to grow. Every member of our team (our SUPERSHEROES) and our AMBASSADORS are passionate about the initiative and its goal, going above and beyond, volunteering their precious time and expertise.
We do so much with the little resources we have and have become experts are channeling the little we have to achieving big and highly impactful results. We are consistent, action oriented and focused on delivering our projects on a timeline each year. We are an action organisation that talks less and works more, thriving on the goodwill of those who believe in and support our work. You can imagine what level of impact we will have if the resources are more.
This is how we have sustained the initiative since 2012 and we are confident that the result oriented work we do will continue to draw the needed resources to, not just keep us going, but to expand even further, just as we have expanded from Ireland into Nigeria now. Our motivation is the growing number of positively impacted women and youth whose lives are changed for good through our work and we are continually inspired by their willingness to pay-it-forward and touch other lives too.