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I was shaped by poverty, abandonment and homelessness – Omotayo Atinuke Junaid

By Esther Ijewere-Kalejaiye
09 July 2016   |   4:46 am
Atinuke is the first of four girls, passionate about giving back to the Society and committed extensively to community development. A graduate of Microbiology from Moshood Abiola ...

Women-of-Rubies-2

Atinuke is the first of four girls, passionate about giving back to the Society and committed extensively to community development. A graduate of Microbiology from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, who is the lead Volunteer/founder of Safe and Smart foundation for girls, She is also a fashion entrepreneur and owns own her fashion outfit called 3113.

She strongly believes that teamwork, volunteering and taking proactive steps to ensure societal development contributes immensely to the change and desired future for which we all hoped for. She shares her inspiring story and the inspiration behind her initiative with us in this very educative and motivating interview.

Growing up
Well, my childhood contributes positively to all of the things that I do now, from watching my mother sew and always particular about not being a copycat to her selflessness and sacrificial attitude toward humanity. She passed this on to us and some other indelible values that I hold dear. Me and my four sisters were very close to her until she passed eight years ago, when I was 14. Before her death our life was a rise and fall, she struggled hard to make sure we attended the best school in at least our locality, venturing into several business to support the family, and yeah my father was very much alive. Although, she made us believe our father was the one doing all these for us, I didn’t know the whole truth until her demise. It wasn’t long before I dropped out of secondary school; we were thrown out into the streets. We separated to live at different places, I started doing menial jobs to help my sisters through school and to provide basic amenities, I was sexually harassed by bosses and a whole lot of bitter experiences. Basically, I was shaped by poverty, abandonment, homelessness.

Meet Atinuke
I am the first of four girls, passionate about giving back to the Society and committed extensively to community development. I am a graduate of Microbiology from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, I am the lead Volunteer/founder of Safe and Smart foundation for girls, I am also a fashion entrepreneur, I own a female fashion outfit called 3113. I strongly believe that teamwork, volunteering and taking proactive steps to ensure societal development contributes immensely to the change and desired future for which we all hoped for.

Passion for menstrual hygiene
I have always felt a deep need and a strong desire to reach out and help the underprivileged, partly because of my love for humanity and partly because I have experienced- first-hand what it feels like to be underprivileged. One day, while surfing the Internet I came across an enlightening article by Sandra Eguagie, (programme officer, African Network for Environmental and Economical justice) on menstrual hygiene implications for Nigeria. This article revealed to me that women and girls in rural communities still use cloth rags as menstrual pads and employs crude and unhygienic methods of washing and drying them due to the costs of commercial sanitary pads. I made more research and the claims were so true. Also, when I managed to get into a polytechnic, there were days that I couldn’t attend lectures among other reasons because I couldn’t afford to buy sanitary pads or couldn’t get to borrow from my roommates , so I just stay at home and generously allow my clothes to absorb the menstrual blood.

I also discovered that this area of public health management gets almost unnoticed in the society and how this luxury of sanitary pads even affects the attendance of girls in school. I shared these findings with some friends, their interests were triggered and we formed a team, which birth safe and Smart period project and later safe and smart foundation for girls.

Other projects and activities
Safe and smart Period started as a project, September 2015. We focused on proper menstrual hygiene and reproductive health for women and adolescents girls most especially in the rural community of Nigeria. We distributed free sanitary pads and other materials to these women and girls so as to reduce the rate of reproductive tract infection (RTI) associated with menstrual hygiene method, embarrassment, low self-confidence and absenteeism in school. We educated them on proper menstrual hygiene practice through our public health professionals and volunteers. We also got project coordinators (Corp members) that showed interest and were passionate about the cause to replicate this at their place of assignment, Kwara state and cross river to be precise. We later felt the need to incorporate this project as a Non for profit organisation so as to reach more people; we are currently doing a lot of work underground to structure the organisation for sustainability and impact scaling.

Giving up!
Ha, a lot of times. I get scared, especially when things are not working the way I envisioned. I remember putting Kirk Franklin’s ‘Hello Fear’ on replay on my music playlist for days. Earlier this year we had plans to collaborate with a particular Non for profit organisation in United States, we wanted to create a sustainable and at the same time sanitary methods for these girls and also create an enterprise so we won’t rely solely on donors. At first the procedure seems to be working, suddenly it was on hold. I really felt like giving up because we had started adjusting and building a structure around that promised collaboration.

My reward
That would be getting amazing feedback from these girls months after our visit.

Funding as a challenge
Getting funds to even to kick start the project, it takes just 3,000 Naira to provide sanitary supplies for a girl child in a year, but then Nigerians didn’t really respond well in terms of donations, most of the monies we get are from the United States and Paris. Talking about people resources too, we got about registered 60 volunteers very few showed commitment. It wasn’t easy approaching and getting corporate bodies to sponsor us as we were not duly registered, but I think that is about to change now as we hope to be done with the Corporate affairs commission soon.

Passion is not enough
Passion is never enough, get knowledge, ask questions, and strive to always be excellent at whatever you do. Do not rely solely on your passion, passion is good but you can’t move up with that alone less you go into extinction.

I am a Woman of Rubies
That will mean precious and hard to find right? I believe it is my story, my journey, the uniqueness in it, trusting it, owning it and most importantly the decision not to let it stop me from who God wants me to BE.