EKEOCHA: A Passion For Preserving African Values
Obianuju Ekeocha is a young African scientist living in the United Kingdom.
Presently, her passion at ensuring that African values are preserved and appreciated has led her to conceive and establish Culture of life, Africa, a non-governmental organisation, which is poised to correct the misconceptions that abound about the continent in the Western world.
She is going about achieving this aim through several means, one of which is by writing open letters, one of which she did to Melinda Gates. She is also speaking at conferences in African countries, the UN and partnering with other relevant organisations.
Obianuju, a chartered biomedical scientist, got involved in writing few years ago, while doing medical research on blood transfusion.
“It wasn’t so difficult for me to write my first open letter to Melinda Gates, where I highlighted and insisted on the African values on family, the sanctity of human life, marriage and our perception of sex and its beauty. I was prompted to do this, when I learnt of the Gates’ move to inject $4.6 billion worth of contraceptive drugs and devices into my homeland,” she explains.
After her first open letter, which went viral, she became a public figure. She recalls: “people started contacting me for good and for bad. But among them, there were also some who were radical feminists and they challenged me. I debated with some American professors, who were feminists and they hated the fact that I said African women do not want contraception as priority.
“After much argument, what came to me in all of these experiences is that people don’t actually understand Africans. Only Africans can understand Africa and so, a lot of my writing is actually done for the benefit of the international community.
“I am writing and telling them that this is what we believe and stand for as Africans. One may wonder why I am speaking for the whole of Africa.
But then, I have friends from different parts of Africa and I hope I am reflecting at least the feelings of the majority.
As Africans, we still have a general trend on various issues such as marriage. For instance, if someone is married we believe in fidelity, and any man who harbours a girl solely for his satisfaction and not for noble purpose, is not respected because that is not the African value.
The reverse is the case in Britain for instance, where there is zero pressure on a British man to marry a lady that has been living with him for decades and whom he decides not to marry because it seems okay. These are some of the African values I have decided to write on and present the best way I can.
“Initially, I was writing under my own name though I had no platform. Then, someone told me that I needed to have a platform, some kind of identity. So, I started CultureoflifeAfrica.com as a blog, which I registered after a while.
Then I started getting engaged in so many things, as I was being invited to speak in different countries, as well as attend meetings at the United Nations and working with the Catholic bishops in many countries. I realised that I needed some platform and that was how Culture of life, Africa started.”
Presently, Obianuju is working as a scientist at the Canterbury Hospital, South-East London, while running her NGO on the side to ensure she earns a living, as well as follow her passion.
Naturally, the pro-life and family advocate has to contend with several challenges in the course of following her passion.
“I encounter a lot of bad things on this mission. These include my learning about the African sex worker alliance. Some days, I come across such disturbing and terrible things that I just want to drop the whole thing and go back to my science life. The task has been so strenuous.
“I am spending so much of my time, energy and money, but what keeps me going is my faith in God and the love of the gospel. I will keep persevering even in the face of hardship because this is an urgent and commonsense message to everyone that Africans keep what is best about us, which is our love for family, for life and our appreciation of marriage. I simply believe that this is a mission for me,” she says.
As the youngest of six children in her family, Obianuju grew up in Owerri, Imo State. Her father is a retired accountancy lecturer with Alvan Ikoku College of Education also in Owerri, while her mum taught in a secondary school.
“We didn’t have it harder or better than anybody else,” she says of her childhood. “I went to Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) in Owerri and from there, I proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I trained as a microbiologist. I also did a course in lab sciences, which is like a general lab science course.
Afterwards, I worked at the Enugu University Teaching Hospital (EUTH).
I left for the UK almost 10 years ago and started work as a scientist there. I later changed to Hematology and then went to do my Masters at the University of East London.
“After passing out from there, I got a proper career in biomedical science at the Hospital of Canterbury in the South-East of England, where I have been working for almost seven years. I also did my specialist and have become a chartered scientist with the Institute of Council of Science and Biomedical Scientist,” she says.
On her reasons for still sticking to her African values despite leaving Nigeria shores several years ago, she explains:
“I left Nigeria at the adult age of 26. By then, I had had a full dose of everything Nigerian, having lived as a Nigerian to the fullest. When I travelled abroad, I received the culture shock, especially in things that have to do with with family life. They appear upside down and got me worried and thinking that even though a lot of things were good there, such as good jobs and no traffic among others, but it was still there at the back of my mind that there should be more.
“And so, I made conscious effort to keep the best aspect of my African heritage. In the beginning, the emphasis was on family, which is the most important to Africans. One area of African heritage and which makes us proud and we can depend on is the family. And that is what I decided to keep– my family as well as the entire African family culture, which is so healthy.
“So, I would love to encourage Africans to keep that, which is the most important to us–the African family value, even if we have to buy into this whole Western thing.”
How does she relax?
“Since that day I saw Bill Gate’s wife and wrote that article, I have lost my freedom, as I still combine this with my career at the hospital. I believe that one day, it will get to a point, where I can go full time and then I can balance it and have two or three weeks in the year for holiday, when I can just travel and relax somewhere.
But for now, this is not at all possible. I just try to grab a bit of holiday or rest during my scheduled travels by adding two or so