What does it mean to be a female CEO in Nigeria?
Being female and running an organisation in Nigeria means different things to different people. It has different challenges and highlights for different people. A CEO is simply a human working towards the goals he or she has, taking risks, measuring opportunity costs, delivering a service or a product, leading people and braving the odds.
What are the highlights of your career?
It has been an interesting journey for me. There have been many highlights— from discovering more about my personality and capabilities, to working with people and organizations on different continents. From interviewing people and publishing articles on my website, volunteering for NGOs and projects, getting nominated for awards, working with the marketing and communications team of Salzburg Global Seminar, interviewing BBC’s Digital Director, Naja Nielsen, and New York Times’ Washington bureau chief, Elisabeth Bumiller, among other things. Thanks to God, there have been a lot of highlights. I have learnt a lot and I’m always learning.
What informed your decision to start BlankPaperz Media?
I began BlankPaperz at 17, just shy of turning 18. I believed an online platform where I could publish my stories and that of my friends would be a good idea. So, I did it but the mission has changed and grown with time.
What is your ultimate goal?
Blank Paperz Media documents and amplifies the voices and stories of young African writers, activists, and those running social initiatives; basically, those who are using their words and social projects to address societal issues around them. The goals for Blank Paperz are to constantly support and amplify these stories, voices and projects, support these young change makers and make others care enough about the social issues they’re working on by joining to support them.
Will advocacy help achieve this goal?
A Nigerian writer, Niyi Osundare, once said that “to utter is to alter”. Speaking up about things always raises awareness about it, and my mother would often say that “it takes someone to start or change something”. Advocacy surely helps.
Do you have enough resources to implement your strategy?
Resources in respect to interest, foresight, plans, energy — yes there’s that. Resources in terms of finances are never enough.
How can emotion make a difference when it comes to advocacy?
When people take action towards a social cause, they often do so because directly or indirectly, they experienced something. They had a trigger. There was that defining moment or season in their life that made them say, “No. I can’t sit still anymore”. I might not have so much but that doesn’t mean I won’t do anything about this”. This usually comes during the early stages of advocacy, when people have the passion and drive to take action towards a good cause. But it’s also good that we keep our emotions in check as we progress. It’s important to stay objective and analyse situations from all angles. Listen to others and understand their points of view. Let the spirit of wisdom and discernment always lead.
What are the major challenges you face in your career?
I’ve always said that when I started running the company, I wasn’t very sure of myself and my abilities. However, I always ask God for help, and seek people’s assistance in areas I’m weak at.
What does success mean to you?
I’m currently reading Malinda Fuller’s book, Obedience over Hustle, and it’s redefining what success means to me. Right now, success, to me, would be getting to Heaven at the end of my life and hearing God say to me, “Well-done”.
There are different measures of success for different things and different aspects of life. Generally, I would say success is being able to do what I’ve been called to do excellently well and to make other lives better in the process of doing that.
Tell us about your childhood and educational background.
I grew up enjoying reading— it’s a trait my parents inculcated in me. I was in the faculty of arts and humanities at the university. I also studied Social Entrepreneurship and Civic Engagement at the California State University under the US Institute for Student Leaders Scholarship/Fellowship given to top student leaders by the US government. I also spend my personal time taking other courses on communications, digital media, marketing and related fields.
What were your aspirations when growing up?
I knew I wanted to be in the arts.
What aspect of your job thrills you the most?
I’m always excited to read stories of people on the website. It is wonderful interviewing young Africans, telling them that their voices, social projects and initiatives are valid. It’s also great when others reach out to collaborate with those whose stories have been featured on the website, BlankPaperz. It’s always wonderful raising awareness about issues that should be heard, thus bringing about change.
What should young people do to achieve success in their careers or businesses?
They should know God personally and deeply, and know their onions too. They shouldn’t focus on what others are doing and achieving, thus making a comparison. Their job is to focus on their call or mission and break their own limitations. They should learn to network with people and remember that their friends can either make or mar them. They should always learn beyond what school would teach them. While in school, volunteer and gain experience, attend conferences, read books, ask questions and be curious about things. They shouldn’t expect to get handsomely paid for doing something they have zero experience in — except they are fortunate to learn on the job. They should also teach others what they know, when they can. Love, and always have a positive mental attitude.
Are you a feminist?
What is your take on feminism?
Females should have access to opportunities that they deserve and not be discriminated on the basis of their sex. If she’s qualified for that promotion or to be in that position, then she should be able to contest for it without any bias. If she needs to be in school, then she should be. Since female genital mutilation harms her physically and emotionally, she shouldn’t be subjected to it.
How do you like to relax?
I like to read, rest and learn new things.
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