Omobolanle Ajijola: Always prioritise your mental and emotional wellbeing
There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything; that’s what trauma looks like for most people. It is often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Omobolanle Ajijola is changing that narrative by helping people who have lived, or living through traumatic events heal, and find the right support. The Certified Trauma Counselor is well trained in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Early Trauma. She is also an Executive Member of the African Network of Professional Counselors (ANEPCO), an NLP Practitioner and a passionate Gender-Based Violence Advocate, as well as being a trained certified Emotional Intelligence Specialist and a Global Change Agent. Omobolanle is the founder of Amal Safety Foundation, a non-governmental, and not-for-profit organisation that provides social and economic empowerment to survivors and victims of gender-based violence and disadvantaged communities across Nigeria. She is passionate about spreading awareness against sexual and all forms of gender-based violence and concerned about the total well-being of families and by extension children. She loves and enjoys working with families and children and this has led her to volunteer with organisations that share the same vision. She has gone on numerous campaigns to schools and communities and has participated in road rallies to raise awareness on child sexual abuse, and other forms of violence. A firm believer in securing a safe and well-balanced environment free from all forms of violence, she shares her story and nuggets on how to overcome trauma in this interview.
I grew up pretty much sheltered with my siblings; not going out much and spent a lot of time with my grandma who was the resident conflict resolver in her area. People would come to her with their issues, and I’d watch her listen and then help sort whatever the issue was and soothe hurt tempers. Same with helping those in need; no one came to her door in tears and left the same. She had a solution to every challenge. She would always give back or give out to whoever was in need and when thanked, she would say she was but a servant of Allah doing his bidding.
Watching my grandma (God rest her soul) advocate for what was right, no matter if it got her on the wrong side of people and her big heart when it came to giving, shaped me into the woman I am today. My parents aren’t any different and till date still help whoever comes to their door.
Inspiration Behind Bina Al- Amal Foundation
My deep passion to effect lasting change in people’s lives that made a real difference was the inspiration behind the foundation. I’d gone on numerous sexual abuse awareness campaigns and the stories of abuse we heard stayed with me; I wanted to do more.
Watching children and women roam the streets without a roof over their head and no access to basic amenities and the high numbers of women who would turn up for empowerment programmes worried me a lot, and after a summer school project at an informal settlement in 2019, my mind was made up; I knew what I had to do.
Managing My Role As A Certified Trauma Counsellor, An NLP Practitioner And GBV Advocate Successfully
Each role requires a lot of energy and focus, and I have been able to merge all into one and balance them all. It has not been easy, but managing my time and prioritising has helped me maintain the balance needed to flourish.
Volunteering For Several Organisations
It has been very educating; each volunteer role came from a personal experience and working for each organisation has taught me a lot of things, ranging from leadership, rapport and communication building, conflict resolution among other things. It is an experience I won’t trade for anything.
Impact of Bina Al-Amal Foundation Since Inception
At Bina Al-Amal Foundation, we provide the support, encouragement and empowerment to those people who live in informal settlements, and we also provide the interventions needed for Survivors and Victims of Gender Based Violence.
Basically we offer prevention and intervention against child abuse, rape, domestic violence, and all forms of violence against children and women, while providing prompt sensitive and psychosocial support to survivors of abuse and ensuring perpetrator is prosecuted, provision of sexual abuse awareness programmes to engage and enlighten teenagers and young adults on sexual and gender based violence and the need to be more socially and morally aware while providing the necessary psychosocial support.
Provision of temporary shelters for the homeless for women especially women and families who had gone through one forms of abuse and those who live in informal settlements (shanties and rural areas), empowerment for women in rural and vulnerable communities and free education for children in rural and vulnerable communities.
For our survivors and victims of sexual and gender based violence, we have been able to offer psychosocial and intervention services to at least 10 families and counting. For our informal community recipients, we have been able to offer education to over 100 of the children in the informal community as well as provision of palliative during the COVID -19 lockdown.
Our teen conferences designed to educate and empower young adults has reached over 100 youths and counting, providing them with information on the dangers of sexual and gender-based violence and the importance of leadership skills
Challenges Of My Work
Our major challenge has been getting the required amount of help for our informal settlement residents in terms of the shelter needs as they are constantly being evicted. Another challenge is their belief system, they feel they have no hope, and no one cares about them.
For our survivors and sictims, it’s tackling the silence and stigmatisation that doesn’t encourage them to open up freely about their experiences. For our teens and young adults, it’s helping them with the difficult choices and temptations they face in a world where information overload is everywhere.
Other Projects And Activities
We are working on building a stable environment for our informal settlement residents and helping them create a better quality of life through empowerment and job creation programmes. A group therapy hub for our trauma warriors and a teen hub for our young adults to help them cope with this fast paced world.
Three Women Who Inspire Me To Be Better And Why
Christiane Amanpour, Oreoluwa Adebiyi and Mrs. Achenyo Idachaba for their fearlessness in reporting the truth; their can-do attitude and above all love for humanity. They inspire me to be a better version of myself and to continue to push through even when people don’t understand the journey.
Coming Second At The Just Concluded Social Innovators Bootcamp
To be honest, I’d joined the bootcamp to achieve two things: to gain clarity and get the structure needed and to come 2nd was a bit of a shock; I never imagined I’d make it to the top 3. It was a humbling experience for me; I gained so much more than what I signed up for. My SIBC experience taught me one valuable lesson; I am doing something right and this is going to set the tone for a lot of our activities moving forward at Bina Al-Amal Foundation.
Right Steps To Take In Reporting Cases Of Domestic Violence & Rape
For Both cases, the most important thing and the first step is to document evidence. For a rape victim, the best way to document evidence is to go as soon they can to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre preferably Mirabel Centre to get checked by a doctor and to get the medical attention needed. For a domestic violence victim, we encourage them to take pictures of bruises, take voice recordings only if it is safe to do so.
Next step is to go to a police station to report the case. At the station, you ask for their Gender Desk or Family Support Unit. After this, the police would ask for evidence of assault to which a letter would be sent to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre who carried out the examination for the rape victim. For the Domestic Violence Victim, evidence would also be collected.
Being A Woman Of Rubies
What makes me a Woman of Rubies is my selfless character and passion to see a fellow woman attain great heights and my not giving up on those who need me.
Nuggets On How To Overcome Trauma, And Stay Grounded
1) Give yourself time. It takes time – weeks or months – to accept what has happened and to learn to live with it, take it one step at a time.
2) Acknowledging your experience, that way, you can start to understand what drives your feelings of fear and anxiety and change your perspective over time.
3) Join a Support Group; being involved with other survivors of trauma, sometimes hearing others, and knowing you’re not alone offers you some of the comfort needed.
4) Ask for support from family and friends willing to help; don’t isolate yourself.
5) Take some time for yourself. It is okay to want to be by yourself or with close family and friends
6) Talk it over with a Professional. This is where therapy comes in to give a more grounded sense of healing.
7) Get into a routine to resting a sense of normalcy
On staying grounded:
1) Appreciate life’s simple pleasures.
2) Practice gratitude.
3) Take a break.
4) Prioritise your mental and emotional health.
5)Be the change you want to see in the world.
6) Stay active.
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