Tosin Popoola is a Nigerian lawyers based in the Republic of Ireland. Her childhood years in Mushin Olosa, a densely populated area in Lagos inspired her to go into charity and humanitarian services. According to her, anytime she reminisced about her past, all that she saw were the mercies and God’s grace to become what she is today. Recently, her NGO, Women of Essence doled out awards to some Nigerians who had touched lives without making noise about it. One could also observe Popoola’s passion for one of the awardees, DRASA, a foundation set up in memory of late Dr Stella Adadevoh, the medic who sacrificed her life in order to halt the spread of Ebola in Lagos State two years ago. The award presentation was also part of the activities commemorating the birth of Women of Essence in Nigeria. She spoke with Effects.
Of what essence is your NGO, Women of Essence?
We bear a burden for women as mothers and sisters.We started with three members in my Estate in the Republic of Ireland and to the glory of God, we have spread to other countries. Basically, we encourage and educate one another as women. We are there for one another, We carry out advocacy for all the women. In the Republic of Ireland, there are many immigrant women having immigration issues, and have no way to start.We stand up for such women, even spiritually. The bottom-line is that we intercede for women, children, our nation and communities.We’re just starting the Nigerian leg of our activities and this gathering happens to be the maiden edition.
Given the fact that women in Nigeria hardly encounter immigration problems, so what’s the focus of your NGO in Nigeria?
Yes, there are no immigration problems with Nigerians but there are other problems like the need for advocacy for women to become who they want to be; building them to have confidence and self-esteem. We inspire, we encourage other women to come out and be who they desire to be.
Can you tell us about the awards
The award is to inspire, encourage those people that are impacting their communities in their little ways. It’s not everybody that will become a Barack Obama but there are individuals doing marvelous works in the communities and nobody hears about them. So, we go to the grassroots to identify and pick these people. Our vision is to continue to celebrate , appreciate, inspire and encourage people and organizations that have positively impacted communities and enhanced lives selflessly to do more. The Essence Award will also be a fundraising event for worthy societal causes and charity organizations. Although it’s a woman organization, the award is also for men doing much in their zones.
Are you still into law practice?
I would say Yes and No. I channel my practice into the humanitarian aspect of my profession.
What was growing up like?
I was born in Nigeria. There was a story that inspired and prompted me to start this NGO. It wasn’t easy for me growing up. I struggled to be who I am by the grace of God. Somebody saw me, helped me and that’s what we are trying to do also; that is, to help others move forward in life.
What were the challenges growing up?
I grew up in Mushin Olosha. My mummy had a shop there and we would stay in the shop till midnight just to make ends meet. Do you know that I hawked in the streets of Lagos. I hawked provisions, I sold nylon on the Lagos Island. When I was about to gain admission into the university, I lost my dad in 1989 and my mum being a stark illiterate, there was nobody to help. Growing up in a polygamous home was difficult. There was nobody to help, except my mum. My mum would always tell me that the book she could not read that she would allow me to read it and to the Glory of God, I bagged my first degree in philosophy, my second degree in Law and my Masters in Education. My first degree was in Nigeria , my second degree was in the Republic of Ireland and my Masters was also in Ireland.
Are there children you assist personally?
I have siblings, my nephew and niece who were with my mum then. As little as I was then, I had the passion to take them up. In fact, I adopted three of my brother’s children and trained them and to God be the glory, they are all grown ups now.
What has life taught you?
I believe that somebody does not have a life if he/she has not impacted someone. To have a life, you must be able to put smiles on peoples; faces. The challenge I went through , I don’t want people also to go through it. The little way I can, I help people.
Being a pretty lady, how were you able to resist men’s love advances?
My mummy was tough. Iy wasn’t that I couldn’t afford do that. I just believe that God just picked me out and guided me from going out of his vision because everything around me did not support me to be a good girl. I had every excuse to say that nothing was working for me, and on that account, go the way of the world. However, I succumbed to the pressure of behaviour and I was able to overcome everything around me.
Did it ever occur to you to be a model?
I had the opportunity to be a model. When I was much younger. I had a long hair. There was a company that came to our kiosk, saw my natural hair and told me that they would like to use me in a commercial but my mum being an illiterate was afraid. So, she didn’t allow me to do such. I miss that opportunity and since then, I’ve remained who I am.
Life in Mushin, what was it like then?
Life in Mushin was tough. I don’t smoke but I was a passive smoker. My mum owned a shop in that area and we had to stay in the shop till midnight. The shop to our house was about 15 minutes walk distance. It was actually tough but I went through it and came out. people never believed that I came out of Mushin Olosa.
Did you meet your husband in Ireland?
I met him in Mushin Olosa in 1986. He was living at Palm Avenue. We courted for seven years before we got married in 1995. I moved to Republic of Ireland in 2002.
What were the challenges of staging this event in Nigeria?
This is my first time of doing this in Nigeria. Back in Ireland, there is this attitude of giving to charity which is unlike what obtains in Nigeria. Here, people would tell you that they are not United Nations, meaning that they can’t do anything free. I tell people it’s more blessed to give than to receive. Everyone is saying This is Change.As I am telling you, there’s no support from anywhere, except few friends. Even at that, we are still trying to help other NGO’s like DRASA (Dr. Stella Adadevoh) foundation.
What is style for you?
I’m not very expensive but I’m very picky. It has to be simple, elegant, and unique. As I’m coming back to Nigeria the idea of Ankara comes in. I like being colourful and I don’t follow trends. I do my own thing.
You are a pastor’s wife, how has it been?
Yes. my husband is a Pastor in Redeemed Christian Church of God in Drogheda, Republic of Ireland. His name is Kayode Popoola. I’m an ordained pastor myself. Pastors are the angels but the pastors wives are the devils some people think. But it depends on the congregation. In our Parish, RCCG, Seat of Mercy in Republic of Ireland. I enjoy being a pastors wife.