Patience Bentu is a Nigerian in diaspora making positive impacts even from outside the country. She is the convener of Trinity Women Initiative (TWI-Light), a charity organisation committed to promoting women’s capabilities to achieve their triple role as wives, mothers and members of the community
I was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, the fourth of five children. My father, the late Professor L.T. Bentu was a professor of Fine Arts at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria until his death and my mother, Mrs Bentu worked as a Nursing Sister at the University Sick Bay until she retired. I still consider Zaria my first home because this was the root of my formative years. I grew up in a multi-cultural and peaceful university community. It was the happiest time of my life.
So typically, I attended ABU Staff School for my primary education. When the time came for Secondary School, I went off to Gindiri Girls’ High School instead of the trending FGGC Bakori or Queens’ College, Ilorin, where most of my friends ended up. I never regretted it. After secondary school, having rid myself of teenage exploits, I ended up with a Diploma in Journalism from ABU and proceeded to the University of Jos. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts. I also have a Master’s degree in Drama and Theatre Education from Warwick University, UK and an Mphil (which should have been a PhD, but story for another day…) in Politics and International Development at Swansea University, UK.
Early career days.
My unrelenting quest for challenges saw me moving very quickly through various jobs and loving all, whilst taking time out to study whenever I got bored. My first job was with the Plateau State Tourism Corporation, Jos as an assistant public relations officer. After, I took time off to get a Master’s degree, I came back to Nigeria and managed my sister’s corporate gifts printing business in Abuja, for a few years. Alongside, I ran my private business, in Public Relations consultancy and events planning and hosting.
Additionally, I co-hosted two talk shows on NTAi, with my favourite broadcaster, Mani Onumonu. I was also co-opted by the famous television producer and musician, Gboyega Adelaja, to host an environmental programme on water for a Ministry of Water Resources project. In summary, I have worked as a PR Officer, Script Writer, Manager, MC, Television Presenter, and all have provided me with very useful skills to get me where I am today.
It is only in the last few years of my relocation to the UK, that I have realised the challenges of working in Nigeria. When you’re in it, the absurd is the norm. The challenges were anything from mental abuse in the workplace, aimed at making you feel worthless, delayed or unpaid salaries; to the very fundamental infrastructural challenges of lack of electricity, water, funding for work proposals, etc. The challenge that shaped me the most was gender discrimination. The very pain of this challenge is that women still go through a lot of verbal, emotional and psychological abuse and we don’t even realise it.
Having risen above most of the challenges of my early work life, it is needless to say the gender bit is the one which will probably never go away and the one for which I speak up about and continue to stand against.
During the period of my research at Swansea University, I worked as a Teaching Assistant at the Department of Political and Cultural Studies of the university. I taught courses in Politics, Diplomacy and Globalisation. My research years have guided my work within my community in diaspora. My vision with my Charity organisation, Trinity Women Initiative (TWILight) is as straight forward as the name suggests; to develop and promote women’s capabilities to achieve their triple role (Caroline Moser’s theory) as wives, mothers and members of their community. The community is where the obvious discrimination takes place and this is unacceptable. Women must be given equal opportunities to participate, represent and thrive economically, politically, socially and otherwise.
Besides this initiative, I head a charity, the Nigerians in Wales Association (NIWA) to cater for the general wellbeing of Nigerians living in Wales, and to promote community cohesion, integration and respect within our local communities. Through this, we also aim to attract the much needed attention of the Nigerian government to the lives and achievements of Nigerians living in Wales; with the hope of nurturing a mutually beneficial relationship between Nigeria and Wales. We have formed a strong collaboration with the Race Council of Wales, which is also led by a notable Nigerian woman, Mrs Uzo Iwobi (OBE).
The Race Council has recently secured a huge grant from the Welsh government to develop a cultural hub at the Swansea city centre, which will house all community groups, pooling us together under one roof. We are happy that the Nigerian community in Wales will be a part of this historic venture.
I am also the UK Labour Party Ethnic Minorities Officer for Swansea West, a position which entails networking to promote and protect the voices of ethnic minority communities. Working in collaboration with other party officials, my duty is to support ethnic minority communities to move motions through the party hierarchy, with the aim of developing them into policies that will be beneficial to ethnic minority groups. All immigrants in the UK have come for one reason or the other and these reasons form our individual goals. However, I seek to continuously identify and support our collective goals as a people in diaspora and how we can achieve these goals together.
Consequently, these responsibilities have pitched me where I should have always been. I am able to participate and contribute more efficiently to my community as a practitioner. It has not been a ride in the park and every day is a learning curve, but I have found complete career fulfilment and I am building upon that foundation. Ultimately, I look forward to collaborating with organisations in Nigeria and the Nigerian government, to be able to give back to my country and particularly, to women in Nigeria.
In addition to philanthropy being understood as financial support for causes and individuals, it is more importantly, giving your time and above all your heart, to uplift others and promote a collective community vision. We live in very trying times across the world. There are economic, political and social turmoil and so much more than we can handle. There are divisions amongst us along cultural and religious lines, just like Samuel Huntington predicted many years ago. No one seems to have the solutions to these problems. The biggest philanthropic act today, in my view, is to identify our civic responsibilities to each other, as human beings and to perform those civic responsibilities within our communities.
Research has shown that mentoring is a very effective way of developing people. My son has become my biggest mentor. Believe it or not, at 11 (going on 30), he gives me advice that keeps me in check and makes me think more on issues. Career-wise, I have drawn from women like Maya Angelou, who’s every speech has defined the woman and human being that I am. I have also drawn strength, focus and integrity from our own Barrister Sharon Ikeazor, Honourable Minister of State for Environment, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I am inspired by success stories of women who have defied all odds to progress their lives and careers. I am driven by the narratives of achievements that have brought glass ceilings down. These include the stories of my mentors.
I would like to be remembered as a formidable force who came, saw, conquered and remembered to pass on the baton to keep the cycle going.
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