Women in tech, young people in business, whatever

Who has noticed I’ve got my groove back? Whoop!!

Very recently I wrote about being almost subsumed by work, stress, and so many emotions that made it difficult to write. Guess what? I’m back! Whoop! Slowly catching up with most of my writing commitments, and oh what a joy!

Thank you Jesus!

So let’s talk about something that happened recently which I’m very concerned by, especially since it has happened before. Before I start though, quick question: what’s the most important thing for you when you apply for a position/job/project/whatever?

For me, it’s knowing all I can about the people hiring. It’s like dating ( by the way, I refer to relationships so much these days I think an Agony Aunt column is in my future) and if you don’t get to know your partner, how can you please them (or at least try)?

Agreed? Not saying that’s all you need to look out for but believe me when I say it’s important. Very important.

Second thing for me is that I need to care enough/want it bad enough, otherwise there is no point. I won’t get it. To be clear, I haven’t been accepted everywhere I applied for a job, matter of fact there was a research project I put in for a couple weeks ago with a team, and we didn’t get chosen. We did get great feedback though, on what we did right and wrong, so much as I really wanted us to win the tender, I’m not beating myself up at all.

Anyway, back to talking about other people. Lol.

For about two years I’ve recruited ad hoc or full-time staff for myself and for clients, and so I’ve gone through a number of CV’s. And that’s what this post is about. The entire gamut around securing a job, from sending a CV to the interview, to negotiating your pay, to whatever comes after. I know we all talk about the scarcity of jobs, and the difficulties around women finding and being in work but have we thought about employability?

A month ago I needed two researchers and so I asked on Twitter – and most times I will tweet about positions I need to fill – that people send CV’s and a link to anything they had written to an email address.

I got the weirdest responses. From the guy who addressed me as “Hi Chi” (forget the inappropriateness of the salutation, anyone who knows me knows any adaptations of ‘Chioma’ never work with me), to the person who sent me her social network names for me to ‘check her out’, then the guy who sent me a CV which had more errors than correct sentences, phew! Then there was the lady who sent me a nice CV, but then an article that was full of ‘lols’, ‘smhes’, and ‘rmes’. How do you send that as a writing sample for a research position? Who does that? Hian!

About 72 hours ago I joined a panel to interview some people for an internship position. Three guys, two ladies, and somehow the guys went first. First guy was alright, second guy maybe just a bit more qualified, and the third guy sounded like the perfect ‘bullshitter‘ (forgive that word please, I’ll explain). We asked him how he would solve a problem in our organization (which he claimed he was well aware of, and then he said he wouldn’t be able to give us an answer till he had “researched into the foundation of the issue because everything takes root at the foundation then starts to grow”. What??? You know how people just go round and round the mulberry bush because they don’t have an answer? This guy.

Anyway, it was the ladies who worried me. Greatly. The first one knew next to nothing about the organization, kept on smiling in a ‘I-don’t-know-as-much-as-I-should-but-I’m-hoping-my smile-makes-up-for-it’ kind of way, and said she didn’t use social media but had a Facebook and Twitter account. Haba!!! When social media management for the organization was there as one of the tasks? Did I mention she wore jeans and hot pink lipstick? And generally gave off a very unserious vibe?

The second lady did just a bit better but all the interviewers knew the race for the position was between the guys. The ladies were (to my mind) just there to make up the numbers.

And so it is to the sisters I write today. Do we not care enough? Is the problem that we are not aware of what we should do when we’re job-hunting or we don’t want these jobs bad enough? I don’t know. It was distressing though, super distressing. And then we’ll go to our places of worship to pray for favor when we put in ZERO effort. I don’t know…

Thoughts, anyone?

PS: Written on the 21st of March, 2015.

EiE at 5, happy birthday!

Thinking of what we now know as Enough is Enough Nigeria always leaves me with three feelings

  1. Pride – that I was a part of something whose influence transcends the shores of this country
  2. Despair – that five years after, the issues that gave birth to are still the issues we’re grappling with now
  3. Hope – that there is hope for Nigeria, and our labor will not be in vain.

It was one email, one random Friday afternoon. Late President Yar’adua was terminally ill, unavailable to lead the country, and so many ‘leaders’ arose and plundered, taking turns to rape an already battered country. No one could ascertain whether he was alive or dead, no one had access to him, and there was no talk of a succession plan because some people had sworn they would rule by proxy.

And then I got that email from Chude, asking “where is the outrage;” wondering how Nigeria’s youth demographic, about 65% of Nigeria’s 150 million strong population, was going to stand by and do nothing while evil doers ensured there was no Nigeria left for us. My favorite line from that email was, “We are in the majority. We have the power to actually make change happen. So what is our excuse? What will we tell our children – that we lay down and took whatever they hit us with?”

We couldn’t have been more than 20 copied in that email that led to the ‘Enough is Enough’ protest to the National Assembly on the 16th of March 2010.

Photo credit: Enough is Enough Nigeria

Photo credit: Enough is Enough Nigeria

I remember the nights leading to it; the nocturnal meetings, and the letters we wrote. I remember all of us having to make the decision not to join the ‘Save Nigeria Group’ rally which held around the same time, refusing to be the ‘pop culture element’ but making a statement of our own. I remember reading up on the possible things that could go wrong during a protest, and gathering tips like onions countering the effects of teargas. Now that I think of it, I wonder what would have happened if we really had to use onions on the day.

And so on this day, exactly five years ago, I was at my cubicle at the BBC, having received a stern warning from my late aunt (God rest her soul), not to join any protest. Matter of fact, she’d made me wear a skirt and heels to work so I wouldn’t be able to go.

At 9am, my colleagues Alkasim and Matilda, disappeared from the office for various reasons, but I stayed, trying to be obedient. By 10am another colleague asked me to leave because I wasn’t being useful; that’s how restless I was. I caught a cab home, changed into trousers and my Enough is Enough tee (which I still have), and ran to Eagle Square.

The most beautiful rainbow kissed the clouds that morning, and I remember a few of us getting emotional because God was literally smiling down on us.

And then we set out, voices and placards raised, demanding that our government keep the promise they made about 6000MW of electricity, and stop the fuel crisis that was the stuff of legend.

There were many moments I will never forget from that morning, like Dele Momodu pushing through the human barrier the soldiers formed on the way to the National Assembly, Audu Maikori almost getting shot, and the absolutely scorching sun. I also remember musicians like Omawumi and others leading us in song, and I remember almost falling out of one of the trucks. I remember the Sergeant-at-Arms saying he wasn’t aware of our gathering and procession, when he had in fact received a letter days before. And yes, I remember Alkasim, Matilda, and I almost getting queried for leaving the office.

Photo credit: TalkNaija.com

Photo credit: TalkNaija.com

From ‘Enougha Enougha’ on Facebook, Enough is Enough was registered (in a very roundabout way that still makes me smile), and through the Register, Select, Vote, and Protect (RSVP), #ShineYourEye, #OurNass, election debates and monitoring, Revoda, etc. continues to work with other organizations (local and international) to ask questions of our leaders, and demand some sanity in the chaos that is sometimes us.

That protest laid the foundation for the #OccupyNigeria and #BringBackOurGirls movements, simply because it showed that young people are aware, care, and dare to force good governance from those who have the privilege to serve.

Here’s a big happy birthday to EiE, to the inaugural board and leadership, and to Yemi Adamolekun, who has steadily steered this ship through it all. May our oil never run dry, our arms never go weary, and may we see this Nigeria we dream of sooner than later.

Happy birthday!

The ‘whole truth’ about women in the work place

A few weeks ago I sat with some friends in one of my favorite places in Lagos (Terra Kulture) and we talked about everything, ending somewhere between relationships, entrepreneurs, that kind of thing.

How did it even start? I know there was a statement made about the scarcity of good men and after both males and females argued a little bit about generalizations, we talked about the difficulties young people face in relationships, either in starting or keeping them.

I totally forgot about that conversation till I was going to blog about Social Media Week Lagos and as I was noting talking points, I remembered the session on ‘Women in Tech’ and how disappointed my friends and I were at the gloss that was slathered on the entire discussion.

Matter of fact, my friend Saratu asked a question that echoed all my sentiments. She wanted to know why none of the speakers spoke about the challenges they’d faced in building their businesses, why no one was telling the real stories behind whatever successes they were currently standing on.

Here’s a personal experience. In 2012 I was in a bank, frustrated with my account officer because they’d said I could get pounds from the branch and then I drove all the way to Area 11 and I don’t remember what excuse they’d given but I was pissed off.

While I was discussing with the said account officer, a much older man asks to borrow my pen. I give it to him and when he’s done, he says I’m pretty and he wants my number. Now, if you read my blog you’ll know the day before I travel is normally the crazy day where I have 1000 things to do, I’m literally running/speeding everywhere and even 26 hours wouldn’t do. Plus, I was ticked off at the bank so a much older man asking for my number was the last thing I was in the mood for. I refused with the last bit of respect I had and after he asked why I was sweating and in a foul mood, I mentioned I still had a client’s office to visit, I had a trip to get ready for etc.

Long story short, we exchanged cards, he wanted me to prepare a social media strategy for the ministry in which he was a director of finance or something. I did, adapted one I’d written for another client, and emailed it that night.

My quote was at least 60% cheaper than the other proposals he had received (he’d given them to me when I swung by to collect a brief) and with the elaborate document I handed in, to my mind it was a matter of when.

I called a few times from Blighty and he said they didn’t have ‘network’ in the office for him to read it, and one day he talked about him coming over so I could explain it to him. A director of a ministry flying (all the way) to England so a prospective strategist could explain her proposal? Lol.

Let’s end the story quickly. I refused to play nice, so he stopped taking my calls and one day told me he was going on a one-year course and not/never to call him again. And that was that. I remember ranting on Twitter, and Ruona Meyer encouraging me in my DMs. I won’t forget that.

So, back to the discussion at Terra Kulture, I said something about unconsciously putting up walls whenever I interacted with men partly because of work and how the slightest smile is misconstrued as ‘consent’ and then a ‘no’ becomes a problem because you led them along (by smiling). I talked about how it was easier (and better) for me to be first seen as mean/hard looking and then soften up (maybe) as the work takes off properly instead of being taken for a ride from day one.

I mentioned how those walls then become a problem when you’re with your special someone because they might feel like you’re not completely open with them but it’s just you forgetting that you can take a break from protecting yourself because relationships should be safe spaces. It’s just you transferring your protective shell/demeanor to a space where you can/should be vulnerable. And that causes problems.

That’s just one challenge.

How many women have to work twice as hard while the rest of the world preaches ‘ empowerment/inclusion’ and ‘giving women a place on the table’? How many women become who they are politically only because they are married to or are children of the Old Boy’s Club? How many of us are frustrated day in day out with the weakest links around our projects?

Here’s another reason why I feel like women should be just a bit more ‘open’ with these conversations. We have these events and everything sounds like a piece of chocolate cake, freely handed out to us because we’re ‘whoever we say we are’. And so the young women listening press forward, maybe even decide to switch careers because we have it so good here.

Then they come and are buffeted with all sorts of challenges they didn’t imagine were possible or are prepared for in the slightest. And then they run away. Or they give in to whatever pressures they have find they have to (furthering the ugly stereotype). Very few will dig their heels in, and fight to get that place on the table.

At the next gathering of women we’ll lament that there are very few entrepreneurs. There will be, because they’re not ready!

It’s the same thing for relationships to be honest, but that’s a totally different discussion for another day.

Final word – can we be a bit more honest with these things? Sure. So let’s do/be that.

BrandiQ and All Souls Church – A day in the life of a strategist!

The 6th of November was a truly special day, one of those days that can truly be described as ‘full’, and I’m about to tell you how it went down! Or up, because it ended on such a high!

So, I’d flown into Lagos the night before after spending a few days with my darling parents, was truly a gift to have been with them, and I can’t stop thanking both of them for the sacrifices they make to keep me comfortable anytime I’m around!

Anyway, so I woke up that morning, chest tight, nostrils blocked, the leftover of a bad case of flu that refused to leave me alone. Show must go on abi? So I got ready, and headed to Civic Center where I’d been billed to speak alongside some very renowned speakers at the BrandiQ Symposium. My topic? Politics, social media, and young people – Tolu Ogunlesi had put me forward as a panelist cos he thought he wouldn’t be in the country and then when he found he would be around, he just came to support me. Hallelujah for friends/colleagues like him!

Keynote speaker was former UK High Commissioner Christopher Kolade, special guest of honor was the most lovely older gentleman Apostle Hayford Allile, and there were academics, other top-notch people like that. I was on the stage with people like Martins Oloja (Editor, The Guardian), and to be honest by the time he was done with his speech, the first thing I said when I took the mic was “how do you top a talk like that”? Thanks however be to God who always causes us to do brilliantly, and not shame Him, our families or our friends!

So, what did I talk about? I started with definitions of some key words in the Symposium theme, (participation, stakeholder, tokenism, and young person) and then I asked two questions:

  • How many people in the room have voter cards?
  • How many of us know the heads of our local government areas  (appointed or elected)?

How do we then (as young people) claim to be stakeholders in a thing we cannot participate in because we’re not registered? Really, how? Aren’t we tired of clicktivism? When do we move on to action, in this case enforcing our thoughts/ideologies with our votes?

Then it was off to stats on voting patterns, how social media is a means to an end but must not be misconstrued as the end in itself, and all of that good business. Event was great, I had a really good time! Potential client and writing gig in the offing too! Whoop!

It ended about 3pm, and then it was off to Terra Kulture for a quick lunch, dress change, and then flying down to All Souls Anglican Church in Lekki, where I’d been billed to speak on social media for play or business, from a Godly perspective.

IMG-20141004-WA0001My date was moved to the 6th because I signed up to something (which I have readied a series for) that would start on the 7th.

So I got to the venue late because I grossly underestimated the traffic and side note? Dear Lagosians, Lagos is not working! Your roads are horrible, even in the so-called posh areas. Yuck. Thankful for my Cabbie Abubakar who lives in Ajah and so knew all the hidden routes to take to avoid the traffic. Na wa!

Anyway, got there in one piece, and after the worship session, I was up! It was a small, intimate crowd, and it was structured a bit like this.

I started with 1 Corinthians 10:31 which I paraphrased as “whether you eat or drink, or tweet or Facebook, do it to the glory of God”. The rest of it is below…

  • About me
  • What is social media
  • How do you use social media – Proverbs 27: 17, Hebrews 10:24-25
  • How not to use social media – 1 Corinthians 15:33, Matthew 5:29
  • Careers in/around social media – Matthew 5:16

Pretty simple/straightforward right? The interesting thing really was introducing the word of God to the different points above. I had a marvellous time! I loved the question and answer session, and I have since made a blogpost off a quick consult I did following that event! Something to do with how we use LinkedIn, you should see it.

It gets even better – they gave me a plaque! I was so emotional, it means so much to have received this! And the prayers, aww, kiss of my life!

2014-11-14 05.15.50

Super grateful to JT for dinner, and then it was bedtime, and out of Lagos the next day to join the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Book Sprint in Abuja!

Crazy, crazy, schedule, but I love it!

xx

#ChroniclesFromBonn –Welcome to school, meet the team!

I woke up a bit of in a panic around 4am, and I’ll tell you why.

So I watched an account of the EMAB bomb blast on the 24th of June the night before, and because our minds process in our unconsciousness the things we expose ourselves to when we are conscious, I didn’t sleep very well.

Hindsight? Was really silly of me to watch that.

I kept on asking myself; what have we become? How have we Nigerians become people who are so inured to the devastation by Boko Haram that we can carry on with our lives like nothing happened? Why isn’t there more outrage about the daily massacre going on in the north? How are we able to just pick up and carry on like nothing happened? Is our resilience a bigger curse than it is a blessing?

Anyway, so I didn’t sleep well. At all. Still had to be up and about though because Joojo (Ghanians are awesome I tell you) had offered to take me to a super market, and because my geography is not of this world, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of someone taking me there. Breakfast was basic but lovely, and I pretty much had the same thing everyday till I left.

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Selfie, anyone? Don’t ask why my head was bent abeg…

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Wheat/nut bread, cheese, salami, an egg, and wonderful fruit tea… God is a good God!! #Foodie

 

It was about a 30 minute walk or more but the weather was lovely, and we eventually found Reve, and I was so on point with my shopping!

IMG_20140628_114400

Told myself I wouldn’t do more than €20 in the store, and my bill came to €19.82. Boss!!

Serious business now.

Our meet with Digital Participation Camp team was slated for 2pm, so by 1.30pm, we all met up in the lobby and started off to Deutsche Welle. We got there ok, and after a few minutes of waiting the session started!

We love our devices!

 

Here’s a bit about everyone in the group and the ‘we’ I will be referring to for most of the trip:

  • Ruth Aine is Ugandan, a freelance journalist, multiple award/grant winner, a bit more about the fabulous things she gets up to are here
  • Aya Chebbi – She’s a Pan-Africanist, Tunisian blogger at Proudly Tunisian , columnist at openDemocracy and contributor to Foresight for Development – Africa D+C Development and Cooperation and Your Middle East
  • Nyi Lynn Seck from Myanmar (Burma), a documentary film maker andProduction Manager at a commercial TV company. He is also a pro blogger and is building something to rival Wiki!
  • Jason Muloongo – is a social entrepreneur creating mobile applications for the academic and social development of educators and learners globally. I co-founded Funda and our aim is empower all people through technology by taking learning beyond the classroom.
  • Joojo Solomon Cobbinah – Ghanaian, a television news producer, documentary maker and a human rights advocate.
  • Abbas Adel – With a team, founded Zabaّtak- ظَبَطّك ياحرامى, a crowd-sourcing initiative for crime and corruption using Ushahidi platform. Then they built the Morsi Meter – مرسي ميتر which tracked the promises of previous Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in his first 100 days.
  • Janusz Hamerski – media trainer and video producer, and one of the brains behindwww.easy-languages.org.
  • Momal Mushtaq – Mo is the founder of The Freedom Traveller, an advocacy organization campaigning for (amongst other things), the realization of women’s right to mobility, anywhere in the world. Incredible stuff!
  • Maria Nasedkina – Ukranian, founder of (translated to English) ‘Amazing’ which encourages (and works with) young people in her country to respect public spaces, keep them clean and tidy for the next person, great work!
  • Carina Schmid- is the manager of a non-profit organization called The Global Experience; a youth media network creating youth media and regularly organizing international school and youth exchange programs, including the Digital Participation Camp & Summit.
  • Mathias Haas – multiple award winner, Facebook Guru (was blown away by his knowledge about Facebook)… more about him here
  • Salim
  • Dominick Schmengler – is the Founder and CEO of department of tomorrow and designer of easyGo – easyCome

Mathias took us on a journey through Facebook, and I daresay it was the most expository/eye-opening/1/2/3 (fill in other adjectives as you please).

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Really like this quote!!

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That’s Mathias teaching! Hard core!

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It was a really cool meeting, learning about each other (and the work we’re all involved with), learning about social media, and planning for the opening day of Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum!!

Intense learning session over, we went into the Forum arena, and of course, we goofed around. Photos below.

Bonn

What if we all fell asleep during the conference? Lol!!

Digital participation team IMG_20140629_135604 IMG_20140629_134903

P:S – There was two days of training so don’t freak out that I’m wearing two different outfits… :)

And there was cake!! Sweet baby Jesus Germans have mastery when it comes to pastry!

And there was cake!! Sweet baby Jesus Germans have mastery when it comes to pastry! It was so much!! DW really hosted us…

So DW held a reception for us scholars, and we got to meet quite a few people from different parts of the world! Really cool!

So DW held a reception for us scholars, and we got to meet quite a few people from different parts of the world! Really cool!

Next post? Opening day!

What’s your favorite scripture? Why?

So there are a million challenges going on simultaneously in our world today. There’s the Ice Bucket challenge, 20 things about you (obviously resurrected because I know there was something like this some time in 2009), and tons of others. There’s also the favorite scripture challenge, and my friend Francesca (I have to stop blogging about this girl, haba) nominated me to put up my favorite ones. I decided to put them up (did that on Facebook) but I also decided to open it up to my Christian audience.

What is your favorite scripture? What are your favorite scriptures? What speaks to you? What gets you out of difficult situations?

While you think of it, here’s what I put up…

Here’s accepting Francesca Onomarie Uriri‘s challenge to put up my favorite Bible verses. Ok, so some of them are not complete verses but I’ll do a bit of a context for each of them…

Here goes!

Titus 1 vs 2 – “God who cannot lie” Not like He won’t lie, He can’t. Even if He wanted to, this is the one thing He cannot do. This scripture for me is what gives the entire Bible the legs it stands on. It is such a comfort on days when I feel blue!

Psalm 107: 20 – “He sent His word and delivered them out of their destruction” – Sometimes, we dey take our hands find trouble (can I hear an amen) but God’s word rescues/snatches/delivers us. Super grateful. Super super grateful!

Joshua 1: 8 – “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” – ‘this book of the law’ for me refers to whatever my hands find to do per time. The only one who can negate the promises of God concerning a person is? That person. So if the book of (whatever law – school, work, the Bible, whatever) departs from your mouth, and you don’t meditate (work at it, devote productive hours to it), you will not make your way prosperous, and you will not have good success.

Selah (said in the voice of my Pastor, The Rev Goodheart Obi Ekwueme).

So, who to nominate? My sisters – TokesRajiAdaora, Nike, go for it!

Over to you people, share yours!

Asu Ekiye was in church! And I miss her so much…

I was at House on the Rock The Refuge today the 31st of August, a few hours before the ‘ember months’ broadcasts start flying around on Blackberry, Twitter, and Facebook. Miss me with that nonsense please. God bless you.

I digressed; church was many shades of amazing! To be honest, the only church that compares to HOTR for me is my home church, Hillsong. There’s something about the amount of care and preparation that goes into readying their services that makes it super exciting for me.

I was blessed by the testimonies, especially the lady whose sister God snatched from death, and the guy who now has two flexible, well-paying jobs. There was the single mom whose son has now come to Christ and is now in university and away from his rough friends, and yes, there was the guy who heard a word from Pastor Goodheart in 2001, ‘ran’ with it and has now received a mandate letter from the Federal Government to bring his 9-year-old dream to life! Exciting stuff, God is truly amazing!

And then Asu Ekiye took to the stage, and I couldn’t sit down! Yes! Yes! Yes! From the first song till his team left the stage, I was catapulted to several times in 2013 when my darling aunty Pat and I would play loud music on the days before she fell ill, and then days when she didn’t feel a lot of pain.

Sometimes, I would wake up to Yinka Ayefele, some other times it would be Kefee (of blessed memory), and then of course it would be Asu Ekiye blasting through the roof. How no one ever reported us for disturbance I don’t know, and you know how paper-thin walls can be in England.

It always annoyed me when she did that (because I have the craziest sleep patterns); she’d leave the music on (at its highest), and then open my door just so I’d hear her sing along to it. When I opened my eyes she’d say, “eye no go rotten” or “sleep no be death”. If I frowned, she’d say, “I just came to visit you o, you don’t know if I’m an angel”, and that would make me smile. I miss her to pieces.

And so when Asu Ekiye started to minister, I danced my heart out in honor of God, and in honor of my aunty. I flashed back to the times we’d play these Nigerian traditional tunes, and then I’d dance to show her the steps I’d put on during my traditional marriage (even when I wasn’t dating anyone). I remember asking to check if my bum was shaking or not. Lol!

I miss her. I miss her. Kai.

P:S – At this point I shut my moleskine and concentrated on the service. So I wouldn’t cry too much. :)

#31Days31Writers – Who else leaves a profession in law for her passion? Lynda!

From Afghanistan yesterday we go to the greatest country in the world, Nigeria!! Whoop!
Lynda (with a ‘y’) is a really good friend of mine. Don’t remember how we met but I know she’s gorgeous, is both an employee and an entrepreneur, and her posts on Facebook are a super source of information for me on all things legal and political (especially as it concerns her home state)!
You best be leaving pretty comments on this one otherwise she’ll sue (lol)! Without further ado (notice the rhyme scheme there), I give you Lynda!
Ok so here I was lazing through my Facebook and I see a message from my runaway friend who’s been away like forever but somehow we manage to stay in touch because she’s one of those people who stimulate me mentally and intellectually and that counts for something because not a lot of people do that for me so she’s one of my special people. 
Hi there I’m Lynda Inyareghdoo Adzuanaga. Nigerian, legal practitioner by training and fashion designer by choice and interest. 
2014? Wow! The year of my epiphany or rather the year of the manifestation of my epiphany because I woke ‎up one day late last year and realised I wasn’t really cut out for a regular 9-5 job.  Not because I hated order and regimental life but I wasn’t one to be stuck doing the same thing without the opportunity to ventilate my new ideas and opinions and in a way albeit a sad one my chosen profession particularly in Nigeria isn’t amenable to change so that was my first issue.
Secondly, I found that some ordinarily latent talents were coming to the fore and I couldn’t hold them back any more. Having been a tomboy most  of my growing years and then realising my femininity gave birth to my interest in fashion so apologies to the average Nigerian designer whose cliché line is ‘ I always made dresses for my dolls and bla bla’. I never made clothes for my dolls and even though I had a grandfather who was a tailor, when his sight started failing I always ran away when he called me to thread his needles! I preferred to climb trees with my brother or play football in the streets.
I however found myself as an adult drawn to fabrics and designs of clothes and way before I ventured into the foray professionally I started to create my idea of fashion: simple, chic, effortless and decent and this was represented by me in my style at work and at play. Therefore when the day of reckoning came I didn’t have to do much so I practically hit the ground running so to speak. That is the story of the birth of the line Tailleur Ensembles.
2014 has been interesting, I’ve had the usual challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Nigeria: power, funding, a dedicated work force, a drive for excellence and most recently insecurity  amongst others. 
Like most Nigerian designers upcoming and established, I looked to the West African coast for professional tailors because of the niche they have carved over time in the industry (one of the challenges previously mentioned). So I procured ‎ the services of some Ivorien nationals and after all negotiations were done and they were ready to ship out two bombs went off in Abuja and that was the end of Solomon Grundy literally! LOL. I then had to look inward, to source locally and so far I have been working with locals who often need to be reminded of the need for a standard in every chosen field.
Funding has also featured prominently as a challenge as loans and the likes aren’t easily accessible here; the commercial banks ask for such outlandish terms that are in the same range as asking for your grandmother’s birth certificate! I basically started with my entire savings which doesn’t amount to so much for starters … but on the whole it’s been refreshing, a learning process, learning to delay gratification, patience( I’m a control freak), resilience, improvisation etc. Been working from home but working on/ at getting a business premises that’s easily accessible to my clientele.
Gratitude would be in the regard of me killing that spirit of procrastination that had plagued me for the better part of my life and standing up to do what I really love despite all odds. Also for support from my family, loved ones and friends and indeed detractors who felt I was a loser for leaving a professional terrain to venture into the unknown. All of these have contributed to the nurturing and birthing of this dream.
As the second half of the year creeps in I’m filled with trepidation because I’ve not done all I want to but that in itself is spurring me to do better,work harder, train people so I can delegate duties and above all stand out in my chosen field by being excellent in what I do.
Thanks Chioma for this opportunity! I do hope my story inspires someone who’s nonconformist and leftist like me to go out there and ‎just be what they have always wanted to be. Just go ahead and do  YOU!
I love you babe!
Inyareghdoo
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

Awww, I love you too babe! Coming to see you once I get in for a dress!

#31Days31Writers: Yama says you (yes you) look absolutely stunning!

I’m so excited! It’s the 1st of July, and officially the start of the #31Days31Writers – mid year edition! Why am I super excited? Well, so I’ve been all over the place this past month, and by the 26th I wasn’t sure I would still be able  to pull this off. But, here we are, and I’ve got such a spread of voices from around the world I’m mega excited!

We start with my friend Yama! Yama was our designate driver the night we went from The Hague to Amsterdam to see the Red Light District; he’s a fantastic, super brilliant guy, and it’s my privilege to start the month with a voice from Afghanistan!

 

Hi there,

First of let me start by saying: You look absolutely stunning today!

My name is Yama Akbari. Born in Afghanistan, living in The Netherlands. Student and business owner.

What I’ve learned in the past 6 months is that life is so incredibly difficult to plan. I’m not much of a planner anyway, I usually take things as they come. But I decided that needed to change a little (a part of growing up maybe…). Didn’t really pan out the way I wanted. I planned to focus more on my studies, but ended up working way more than studying. Was really planning on staying single, instead got to know someone I really could not let go of. This made me wonder: Why do I suck so badly at planning my life? I came to the conclusion that life is pretty much ‘unplannable’ for the most part when I started thinking about ‘planning’ on a larger scale.

For example, who could ever ‘plan’ the following: a kid born in Kabul in 1990, wanting to leave for the gym on the 30th of June 2014 (should have been studying for his exams, shame on him) would remember; promising a very inspiring Nigerian girl he met at a conference in The Hague, to write a few words for her blog. Crazy right? But kind of beautiful at the same time. Imagine the string of events that had to take place before this moment. Unfortunately, a lot of those events weren’t as joyful as this one, which leads to the second thing I learned in the past 6 months: Andre 3000’s fashion sense isn’t the only thing that’s spot on, his cryptic life lessons are as well. On the Outkast song ‘Ms. Jackson’ he sings: ‘you can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather’. I finally got it Andre, you keep on spitting mad truth and dressing dapper as hell!

That brings me to what I’m looking forward to for the second half of this year .. Not really easy to say after all of that ‘life is crazy and unpredictable’ stuff. I am actually thinking about what I’m looking forward to while writing this sentence and I’m realizing that it’s such a blessing that I’m not sure what to look forward to (huge smile on my face right now). All those unplanned moments of joy; that feeling of relief when everything turns out well after a moment of uncertainty, an unexpected phone call from an old friend, coming home and getting served your favorite meal, being the best at something very random and useless, witnessing a cute moment between two lovers, stumbling upon a family of ducks swimming in a pond (I’m running out of ideas..), seeing an old lady feeding those ducks and making sure the weakest one gets as much as the rest. All I’m planning and looking forward to (apart from studying and working, duh) is actually enjoying and appreciating all those little unexpected moments of joy.

I urge you to do so as well. Even if it’s something very unexpected and random. Let’s say: a guy from halfway across the world, at the start of his post on this blog, complimenting you that you look stunning without even knowing what you look like …

 

Yama.

Screenshot 2014-06-30 23.43.40

#BringBackOurGirls – Why you should join the march tomorrow

I don’t live in Borno. Never been either, and the two people I know from there, are resident in Abuja. I have friends who live in/around Nyanya though. The blast on the 14th? Could have been any one of them but that’s not the point.

The 200+ girls missing from Government Girls’ Secondary School Chibok have parents, brothers, sisters, maybe even boyfriends and/or husbands who are looking for them, who are distraught because not only is our military not sure how many girls were taken in the first place, they seem to be clueless on how to get them back.

The sheer inequality in the way disasters are handled in this country is the reason why I’m joining a peaceful march tomorrow. The parents are alone, no empathy or visit from our leaders, no words of comfort, nothing that says, ‘we feel your pain”. Nothing.

The 28th of April (yesterday) made it two weeks since these girls were snatched from their dormitories (Lord only knows why the school wasn’t shut down like all the others but let’s not go there) and we don’t know where they are – if they are still alive, what horrors they must have been exposed to – how many of them have been sold, raped, beaten, used for rituals, we do not know.

Bring back our girls

As someone on Twitter said yesterday, “two weeks, over 200 girls, no tampons, toothbrushes or change of lingerie” – disgraceful. Even more disgraceful is that there is no sense of urgency with the way this disaster is being handled. A meeting of all the joint chiefs and governors that degenerated into a “we invited them but they didn’t come” vs a “we weren’t invited” argument? Really? We’re playing politics with lives?

I speak to my folks at least three times a week (AT LEAST), and no, I am not an only child. I must salute the courage, the resilience, and the ability to absorb pain that the parents of these girls have shown cos I know mine would have passed on from the trauma. What would your parents do if they didn’t know where you were? For two weeks? And it didn’t look like anyone was seriously looking for you?

If you’re in Abuja, please join us tomorrow at the Unity Fountain (opposite the Hilton) as we march to The Presidency to respectfully ask that someone find the balls to bring our girls back.

Time is 3pm – 8pm (please ask today for permission to close early tomorrow). We’re wearing red in solidarity (but please wear whatever you’re comfortable in).

At some point, we need to go past the comforts of ranting on Facebook and Twitter, and put actions where our keypads are.
Youth are the leaders of tomorrow? Well 200+ of them are missing.

See you tomorrow.

#BringBackOurGirls

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