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Adewuyi: Being gender advocate is not for the faint hearted

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Roseline Adewuyi is a social educator, a gender advocate, and blogger addressing the concerns of girls and women, particularly in the African context. She is also a 2018 Dalai Lama Fellow, a 2016 YALI RLC alumna, and a 2017 ONE Champion. Her work on female empowerment has taken her to the United States, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, France, and other countries. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters degree in French Language.

Her area of specialisation as a French Literature student has been Feminist Theory. According to her, this strengthens her academic knowledge in the field of advocacy. In 2018, she represented Nigeria in a programme on Human Rights sponsored by the French Embassy in Nigeria. She was among 60 women doing phenomenal things celebrated by Business Day Women’s Hub in marking Nigeria’s 60th Independence in 2020. She hopes to keep contributing to the girls’ development through advocacy.

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The Bi-lingual activist has been featured on different media platforms across the globe, and worked as a Translator and Interpreter with the African Union. An active member of the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network, she shares her inspiring journey in this interview.

Growing Up 
AS a developing woman, I witnessed many differences in the prejudiced treatment of men and women. This was quite surprising for me because I lived with the idea that both genders are first humans regardless of appearances. So, I could not fathom why there is a difference in the treatment of the female gender and how we are seen. As a young girl, it baffled me and left me with more questions than answers.

As a result, I had an internal conflict about my identity. I was curious about the reason behind people seeing us differently; why gender roles existed, and why people tried to box women. I also wanted to know why people associated certain character traits or qualities with a gender. I was confused and wondered if I should accept this or challenge these assumptions. I asked many questions concerning my identity but got no answers. With growth came the understanding of how things worked, and I began to gradually realise why things were the way they were.
There was a burning desire to launch out and find my lost voice.

During my university days as an Arts student, I was exposed to books that facilitated my understanding. Following a popular saying, “literature is the mirror of life”, I was able to imagine and understand, to some extent, the experiences of many girls and women all over the world, particularly in Africa.

On this personal trajectory, I am still on the path. I am not there yet, but I am constantly growing as a leader and I want more girls to confess in the future that I inspired the

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Why I chose French As A Major
I chose to study the French language, because I am drawn to languages; this might be a little difficult to describe if you are not like me. But let me try: I believe that everyone has something that makes him/her thick; it could be a skill that they are good at or the fire of passion that burns bright in their heart. For me though, my penchant is languages; I love the way words sound differently in different languages.

I love trying out new sounds and trying to relate with people of different cultures; I guess it is also linked to my innate desire to relate with people on a deeper level. And one of the best ways to do that is to learn their language. I chose French because it was the earliest foreign language to which I was introduced. And I would say, I fell in love right there and then. You know the way some old-time couples say, ‘When I saw her, I knew she was the one?’ That’s how the French language was for me!

Experience As A Translator / Interpreter For African Union
Working with the African Union was quite an adventure. Although it was something a lot different from what I was used to and I was far from home, I enjoyed every bit of it; I was in a place where my ideas mattered. I had colleagues who admired and respected me; I also worked with a boss who was like a father and a mentor to me. The best and simplest way to put it is that I had a great time! I would say that working with the AU changed a lot of things for me.

Now, I understand clearly that you can’t say you know about a place until you have lived there. I am saying this because of people who love to share stereotypes about places they have never been to. Before I went to the place where I worked, I was told that I would not be safe as a woman; no one will ‘barber’ my hair etc. To my surprise, I found everything to be the exact opposite of what people had conjectured. This taught me a lot! While working with the AU, I also learned a lot about networking, personal development, and tolerance.

Recognitions And Awards
My advocacy and the things I do have never been about recognition or awards; I just want to make a difference and inspire people. Generally, I am shy and I don’t like being in the spotlight. But I have learnt that letting people shine the light on what you are doing paves way for more people to benefit from your advocacy. So, I see these awards, not as rewards for my good works, but as a way to reach out to and connect with more people.

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While I am super grateful that people honour me, what I am looking out for is creating and leveraging opportunities to collaborate with more people or organisations because I have a message to relay to the world.

I would also like to say that every award I got so far has been on merit. I say this because I have been persuaded in the past to pay for some awards, but I will never do that! If I get an award, it has to be deserved and not bought. 

My Advocacy With The Girl Child And Women
My advocacy is focused on breaking stereotypes and unlearning indoctrination in the form of deeply entrenched societal constructs that are regressive to women. I am all out for teaching young girls and inspiring women to break away from age-long societal norms, constructs, and stereotypes that have limited their progress by showing them that they can do anything and be whomever they choose to be regardless of society’s dictates. I teach them to discard society’s scripts and follow personal passion and purpose to be the best version of who they want to be.

Therefore, I am fierce against cultural and traditional norms. I believe that society has to do away with some of these cultural elements, while some are reviewed, and others are preserved.

I am also unrepentantly particular about re-imaging women in our society and orienting a woman that she belongs in the society. I am highly interested and involved in revamping of educational institutions to be conscious about schools being more gender-inclusive, gender-responsive, and gender friendly.

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Misconception About Feminism
Yes, I know there are a lot of misconceptions about feminism. Many people berate feminism today because they misunderstand it or have a wrong notion about the movement. Several people, even those who believe in equality, refuse to be associated with the word ‘feminism’ because some pioneering advocates have ideals or a lifestyle they don’t want to emulate or be associated with. But is a concept or idea defined by the people representing it or do the people representing the idea let the idea define them? According to the dictionary, ‘feminism is the belief that men and women are equal and thus deserve equal rights and opportunities.’ Simply put, Feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

Challenges 
Being misconstrued, the backlashes from people; insults and the way certain people look down on activists; this perception made a lot of people closed off on advocacy. Finances are a huge challenge too; advocacy is not easy, it is not cheap either. It takes money to put events together, create published materials that you would distribute for free, and so on. I am always grateful for and open to any partnerships by people or organisations who are as passionate about girl child advocacy as I am.

Other Projects And Activities
I am currently working on teaching girls about the corporate world, higher education, soft skills, and work-life balance; it’s a project in the pipeline. The major activities of my initiative have been directed toward organising seminars for girls and staging school outreaches.

Writing has helped me to harness the didactic value or power of the ink as a tool for social change through my blog centres on the cause of the girl child as women. The subject matter of my writings focuses on contemporary issues particularly within the Nigerian context on their plight on the blog.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
My mum inspires me; she is the most selfless person I know. I am not perfect, but I am thankful to her for who I am today. I am forever grateful for the values she taught me.

I am also inspired by the hope of girls, ladies, and women who, in the future, will shatter glass ceilings, break concrete walls, stride on sticky floors and escape career labyrinths.

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How I Cope With Backlash In My Advocacy Journey
It can be challenging; that is why it amuses me when some say people are feminists because it is trendy. With the backlash, insult, and abuse that I get regularly, I wonder why someone would be a feminist because of that reason. If I were to go by the things that are said to me that get to me, I would have backed out since.

With the backlash that I get regularly, I would have chosen another cause or struggle, but I channel my rage into changing things to keep me going, especially when it comes to teenage girls and women, whom I do not want them to limit themselves. It can be challenging because insults will be hurled at one. One might be forced to react to some things, but one knows that one radiates light and one must be different.

Being a gender advocate is definitely not for the faint hearted. I think of girls and women that have been inspired by my work. I also know that not everyone will believe in an individual’s vision. 

Being A Woman of Rubies
I am a Woman of Rubies, because in addition to being passionate about my cause, I believe in people. I want the best for them and I always try to be empathetic to their experiences. Being a Woman of Rubies sounds a lot like the woman in Proverbs. Being a woman of rubies to me means that I am purposeful, highly guided by morals, ethics, values and a sense of character.

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