Izehi Hannah Agunkejoye is the Executive Director of Ladies Helpline Initiative, an organisation which seeks to empower and develop women in communities as well as discover innate talents that can help to transform their lives. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, she talks about the impact made and some of the challenges encountered.
What is your organisation about?
It was established to groom and prepare young women ahead of future challenges socially, morally, economically, spiritually and career wise. Our target audience are the younger generation of women which include secondary school female students, female undergraduates, NYSC members and the generality of the young women folk.
What we do is to go to some secondary schools and campuses as well as youth camps to create awareness on the need to abstain from pre-marital sex, discourage abortions, nurture and develop creative women leaders. In addition, we also initiate economic empowerment and career solutions via the instrument of seminars, workshops, conferences, research pilot projects and capacity building programmes.
The initiative is committed to equipping young female entrepreneurs with moral values and leadership skills, which will make them become effective, value-driven women leaders and make them catalysts for change and improvement of the quality of life irrespective of their background.
How did the idea start?
The idea was borne out of previous unpalatable circumstance that surrounded my gaining admission into the Nigerian university. I made my papers at ‘O’ levels at once but I found it difficult securing admission. I went to several schools within the space of six to seven years trying to secure a place to further my education, at last it came! I gained admission to study Sociology at the University of Ilorin. But what happened within those years of waiting, only God can tell. I had terrible experiences and temptations with people, especially men who wanted to ‘help’ me secure a place with mouth-watering promises, but eventually ended up in futility. Thank God for my parents who brought me up in the fear of God and I had a vision and a goal before me: to be a model to my generation and as well get married as a virgin which I did by God’s grace at the age of twenty-nine to a wonderful hubby!
I believe young ladies can also be determined to stay sexually pure and out of pre-marital sex if only they dare to do so. When someone gives you a tokunbo car and a brand new car, which one will you go for? The new car of course! I dare young females to stay out of pre-marital sex and its vices; they will attract the right person. In life, you attract who you are and not what you want. So, young ladies of this generation should be able to set goals ahead of them, but they need to be equipped to handle the pressure of life especially at this age.
What are some of the projects that you have carried out?
We have our outreaches for both male and female young folks.
Actually, as a growing initiative, we are carrying out sensitisation programmes in schools, at students’ workshop and seminars and even in churches as well. When we are invited, we deliver value and a timely solution to various degrees of challenges facing the youths, especially females. As you know, these groups of people are vulnerable and they need to be equipped to prepare for the great future that God has in store for them.
How would you assess women in leadership position in the country today?
Success without a successor is an incomplete success! If a woman is successful in her field of career or in her endeavours, she should be able to replicate the same in younger women. There are women who have been placed in high positions in the society but do not bother to mentor others. Some may never mentor other young ones, till they pass on. It is a social tragedy.
Women in leadership should be able to show true leadership in all spheres of life. These women should be able to teach young females through mentoring or any other positive way of balancing work and family. These are the values we want to impart to young people. This is because you don’t prepare for battle at the battle front; you equip yourself before the battle begins.
However, there are some women in leadership positions who contribute in their own little way to the society. As little as it seems to be, it will go a long way.
On the contrary, we have some women who look down on others because of what they have achieved. This ought not to be so. At Ladies Helpline Initiative, we seek to bring women in position closer to the younger folks to initiate and encourage mentoring, teaching these young ones what it takes to be a high flyer in life and not just a mediocre. A word of advice to women in leadership: Life is not about your duration but your donation!
Who or what would you consider as the greatest influence in your life?
Equipping and nurturing young females with value-driven leadership skills and the right knowledge is our greatest competitive edge, even for me as an individual.
I believe dreams come true. My greatest influence in life is creating the space or room for self-development because learning is till death. I need to keep my mind young by equipping myself with necessary information that will add value to me as a person as well as to my community.
If you had to advise Nigerian women, what would you tell them?
As much as they can, Nigerian women should be our sisters’ keepers. We should learn to mentor the younger ones because today’s girls are tomorrow’s women. As we know from long and indisputable experience, investing in women has an amplifier effect of productivity & sustainable economic growth is a quote from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, that I like.
So, I believe that investing in women and girls is a good investment for our future. However, the boys should not be left out. Women should see themselves as assets in their homes and communities. You can’t become a leader overnight; you need to develop yourself to become one. Most women don’t read these days; they believe they are only meant to be in the kitchen.
Nigerian women should rise up to the task and see themselves as global change agents irrespective of who they are and where they are.
Women generally should have a winning mentality.
What are the other things that occupy your time?
I read a lot! Also, I love to write. I also love meeting people. Whenever I am less busy I read anything good that is worth reading. I love to write, hence, I have published few books such as:
The Beauty of Virginity, 10 Golden Principles for Smart Ladies, How to be Naturally Beautiful as a Lady, The Confident Teenage Girl, Little Book of Wisdom for the 21st Century Lady, The Inspiring African Woman;(true life experiences of leading women), Little Book of Wisdom for Teen Girls, among others.
More books will be published as time goes on. My purpose of writing and publishing these books is to inform the minds of young people, especially females, that she can add value positively to people around her irrespective of who you are and where you are. I believe in the future of these young people because when we invest in them now, we would reap a harvest of value-driven global women leaders who would be change agents in their society, who would stand up to make right decisions. The choices we make affect us and those around us. So, the need for continuous preparation is vital in order to see the desired change that is needed in our dear society.
What did you study and where have you worked in the past?
I studied Sociology at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State. I also had my PGD in Theology and Leadership from The Redeemed Christian Bible College. Though, currently am running my Masters in Public Policy: International Non-Governmental Organisation from Walden University, USA.
Prior to this time, I had my certifications from NESBURG School of Business and Management in Persuasion and Communications, as well as in certification in Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship. Also, I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria and a member of Cherie Blair Mentoring Women in business.