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Aiyekusehin Monisola: My childhood struggles inspired me to start Betharbel Foundation

By Esther Ijewere
17 September 2022   |   4:13 am
Aiyekusehin Monisola is the strategy lead and founder of Betharbel Foundation, a non-profit creating a bright future for the African woman and child, with over seven years experience as a social innovator working across sectors such as sexual and reproductive health

Aiyekusehin Monisola is the strategy lead and founder of Betharbel Foundation, a non-profit creating a bright future for the African woman and child, with over seven years experience as a social innovator working across sectors such as sexual and reproductive health, STEAM Education and climate change. She has impacted over 3000 students and 1500 Women through her work with the foundation, and increased profit for 100 women through her Bethpad project.

Monisola is interested in inclusive education, climate change and international development. Over the past two years, Monisola has been working with the IDPs and is passionate about ensuring that the IDP children get quality education through the free tuition project of Betharbel Foundation for the IDP children.

She earned her masters degree in International Relations from the University of Benin in 2018. She is a fellow, African Change Maker, an Ambassador for Women Health with Days for girls international, YALI RLC Alumni, an Ambassador for change with Save and Nurture the Child Foundation, the 2022 GEDA pitch winner and fellow for Donors for Africa Foundation. She shares her story with ESTHER IJEWERE in this interview.

Childhood Influence
My childhood prepared me partially for what I am doing today. I was born into an average family with three other siblings. My parents were civil servants and it wasn’t quite easy fending for the family with the peanuts they earned. They had to do menial jobs with their government jobs to ensure we got quality education and food on the table.

I watched these scenarios and I made up my mind that I would make life more comfortable and meaningful for every woman and child as God blesses me. And so, I began learning different skills early as a teenager with the motive of empowering anyone who crosses my path, ensuring I leave them better than I met them.

Inspiration Behind Betharbel Foundation
Two things inspired me to start up the Betharbel Foundation. First, the struggles I experienced as a child, I didn’t want anyone to experience these struggles without a way out. I knew there was something I could do to help. Secondly, the abuse I experienced from the first month of my marriage; I lived in abuse for 10 years and I experienced all forms of abuse from physical, emotional, verbal, psychological… just name it.

I discovered that children and women were the most vulnerable; I wanted to be a voice to the voiceless and I needed a platform to do this. So, it fueled my passion to start up my foundation with the aim of creating a bright future for African women and children. My mantra became ‘the broken often become masters at mending.’ No woman or child should experience the pain and trauma I have been through, and if they have, I can help them on their journey to healing.

Impacting 3000 Students And 1500 Women Through My Projects 
We have carried out projects in Bayelsa and Abuja. Menstrual hygiene projects in five secondary schools in Bayelsa with 3000 students, Hand Wash Campaigns in five primary schools and seven secondary schools in Bayelsa, Vocational Skills Training in Yenegwe Community, training over 200 women and empowering 20 of the participants. COVID-19 education in schools and communities within Bayelsa, provision of COVID-19 relief materials to 200 aged women and single mums at IDP camp in Osiri, Bayelsa State, and face mask drive for 2000 people in Swali Market. Pad Bank for girls in Kuchiyako community, Kuje, distributing pads to 200 girls and many others.

The Journey So Far
The organisation started in 2018, but was officially incorporated in 2020. Before then, I have been a serial volunteer, volunteering for various NGOs. I would say my journey has been fun and challenging, because it’s what I am passionate about. I don’t mind spending my all to put a smile on the faces of the vulnerable; so, I’m always excited doing this.

On the other hand, I would say challenging because of some of the bottlenecks I encounter on the field; financial limitations and the fact that we are not a ‘big name’ in the non-profit sector. But in all, I have been consistent and gradually, on a daily basis, I can tell my impact story; my little effort is putting smiles on the faces of people, particularly women and girls.

Ripple Effect Of Training 3000 Youths 
God has been faithful and the impact has been unimaginable. Going down memory lane when we started in Bayelsa, particularly the skills training in 2019, I can testify of blessing in Igbogene community in Yenagoa Local Council. Presently, an undergraduate student of Niger Delta University, who was a secondary school leaver at that time, was part of those who got trained in tailoring and got a sewing machine. The skill she acquired is what she uses to support herself through school; she is presently in her 300 Level.

We have also increased profit for women in the IDP camp through our Bethpad Project with the aim of ending period poverty and also empowering these women economically. The testimonials are numerous to write, but the ripple effect is that most of our beneficiaries are paying it forward and reaching out also within their circle.

Challenges
One major challenge has been finance; most of our projects have been self funded. With the little resources, we have been able to do what we can. Another challenge has been getting stakeholders to align with what we do. Then insecurity; we can no longer enter some communities freely, despite the fact that the people who need our intervention are in these communities. Insecurity has limited our movement to these communities. Another challenge has been the fact that we have not been able to get the right partnership and support to help improve and strengthen our work.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
The list is endless, but I would mention just three women who inspires me
– Esther Ijewere of Women of Rubies: She inspires me. I have followed her closely for some time and I have watched her put smiles on the face of people, particularly single mums.

Despite being a single mum herself, she chose to be a blessing to other people around her. She is fearless and resilient; I also look forward to her daily affirmations and how those affirmations have been a blessing to many.
– Chidi Koldsweat of Donors for Africa Foundation is one woman who inspires me; her work in the development sector blows my mind. How she impacts other non-profits and helps them align their work appropriately is one aspect I salute her greatly for.

Another lovely woman who inspires me is Dr. Adeola Olubamiji; she inspires me so much. She doesn’t even know me, but I follow her closely; how she rose from nothing to becoming one of the 100 most influential women in Canada, and how she has helped others step up in their career.

What Government Should Do To Support IDPS
For me, one major aspect the government should focus on is on education and empowerment such that these people can quickly be integrated back into the society. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ If we must change the narrative and ensure the circle of insurgency is totally broken, the government should support the IDPs to get proper and quality education; they should not be neglected in any way.

And for the adults, they need empowerment and skills training to make them economically useful such that they can be integrated back into the society.

What We Can Do Better As A Society To Educate Women On The Importance Of Leaving Abusive Marriages
We must keep speaking; we should share our stories, organise sensitisation and speak up campaigns. We must ignore the stigma that comes with walking away; no life is worth losing because of abuse. Everyone must be ready to speak up against abuse and we should build a strong support system for victims and survivors. I recently shared my story on a blog and so many women spoke up, because they read my story. When we speak up, it gives others the courage to do likewise

Our parents must be willing to nurture both genders appropriately; one should not become a slave because of marriage. There should be no shame in walking out of abuse; if it’s not working, it is best to walk away alive than to die in abuse

Being A Woman of Rubies
I am unique and special, God’s prized possession and I trust God for everything, living my life one day at a time. I don’t see limitations as obstacles; I see them as stepping-stones to the greater heights God has prepared for me.

Sex Education Tips For Parents 
For me, sex education should be introduced as early as possible; I would suggest from age 3 and it should be age appropriate. For toddlers, it can be taught as safe touch and unsafe touch and it can be taught as a poem, rhymes or song properly demonstrated. Body parts should be taught early and called the right names.

Parents should have friendly conversations with adolescent constantly; including discussions on sex education and initiate discussions on body changes as puberty progresses and use it as an opportunity to discuss sex education. Parents should discuss self-awareness and use it as an opportunity to discuss sex education and be very observant to know when children change or withdraw and should always be sensitive to listen to them.