‘Parents must first be made aware of the psychological and emotional benefits of educating their girls’
Though she was born with a silver spoon, Olatinpo Abosede Odutola has left her comfort zone to serve humanity. Born into the prominent family of the late billionaire businessman, Adeola Odutola in Ijebu-Ode Ogun State, Olatinpo attended the best finishing schools, graduating with a B.Sc. in Psychology from the London Metropolitan University, United Kingdom. The zeal to give back to society imposed on her a burden to cater to women in need and despair; especially ladies who have gone through one form of sexual abuse, prostitution or the other, as well as provide girl-child education. So, it was this urge that gave birth to her Olubusola Ayodele Akingbehin Memorial Foundation, which was founded with the aim of bringing healing and restoration to depression women in the society, having recognised that women play a vital role in nation building. The foundation strives to eradicate sexual violence against women, as well as fight the scourge of prostitution among women. She recently spoke with FUNSHO AKINWALE
Tell us about yourself and your foundation
My names are Olatinpo Abosede Odutola. I have a B.Sc. in Psychology from London Metropolitan University and I am in SAP Certified in Human Capital Management. I have always had a passion for giving and helping people in need, right from my formative years. My foundation is named after my late mother, Olubusola Ayodele Akingbehin Foundation. We cater for women education and empowerment. I give talks to teenage girls about the advantages of abstinence and protection. I also give them exercise books, even though they are yet to receive a single one from the state government three years after its promises. I tried to purchase two plots of land sometime ago, and I had hoped to build multiple mini flats for widows living in the forest with their children; to house them and give them a token to start a business.
It really gladdened my heart days back, when I watched Abia State First Lady, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, on TV giving out homes to homeless widows living in the forest in her state. She really inspired me. I never knew such a life existed until I saw it. She has shown that it’s possible to live a life without frivolities and giving life to the special people around us. I watched her and said to myself, ‘Lord, please bless me so I can do this too’ and I placed my hands on the TV set as a point of contact. That was a moment I can never forget in a hurry.
What measures have you taken to discourage young Nigerian girls from going into prostitution?
Many girls and teenagers around the world are currently trapped in prostitution. Sri Lanka has the highest rate of child prostitution, followed by Thailand, Brazil, United States and Canada. There is really nothing new or unique in life or culture. All you have is variants of the same thing. So, the notion that many girls from the Southwest are into prostitution isn’t true. There are bad eggs everywhere.
At the moment, I do a lot of work centering on female traders, who sources loan from microfinance banks, but are being overburdened by the interest rate. They can only afford to pay back by going into prostitution. This interest is as little as N2, 500 and sometimes less. By next week, we will embark on thorough restructuring to salvage the situation. And as a matter of urgency, I have already given a number of affected women the interest rate, when we kicked off our loan schemes. It will be spread out in an unconventionally longer period of time, so that they will be able save up for a month to pay back the interest and it will not affect their businesses. About 20 women have been penciled down to benefit from the scheme, while talks is on-going with secondary school girls.
What solutions would you proffer to check the low rate of girl-child education in your state?
With regards to education in my state, I volunteered with another foundation that gives out shoes to school students. So, I’m quite aware of the population ratio of boys to girls. It served as a platform to get to know the true situation of the realities on ground.
Some have argued that many NGOs in Nigeria were set up just to attract foreign grants. What is your take on this?
That is true. You will always get a rotten few in any skill or area of expertise, voluntary or paid. Even in a marriage, one or both parties don’t always enter into agreement for right or puritan reasons. But not every egg in a crate is bad. It’s sad but true. Indeed, many foundations are set up by dubious people with no other ambition than ‘to steal, kill and destroy’ mission of sorts. But the key word in your question is ‘many’ and not ‘all’. There are still genuine NGOs doing great work in this country. I remember in the summer of 2007, when I went to a couple of orphanages to give out items. None of the staff or facilitators was in the country. I remember one particularly in Ajah. The head, assistant, supervisor and matron were all in the United Kingdom. They had left the older teenager to take charge, but she was too naïve, with no confidence to convince me about the orphanage. However, ‘fraud’ is an English word, so Nigerian NGOs are not the forerunners of dubious activities.
What specific things has your foundation done to liberate women in Ogun State?
Pregnancy and delivery is something I hold dear. So, I give out delivery packs to pregnant women. Government doesn’t provide it, but it’s a necessity for pregnant women. Truth be told, there’s so much research based widely available solutions to checking the low rate of girl child education. But the issue is: do we avail ourselves as a state of this information, rather than trying to invent the wheel with unchecked committees? But there are still some commonsense approaches we can use.
Parents must first be made aware of the benefits of education; and not just academic benefits, but also the psychological and emotional benefits of educating their girls. Let me give you an example. One of my tailors has two kids and is a single mother living in one-room apartment. When she had the first baby, and was seriously struggling, I asked her why she was careless in the first place and why she got herself pregnant. She said because the boy had promised to marry her and so she agreed to sleep with him. I was stunned. Then I asked why she didn’t take precaution. She looked at me like I was speaking Efik to a shop attendant in the South of France. This is just an example of why not educating girls is detrimental, as cycles are usually, but not always hard to break.
What unique thing has your foundation planned for the vulnerable in Ogun State?
I give out delivery packs to expectant mothers on a large scale. I can boldly and confidently say that this hasn’t been done before. The next step is to reach out to other demographics, but I’ll keep that under wrap for now. Aside this, I also worked with a handful of old women, whose children are late and they are single handedly taking care of their grandchildren. Although you might wonder why a bag of rice for three people is finished in two months, but then it occurs to you that they sell from the rice to raise extra cash.
I have also started working with widows. A lot of them feed themselves and their children from hand-to-mouth through loans. I engage them in menial jobs over the course of the month, so they are enabled to raise the interest they need to payback on their loans. I try not to encourage free money. Showing help, compassion and support is key to my plans.
As the founder, what are you doing to attract the state government’s attention to the deplorable situation of abused women in your state?
I am currently working on a proposal that will be submitted to the state government. It’s going to be the first of its kind; unique and groundbreaking.
What is your relationship with the state government? Do you have any political ambition?
As a daughter of the soil, I have a relationship with Ogun State government. Charity, they say, begins at home, and my paternal grandfather illustrated that too well. So, if I must show love, it should start from home. I must admit though that moving with the grassroots has made me privy to a lot of things. Quite a surprising high number of people have urged me to go into politics and represent them. And if such an opportunity presents itself, I believe it will be foolhardy to ignore such. Presently, I’m just giving back to my people.
Any word of advice for hopeless women?
I saw this on Instagram today, and I find it very apt to the topic being discussed here and even in my life, too: “God is saying to you today, ‘I know you have been struggling for a long time— financially, spiritually and emotionally. You have a good heart and people have abused you in many ways. You have been betrayed in many ways … yet you stand in the midst of your storms. You are still here because I am with you. I will not allow any weapon that is formed against you to prosper. Fear not, because I am going to turn things around and bless you in the presence of your enemies. Hold on to your faith.”
QUOTE: It really gladdened my heart days back, when I watched Abia State First Lady, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu on TV giving out homes to homeless widows living in the forest in her state. She really inspired me