At 60, Betty Irabor still radiates the beauty and vigour of a sweet sixteen. Part of her secret is not far from the fact that her family always comes first in all she does even above her career. According to her, she is also blessed with a husband who supports her vision and help nurture it into reality. In this interview with Mojeed Alabi, she explains that the biggest decision a woman will have to make in her lifetime, is the choice of who to marry as it is very crucial to her life and career
Sixty years is a milestone in the life of a woman. How have you coped being a woman, journalist and socialite? It has been a lot of grace. I know there are many mantras out there but it is more of grace.
As a woman, I feel God created us specifically to be who we are. We are strong creatures. If I look at a man and I think what if a man was to go through the process of creating another human being through birthing a child, how would it have been? First,
I will take the issue of marriage, one of the biggest decisions that any woman will have to make in her lifetime, is the choice of whom to marry. It is very crucial to how she lives later in life, regarding her career.
Once you make a mistake of marrying someone who does not share in your vision, then your career is dead on arrival. The minute you get married to that man, the first thing he will do is to make sure he kills your career.
This does not mean that he does not want you to work, but he does not want the extent where you are no longer a homemaker. In my case, the foundation of my marriage has always been based on God and I live by Godly principles, and I’m very traditional and I make sure I preach those values in my marriage.
I’m a successful career woman but at the same time for me, home must get all the attention it deserves. My husband and children must get all the attention they deserve. When I’m at home, I am a wife, a mother and over the years I have learnt that when I close from work, I switch off the career woman mode and I put on my mother,/wife cap.
I am very blessed, because my husband is the first to celebrate me, and anything that will elevate my career. That is grace and special favour. Also, I think over the years, I have learnt to prioritise, to know what is important in my life and I have been able to integrate work with parenting. Therefore, if you want to place your family over your career, that is a personal decision but for me, my family will always come over career.
Your Foundation, how much as it impacted lives, and what actually informed its establishment? Cancer awareness campaign was something I wanted to do as a oneoff thing.
This is because I realised that other global magazines were celebrating October as a month of awareness for breast cancer, and I just thought okay, let’s do a one-off thing by sensitizing the public about cancer. So we decided to use that particular edition to talk about breast cancer and we found that the moment we did that, many people started coming out. Many people were ready to share their cancer experiences and journey.
People were ready to tell their stories and we realised that, we’ve been under a kind of a code of denial and the bible says “my people perish for lack of knowledge.” Many people out there have been perishing because of cancer and that is because they did not realise that it could be prevented.
Then we went on this advocacy programme, to educate as many people as possible. I believe God has given us a platform to reach out to the people. The feedback was great. I also went for self-examination, I went for a mammogram and we mobilised many to do same. Some found lumps, some cases were at advanced stage of malignancy, others were of stages one and two.
Actually, people realised that they could actually prevent it rather than cure it, which is very expensive. It wasn’t really anything that I planned. So have you been coping running the Foundation alongside other activities, and particularly funding? Funding comes from the board itself, but we are very much hit by recession now, which is why we didn’t have the PinkBall campaign last year.
What we do now at the foundation is that we are providing treatment, not only advocacy, and creating awareness. The fees for cancer care treatment runs into millions and many people cannot afford it. So we started treatment but it is a very ambitious project and so far, we have treated a few and we are very happy that the people we are treating were actually like, midwives, market women.
We are hoping to have one of the biggest events this year, when we believe to be able to raise more money for the foundation. What is your advice to women, particularly in an African setting, where men keep dominating?
I think one of the mistakes that we make as women is to think that we need the men to give us a chance or we need the men to hand it over to us or give us permission to go beyond our limitations, to break records, to break boundaries.
We’ve got the heels, men don’t wear heels, so we can break ceilings and a lot of women are doing that but there is still a need to continue to encourage and empower women to come out of their comfort zones. Because they have huge responsibility to mould younger women, to make them go for their dreams, to make them realise that they are only limited by their own thoughts and mindsets.
I am happy that women are going out there. The men are not stopping us, when you want something so badly, you will go for it and I’m happy that there are so much gender awareness going on, especially in the work place, people can now go to social media and explain that they are not able to excel because they are being handicapped perhaps by their bosses.
So it’s not really the way it used to be, women now know their right, they know how big they can be, how much they can achieve and they are really going for it.- As a successful career woman, what specific thing will you be grateful? I am grateful for today,
I don’t take a new day for granted- it is not ours, because people go to sleep and they never wake up and I’m grateful that people deem me worthy of an event like this to host me. At the end of the day, the media is my first constituency.
So for them to pick me out to honour, I feel grateful for that, I just feel grateful for who I have turned out to be, regardless of my kind of chequered childhood, it has not defined me. A single mum raised me and it was not an easy journey for her to raise four of us. I am the second born but her primary goal was to make sure she gave us education and I think that’s one thing that parents owe their children.
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