Dr. Nimi Ekere is a trained medical doctor and a consultant Family Physician. She is a fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Family Physicians, a life coach, mentor and teacher who is very passionate about children and young people, walking in the right path to achieve their full potentials.
She is also very passionate about effective and intentional parenting. Her Foundation, Ekom Charity Foundation mentors young people and also cares for the less privileged in the society.
She is also the founder of Smile and Shine Children’s Foundation, a non-profit organisation for children, aimed at preventing child sexual abuse, providing the needed help andsupport as well as emergency care and treatment with adequate follow up and rehabilitation for victims ( children) of sexual abuse.
She is the author of a collection of books that teach children and parents all they need to know about child sexual abuse. They include; ‘Some parts are special’ for children aged 2 to 5 years, ‘Setting boundaries’ for elementary schoolers, ‘Sparkles at dawn’, forteenagers and young adults and ‘Into the light’ for
Parents and guardians. Dr Nimi Ekere is a well sought-after public speaker. In this chat with Esther Onyegbula she talks about child sexual abuse, her foundation and other sundry issues.
As a life coach, and advocate for children, what do you think is the cause of the high rate in child sexual abuse (CSA) and what can we do about it as a society?
I would like to state here that child sexual abuse has always been here with us. Social media has helped a great deal to make people more aware of the menace of child sexual abuse (CSA), hence the reason it appears to be on the rise. Also I would say that the state of the economy could be contributory. Parents have to work so hard and the child is left in the hands of their nannies and relatives who may even be the abusers. Also, a lot of parents are not friends with their children. Having a good relationship with your child and instilling the right values in them is a step towards preparing CSA. A child who needs to seek validation from external sources is a vulnerable to molestation. Also, parents need to start early to teach their children sex education using age appropriate words and terms.
In view of the pandemic, could you share some nuggets on how parents can protect their kids from sexual violence, especially since most have to work and leave the kids in care of another person?
Make your children your friend. Let them not walk on egg shells when they relate with you. Make sure you call from work to check up on them from time to time. Installing a CCTV would also be of great help. Don’t be ashamed to discuss sex education and boundaries with them. Also talk to their caregivers or nannies. Let your children know how to say no to untoward behaviours and advances. Also educate the nannies about your expectations, do’s, don’ts and boundaries.
What advise would you give to parents who hardly have time for such kids?
Create time for your kids, no maid or relative can care for your kids better than you. And this is not only for mothers; fathers should be involved in raising the children. Both parents need to spend time to speak with their kids as often as possible and build a good relationship with their children. Your children should be able to tell you anything without the fear of being judged or criticized.
Did your childhood prepare you in anyway for what you do now, tell us more about your growing up?
I would say that my childhood prepared me a great deal for what I am doing now. I grew up seeing my mother care so much for others. My mother literally lived for others, especially the indigent. Up till now she still pays fees and house rents for people that are in need. She taught us how to love people, show empathy and go the extra mile for others. Even if I have a warm and calm personality, I can say that the act of giving, showing love and generosity to others were things I saw my mum do, so it became a part of me. My dad on the other hand, made me love to write.
He would buy national dailies and news magazines which he gave to me after reading. He would insist that I read them. Afterwards, I started to write articles and then I started to write short stories. I would take a wooden spoon and stand on front of the mirror and just talk. I liked Oprah Winfrey and I thought I could talk like her.
What inspired you to start Ekom charity foundation and smile and shine children’s foundation?
Looking back, I think my childhood truly did play a significant part in what I am doing today albeit subtly. I have always loved children and young adults. I had always known I would mentor children and since I also have a heart for humanity, I decided to start Ekom Charity Foundation years later to mentor young children and care for the less privileged especially women. We go to schools to teach children about charting a good course for their lives. They are taught to avoid peer pressure, drugs and all forms of vices. The foundation also does free medical outreaches and health campaigns.
So far, we have carried out numerous free medical services for the less privileged. We have organised events like Christmas parties in slums with Santa Claus giving wonderful gifts to the children. Most of these kids had never had a Christmas party in their lives.
The Smile and Shine Children’s Foundation is quite new, and it was started because I had and still have a burning desire to end child sexual abuse. I had seen some become suicidal and one of them even committed suicide. I have seen parents lose their children to the deleterious effects of CSA. I have also seen people blame the victims or survivors rather than give them the help that they deserve while the perpetrators walk the streets like heroes.
I want to stop this. I want to be able to stop children from getting abused in the first place and in the sad event that they get abused, that help is proffered and these children are subsequently reintegrated back into the society and become healthy adults regardless. I want to also break the silence that is attached to CSA. I call it the “don’t tell anyone” phenomenon which is common in this part of the world. I believe that if victims are allowed to speak up, help and healing would be faster.
How has the journey been since you started?
It has been an emotional journey for me, financially tasking and truly time consuming. But it is worth every step. As long as a child gets help and never goes back to that experience, I am so happy and fulfilled. I would need collaborations from the government as well as other NGOs as sometimes; the children need more than the emergency medical and psychological care. They might need to go to a safe place as their “homes” might be unsafe for them. We also need justice to be served as the perpetrator should ideally get prosecuted. Again, this would require collaborative efforts from the security operatives and law agencies.
You are a medical doctor, life coach, teacher, wife and mom, how do you manage it all?
It is not easy but I thank God for the strength and wisdom. I work really hard and try m best to give my best at anything I do. I don’t joke with my role as a wife and mother. I do well to take care of the homefront because I believe that your home should be a prototype of what you want to see in the society.
So I spend time with my husband to train our kids. I try to spend time to teach them, support and nurture them on the right path. It isn’t surprising that they are well behaved in addition to their outstanding academic awards. I owe it all to God. I also have a supportive husband who is my best friend and stands in just well when I have to be away caring for patients, teaching or mentoring children and young people.
You have just published a book for children, tell us more about it, and why it is a must have for every parent?
I actually published four books for preschoolers and young children, older children and preteens, teenagers and young adults and parents. So, I have a collection of books for the family on how children can prevent sexual abuse and how they can build a formidable relationship with their parents. The book for parents is an exposé on child sexual abuse. Everything a parent must know; from red flags to tell tale signs and how a child and the family can get help when an abuse occurs, including when and where to get help. Additionally, it also gives practical steps on how a parent- child relationship can be built and sustained. It is indeed a must have for the family.
What are some of the challenges you experience as a medical doctor and children’s advocate?
I think it is easier for me because I am taken really seriously. The children open up to me and tell me things they can never tell their parents. Because I create an enabling and confidential environment with them, it makes it lot easier for me. They tell me I am their role model and some even say they want to be doctors when they grow up. I would say that being a doctor makes the walk somewhat easier.
Mention three women who inspire you to be better and why?
My mum, Mrs Joy Raymond, she is an amazing woman who set the pace for what has become my lifestyle today. She is generous, kind, selfless and really caring. All these qualities I see in myself and I truly thank God for a great mother. Oprah Winfrey, I love her love for humanity and like I said earlier, I had dreams of being on TV as a child because of Oprah. Late Pastor Bimbo Odukoya was someone I admired greatly. I think she was a great woman and I really loved her family values and all she stood for. I still listen to her messages. She inspired me so much.