Bridget Anyafulu is certain that leadership will never be complete if women are not playing their role. The super woman in this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, insists that women must be allowed to work on merit for collective responsibility and collective impact.
Tell us about yourself
I’m from Asaba, Oshimili south local government area of Delta State. I am a development person, a lawyer. I work for women and children. I served as the executive director of the international Centre For Women Empowerment and Child Development, an organisation that I set up to work for women and childrens’ right. Presently, I work as senior special assistant to the governor of Delta State on child rights advocacy.
What inspired you to concentrate on women and children issues?
For everything one does in life, there must be a series of experience. I decided to work for women and children because they are the class of persons that are vulnerable. No matter how rich a woman is, you would be shocked at what she might be going through. You see that so many women are suffering in silence. In the case of children, most are vulnerable because they cannot speak for themselves. They do not know the right place to go to and then they suffer so much and live in constant fear but still would not want to speak out because sometimes they remain victims and those who abuse them threaten them too. But with this job, we have done proper advocacy which has been continuous. In our advocacy we let the children speak out because of the fact that we do know that most times, women are not ready to speak out even when they know that the life of their children are in danger, especially when it has to do with sexual abuse.
At every given point, moving round schools, we speak to children on sex education where we let them understand the position of things, so that when things go wrong, we stand in for them. We have the security agencies that protect their rights. We have the attorney general of every state, we have lawyers and most importantly, we speak for them for free because our services are free. All they need to do is speak to us, give us factual informations and we act on them.
For the most vulnerable like the poor, orphans or half orphans, we establish what they are doing. For instance, if they are of school age and are not in school, we enrol them. If they do not have tools to use in school, we provide for them. We help them with things like uniform, school sandals, note books, text books all their writing materials. If they are complete orphans and have nowhere to stay, we make accommodation available for them. We have also simplified the child’s right law so that everyone can look at it and understand what the law says.
The government of Delta State under the leadership of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has made it compulsory that children must be in school early enough. So we have gone round the state with jingles to let parents know that they must carry out their duties as parents. It must be a collective responsibility from both parents and teachers as well.
Would you say your job has been worthwhile?
Oh sure! I have chosen this path, what I am doing is my life. The day I stop doing this, it means I’m dead. This is all I live for, working for women and children that are vulnerable. I want people to know that the poor and the vulnerable have rights in this nation.
What is your advice to women?
First of all that they build the home. We don’t have to shy away from the problems we have in our home, it’s not rosy for anyone out there. Train your children in the proper way because the moment a child understands the difference between right and wrong, you know you have done a good job as a mother. When a child is able to say this is wrong and this is right, my mummy would not allow this or my daddy would not allow this, that’s the moment you know you have done a good job. From home to outside they know what not to do because their parents would not be happy about it. If such children begin to spring up all around us, over time, we will have a country that is free from corruption. Change starts with us. So I beg every woman to begin to live transparently, see issues the way they are and not paint them. Groom the young leaders of tomorrow so that when it’s time for us to step aside, we will be happy to let the younger generation take over.
We know that the man is the head though people are talking of gender equality, the gender equality we are talking about here is in terms of economy. You can call it equity but what we are saying is that if a man and a woman come together as one and they have children, like two boys two girls, we are saying that this four children should have equal opportunity so that even if the first says I want to become a pilot and the other one says I want to become an engineer, do not say no, engineering is meant for men let them all do the same thing, that way you would have given them equal opportunity. Give them equal opportunity at school, work, and home. Leadership will not be complete without the role of a woman, women are very intelligent, they are good managers, and we do better anywhere we go so allow us to work on merit. We have collective responsibility and collective impact.
How do you balance work and family?
I do my work as a family person, it has nothing to do with my job. Before now, I would bring books home to read but it has ended because you cannot serve two masters at a time. So I do office work in the office, and when I’m at home, it is just home, even if it is one minute for the family I dedicate it for my family. I would not work and then allow my family to suffer. Without family you are no body. My family is important as well as my work.
What is your favourite meal?
My favourite meal is Ose Ani, which is my traditional food. I cook my food no matter how busy I am. I am a typical Asaba woman. You must use local ingredients like dawa dawa, Ogili, not maggi cube, if you must cook as an Asaba woman and these are the things I do because it is very obvious to me that the food I eat is medicinal to my body. We don’t fall sick in my house. I’m also a farmer, I farm in Ebu, Otulu all in Delta State. I farm yam, cassava, I eat rice grown in Illah Delta state or Izam in Ebonyi. All I eat is Nigerian grown food. It is important to know that this soil we walk on is also the same soil we cultivate our food so it is not possible for the crops to harm us. I don’t eat rice from Singapore and any of those places.
Where is your favourite tourist location?
Rural communities. I have visited a lot of places because my work is in the rural communities and I love those places. Sometimes I go there in a boat and those are my special and happiest moments in life. There you find children running around the way they are without cares. Obudu Ranch and others don’t excite me, I get excited when I see the rural people and their surroundings.
What genre of music to you listen to and why?
I listen to my native music, Aguba. I listen to Osadebe, old school like Don Williams and I love Fela’s music, Bob Marley too, they are all inspirational just like my native songs.
What do you do for leisure?
I’m a sports person but I am gradually getting old and because of the kind of job I do, I don’t have time for leisure.
What is fashion and style to you?
I am a very natural person. I don’t believe in trends today, I believe in fashion I can hold on for long. I carry my natural hair. I don’t use any artificial thing on my body. I dress in suit when I go to court but I love to be an African woman. I am not carried away by fashion. My normal hair style is Didi.
What is your beauty routine?
I don’t make up, I don’t rub powder but I understand that I am a complete African woman and I don’t want anything to take it away from me. The only thing I use on my body is perfume. I have never ever used lipstick or powder. I can use native soap to bath. I don’t want my colour changed.
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