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‘We need to get the girl-child right when they’re young’

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Funke-Treasure Durodola is a renowned broadcast journalist, trainer, leadership coach, author, writer, media strategist, and a girl-child advocate. This visionary is also the initiator of Media Mentoring Initiative, an internship scheme for prospective journalists, and the convener of the Funke -Treasure Table Tennis Championship (F3TC), which took place in Ibadan last year, a pet project aimed at up-scaling the girl-child from poor family backgrounds through sports and empowerment sessions in life skills.

Durodola is presently the Assistant Director of Programmes at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). She was an Adjunct Lecturer in Radio Broadcasting at Pan Atlantic University, a one-time General Manager of Radio One, President, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and guest lecturer on Black ‘Englishes’ Class ‘Nigeria Pidgin English’, at the University of Florida.

In this interview with GuardianWoman, Durodola shares her professional experience and the immensity of her drive to have a Nigeria that attributes adequacy to civil rights, women empowerment, education, human rights and social services.

Tell us about your Media Mentoring Initiative (MMI), what was the drive?
We started with Lagos State University’s Mass Communication Department, and it was targeted at the final year students of the department who are getting ready to leave school, face the world and seek employment. The MMI was informed by my experience as Head of Presentation then at Metro FM, at that time, interns would come and we’d ask them do a one page about why they have chosen to come to Metro FM Radio Nigeria to do their internship and what they hoped to achieve, and that one page was hell on earth, it was pathetic, it was just not right. So I felt, it isn’t that their lecturers weren’t teaching them, it isn’t that the media organisations are not good enough, it’s just that there is a skills gap, and I thought I could help fill. I thought I should go to the schools while they are still there to bridge the gap, do workshops. At that time we did interventions as workshops, so we did that in LASU as our pilot scheme and it went well. We had support from the United State Consulate, Lagos; they gave us material resources. For that pilot phase, we had three workshops where I brought in my colleagues in the industry and other people outside who could impart knowledge to these students and it turned out successful. We have remained in touch till date, some are in broadcasting, production, I know one who works in a radio station and did production work. It’s always good to be a channel of education, empowerment to people. I think my life is just about empowerment.

Aside LASU, do you have plans to touch other Universities and is there a price charge for MMI students?
It could be time-consuming because I still work a 9-5 job, it’s a little difficult to go round schools and do that. I also have visions and dreams for my career and myself, so I have tried to strike some balance. What I did was to do second phase of the project whereby the interns worked with me at the radio stations I managed at that time and did internship with the station, some of my producers and reporters. This time I’d expanded it to reportorial production and presentation. The good thing is, some of my mentees got really good internship with TV stations, radio stations, and they were the better for it. For the second phase I wanted people to have some sort of experience, because when they go for job interviews they were always asked to show experience of having worked somewhere. Most of them had challenges with that and I wanted to solve that problem, so I made my station available for internship and for work experience. I focus more on work experience and working on the field with experienced journalists and broadcasters, so they could broaden what they were doing one-on-one with me.

When I started I didn’t charge, but at the second phase, I started charging a token cause I realised that what people do not pay for sometimes they don’t value it.

As a girl-child advocate and considering your initiative and role at the F3TC, what is your view of the girl-child in Africa and how does F3TC upscale them?
Recently I saw a story on television about a number of girls who were hospitalised, they were rescued from circumcision in Burkina Faso. Girls have a right to live, patriarchy is entrenched in African societies, and even in the 21st century, we still live with these patriarchal attitudes, beliefs, myths and limitations that have continued to affect a lot of girls. Even as a girl-child advocate, I am not saying girls should not listen to their parents and rebel against the society. I am saying, do not let anyone tell you that you do not have opportunities, do not limit yourself by societal beliefs, you can be an astronaut if you want to be, if you have the right push, right backing, funding and you read, you can be an astronaut even as a girl. You can take the world as a girl, let no man, and let nobody tell you it is not possible. That is the essence of a lot of the empowerment sessions in my advocacy for girls. Also, it is important for women to know it’s not an offence or curse if they are not married, stop seeing yourself as a victim just because you’re not married, stop seeing yourself as a non-achiever even when you have achieved everything and you’re not married, it is a societal burden, it does not define you.

You don’t stay in an abusive marriage or a marriage that is taking you nowhere just because the society respects married women and if you’re single they don’t think you’re decent, they think there is something wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with you. It is not a sin to aspire to be the head of an organisation, a woman can run an organisation as well even better than a man, do not limit yourself. Women are the ones who perpetrate patriarchy, they are the ones who would stay there and subject widows to hell and it’s affecting a lot of people. This is why we have a lot of mental cases, people are bound, and crying out for help but the society is not helping matters. So we need to change our thinking, we need to stop stigmatising people because they have no children, because they are not married, because they are women in an organisation filled with men, because they are assertive, it is not a sin to be an assertive woman, that’s how you have been created by God.

Accept yourself the way you are, it is not a sin to be a successful career woman or a successful entrepreneur, do not limit yourself because the society says so. Do not be sorry for your success, do not apologise for your success. You are a woman for a reason, without women there is no perpetration of the human race, no matter how you look at it, women are the ones who perpetrate the human race because we have been created by God to be incubators, so rejoice in that.

So whether you have a chance to incubate a child, to carry a child or not, you incubate ideas, the society is in our hands and if we don’t get the girl-child right when they are young, they are going to grow up being dysfunctional women, they are the women who will stand as terrors for other women, so we must invest in our girls, we must continually let them know that the future is theirs, we must continually let them know that they can do it, embrace who you are, your purpose in life as a girl-child and aim for the sky.

At what point did you decide to platform F3TC and why table tennis, why only girls?
I am the immediate past GM of Radio1, one of FRCN’s radio stations in Lagos. I had initiated the Radio1 Children’s Sports Fiesta about three years ago and I had done the maiden edition, and while I was working on the second edition which held at Campos stadium on Lagos Island, I got the idea of the table-tennis tournament for Ibadan city and I thought it was strange because there I was, struggling with executing the second children’s sport fiesta and having difficulty with sponsorship and all of that. I thought that must be my mind on overdrive, but no it wasn’t, the idea wouldn’t let me be. I successfully executed the children’s sport fiesta and then started to think about the table tennis idea that came to me. I went on to become the Head of Programmmes for the three radio stations of FRCN in Lagos and that took me off Radio1.

So while away, I kept singing the table tennis idea with friends and close associates who were enthusiastic about the idea and I started to fine-tune it. I realised there hadn’t been any table tennis tournament in Ibadan as at that time, I wanted something unique in every sense of it, I thought if I made it boys and girls, boys always have one platform or the other, they have the game of football, I know that girls also play football or basket ball but boys take the prominent positions and the visibility of it. So I thought in the past, Oyo state had always had iconic table tennis players, and in the past, Nigeria had really visible table-tennis players, so I decided to rekindle and renew the interest of females in the sport.

Let’ look for more Bose Kaffos and Funke Oshonaikes, these were two prominent female table tennis players Nigeria has had till date. So that was what brought about the all girls table tennis championship I had in Ibadan. The idea was to have them think big and critically about what they’d like to do as young girls with their lives. I brought in guys who were like-minded; I involved Oyo State Minister of Youth and Sport, the sport council in Oyo State, the table tennis association in the state and they were all quite enthusiastic about the idea of the championship.

I wanted the girls to be able to manage fame and academics and fortune at their age. That brought about the idea of F3TC empowerment as well. I brought in people who could speak to them about financial literacy because I know many women are not empowered and have not been able to manage their finances; we always think men should own the money, while we spend the money, and when we get later in life to positions where we need the money, even in marriages we tend to over rely on the men in our lives. So I thought I could start in my own little way to re-socialise these girls, re-orientate them, that they can begin at such a young age to manage their own money. Then I also thought because I was giving them an amount they shouldn’t spend anyhow. The championship was for under-15, the first girl got N100, 000, second got N75, 000, third got N50, 000, and fourth N25, 000. I ensured the first girl went home with N20, 000 cash and the N80, 000 would be used to open an account for her and would invest a certain percentage into share so that it can multiply, I have instructed her to save every month in that account no matter how small. All of them will have access to that account when they turn 21 or they get into the university. I also brought in someone who did drug abuse and dopamine; I don’t want to nurture girls in table tennis who would be using performance enhancing drugs, and I am grateful to Emzor Pharmaceuticals for sponsoring that session at the F3TC and also providing the jersey for the girls to use. I also brought in someone who taught them confidence building, because again, I see a lot of women who are talented and skilled but don’t possess the confidence and the audacity to pursue their purpose in life, so I thought one of the key area we need to empower our girls in Nigeria is to build their confidence.

We need to let them know that confidence is important for a woman to achieve anything in life, whether marriage, career, or a business, you need to have confidence.

Tell us about your background, how it has shaped who you are today and how it relates to your book Memories of Grandma?
My father is a retired major in the army and my mother retired as a headmistress of a primary school, that gives you an insight of the kind of family I grew up in, it was a lot of discipline, you better be well behaved. I lived a sheltered life because I lived in the army barracks, my father travelled often and so I was left many times with my mum. I had a lot of interactions with my maternal grandmother who’s influenced my life a lot just as my mum. My upbringing taught me discipline, what people see as a big deal is not the same to me just obey and reap the reward. You’ve been asked to do this, just do so; it’s pretty basic and simple to me so I find it rather curious when people complain over difficulty in pleasing someone. I am used to standards, doing things rightly and that has shaped my life.

My childhood was captured in my book Memories of Grandma. I lived a studious life as a girl-child, I read a lot, too many books at home to read, my father had classics in his library and I had access to it.

What are your hobbies?
I like good movies, they make me feel good and relax. I love to read for relaxation and not just for research. I like traveling, it opens up my mind, makes me relax, I love to visit new places. These days, I have learnt to take a walk in the morning it also relaxes me a lot, I like the fact that I can draw in fresh oxygen as the day breaks. Sometime ago, I tried a salsa dance class; it felt really good, I am thinking of going back to it and making it a hobby. I am not a party person but once in a while I party.


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