Since her days as a regular panelist on the cerebral Patito’s Gang, a Prof. Pat Utomi TV talk show, Adaeze Abu-Idris established a public persona as a woman with a passion to impact positively on society.
She channelled her passion through the Alert Forum for youth, which she founded as a platform to help young people understand their purpose by directing, counselling and educating them about life in general.
She raised the notch when she founded the Outstanding Women Awards (OWA) that recognises and encourages women who have worked tirelessly to impact lives.
In this interview with Daily Sun, she recounts her experience to illustrate the changing narrative of women in society and her motivation to be a change agent. She also outlines her continuing efforts towards the cause of women, while also underscoring the importance of womenfolk rallying to help one another and the imperatives of tackling gender inequality right from within the family.
What was the inspiration behind the OWA?
My inspiration to start the OWA project began with my upbringing and environment. I came from a very humble background, so I had always desired to be a great woman that would inspire other women. Eventually, I was picked up and mentored by a great woman, Agatha Amata of the Inside Out TV talk show. I used to attend her show because it was inspiring and transforming. She observed that I was a regular attendee and she showed interest in me, and began to mentor me. I looked up to her and got inspired and motivated by her encouragement to women who had given up on themselves, their lives and marriages. I once lived in a home meant for homeless women, and I understand what these women go though. I observed that there were numerous women who were frustrated due to their conditions and almost gave up on hope, and they did not have anyone to look up to. That was when I decided to start Outstanding Women Empowerment. I attended awards where those honoured were mostly men; meanwhile, there were women also doing tremendously well to earn a good living, but they were not recognised. That was where I got the inspiration to start OWA, where we recognise the efforts and hard work of women, as well as encourage other women who are still striving. The programme is also an avenue for women to identify and meet their mentors.
What is the main objective of the award?
We aim to reach out to women of all ages and categories, irrespective of tribe, religion and individual differences, to inspire and help them discover their purpose and potential, to provide a favourable platform where women can express and share their views and thoughts; to enhance their reasoning on the fact that they were first created as women. When I was a teenager, I had friends who all they wanted was to acquire an education, get married and have kids. But I wanted something more than just getting married and having kids. So, the aim is to help women discover that they have a purpose first as a woman, then as wife and mother. The aim also is to help women fulfill their dreams in life, to make them understand that being a woman is not all about getting married and having kids––a woman also needs to support her husband by acquiring a skill, or working to support her family. I am glad that the aim is being achieved.
In the course of your career, what are the lessons you learnt that have moulded you to become the woman you are today?
I told you I came from a humble background. My mother could not afford to cater for my university education due to her financial state. So, she thought I would get married and start having kids without going to the university or having a skill. But I was determined to acquire a university degree; I sought assistance and scholarship from my relatives that I felt were capable of assisting me. Unfortunately, they all turned me down. But I persisted. I took up a teaching job based on my qualification at the time, saved some money and got admitted into the university. It was a hard lesson. It was not easy. I suffered a lot in school. I won’t forget the day I fell down the staircase because I had nothing to eat and felt dizzy. Those experiences taught me never to depend on people, but to be persistent, focused and consistent in whatever I desire to achieve. Today, the story is different. Those people I had approached for assistance are looking up to me as their mentor and motivating force, because of my resilience.
What were the challenges of setting up the Outstanding Women Empowerment programme?
The initial challenge was finding a formidable team to work with. Of course, one can’t do it alone. Getting people who shared my vision and dream was a bit tasking. I had a youth forum, Alert Forum, where I groomed young people. So I took the right ones from the group and formed a team for the OWA.
Another major challenge we still face is finance. We have a lot of projects to carry out, which would go a long way to support women financially and otherwise. We intend to provide shelter for women and mothers who are homeless and send relief materials to these women. Without sufficient funds, we might not adequately carry out these tasks. We have not overcome that financial challenge. However, we must do what we can, regardless of the situation.
How much impact has the award made in the lives of women?
For two years, the majority of women have benefited from the award due to their efforts in supporting women’s growth. We have bestowed awards on the likes of Agatha Amata, CEO, Rave TV/Trend FM; Dr. Maymunah Kadiri, CEO, Pinnacle Medical Services; Ifeoma Fanfunwa, founder, iOpenEye Ltd; Barr.ister Ozioma Patsy, an advocate for children born in prison; and Aisha Akinpelumi, CEO, Royal Rack Fashion, among many others who have contributed immensely to the well-being of women.
More importantly, we have gone to drug rehabilitation centres to enlighten drug addicts who are women. We have sent relief materials to homeless women living in shelters. We have carried out inspirational talk shows on marital issues, domestic violence and physical assault, and awareness campaigns to educate women on the need to speak out when they go through any form of trauma. We have also been able to bring up rape victims who are victimised by societal discrimination.
What are your thoughts on gender inequality?
The issue of gender inequality has been lingering since the days of our forefathers. Personally, I believe everyone was created equally and deserve to be treated equally. I think the problem starts from the family, and it will take parents, especially mothers, to change the narrative. If parents can correct the way they treat females in the home, then boys will understand that females also deserve to be respected, treated with dignity. I have seen cases where girls would be busy with house chores and boys would prefer to watch television and wait for their sisters to serve them and clean up their mess. That is a very wrong upbringing. These boys grow up to become married men and end up enslaving their wives because they have been raised with the mentality that women are meant to clean up whatever they do. My son does chores. The same thing goes to my daughter. When parents treat their daughters with as much regard as they treat their sons, then the issue of gender inequality would reduce.
What is your view of a contemporary woman?
A contemporary woman is one who explores and perseveres, a go-getter, who does extraordinary things.
How do you think women in general can help their cause in society?
I always encourage women to speak out in every situation they find themselves. Don’t wallow in shame and die in silence. We have women committing suicide on a regular basis. Go for counselling and talk to someone. These days, we have advocacy firms that seek the well-being of women in distress. I also urge women to always render a helping hand to fellow women. We need each other to stand. We cannot stand by pulling down other women.
What should the public expect from the forthcoming Outstanding Women Award?
The 2019 Outstanding Women Award promises to be spectacular and unique from the previous ones. I will use the occasion to launch my first music album, there will be inspirational talks from internationally-recognised speakers and our awardees are great personalities from various sectors of Nigeria, who have risked their lives to make a positive difference.