A Nigerian broadcaster, author and gender rights activist based in Ireland, Islamiyah Saudique Ayaba-Kadejo has been in Lagos in the last few days, spearheading a number of activities to promote the rights of the less privileged and women entrepreneurship, among others. In this interview, Ayaba-Kadejo spoke on her activities and business opportunities available for women.
What is the idea behind Isla and Friend Hangout that has brought you and other women entrepreneurs together?
The Isla and Friend is a WhatsApp group. It comprises of women from different walks of life who are meeting on WhatsApp because we want something enclosed where we can freely discuss our issues as women without much interference. So in the group, whatever we discuss stays there. It was formed in early this year. And the group comprises members from different parts of the world.
However, we felt a time has come for us to organize an event outside WhatsApp platform. So we decided to have the Isla and friends hangout where we can meet to know one another and physically relate.
Coincidentally, I have a foundation named Amdala Africa Foundation (AMDAF) which I recently launched and it is also about women. So we thought of doing something together between my foundation and Isla and friends and that gave birth to the three events I have participated in since I came around: walk against domestic violence and mutual health; donations of food items to some children as well as the Isla and Friends Hangout.
Giving us an insight into your activism, what will you say is the relationship between domestic violence and women empowerment advocacy you have been championing?
For over two years, I have been talking about domestic violence and women issues on my Facebook programme, widely known as “Family Talk” formerly known as “Domestic Violence Talk”. But I realize that there are some persons that do not use social media, so the health walk we had recently was to reach out to people like them. But when you talk about domestic violence or related issues, or question is asked as to why women stay in abusive relationship? My answer is: partly an economic reason.
The abuser is the one that provides shelter, food and make payment of school fees. But we reasoned that if women are empowered, they will be able to make informed decision. Financial crisis or economic issue may deter them from making an informed decision. So we reason that aside fun of the hangout, we should teach our female participants some skills on small scale businesses that require very small capital.
We believe that women can start venturing more into Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) after the hangout and to that extent, they can start making extra money because there are some situations that even when you don’t have money, you will not be able to talk nor think straight and I personally don’t like that. So, I am saying we need to look forward to a future whereby women will be able to have their own houses, companies and everything they want. And even if they have husbands to support them, such will only be “extras”. They don’t need to depend solely on their husbands.
So basically, you are saying women should be independent of their husbands in all ramifications?
My stand is that women should be independent. I am not saying husbands should not support them. They have the responsibilities to support. But if the husbands lack the power, our women should not stress them.
This is because when we talk about gender equality, it is about supporting one another. Women should not be 100 percent liability on their men.
As an entrepreneur, what are the business-like strategies you have applied in the past which you think can be beneficial to other women entrepreneurs?
First for me is that I have a vision. I believe it is doable. I may not even have a dime, but I believe in my vision because it is not all about money. Secondly, I have confidence. The third is that I am not doing this to impress anybody or draw attention. I am doing this to make impact. If I am able to do it, good for me and if I am not, it is not the end of the world. I will do something else.
With that spirit, I can do anything I want to do and I will be fine with that. Women should not say I want a Shopping Mall or want to be selling cars and think that is too much, or be worried on where they will get the fund from. No, I don’t worry about money anytime I have an entrepreneurial idea. I believe the first thing is to believe that you can do it and go for it.
Start small and if you are able to achieve it, fine. And if you couldn’t, try again. Many of us stop ourselves from doing lots of things. Whatever you think you want to do, don’t think about what will make it impossible. Find help. If you need to do something, go for it first and look for people who can help. We are here today learning from one another. That is life. But if you think you can do it alone, there are so many factors that may hinder you.
What will you say have been the take-away for participants in the hangout programme?
Well, we hope women will henceforth be independent while going about their daily businesses while also following their vision and passionately.
We actually brought in resource persons whom we believe the participants could learn from. One of the speakers is currently undergoing her National Youths Service Corp (NYSC). She is into shoe-making business. The other speaker is a social media marketing strategist who used her session to expose women to strategies to employ in maximizing social media for profit making in businesses.
In the days ahead, what will you say are your expectations?
In the next few years, I hope women are better empowered and I am looking forward to a society where women are not marginalized against. I mean women playing critical roles in politics, military and other sectors without being stopped. I look forward to a future where there would be no violence against women and a sane society. I am also looking forward to a time where laws and orders work, especially in Nigeria.
These are things I think about everyday. Of course, I have the passion to follow them through because when you just sit and say this is what I want for my society, the question people will ask is what have you done or contributed to make your vision realistic. Of course, I can’t do it all but if I do my part and the other person does his or her part and we bring the pieces together, we can surely have a better society.