To some, life is just a phase, a compendium of events. To others, life is seen as an opportunity to achieve milestones that would make significant marks on the sand of time. In the latter category is Mrs. Morenike Oluwatoyin Folayan, an associate professor of Child Dental Health, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital and member of the College’s research and partnership unit. In a chat with Elizabeth Ogunbamowo and Mayowa Ososami, the scholar speaks on her career
What motivated you to toe the teaching line?
I ventured into the teaching line by accident. I never planned to be a lecturer. I trained as a dentist and I had a very experienced professor- Odunsoya. I would say that almost 90% of my set came back into what we call the residency programme where we specialize. In our own world then, that was like a PHD and you know when you get a PHD, the more you research, the more you get interested. In our world then, there was a lot of gap in the academia and once you do your fellowship, there is always a space for you as a lecturer. I got in there. I think what I enjoy most is the research work. Teaching gave me the opportunity to share that and mentor young people. As an advocate also, I could share my research findings to change the world and students are the most available persons you can share that with. I enjoy that. I do not really enjoy clinical work.
In a University, you must do three things. You teach research and do community works. For most medical doctors, their community work is what they do in the teaching hospital. For me, my community work revolves a lot around advocacy worker.
What were your challenges like?
Yes, there are challenges but for me I have lived a life of overcoming challenges such that it has become a part of life. I could very well say that working in the University has its own peculiar challenges. I guess I could complain, just sadly I don’t. For me one of the things that was a challenge and extensively challenging was not having supporting seniors. I did not have supportive seniors so I had to learn the ropes myself and I had to climb the ropes myself. I think that is the only thing I can think of. Then it was a tug of war. I had to fight my battles. I fought battles people had never fought. I probably survived because I had God and maybe one of these miracles.
What are your teaching philosophies?
One thing for me, I think I got that from my own teacher, that when students fail, I failed. I remember the time that I was HOD, I was excited that I had a one hundred percent pass rate. The second year, it wasn’t the exact rate. But I was able to do a one hundred percent pass, so for me, when students fail, it should be me that failed.
In recent time, the second philosophy I share with my students is that, I am working with you to be everything you want to be in life, you make the choice. When I am in class teaching them, I make them to understand that I’m working with them. So that when they pick up their CV, there is something extra in that CV that gives them the likelihood to be taken up anywhere else despite the fact that they studied in Nigeria.
How is your marital life?
I am not married now. I am divorced. I was married then to Mr. Ukpong and he was supportive of my career. As a researcher on HIV/AIDS, I remember the times that HIV patients would come to the house and sleep over but my husband would not kick against it. They would use the bed in the guest room because we were staying in a two-bedroom flat and my husband never bothered me.
As a career woman, how do you jostle between the home front and your career?
I think one of the things that probably made me call for a divorce was that I could not sacrifice my career for my home and I am happy I did not. Because now that I’m divorced, I’m still going on, I don’t feel any loss and I don’t feel that I’ve wasted my life. In addition, I must acknowledge extensively that my husband stood at home front for me, spent a lot of time with the kids. He did and I would always acknowledge that.
However, following up my teenage years, I think I had trained my children to become very independent. That is one of the things that make me sad, sometimes. My kids do not really need me around. At times, I just wonder if my kids really need me.
Actually, the three of them are now in the UK, one of them is married and two are in school. I send them text messages through Whatsapp, Messenger, and two weeks after, they reply. I really brought up independent children, it has its disadvantages but it allowed me a lot more in my career.
What do you hope to achieve in your teaching profession?
I am looking forward to highly successful students. I usually tell my students that I want them to become the people that would fill those spaces up there. I want them to be those I would be watching on my TV tomorrow. I want them at the top.
As a researcher in areas of HIV/AIDS, will you say it is reducing or on the rise?
Excellent question! There has been a lot of progress in the field of HIV response. However, we do know that it is an infectious disease. It is not an infection you just go and catch because it is invisible. It is transmitted in such a way that you do not see the event happening and even though we have globally controlled the epidemic, in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is still a problem. In Nigeria, it is still a real problem. It is a problem that if not reinforced; you just want to start all over again. Although, it is in control in some parts of the world, in Nigeria it is not and without funding, it would still be a problem.
How can a woman in a typical African Society live a self-purposeful life without having to pay for it?
You said typical. She will pay for it. In a typical African setting, you are assertive and pursuing your goal. You are going to pay for it because there is no way out, you just have to choose to pay the price or you conform. That is the chart you have in a typical African setting. You would pay the price of stigma, rumors and backlashes. The only thing that saves you is if you come out well, the gist, rumor, backlashes would become less if you succeeded but if you are assertive and then you fail. You are doom.
Cases of domestic violence flood our societies daily. Do you think it is on the increase as against what was once obtainable?
No, it is not on the increase. It has always been there. I think there are lot of noises and voices around now. I think what you are just seeing is a lot more of harvesting. People are now speaking out and going to the court.
Can financial independence of a woman be a factor for home-break?
It is not about the economic empowerment of women. It is just that women are becoming more educated and this translates to financial independence. Financial independence of a woman does not determine a broken home except both parties do not manage it well and home will break whether you are financially independent or not.
So you do have people that their home are broken but are yet in marriage. What you will find out is that with more independence, your life becomes prior and you don’t necessarily have to go through the torture of maintaining a home. Therefore, independence does not necessarily mean home-break; you have to work it out. In every relationship, partners have to work it out together.
Mother’s day: A day not for the hurt
Mothers are, perhaps, sweetest gift from God to all. There is no way they can ever be thanked enough. For all that a mother does, it would only be too good to make it a habit to keep reminding oneself of the various sacrifices she made while raising the children. Mother’s Day is the best time to say in words how much you love and care for your mum. Oluwatosin Omoniyi writes
The mind-boggling question is if the above expression of mother still holds sway dearly for most children especially those forced into early marriage or sold into sex slavery. And for the mothers, it is in doubt if they are still expectant of their children’s appreciation. A poet, Sandeep Gupta wrote a lovely poem in sweet memory of ‘Mother’
Mother is a part of God.
Mother is a part of Love.
Mother is a part of our Strength.
Mother is a part of our Winning.
Mother is a part of who direct us
to right path to proceed.
and ..and ..so on..
I Love my Mother very much…..
Don’t let ur Mother get
away from u….
Happy Mother’s Day….
Yes, those forced into marriage, child labour or by circumstances forced into prostitution may not remember to wish their mothers well as they also may be battling with the challenges life throws at them.
A typical example is 19-yearold Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing the man she was forced to marry, who she says raped her as his relatives held her down.
The case of Noura Hussein has shone a spotlight on the issues of forced marriage and marital rape in Sudan, where the legal age of marriage is only 10 and marital rape is legal.
Hussein’s supporters filled the courtroom in Omdurman, Sudan, and overflowed into the hall outside as the judge announced her death penalty. Her husband’s family refused an option to pardon her and rejected financial compensation, requesting that she be executed instead. Unfortunately, Hussein’s legal team has only 15 days to appeal.
“She’s still in complete shock after her sentencing today,” Dr. Adil Mohamed Al-Imam, one of Hussein’s lawyers, told CNN. Al-Imam donated his services after Hussein’s original lawyer withdrew from the case.
He added that Hussein was abandoned not only by the law, but also by her family. Her story have set social media and WhatsApp ablaze in Sudan. And in recent days it has captured international attention with the hashtags #JusticeforNoura and #SaveNoura. Thousands of people have shared a change.org petition.
Forced to marry at 15, Hussein ran away from home and sought refuge with her aunt for three years. She was tricked into returning by her father, who handed her over to her husband’s family. After Hussein refused to consummate the marriage, her husband’s relatives held her down while he raped her. “His brother and two cousins tried to reason with her, when she refused, she was slapped and ordered into the room.
One held her chest and head, the others held her legs,”Al-Imam told CNN. A day later, her husband tried to rape her again, and she stabbed him to death. When she went to her parents for support, they turned her in to the police. Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, Ahmed Elzobier, said it was the first time a case of this nature had attracted such attention. “Marital rape happens in Sudan often and people don’t talk about it,” he said.
Hussein’s case had changed that, he said. Shahd Hamza, 20, was among those who came to support Hussein in court, after hearing about her case in a group chat on WhatsApp. She said that while the rape and harassment of women had long been an issue in Sudan, a case like Hussein’s had never gone viral.
Nahid Gabralla, director of SEEMA, a nongovernmental organisation working with victims and survivors of gender-based violence in the capital, Khartoum, has been campaigning in support of Hussein. “In my work I’ve seen other cases like this.
The suffering of Sudanese women is happening all the time,” Gabralla said. “The case of Noura is different. She stood for her rights.” Another example was a teenage wife remanded for allegedly killing husband, Umar Sani, 37, with `rat poison’.
The police in Kano are on her trail. The Public Relations Officer of the Police Command in the state, Magaji Majiya,disclosed in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kano that the relations of the late husband reported the incident to Kofar Wambai Police station in Kano metropolis on Monday. He said, “after the Police received the report on the incident, they went to their matrimonial home at Yakasai quarters in Kano metropolis but found that the bride had run away,” he said.
“Our men had already swung into action with a view to trailing and arresting her to face prosecution,” the police spokesman said. According to him, the command will ensure that due process is followed in the investigation in order to ascertain the circumstances that led to the dastardly act.
On the killing of a kidnapped sixyear- old boy at Dabai quarters in Gwale Local Government Area of the state, Mr. Majiya said the State Security Services (SSS) had arrested the principal suspect.
“The DSS has promised to transfer the case to the state Criminals Investigation Department (CID) for further investigation, ” he said. He said as soon as investigation was completed, the suspect and all other accomplices would be charged to court. A teenager from Birmingham has told a court how her mother threatened to tear up her passport if she did not marry a man by whom she had become pregnant at the age of 13.
The girl, now 19, said she cried through a wedding ceremony and begged her mother for help after being forced into the 2016 marriage in Pakistan, four years after her pregnancy.
She told jurors that prior to the event her mother, who is charged with two counts of forced marriage, also bribed her with a smartphone. She claimed her mother became angry when she told her she did not want to marry the 33-year-old Pakistani national – a man by whom she had become pregnant on a previous visit in 2012 when she was 13 and he was 29.
She told Birmingham crown court how she felt like an “object that could be moved from place to place” and feared her mother would be angry and disappointed if she did not comply with her wishes.
She said: “I knew I was in Pakistan. I had nowhere to go. I had to do whatever was asked.” Another teenage victim of a forced marriage joked about her parents “giving her away” weeks before she flew to Bangladesh. According to the 19-yearold, she was lured on a sham holiday July 3 2016 to force her to marry her cousin.
She told a court that her parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are on trial at Leeds Crown Court via a Bengali interpreter. They both deny charges of attempting to coerce their daughter into marrying without her consent.
The Leeds woman used her phone to send her location details to her boyfriend, who then informed West Yorkshire Police on 11 July she may be in danger, prompting her eventual rescue, the jury heard. Giving evidence from behind a screen, her boyfriend told the court that three weeks before flying to Bangladesh, the teenager had mentioned her father selling his possessions and joked: “What if he is planning to give me away?” “I could only think about one thing… and that’s the Asian culture of arranged marriage,” he said.
However, he claimed he took her remark to be a “joke” and was not initially worried. But it was not until seven days into the trip that the woman contacted him and, in one message, told him not to text her “for a while”, he told the court.
The boyfriend told jurors he became concerned as a result and suspected her parents were forcing her into an arranged marriage. He messaged her saying: “You could have seen this coming,” the court was told. He described how he became “terrified” and “scared”. “She was far away and I did not know what was happening,” he told the jury.
The power of a woman’s criticism
The term ‘woman’ is the vessel of life and it is not a duty she discharges with levity. When the word, woman, is mentioned, apart from beauty and her feminine physique, it speaks of vitality, pillar, energy, and spirituality, among many other adjectives that could qualify her. Oluwatosin Omoniyi writes
According to M.B Antevasin, a teacher and scientist, “They are not kidding when they say that mothers are strong women. We need to be strong in more ways than our children will ever know.” Indeed, the strength and uniqueness of a woman can be compared to no other.
They constantly have to deal with lot of issues emotionally, physically and spiritually. Although, to some, particularly men, she is a nightmare of beauty and menace of a being, she is still superlative; a diamond that constantly beats imaginations.
With the many qualities that characterize multi tasking women, it becomes a nurturing tendency that often sets them in leadership positions apart from men. According to Nancy Pelosi, an American politician, “Women are leaders everywhere you look — from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women, and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes.”
Perhaps, it is in this light that Hillary Clinton, wife of former American President in her twitter account describes herself first as a, Wife, Mom,’ and Grandmother.” A description that a Nigerian novelist, non-fiction writer, short story writer and actress, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie found too belittling for her (Clinton) putting into consideration her many positions and contributions to American politics and society. As First Lady of the United States, Clinton played critical role by advocating for gender equality and healthcare reform.
Her marital relationship came under public scrutiny during the Lewinsky scandal, which led her to issue a statement that reaffirmed her commitment to the marriage.
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, 71 is an American politician, former diplomat, and First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001. She also served as the junior U.S. Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009 and as the 67th U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Running for president in 2008, she won far more delegates than any previous female candidate, but lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.
During her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2013, Clinton responded to the Arab Spring by advocating military intervention in Libya. She helped to organize a diplomatic isolation and international sanctions regime against Iran in an effort to force curtailment of that country’s nuclear program. Upon leaving her Cabinet position after Obama’s first term, she wrote her fifth book and undertook speaking engagements. Clinton made a second presidential run in 2016. She became the first female candidate to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party.
She lost the presidential election to Republican opponent Donald Trump despite winning a plurality of the popular vote.She received more than 65 million votes, the third-highest count in a U.S. presidential election, behind Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.
Following her loss, she wrote her third memoir and launched Onward Together, a political action organization dedicated to fundraising for progressive political groups.Going by the above brief description of Clinton, it was only normal for Adichie to react in that manner that most Nigerians misconstrued. Adichie to Hillary; “In your Twitter account, the first word that describes you is ‘Wife.’
And then I think its ‘Mom,’ and then it’s ‘Grandmother.” “And when I saw that, I have to confess that I felt just a little bit upset. And then I went and I looked at your husband’s Twitter account, and the first word was not ‘husband,” Adichie said.
Adichie was trying to, perhaps emphasis what Martina Navratilova, tennis player, said that, “I think the key is for women not to set any limits.” Adichie didn’t want Clinton whom she believed limit herself statue way too below her capacity especially as a woman of many diversities.
She was curious as to why with all of Clinton’s career accomplishments; did her Twitter bio primarily identify her as a “Wife”.Luckily, Clinton understood her unlike many Nigerians who took Adichie to the cleaners. Swiftly, Clinton indulged her by changing her twitter account to her critique specification!
“When you put it like that, I’m going to change it,” Clinton said, prompting roars from the crowd. However, Clinton explained that for why ‘Wife’ kicked- off her bio, which is that women should be able to celebrate both their accomplishments and their relationships.
According to Adichie, But the truth is that we were supposed to be having a ‘conversation,’ the context of our conversation was personal and warm, I had made the decision to speak from the heart.
It would be dishonest to pretend that I had not reacted personally to so many issues around Ms. Clinton, whose life has become a kind of crucible of all the questions that affect women.”
She explained that, “towards the end of our conversation, I told her how, having read her writing about her own life, I think she has a great love story with Bill Clinton. A wonderful friendship. I said I feel irritated and protective of her when people dissect her personal life, but I also confessed to having an interest myself, particularly about her public Twitter profile. (I first noticed it when I was researching a piece about her during the presidential campaign).
I was upset that the first word used to describe her was ‘wife.’ Was it a choice she had made or was it something done for her campaign and, if it was a choice she had made, did she think my reaction to it was fair?” She noted.
Adichie continued, “Her response was very thoughtful. I was too excited, emotional, slightly nervous, to be on stage with this remarkable woman. Had I kept in mind how easily outrage-mongers would jump on a headline, I would have phrased my question better. I would not have made it about my being upset, because it can come across as navel-gazing.”
Reacting to the interview, some Nigerians felt she took her feminism too far, adding that the question was intrusive and Hillary has a choice on her view on being addressed as a ‘Wife’.
Some others argued that the question was necessary for women to understand that they have to celebrate their achievements, not just on the home front, just like men. Some of the reactions: Popular blogger Linda Ikeji wrote @lindaikeji: I’m a big advocate for women empowerment, rights and independence but when I do marry, I’d proudly describe myself as a wife & proudly add my husband’s name to mine.
“Proudly! if you don’t believe in that as a woman, that’s fine too #differentstrokesfordifferentfolks,’’ @Linesandtimes tweeted, “Chimamanda said she was a bit upset by Hillary Clinton’s bio. Her intolerance for anything that does not align with her idea of feminism is really tragic. “A woman can be defined as anything she wants to be seen as, what’s important is that it’s her choice.” @Txtwistatornado wrote, “Lol I read the article, and I think it was great.
I don’t think she disgraced Nigeria at all. “She got Hillary Clinton to reevaluate the message she sends to women. I believe in a happy medium as a woman so I’m good with this interview.
IMO” @SeunxTemi tweeted, “Not going to read all these. This is someone’s personal life Chimamanda thinks she has the right to criticize in such an unwarranted manner.
“Hilary Clinton is a Queen and what her bio states shouldn’t diminish her numerous accomplishments.” @Realcalmday said, “If Hilary Clinton had a problem with what Chimamanda asked her, I believe she would’ve said so. Why are you people carrying the matter on your heads?” @Chinewubeze_mc wrote, “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie went too far with this her feminism issue during her interview with Hilary Clinton today.” @Pengasonconcept tweeted, “So happy about how Hilary Clinton clarified Chimamanda on the true meaning of feminism.
“Just because a woman is up to the same task as an average man on earth doesn’t stop them from knowing their true responsibilities in life.” News Agency of Nigerian, (NAN) reports that Adichie’s feminism campaign has been a pivotal crux of her writing as her characters centre around powerful women who are usually dwarfed by the patriarchal system in their environments.
In 2017, Adichie released a small book titled – ‘Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’. Ironically, Adichie may be good and apt in critiquing but seems she is good in being criticised. In her response to one of the critiques whom she claimed she knew, she was mildly acerbic to put it. The #Response Cynicism is ugly. It doesn’t flatter anyone. Yours doesn’t suit you at all.
I remember you vaguely; I think you were in my class in primary school. And now you claim to be my ‘family’ and you are asking me to shut up. Did you watch the video of the conversation? Did you read a full transcript? I am tired of Nigerians who read a headline and, without bothering to get details and context, jump on the outrage bandwagon and form lazy, shallow opinions. I am tired of Nigerians cynically thinking of anybody in public life as a ‘brand.’ No, I am not a brand. I am a person who feels strongly about certain issues. I choose to talk honestly about them.
I made the choice to talk about feminism knowing very well the kind of hostility it brings – but I think it’s important and I will continue to speak my truth and hope to bring about some change, no matter how small.
Adirom agba egwu ka m data ego. No, of course you don’t actually deserve a response, but I have some free time today. So I want to make you feel a little important because it sounds like you need it.
And I want to reflect on an absolutely lovely hour spent on stage with Hillary Clinton. I was happy when I was told that Hillary Clinton had specifically requested to be in conversation with me at the PEN World Voices festival. I am an unapologetic fan of Ms. Clinton’s. I have been for many years.
A woman is not an option but a priority
Diane Mariechild, in her introductory said: “A woman is the full circle, within her is the ability to create, nurture and transform. Women are an integral part of human civilization. No society or country can ever progress without active participation of women in its overall development. Women who constitute half of the world’s population are not treated on par with men.” Flora Onwudiwe writes
“Women are suppressed, oppressed, and marginalized in the matter of sharing the available opportunities for fulfillment of their lives, despite the fact that every woman works for the development of her family, her husband, and children. This picture of women is not something new or unique only to India. This is the predicament of women all over the world.” Mariechild continued in her quote.
Tewa Onasanya, founder, Exquisite Magazine used the above quote as an introduction to project her description of the typical treatment women, particularly African women are subjected to. She considered it as considered as very apt in celebrating women global theme; “How to Press for Progress doing what you’re passionate about”, which was coined as; Press for progress.
Her Magazine’s exclusively meant to create awareness for Cervical Cancer on women availed the opportunity for young women to interact and discussed other issues that affect women and were supported by Onasanya’s Exquisite Ladies of the Year (ELOY) awards.
The 21st century women who thrust their weight to drive home their points were women with entrepreneurial skills and these include; Jane Egerton-Iheren, Chinenye Jeanne Nnoli, Tayo Afolabi, Uwa Ohiku and Shade Ladipo.
They were believed to have imparted on female youths in the corporate world with skills in entrepreneurship by sharing their life experiences and what they will do in pressing for progress.
The sequence of conversations was shared and lessons learned were evident that the 21st century women are passionate about what they do, with the willingness to press further for progress.
Onasanya was a pharmacologist, who found passion in lifestyle, beauty and fashion, asked rhetorically , “what do we need to ask ourselves is in order to make a difference doing what we are passionate about, or what are you doing to make progress?
Onasanya cited Cervical cancer to explained further, “Today a lot of women die for disease that is 100 percent preventable, now to press for progress is a need to ask people what they will do to press for progress by doing what they are passionate about.
“In the process of pressing for progress, it’s also important that we do what we are passionate about, because if you are passionate in what you love doing, it will be like a fuel that keeps the light burning. Now, been a woman in a man’s world, first we have to learn to break that cultural barrier, leaning how to push and make a difference, work on yourself, because we all work in progress. The girl child is as important as the male child,” she noted.
She further explained, “We have to start planning for the future today, learn to have all the training if possible. As ladies, we also have to do whatever it takes to get what we want ,in terms of Principle, integrity matters a lot ; learn the habit of saying no when it is required. We should not let others manipulate our emotions. As a woman we have to learn how to stand on our ground, don’t let people project their weaknesses on you.”
On what propelled her coming up with Exquisite magazine exclusively for women and its Eloy Awards, she said, “Exquisite began in 2003; it was the need for me to stop complaining about problems or challenges. Again, I used to live in an environment where there weren’t many black women there and it was out sketch of London and I couldn’t find magazines for women of black colour , so I thought, why don’t I start my own magazine. And I love writing, so that’s how the magazine started. It’s just a case of making something comfortable from the passion that I have.”
She however urged women to be the best version of themselves, while following their passions. “If you were asked not to do something , do not dwell on it. The reason for a ‘no’ is simply because one is speaking to the wrong person or asking the wrong question or the idea needs to be reviewed. Keep your focus and do not stop.
My first advice will be to get your mind set right, and believe against all odds that you can be whatever you want to become , believe in yourself, forget about what anyone says about you,” she said.
On what informed her decision to select only women in the corporate world, she said, A small talk discussion for women of different careers to press for progress. Press for progress campaign for the need to create awareness for cervical cancer in Nigeria. We are on a kind of a sneakily campaign to raise awareness for Cervical cancer in Nigeria, according to her.
Onasanya revealed that her parents played a great role in her life, which is what informed her principle lifestyle. “Well funny enough, I think I am blessed to have parent who just go with your flow and let you do whatever you want to do.
So they did not complain about it, as long as I am happy, as long as I am not doing anything illegal. Sincerely, they are happy and have been supportive. I am very blessed to have supportive family. They made me believe in myself, that I could do anything because back then grown up, it wasn’t a case of if I was a girl and I can’t do it,” she said.
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