By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
Joy Michael, executive director of Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs Organisation, also manages an Entrepreneurship Village. In a bid to help achieve sustainable growth in Africa, she pushes for entrepreneurial acquisition being a catalyst for poverty eradication and socioeconomic transformation.
Michael told Daily Sun recently that, if the Northern Region wants to see prosperity and sustainable growth, they should encourage female education in their states.
What are the activities of African Young Entrepreneurs all about?
The A.Y.E. initiative is basically an empowerment platform where communities benefit from wherever we have a footprint.
We engage in several projects but we are working on an entrepreneurship development project. It is designed to intellectually equip and provide knowledge-driven support to entrepreneurs across Africa, who are constantly driving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that poverty eradication in Africa is possible, if entrepreneurs are given the right tools in an enabling environment to transact, engage and thrive, they will boost our economy.
In Nigeria, there is no equality in education between boys and girls. The northern part is behind, especially with the Boko Haram insurgency. What kind of information do we need to change the situation?
Women are preservers. They give birth to different things and are known to multiply, preserve and groom things. When a woman is empowered, you empower a community. The more women are empowered, especially in the northern region where some of the women are kept at home and married off at a very young age, the better for them. Imagine if those women are educated, they will definitely do great exploits and impact more on the society. Women are naturally emotional. They think about their families, unlike their male counterparts who would need to be reminded to call home, let alone asking after their welfare. If the northern region wants to see prosperity and sustainable growth, they should encourage female education in their states.
What is your take on cultural practices that are harmful to the well-being of the girl-child, which are still sustained despite advocacy ?
I believe in culture but when you have a culture that is barbaric and does not have the interest of the girl-child, I think such practices should be eradicated. What is the essence of sustaining them when they affect the victim? The laws and practices were established by man. Why can’t we abolish it and why do we continue to uphold traditions that are more harmful than good?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is harmful. It does not contribute to the development of mankind. It is good to preserve Nigerian culture but there are certain aspects that should be abolished. If it doesn’t contribute to our overall development then we need to have a conversation on it wherein village heads, traditional rulers and other relevant authorities need to review the practice. We must stop things that keep the society stagnant.
Records of rape, paedophiles and sodomy are rising in our society, endangering children’s safety. As a mother, what do you make of all these?
It is more important for parents to devise safety measures for their children. We can’t put a complete end to this because the society revolves around it.
Sex education should be given to acquaint our wards with the knowledge in order to prevent them. Parents should pay attention to details.
Sex offenders should be brought before the law and punished. Parents should not terminate the course of justice, once there is an incident, but allow the enforcement and not settle out of court, to sanitize our society.
I know there is a stigma, but we cannot continue to allow them get away with this crime. If we don’t punish the offender, it gives them the license to do more. Parents should be able to teach their children from an early age to understand their body chemistry, no matter the age. You must provide that shield by teaching them how to navigate the seasons of life.
What is your position on claims that sexual assault and increased rape cases are as a result of provocative dressing by the girls?
Rape and defilement have nothing to do with dressing. When I was in the primary school, I told my friend that I would dress like a Muslim girl and I continued to wear long dresses, covering my hair, but I still had people who came after me, held my hands despite the fact that I was covered without revealing anything or part. So, it is not really about the dressing.
Men are sick and cannot control their urge. The same applies to women. Some women can lure anybody to satisfy their urge. Women should endeavour to dress decently but you must be observant, as some people are driven towards sex and vain things.
What practical policy should be put in place to ensure the safety of girs, considering insecurity that has made female children vulnerable?
It is difficult to set up a strategic approach because the Nigerian government takes a cue from developed nations. Why are we using a system that doesn’t suit us? As Nigerians, our indigenous ways can be used to address some of the challenges. We don’t need conflicting values to handle it.
One of the things that promote some of the vices is entertainment. However, entertainment is huge business and we cannot completely take that out. Prior to now, we did not have all of this in the mainstream, that was because you cannot turn on your TV and see a nude video, people smoking and drinking, as well as other forms of vices aired, which portray wrong messages for the youths. Celebrities are seen with these vices on TV and they copy them. Artistes who might have taken substances to get them high are on TV dancing nude, and people see them as role models. No checks and balances. Meanwhile, these only create a negative impact on the youths because they feel it is the right thing to do. Government should censor and regulate the contents in broadcasting, especially in entertainment.
Some girls were recently caught smoking and were maltreated by law enforcement agents. What’s your view on their approach when carrying out official duties?
I think they should be properly trained by the appropriate orientation agencies. Although I commend their efforts in fighting crime, but when you have offences that are not penal, they should not maltreat offenders. The girls were already in a compromising situation and caution was needed in dealing with it.
What lessons would you say life has taught you and what’s your advice to women?
For me, time is a leveller. Women should stand up for themselves. They should no longer be victims. They need not stay silent anymore, boxed into traditional gender roles and stereotypes. It is our time to speak our truths, take back our power, and unite to change the world, once and for all. Every drop in the pond counts. So, by empowering yourself, y