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Dr. Olufemi-Kayode: My work at Media Concern Initiative has exposed me to many skills

By Esther Ijewere
30 April 2022   |   2:46 am
Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode is a criminal justice psychologist and prominent child rights, activist. She is the Executive Director of Media Concern for Women and Children Initiative

Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode

Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode is a criminal justice psychologist and prominent child rights, activist. She is the Executive Director of Media Concern for Women and Children Initiative (MEDIACON), a non-profit organisation listed by the UNDP, which works with child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.  

Dr. Princess is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape, who has transformed to become a conqueror and fountain of succour for not only child victims but adult survivors as well. Started the first rape crisis centre in Nigeria in 2005 and reached hundreds of thousands of child victims, their families, and adult survivors of sexual violence. She shares her inspiring story and the inspiration behind her upcoming boot camp with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence
LOOKING back, I will say yes, but if I were asked this question maybe like 20 years ago, I would have said ‘no.’ Looking back from where I am now in my life, I would say my experiences as a child prepared me for today.

My parents were expecting a boy, and I arrived with a girl. I started in life proving that I am good enough to fill the boy space and this put an extra push on me. That’s the same way I’ve committed myself to whatever it is I get into, I put myself into. When I sit back and put on the 3D glasses, looking back, on my life and the different experiences I had, yeah, I will say yes. My fighting spirit and ability to focus on one thing at a time were qualities I acquired.

Looking through attending a private school, leaving at Primary to join a public school. So, you can see my experiences vary across the class; I experienced all this as a child. I can understand someone from that background; I could really blend into various class sets. This made me smile; I was arrogantly stubborn and heady.

Imagine me at 15 telling my father that he should focus on his other children, that I will sort myself. You are a self-made man; I will be a self-made woman. I’ve always been a fighter and that’s what I’m still doing. I stood up for the hurting, wounded, and cheated even to my detriment as a child. I never liked injustice.
Inspiration Behind Media Concern Initiative (MEDIACON)

Starting Media Concern Initiative (MediaCon) has nothing to do with my being a survivor. I was working with The Punch newspaper and managing two pages focusing on women; I avoided doing the regular focus of most women’s sections. I did differently, having two full pages per week. I began to raise social issues and one of them was Child Sexual Abuse – no one was talking about abuse. This invisible tsunami was totally ignored as a nation.

The response across the nation was huge. Adults from all six Geo-political zones in Nigeria responded. Over 1000 responses were received through the newspaper’s Private Mail Bag and email. MediaCon was birthed as a name based on my publishing the issues around Child Sexual Abuse. I left The Punch, joined Journalist against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria, and worked in media advocacy and activism for two years. MediaCon continued its work on the low key, educating teens in my living room for those years. 

Being A Survivor Of Rape And Child Sexual Abuse, And My Healing Process
My healing is altogether another phase of my life; I never shared my sexual abuse experiences with anyone growing up. Though my parents did discover one; he was actually caught in the act, a paternal uncle. I lived with pain; that was all my father and mother could do to protect me.

Back then, my dad told my mum to” take your daughter and go clean her.” Looking back now, I can see why he called me names most of my childhood. Interestingly enough, I have never seen the part, until answering these questions. My dad called me “Ashewo.” It never really bothered me; I never opened up about any experience before or after that. I started research on Satan and Sex; this was one of the ways to deal with the issue. I enjoyed the majority of the consequences of sexual abuse and this I got to know from research from mainly the United States. Yet, I was born and live in Nigeria.

When my purpose was realigned to help save others, bring hope, healing, and justice… Working with other survivors, working with perpetrators, attending, and participating in strategic events and self-development programmes. Connecting with therapists, and most of all my faith in God. I began to heal; it is still an ongoing process. You just get better, stronger, forgive and forget. My work at MediaCon also helped.

Wearing Multiple Hats And Staying Grounded
Indeed, I do wear many hats and it can be scary too, even for me, because there are times when I want to answer what it is I do, and it’s like bragging you know, and this was never ever my intention. Sometimes, you see me in a particular programme with a title and then in another programme or event, and I have another title. That’s because I wear multiple hats. My work in MediaCon has exposed me to many skills, aside from the ones I had when starting the organisation.

My background is writing; I just loved to write. This I noticed in secondary school. Also, I wrote a lot of poems; I was known to do the best love prose. I was not business-like, otherwise, all the free write-ups should have earned me a fee. Maybe even make a lot.

My personal capacity grew – as I became a Certified Forensic Interviewer, Trauma Management Counsellor, with criminal justice psychology background. I used to carry work home, but that changed a long time back now. I arrive home from work, fling my shoes, and start pulling off work clothing and right back on my laptop or attending to the 24hr helpline; that had to stop. Work time, family time… there must be boundaries.
Challenges I Encounter In My Line Of Work

It will be bureaucracy; emergency was not a word that received attention, as it should. This put a lot of burdens, as child protection and safeguarding issues are required on the go. You must submit a letter, which will go through many desks before action can be taken. Sometimes, more danger or even loss of life or family, sometimes, key witnesses have been taken out of state.

Another challenge was crisis management. It is great to note that there was no funding for crisis management; crisis management took the magnitude of money. When a case is reported, the organisation bears the cost of logistics for the case – providing transportation for the family involved, food for the family involved, medical, etc.

My Upcoming Boot Camp On How To Start Sex Education With Children
About the boot camp programme, it is about how to start and keep the sex with your children going. This course was first introduced in 2016, on platform and over 250 parents were trained. I was just testing the market and it was free. Over the years, more parents and caregivers have taken the course and paid for it. However, for the first time in this training programme, other experts are joining us.

We shall be looking at emotional intelligence for the sexuality education talks and looking at how to keep your mental health in check; you know the culture of the generation we are in is quite different from that of parents and adults. We are delving also on how to think – critical thinking and on the spot thinking when it comes to issues of your children and of course sexuality and different things that are around us.

What I Enjoy Most About My Job
A chance to see there’s a woman and child-safe; there’s a home to keep safe. Living for me really is saving a life, one life at a time. I love my work. I must say to you, I live by giving hope; I live by providing healing. You know so that’s just what I breathe in every day of my life; I just want to give hope to people and bring healing.

I live my work because it gets me to play that role. I love children; this comes naturally to me. Everywhere I go, children are drawn to me; at the airport, you see children drawn to me. It’s interesting that some parents try to keep them back. I’m not surprised that I end up working for them and with them. I love it because my experiences tend to give deeper insight into some things. Growing in the work also has given me working experience, which has been quite helpful. I love my work; I could just wake up from my sleep anytime, and I’ll jump into effortlessly

Government And Support For Stakeholders In The Gender-Based Violence Sector
As someone who works in the SGBV sector, the government plays a major role to keep its citizens safe, provide succour to the wounded, afflicted, abused, etc. What can I say, from when we started back, it’s a bit better now; it is better though some of the battles are still the same. But look at the long journey back and over 20 years, we need to come up as a country with a very comprehensive crisis provision. Crisis provision includes prevention. We need to set aside and add to country and state budgets – support for stakeholders at the different levels. Empowering Criminal justice sector officials and maintaining continuous training and retraining by updating and reviewing and working together to discover what would work for us, as much as we look at best practices.

We are far better than where we are coming from. Yet, the hurdles on the pathway to giving optimal care and services still exist. It is no joke really; crisis response is about life and death sometimes. With a population of over 200 million, we have less than 20 functional shelters. Medicals, Therapy, Relocation, if need be, it is a private organisation bearing the cost; that should be government provision. And people should stop believing that NGOs are all about collecting foreign funds.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
Lisa Nicholas: The breakthrough specialist who lost everything; really had nothing except $12 to her name, a toddler son, homeless and hit ground zero. She found her voice, she found her feet… she’s a blessing globally, changing lives and finally found love too. It’s like a fairy tale too. I see myself scaling, as my life experiences have taken me on a similar path. I see the glory; Bearer of Hope and Healing.

Oprah Winfrey: Born into poverty, experienced multiple child sexual abuse. She rose above all odds, got into media and rose to become a top talk show hostess, leaving to start her own company. She doesn’t only know the onions of talk shows; she explored acting and has starred in multiple movies. She runs her own charity that she funds. She is a global influencer. She does a lot to move women forward; she is an inspiration.

Lastly, Diana Ross: This lady still gets me having goose pimples on my skin when I think of the iconic lady. I love her tenacity, and ability to always look sleek and remain a legend. Also, how she kept her family private in her kind of world.

What We Can Do Better As A Society To Educate Parents On The Importance Of Having Sex Talks With Their Children From An Early Age
Religious organisations have got to take a front burner, as they are influential. If a call to home-based sexuality education hits pulpits and they are sharing the importance of sexuality education, it will pay off. There is a serious need for religious leaders to take the topic of sexuality education and other related matters seriously.

Parents need to join the conversation to understand that they need to take it up as part of their teachings, not just the holy books, not just spiritual.

Already, Nigeria has sexuality education incorporated into the secondary school system. Interestingly, Sexuality Education came under comprehensive life skill training. ARFH in Ibadan and Action Health Incorporated worked relentlessly for it to be introduced to schools in Lagos State. As a nation, we need to create more programmes for parents to know what’s really going on in the world today.

One Thing I Wish To Change In The GBV Sector, Especially In Nigeria
This is huge. As a nation, so many things! I’ll just pick one thing. One thing I can do, I’ll say mass awareness and education. This is not sensitisation of a community type, but the entire nation. Not just in the hand of one agency, but all; Government MDAs, Private Sector, Professional bodies, Non-Profit, Religious Organisations and entities, traditional, Influencers, etc. The police should have a public enlightenment department that is enlightening the public and not just about armed robbery, but every crime, including sexual abuse prevention. Educating people on what to do, as it involves them and the criminal justice sector.

The Tehila 5.0 Initiative
We are having Tehila 5.0. Four organisations – Wevvo, Rubies Ink Initiative, Fatimah Balaraba Foundation, Media Concern Initiative (MediaCon), and Safe Space Initiative- are working together on this. The event holds on May 7, 2022. The formation of this union is very interesting. Ideas do not belong to any, they float in the atmosphere; it is the implementers that now own the idea. We were all having ideas, finding that our ideas align in purpose and goal. Thinking alike. I want to give single mums a day out; Wevvo and Rubies Ink work with them. Safe Space has been holding Tehila for some years now, and this is the fifth series I believe.

So, I began this year with this crazy thing about doing something special for single mums. It’s just my birthday, but of course, my children recommended mummy just postpone it for now. I was just sharing with the leadership of the Safe Space Initiative, Osasu and informed I’ll reach out to Wevvo and Rubies Ink Initiative. It aligned with what Tehila 5.0 is sent out to do. The planning was already in the works. Wevvo and Rubies Ink, Fatimah Balaraba Foundation saw they fitted in and how this can start on the template of Tehila. Bringing in the dynamics of our strengths and joint goal to support women, single mums, domestic violence survivors, divorced, widows, etc. In this programme, we want to make life beautiful for other women, particularly those who are affected in any way and need a break. The event offers group therapy, fun, games, dance, and lots more.

This edition of Tehila 5.0 includes children. The event allows a mother to attend with a maximum of two children. Anyone with more than two should watch virtually. However, registration is compulsory.

Being A Woman Of Rubies
I would say my life journey; my wounds, my scars and what I’ve been able to do with them. I know it’s so interesting that there are fresh wounds in the journey of life, and then accepting them as part of the journey, healing, bearing those scars and learning from them.

What I Would Say To A Woman Who Is Scared Of Walking Out Of An Abusive Marriage
If you’re going through any form of abuse that demeans you emotionally, financially, spiritually, and sexually, it makes you feel like you’re less of yourself. Start asking yourself some serious questions. Knowing your life is in danger and pretending not to see what lies ahead of you?

I want to share a bit about my life’s journey. I’ve not shared this publicly, so here’s a scoop for Women of Rubies. I think I’ve done so in some meetings, but they’re in closed meetings. Now, I’m in that place where I can talk about it.

I stepped out of my marriage for three years. There was no planning, but it ended up in a separation, and for three years, I was by myself. I had to step aside; I stepped out. I fled for my life because my life was endangered and it would have been dumbed to stay behind and become a corpse.

I didn’t want to put my children through that, so for whatever he was going through, I needed to leave and I did. Interestingly, we are back after three years apart. What would have happened if I were dead? He could also have killed himself or been in jail. There’s so much wisdom in Life First! Yes, what I just shared is shocking and this is just rounding it up in brief. It’s a long story, but I am alive!
I was scared; I did not know what was going to happen when I left. I was used to being married and it was 23 years in the marriage journey.