‘Nigerian youths have not been treated fairly’
Esther Ijewere is an enterprising social activist, gender advocate, columnist, author and the Executive Director of Rubies Ink Initiative for Women and Children. She is the brain behind Walk Against Rape (WAR), an advocacy initiative created to lend a voice for the victims of rape and demand justice. In this interview with EMEKA NWACHUKWU, she spoke on her latest project, Men Who Inspire, a platform designed to celebrate brave men with inspiring stories.
Tell us about yourself, growing up, education, and career?
I am the Founder of Rubies Ink Initiative for Women and Children, Convener of the Walk Against Rape Campaign and also, Editor-In-Chief of Women of Rubies, a blog aimed at celebrating exceptional women with inspiring stories & Men who Inspire, a fellow with Hillary Clinton’s founded Vital Voices Global Leadership. I have been into advocacy and development work for 10 years and I am the recipient of many awards – notable among them are the ‘100 leading Ladies in Africa’ I received years back and my recent recognition as ‘Social entrepreneur of the year” by Eloy Awards. I had my Primary and Secondary education in Lagos and graduated from the Olabisi Onabanjo University with a BSc in Sociology and Diploma in Marketing. I am also a certified ‘On Air Personality’ but that’s one of the many caps I am yet to explore. I believe in learning and acquiring knowledge as much as one can in any field of interest. Independence and giving are some of the dynamics that my mother taught me while growing up and it played a huge role in my life. She made me realise the power of giving from an early age and that propelled me to do all I do today.
You seem an advocate for men?
I have been advocating for women and fighting for their rights for 10 years now before starting a platform for men, in bid to seek balance as a gender balanced advocate. I believe in a world where both sexes have equal rights and are treated fairly and justly.
Men Who Inspire, what’s the initiative all about?
It’s an initiative dedicated to celebrating brave men with inspiring stories across the globe. A one-stop platform where every man, who is adding value, is given visibility and their stories brought to the front burner, with the aim of motivating young men and encourage them to aspire and believe in themselves. The idea is to give hope to the hopeless; to let every man out there know they have a right to be seen and heard regardless of their colour, background or social location.
What is the inspiration behind this?
I created Men Who Inspire in my bid to pay it forward because a lot of men opened doors for me while climbing my ladder of visibility, from media moguls who featured me in their esteemed platforms to the men I have worked with over the years on several projects. I have been greatly influenced by men, who saw the passion before the gender. This is my little way of giving back and show gratitude to all the wonderful men who make the world a better place.
What are our countrymen lacking that is responsible for the nation’s many challenges?
I think the older men are not giving the generation behind them enough room to thrive and prosper. I mean, this is very glaring with the state of governance and power play in the country. We need a breath of fresh air, and the only way we can have it is when the baton is passed on to those behind.
What must a man possess or what age must he attain to be celebrated in your platform?
Every man matters to us; age, ethnic group or social status are not prerequisites to be showcased on Men who Inspire. Recently, we featured an 11-year-old boy, who has become an Internet sensation and motivational speaker. There was also 5-year-old Jayden, who saved 13 people from house fire after being the only one awake when the home went in flames. In same vein, we have featured older people whose lifetime achievement is worth emulating. As long as your story can inspire someone out there, we will showcase you on our platform.
You are involved in so many things including writing and youth advocacy, how do you relax?
I create time for relaxation by detoxing and taking time off social media, or just seeing a movie with my kids. Being an extrovert due to my kind of work, and an introvert as per my personality, I have learnt how to slam the brakes to help my mental health.
Do you think that young people are well positioned to propel the right change in the country in the next few years?
No, we haven’t been treated fairly; the power is still being recycled yet we are the ones who put the country in good light. Many of us are not given the opportunity to serve our Nation and pay it forward. Luckily, a lot of youths have devised the method of been seen and heard by demanding for a seat at the table regardless of how we’ve been treated. I see hope and real change ahead, where Young people will occupy positions of power and join the train of change makers to move this great Nation forward.
What is your greatest fear in life?
If you’ve hit rock bottom several times and life has tossed you in different directions, there are very few things in life that can scare you. However, the only kind of fear I harbour in my heart is to never fail those who look up to me and believe in me.
What are your projections for your platform Men Who Inspire?
I see it becoming the one stop place for everything motivation for men of all age group, a place where a man who is down and out and about to give up on life can come to and be spurred to greatness. I see a lot of lives being changed through the platform and of course we will be giving back and supporting a lot of men who need visibility as we forge ahead.
What’s your advise to young men and women?
Be proud of your scars and don’t ever dim your light to make anyone comfortable. Share your story and let people be inspired by your imperfection. Just do your best and the world will adjust.