The Role of Audio Social Media Platforms in Gender Advocacy

Over the years, social media has amplified gender advocacy by giving people a platform and a level opportunity to make their voices heard. By giving people a chance to trend hashtags, host chats and stir up conversations on apps like Twitter and Facebook, social media has been an effective tool in gender advocacy. In a way, one can even say that it made advocacy a little easier because it paved the way for cross border collaborations, knowledge sharing, mentoring and access to resources between advocates.

Why Digital Advocacy?
During COVID, a lot of gender advocates could not do offline advocacy and we had to switch to digital advocacy and this shaped advocacy in a way. Now, I know we have been used to the usual social media platforms like Facebook, twitter in our advocacy but I would like to bring to the fore the use of audio social platforms for advocacy. We have Clubhouse, Twitter space and Facebook Room. Raising our voices, we have podcasts as well. As these audio social apps are gaining ground, we can also see how we can tap into them in our advocacy as youths. We might not limit ourselves to what we are used to like other social media platforms.

How Digital Advocacy Works
We have been talking about representation and women. How the media has been focusing on women’s narrative for some time now but now we can take charge by rewriting our realities. We have several thought leaders who are women reclaiming their autonomy and agency. This is a platform to use our voice. It is even audio, and it centers on our voices to create a change. There are some conversations we have been hush hush about as women on our sexuality and womanhood but through these platforms, several conversations have taken place and we are gradually seeing more women making informed decisions. Audio Social app is the big thing now and we can also see how we can explore that in our advocacy – to speak directly to different women.

The Impact of Social Platforms
These discussions have had a significant impact on the average individual. Men, women, and fellow advocates are being inspired through conversations in Clubhouse rooms and on Twitter spaces. Women now feel more empowered, and men have a new perspective on women, which helps to strengthen advocacy. It is important that women aren’t viewed through stereotypical eyes t o help them in breaking down barriers and shattering glass ceilings. Various stakeholders have taken action as a result of these discussions. The effect has been enormous.

Many others, particularly young men and women, give their voices to the advocacy against harmful societal norms, gender stereotypes, and gender inequalities as we look around. They are as committed to ending gender injustice as we are. They’re sharing their personal stories and offering practical advice. Their voices reverberate across the horizons and in people’s hearts as they talk passionately. That is extremely admirable. We need more individuals tweeting, sharing podcasts, and even hosting Clubhouse and Twitter spaces events so that we can witness a meaningful improvement in people’s lives.

The Way Forward
I believe that social media has the potential to turn the tide of equality in our favor. We will see real change in our society if we raise our voices and encourage more individuals to join us. As a result, I am asking everyone I know to join these platforms and thoroughly explore the role of Audio Social Media platforms in achieving gender equality.

Ladies In School 2 – Victoria Adeola Shittu

I love hearing stories about ladies smashing stereotypes in career and leadership. It is refreshing and inspiring to read about and it spurs other women to aspire to more. As much as I love reading about brilliant successful women who are currently making waves in the society, I believe that becoming a daring female leader is not something that just happens at the peak of your career. It is something you start building from an early age. Then, in the university, what you have learned all through childhood and teenagerhood is tested and refined. By the time you graduate, you are more equipped to face the world.

Ladies in school is a series that is dedicated to showcasing female high achievers who are still students. It focuses on ladies in school who are driven, motivated, and full of passion. These ladies have dreams and aspirations and are working towards achieving their goals. Ladies who are passionate about volunteering, leadership and are doing great things despite being in school.

By sharing these stories, I hope to inspire female students all over the country. I want to show these students that their dreams and pursuits are valid, and they are not alone. So, they should keep working hard, defying stereotypes, and getting things done.

This edition of Ladies in School is a very special one as we will be sitting down with Victoria Adeola Shittu. She is the founder of AVASTORIA, a medical student, mental health enthusiast, and a poet.

Currently, she is also the Vice President of Ife University Medical Students Association (IFUMSA). She has been able to spread her wings with impact via volunteering in the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) and counseling young boys and girls in mental health. Her passion speaks loudly with the progress she is making in AVASTORIA.

Sit back, grab a snack and let’s get to know her better.

1. Can we meet you, please?

I am Victoria Adeola Shittu, branded as AVASTORIA 💚. I am a Clinical 2/ 500L student of Medicine and Surgery at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria.

2. What spurred your interest in Mental Health Issues?

I would say it is a calling. I am that God’s daughter called to join him at work in the field of medicine, particularly mental health advocacy to raise mentally aware and strong individuals.
For me, I just want all I do, the fact that I stand to speak, share stories, and all to build mentally aware and strong people.

3. Do you seek to specialize in Mental Health Issues later?

Yes, I hope to. I am particularly interested in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

4. Can you tell us more about AVASTORIA and projects you have launched under your initiative?

AVASTORIA is a brand that is being unveiled day by day. At the moment, AVASTORIA has three parts to her, the counseling, coaching, and the advocacy part. All these parts still achieve one goal, mental awareness and strength and I hope while I’m at it, I’m able to offer these Freedom, Healing, Wholeness, and Strength.

As AVASTORIA, I have been able to pioneer mental health outreaches to secondary schools.
I have also been able to coach intending and aspiring mental health enthusiasts on how to grow their interest in this field and organizations to be a part of.

Counseling is a part-time service I offer. I volunteered with the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) where I was officially exposed to the art of counseling.

5. What spurred your interest in studying medicine?
Medicine seemed like the one thing for me. I wanted to be able to help most people and I felt medicine was one of the fields that can provide answers and solutions to a wide range of challenges. So, I went for it.

6. What impact will you create on the next generation?

Children and Adolescents! I love that age group and that’s where my work comes in. I think that’s the most critical part of anyone’s life. I want to build youths who are confident, strong, aware, and can achieve just about anything they want just by hearing of me, and much more when they come in contact with me. I believe there’s something deposited in me for this generation and that is why growing them right is my desire.

7. How do you hope to combine all your amazing experiences in the future?

🤗. That’s a beautiful question. I don’t know how it would go just yet but I like surprises ( pleasant ones) and I’m excited about it. I believe it’s God who keeps me together and when that future does come, it’s almost here, he would keep me just together and perfectly.

8. How do you merge poetry writing in the Arts world and your career in the Sciences?

Poetry is divine. Some people like mysteries ( I belong to that category) and poetry gives that touch of mystery in the right dose. I like the way the words flow, the poise, and the fresh breath. Poetry is a therapy for me and even for some of my clients. I prescribe poetry in the form of music.

9. What does volunteering mean to you?

Volunteering means giving myself to a cause that I believe in.

10. What advice will you give a freshman female student?

Take your time, observe, note the things you love, and learn about them. Find people in that area, follow them from afar or closely if you can and when it’s time, Shine!

11. How has been your role as the Vice President of IFUMSA?
Challenging and beautiful. I love that I’m making those impacts I desired and at the same time learning to work with people and deal with the challenges of leadership.

12. Life as a student, what is it like?

Fam! It is not the easiest thing in the world. For many, it is the pressure to act like they know what they are doing while for others, it is that of money.

13. What have been the major ups for you in school?

Talking to people, my patients, and colleagues and seeing them smile and give great feedback.
Also, many of my consultants convince me to come back for residency in their specialty. It only means I do well wherever I go. Medicine is rewarding for me.

14. Do you have particular motivations in school, either in person or things?

Well, I always tell myself that I want to fulfill my purpose. I want many people to look at me and say thank you for rising and doing what you do.
That’s my motivation.

15. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A renowned Psychiatrist, wife, author, leader, and coach making waves globally.

*
I hope you enjoyed this exciting conversation with Victoria Adeola Shittu. And are challenged to make an impact, regardless of your age, class, or level. In her words, the greatest motivation in life is to fulfill purpose – for many people to look at you and say thank you for rising and doing what you do. It is my greatest desire, dear lady, that you rise up to the occasion and that people say these things about you.

To connect with her or support the initiative, reach out on these social media platforms:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShittuVictoria
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/avastoria_/
LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-adeola-shittu-1a0512196/

Leveraging Fellowships for Professional Development

I have participated in a number of fellowship programs, and here are some pointers on how to make the most of these opportunities.

Your why: This is very important. Before you apply for any fellowship, there are salient questions you should ask yourself: What do you hope to achieve? How does the program align with your goals? How will this program help you grow personally and professionally? In fact, when you are applying, you will find that some fellowships ask what you will gain by being part of their program. This is a personal journey, and you have to reflect deeply on your why and how the program will add to you. This would help you fully maximize the fellowship. It would also help you measure the success or outcome of that program (that is, whether the program met your expectations if you achieved your goal). Do not just apply for programs without having any purpose in mind. Be purposeful.

Volunteer: Sometimes, when people go for programs and see some gaps or lapses, they start complaining. You should understand that it is not easy to organize or put together a fellowship. Rather than complaining, strive to solve the problem you’ve identified. Inquire with the organizers if you can assist. Always look for ways to add value.

Collaboration: After the program, there must have been people you met there, and the connections you have made. Always seek for avenues to collaborate with people whose goals or projects align with yours. It could be in the context of projects, research work, policy brief, and other contexts. One of the highlights of Exchange Programs is collaboration.

Keep in touch: Always endeavour to connect with people beyond the Fellowship. This is very essential for growth and development. It also helps you expand your network. After the event, you can send an email to the organizers thanking them for a job well done and letting them know how much you have benefitted from the Fellowship Program. There are times there have been some communique signed, some deliberations made so do well to implement them when you go back to your countries. You can also provide a progress report on a regular basis. Some fellowships assign participants to a mentor or coach who will assist them in their professional development. So make an effort to stay in touch with them as well.

Social Media: Make an effort to keep up with them on social media. Most of these programs have alumni pages, so if there are any tasks that you as an alumnus need to do, please do so. Attending programs and then forgetting about them is not a good idea. Some fellowships have a network of organizations to which they have access, and in many cases, other organizations reach out to them for recommendations on people for bigger opportunities. Jobs, interviews in reputable media, participation in a high-level program, or awards are all examples of these opportunities. In situations like this, active alumni will undoubtedly be the people to recommend.

Feature: The majority of these fellowships have their own websites. Some showcase their alumni as well as their projects. You can always ask for a feature, especially if you are putting what you have learned in the Program to good use. You can also contribute to their website by writing blog entries on issues that align with their mission.

Ambassadors: As an alumnus of an Exchange Program, you are ambassadors of these programs in your country. After you leave, how do you ensure others in your community know about them? They have invested in you. When there is a call for application for the next cohort, tell others about how the program was pivotal in your journey. If there is a need for a local conference, you will easily be the point of contact in your country.

Teach: We don’t always realize how much we know until we share it. We don’t know how much the program has helped us until we share it with others. Organize programs where you can share what you’ve learnt with volunteers as founders. You can also share what you’ve learned with friends as a volunteer or as a participant in an Exchange Program. Of course, if there are instructions not to release certain documents or information, you can hoard.

Share your work: Share your work with others. Some Exchange Programs have Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, etc. So, share your work on these platforms but don’t overdo it. By sharing my work on gender issues, there have been conversations this has spurred from people in other continents. This has made me learn about their realities from another perspective.

Taking Photos and Videos: Certain people believe that some people only go some programs to snap pictures and show off. You can’t say that about everyone, though. It is perfectly acceptable to take photographs. What matters is the motivation. Some people do it for the sake of documenting. Some people keep blogs and use them to document their experiences for a variety of purposes. The most important thing is to be purposeful.

In all, always endeavour to stand out and be remarkable. Several people I look up to have leveraged these principles and have gotten tremendous results. By standing out, they have been able to achieve accelerated advancement and growth. Some organizations saw how outstanding they were and decided to work with them. Some people have shifted from being participants to facilitators as a result of this. Others used the networks to gain simple access to affiliate organizations, other organizations, and a variety of other resources. As a result, you should make an effort to not only apply for and engage in Fellowship Programs, but also to maximize your participation.

World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022

Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030

Imelda rolled to a fetal position as the pain in her abdomen increased. She clutched her stomach and stifled a groan. She lazied out of bed to get her hot water bottle.

As she turned on the light, she noticed a pimple break out on her left thigh. Her body vibrated with panic, she dashed to the bathroom and splashed water on her thigh, and began massaging in hopes of them disappearing. ‘Just go away.’ She mumbled. The pimples remained. She burst into tears and sat on the covered toilet bowl. ‘I wish you were here, I don’t know what is happening to me. I feel like I am going to be sick like you mom.’

Imelda lost her mom when she was four and since then, it had been just her and her dad. She had yet to tell her dad about the recent happenings in her body because she did not want to alarm him.

Mr. Frank switched off the television and went upstairs, as he passed by Imelda’s room, he noticed the light was still switched on so he knocked at the door, ‘it’s past your bedtime, you have school tomorrow.’ He announced.

Mr. Frank knocked again and when he heard no response, he opened the door. He found her seated on the toilet bowl sobbing. Immediately she looked up, she wiped her eyes. ‘Daddy, I was just…’

‘Why are you crying dear?’ He asked.

She shook her head, ‘I miss mommy.’ She replied.

Mr. Frank pulled her up from the toilet bowl and led her to the room. ‘I will tell you a bedtime story about mom.’ Imelda smiled and at moment the pain and fear that coursed through her halted.

*****

Imelda placed her head on the table at the cafeteria during lunchtime. Modupe handed her a cupcake, ‘it’s my brother’s birthday.’ Modupe smiled. ‘The party is this weekend and you are invited.’ Imelda was about to take it when she felt a blunt pain in her lower stomach. She gritted her teeth and shook her head. ‘Thanks, but I’ll pass.’

‘Are you still feeling sick?’

‘Yes.’ She replied. ‘I had to force myself to come to school because of the Maths test.’

Modupe patted Imelda’s back and placed the cupcake back inside the box. As soon as she started eating, Imelda stood. ‘I will be at the sickbay.’ She said. Immediately she stood, a sea of murmurs broke out. Imelda took guarded steps, wondering what was responsible for the murmurs. She thought to herself. Is my zip bad? She ran her hand through it and heaved a sigh of relief. It is not the zip, then what?

‘Imelda is leaking like a pot of spoilt stew.’ Abel yelled, contorting his face and pointing at Imelda.

‘Yuck! So disgusting. It just had to be in the cafeteria of all places.’ Tobi a boy seated beside Abel snorted. ‘My food is polluted.’

The cafeteria became noisy with laughter and giggles. Imelda examined her grey skirt and saw the bloodstain. She hid her face in her palms and scurried to the door.

Modupe rushed after her and handed Imelda her sweater. ‘Welcome to the club.’ She squealed in excitement…

‘Why are you happy over my humiliation?’

‘You should not be humiliated over a normal occurrence in your body. It is as normal as the air we breathe, so own it. I’ve always thought Abel was a dumbo and today, he made that clear.’

‘You bleed too?’ Imelda asked. ‘I thought I was sick.’

Modupe nodded, ‘Every woman does. It’s officially two months since I saw my first period.’

‘I had no idea. Maybe if mom was here she would have prepared me.’

Modupe hugged her, ‘I know but I am sure your dad will have some answers too. And you can always spend your next period at my house and we can have the baby girl treatment.’

‘Thank you so much. I think he tried to tell me many times before but didn’t know how to start. So, I’m going to ask him today. Thank you.”

Arm in arm, they went to the nurse to get some pads and pain killers.

*****

At the cafeteria, minutes after the giggles died down, Daniel nudged Abel, ‘Why did you humiliate Imelda? Couldn’t you see how uncomfortable she already was? Don’t you have a mom or a sister?’ He asked. ‘You are so stupid. How do you think women have children? ‘

‘Whatever.’ Abel replied, shrugging. ‘But I heard period blood is dirty blood.’

‘You are silly. It is a pity I can’t help your ignorance.’ Daniel resumed eating and Tobi pinched his nose in disgust.

Farida shook her head as she listened to their conversation. She resisted the urge to drag Abel and Tobi by the ear and force them to apologize to Imelda but she had bigger fish to fry.

She waved at Daniel as she passed their table on her way to the principal’s office.

‘Good afternoon, Sir.’

‘How are you doing Farida?’ Mr. Reginald asked.

‘I am fine, I wanted to discuss something that just happened at the cafeteria.’

Mr. Reginald looked up and removed his glasses. ‘I am all ears.’

Farida narrated what happened with Imelda, and Mr. Reginald furrowed his brows. She had not even finished narrating when he yelled. ‘Get me, Abel and Tobi, I will make them scapegoats to serve as a deterrent to other students.’

‘No sir.’ She shook her head. ‘I think educating the whole school that menstruation is a normal occurrence in women and girls and not some disease will yield better results.’

Mr. Reginald nodded, ‘Amazing, that is a wonderful idea. We can organize a seminar. The school nurse will anchor it.’

*****
Menstruation is a natural and healthy occurrence for many young girls and women around the world. Menstruation occurs monthly in most women and girls for about 2 to 7 days. It is an important aspect of reproduction as the menstrual cycle prepares the body for pregnancy.

According to UNICEF, around half of the female population (in the world) is of reproductive age. As important as menstruation is in reproduction, it is still stigmatized all over the world. It is treated like a disease and most girls and boys are denied the opportunity to learn about it. It is appalling that women and girls have been denied the right to learn about their bodies. Boys and men are taught to be repulsed by it and girls and women are taught to be ashamed of it.

But menstruation could perhaps be likened to metamorphosis which is normal and essential. Who would see a caterpillar bloom into a butterfly and frown in disgust? Obviously an ignorant person. Sadly, gender inequality and toxic customs/traditions are common reasons for stigmatization against menstruation. This negatively impacts the quality of life of women and girls. It makes them keep silent when they’re on their period or experiencing complications. It also denies girls and women access to quality sanitary materials like pads and tampons.

We need to destigmatize menstruation because it is a normal aspect of life. Girls and women have the right to be free from discrimination about something that makes life continue. They have to stop feeling like they should be silent or hide when they are on their periods.

Let’s destigmatize menstruation. The way we can do that is to start talking about menstruation it in our offices, schools, markets, bus parks, etc. Let’s demystify it and stop talking about in hush hush tones like it’s something to be ashamed of. Menstruation is not a crime. I’m challenging you today to make the change. Making menstruation normal by 2030 begins with you.

International Day of the Boy Child 2022

International Day of the Boy Child

Today is the International Day of the Boy Child. The International Day of the Boy Child is a day set aside to create awareness on the issues concerning the boy child. It highlights how we can groom and mentor boys in order to have a truly gender-equal world. This year’s theme focuses on boosting optimism, restoring self-worth.

What leads to the issue of low self-esteem for boys?

1. Societal expectation: From a young age, boys are expected to outperform girls. They are reprimanded and made to feel small when they get lower grades than their female counterparts. This makes them feel threatened by female success and gender equality.

2. Socialization: The typical man is seen as fierce, brave, and strong. He shows no weakness or remorse. He’s a born leader. Boys are groomed to become these kinds of men. Thus, they are not expected to cry or show any sign of emotion. This raises men with low self-esteem who associate expressing human emotions with femininity.

3. Peer pressure: This stems from societal expectation and socialization but it’s mostly seen among peers, especially teenagers. In secondary schools, boys pressure each other into doing things that they shouldn’t or growing up faster than they should. Boys who refuse to participate in teenage drinking, partying, casual sex, and all the rest are usually seen as old-fashioned and ridiculed. This leads to low self-esteem in some boys.

How can we help boys in restoring their self-esteem?

1. By raising boys differently: Instead of pitting them against women, let’s encourage and applaud their efforts. Let’s stop taking jabs at their self-worth each time they fall short of unnecessary expectations. Rather, let us be glad that they gave their best.

2.Mentoring and advocacy: Boys need the right models to show them the way. Mentoring and advocacy are the right channels to make this happen. Men who are successful and embrace gender equality can take it upon themselves to champion this cause. By creating awareness about peer pressure and these societal expectations, they can make things a lot easier for the boys and boost their optimism.

Teaching boys that it is okay to be human: From the cradle, boys need to know and be in touch with their emotions. They need to understand that being expressive is not feminine. This means that they can cry when they feel like it and it’s not wrong.

Conclusion

I am putting this out as a challenge to us all especially the men among us. As people who want things to get better in the world, we need to step up our efforts and change the narrative. Don’t repeat the cycle of pressure and unnecessary expectations you suffered. Let’s do better with our boys and raise them the right way. By boosting optimism and restoring self-worth, we will create a truly gender-equal world.

Birthday Reflections 2022

Happy birthday to my twin brother and me. I am grateful for all that has happened, and for everything that has led me to this beautiful milestone in my existence — essentially, I am indebted to God for my life, for His Direction and All-merciful Hand in bringing me this far.

As a habit, I reflect on my previous year every time I blow out the candles on a new age. This year is no different, and I would like to reflect on my Christian journey.

People who know me off social media, and several of my ardent followers on social media would agree that I am quite passionate about my spirituality — I acknowledge my God in all that I do, and I do not shy away from talking about Him as often as I can.

Coming to America, so many people surmised me my faith would suffer, because over here, most of our prayer requests (as Nigerians) have been settled by an effective system — roads are not death holes, power or water supply is hardly interrupted, and if one buckled down as and when due, one would take care of all one’s needs. Thus, it was easy for people to guesstimate that when I settle down here, I’d hardly hold on to any defensible reasons to have an enduring faith in God, pray, or regularly attend church.

I laughed it off at the time, because it didn’t occur to me that many people prayed for their selfish reasons only. Different realities and all, I guess. I am a soulful human who cherishes quietude and thrives in serene ambiances. These encourage me to meditate. So, I can say I pray because I derive intangible pleasures and indescribable, soul-lifting, satisfactions and heavenly connection from it. I do not supplicate God like an average Nigerian with series of hustles and worries on their mind — He is my Creator, One I seek to obey and worship at all times; not just when I am inconvenienced or needy. Majority of my prayers aren’t predicated on requests or demands, but rather on building intimacy and deep love for my God, that regardless of the wind of lukewarmness that may blow wherever I am, I still keep the fire, His fire burning. So, it’s quite fallacious to conjecture I cannot humbly entreat my Father because “the system works better where I am”.

When I arrived here, I could feel my faith even more rekindled. I became more intentional about my spiritual growth. These days, I spend more time meditating, praying and reading my Bible than I used to. I must admit though, the church services were a lot different from what I was exposed to. Thus, for a while, I actually struggled. I was bereft of the drive to attend church when I just arrived. It felt like a routine, and I all I felt, deep within me, was an unfillable emptiness afterwards.

I found it so hard adjusting to the new style of service because I was practically used to the Nigerian system. That notwithstanding, I knew if I really wanted to get the best of fellowshipping with others, I had to snap out of it. Ergo, I outted myself to some brethren who had been here before me — they were the impeccable guides through whom I navigated that tough phase. There was no praise or dancing like we had in our churches back home. What we had were worship sessions, and all one had to do was lift one’s hands in adoration to God. I had to adapt to it, and with time, I started to look forward to attending church services like I used to in Nigeria.

I must say, though, that since my arrival, I have experienced one great spiritual encounter after another. I have seen God move so mightily on my behalf, and I am so glad that I have never forgot to put God first. I particularly bless God for friends who are watchers covering me in prayers, His stewards keeping me in check. I thank God for the gift of friends who hold my hands when the tides are inclement. I thank God for the community of believers I got to know. It has actually been a great experience. I thank God for people who have shown me kindness, and I am in awe of them. I am growing daily and as they say, yesterday’s depth is shallow. I have got to go deeper still.

God’s unwavering faithfulness towards me, the time and seasons notwithstanding? Never in doubt. It’s been such a grace-filled journey steeped in a lot of wins. I dare not take credit for any of His good deeds. May I never ridicule the Grace and Mercy of God over my life that I would attribute my successes as products of my human efforts. God forbid. If not for God, I would be lost today. So, to Him, I owe it all, the very thread of my existence and all that sum me up.

It is my solemn wish that with my voice, my actions, and my life in its entirety, more people may be inspired to serve Jesus and live according to His dictates. I pray that may my actions and inactions continue to demonstrate and validate that I am a believer who lives for her God despite all conditions.


I look forward to more amazing things that He is set to do for and through me in this new year.
New gates are opened to His Glory, and old doors are shut on the times that I might ever have failed to live up to His expectations.

Cyberbullying targeted towards Women

‘Hand me the phone.’ Anita said, stretching out her hand. Anita looked at the crease lines on Toyin’s forehead as she scrolled through her phone. Toyin shook her head, holding up a hand. Her phone had been burning up since morning, her Facebook notifications were off the charts. Usually, she got notifications but this time was different. Her eyes burned with tears as she read the comments.
‘They are supposed to be congratulating me.’ She yelled. ‘I just got a million dollars seed funding from Cruce. Why am I being vilified?’
‘Is this rhetorical?’ Anita asked.
Toyin put her phone down and looked up ‘Seriously, I want to know.’ She quizzed.
‘You should know by now that a woman’s worth according to society is not in the success or wealth she possesses.’ Anita replied.

Toyin’s phone beeped again, she snatched it and Anita groaned. ‘For the one-thousandth time, get off that phone. It will do you no good to stay on it.’ Anita pleaded.
Amongst the sea of negative comments, one caught her eye. It read;
I may not be the CEO of a tech company but at least I am in my husband’s house. Stop deceiving our girls with all this feminist hogwash that they don’t need a man.

The negative comments from the men did not hurt as much as the ones from the women. Another comment read;

See dis evening newspaper ooo you get money, you no get husband who you wan impress? Getat!

Anita snatched the phone and ran off, leaving Toyin with her stormy thoughts. Toyin threw on her robe and walked to the floor-length mirror. As she looked at her reflection, memories flashed before her. She whimpered on remembering Frederick Lawson. It was an investor meeting turn lunch date. Toyin had walked into Debonair restaurant decked in a navy blue pantsuit. Her hair was neatly wrapped. She looked around and noticed it was deserted.

‘Good afternoon sir.’ She said.
Fred who was sitted at the table at the center flashed a smile. ‘Fred’s fine. Good afternoon.’ He replied.
‘Where is everyone?’ She asked. ‘I thought your partner was supposed to be in attendance.’
Fredrick chuckled and pursed his lips. ‘Too inquisitive.’ He drawled. ‘Have a seat.’ He motioned to the one closest to him. When Toyin was seated, he placed a hand on her thigh.’
Toyin flung his hand away and stood. ‘What was that for?’
‘Stop acting dumb.’ He replied. ‘You scratch my back, I scratch yours.’
Toyin burst into a peal of humourless laughter. ‘I will never scratch your maggot-infested back.’
‘Good luck getting funded, you won’t last.’ He snapped.

Toyin had worked so hard that she thought she would die of mental and physical exhaustion. Her weekends were super packed with meetings and work. She took a year off social media to focus, it got so bad her boyfriend broke up with her. Her family quarreled with her for missing the monthly family dinners. In the end, her hard work paid off. The number of sexual advances from prospective male investors was nerve-wracking. As a matter of fact, about eighty percent of male prospective investors made advances at her. It felt like a battlefield with the world as her opponent. She was about to throw in towel when Cruce called her over the pitch she sent almost a year ago. Tables had shifted, she was the queen with the world as her playground.
Zynpro had been on Toyin’s mind after she finished her masters. The idea behind Zynpro was to help source for funds for farmers through investors who wanted to explore new opportunities in agriculture. She confided in her elder brother who laughed her off. ‘Why don’t you just work in one? Why must you start one?’
‘But it is my dream.’ She replied. ‘I want to be CEO of my own fintech company. I want to contribute to society in my own way.’
Tayo scoffed, ‘a dream that will drive suitors away. You gonna make men intimidated. You can contribute to the society by being a wife and a mother.’
‘Watch me, Tayo, watch me take on the world. I will be CEO of my own Fintech company and you will be sorry for marginalising me.’

After breakfast, Toyin settled down to send some emails before going to the office. She sipped from her favourite mocha mug while she worked. She noticed a strange mail, when she clicked on it. It was an invitation to the Aurora Tech Summit in Dubai.
‘Anita!’ She yelled.
Anita rushed in looking perplexed. ‘What is wrong?’ She asked.
‘I just got an invitation to the Aurora Tech Summit in Dubai next month.’
Anita placed a hand over her lips, ‘Aurora Tech Summit?’
Toyin nodded, ‘and that is not all, Aurora Magazine would like a feature. I am so overwhelmed with emotion, here I was brooding over the hateful comments on Facebook.’

We are all influenced by stereotypes and rules. These rules tell us what is and not. Our society is governed by gender roles, females and males have specific roles attributed to them. These stereotypes have made females to be viewed as inferior or weak. When a female tries to break the rules or stereotypes, she is bashed. It is almost like, females are told to fly but not too high. A female’s success is measured by marriage and family. They almost make it seem like being a female is a curse. Denying people the freedom to choose their path in life because of their gender prevents them from fulfilling their potentials. If Toyin had listened toTayo and the voice of society she would have been unfulfilled. On our social media space today, successful women are constantly trolled to get married while their male counterparts are lauded. Everyone regardless of gender has greatness embedded in them, let us throw away the gender bias so that society will become better. If Cruce had not believed in Toyin’s dreams, she would not have been able to proffer a solution to one of the many societal problems.

Artificial Intelligence and Gender Equality!

For a long time, intelligence was only connected with humans. It was utilized by scientists to demonstrate a clear distinction between humans and animals in terms of our ability to think, be creative, imaginative, and propose solutions. These attributes are fundamental to human beings, and intellect was once thought to be unique to humans. Things have changed since then. Human intelligence is no longer the only form of intelligence. Our technological geniuses have produced Artificial Intelligence. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI), we see robots and computers playing the role of humans in data collection, analysis, projections, and all the rest. These devices are programmed to store memory, proffer solutions and help in decision making. They are also programmed to work as smart assistants, conversational marketing robots, autoresponders, chatbots, help desks, and the like. They even work virtually and physically to take and dispatch orders in various sectors of the economy. Nearly every field of human endeavor can and has incorporated AI into making their products and services better. In this piece, we are going to look at a few ways that AI can help foster gender equality.

Gender Equality is simply the belief that both genders are equal and should have equal rights and access to opportunities. In the society, the females are relegated and seen as subservient especially in Africa while the men are seen as kings. When a woman is ambitious or career-driven, she is seen as loud and arrogant but when the coins are turned to the side of the male gender he is seen as productive and his praise is sung by all. These subtle biases may seem insignificant but they play out in people’s perception of hiring female leaders, promoting female staff, and in some cases salaries paid to female workers.

AI can increase gender discrimination by affecting women. Since AI does tasks that people can do, it can limit women’s chances of getting into roles like customer service, support, and so on.

Can AI promote gender equality? Yes. Since AI makes tasks easier and faster and helps in data collation and analysis, AI can be used to identify areas where women are being discriminated against. An example where this can be very useful is in hiring candidates for executive roles. AI can be used to monitor the hiring processes. If any discrimination is noticed, it will be investigated and addressed. In a similar light, AI can be used to monitor bias in election primaries, access to education, or certain privileges like grants, funding, scholarships, membership of boards, and so on. AI can also make it easier to report suspected cases of discrimination or any form of ills against girls and women. People can connect with sites, software, or messaging platforms 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and be led to the nearest NGO, government official, or assistance center AI by developing sites, software, or messaging platforms. It has the potential to save many girls from child labor, and child marriage, and keep them in school. In combat zones, artificial intelligence can help make access to pads and other feminine hygiene supplies easier. AI has the potential to make education and health care more accessible to girls and women in locations where people may find it difficult to travel.

Finally, UNESCO recommends that more girls and women be encouraged to pursue careers in technology, particularly artificial intelligence. When more girls and women get interested in AI, they will strive to provide solutions that will benefit other women, level the playing field, and reduce disparities. We can all contribute to ensuring that this technology brings us closer together. Let’s learn more about AI and put it into practice. Let’s also urge our young females to pursue AI training and research how to apply it to promote gender equality.

Stop that sis!

Tope climbed down from her car and hung her bag. Then, she walked briskly into the building in front.

At the lobby, the security man stopped her.

“Where are you going, Ma’am?” he asked, his two hands in the air.

“I have an interview with XYZ tech,” she said, “And I’m almost late.”

“You? How?” he asked, looking at curiously her from top to bottom.

She was wearing a bright tee shirt and fitting denim trousers. Her hair was a large afro ball.

Her eyes widened and she stepped back a little, accidentally stamping her Nike sneakers. Fiddling with her bag, she brought out her iPad and showed him the invite she had gotten the week before.

It read,

“Dear Tope, we are very pleased with your application and have decided to invite you for an interview. The venue is at XYZ headquarters and we would like you to come in by 9 am. Thank you.”

He looked at her, still not convinced.

“Madam, the interview today is for full stack developers o. It’s next week that they’re interviewing for a receptionist even though you are barely dressed as one. So, go and come back, Ma’am. Dress well too.”

Tope shrugged. At first, she didn’t understand why he was saying this. She was almost getting angry. Then, she remembered what her friends told her when she was training to be a full stack developer.

“Tope, you’re a woman o. Why are you doing stuff that men do?”

“Your brain will soon burst. Take it easy.”

“No man will marry you o.”

The security man’s rude tap on her shoulders brought her back to the present.

“Leave this place, please,” the security man said.

Tope raised a finger in the air to excuse herself then she tried to dial the number that messaged her.

As she dialed the number, the man shoved her.

“Madam, you’re constituting a nuisance, please leave,” he said.

This time, her jaw dropped. She ended the call quickly and started leaving.

As she was walking out of the premises, she heard her name.

“Tope!”

She turned and it was Michael, the team lead she had been speaking with on LinkedIn.

“How are you doing? It’s so nice to finally meet you. Come on in, you’re in the right place.”

She forced a smile and made her way towards him. The security man glared at her as she walked past him. Michael noticed the exchange and made a mental note to handle it later.

He gave her a few minutes to get over the exchange she had with the security man. Then, they had a nice chat about her previous projects and the position. They laughed and it was an amazing experience.
A week later, she got her offer with a salary she’d never imagined was possible!

She drove to work and this time the security man bowed in fear as he greeted her. She smiled and squeezed him tightly. Then, she was ushered into her office by the new receptionist they had hired.

**
A good number of people are still yet to come to terms with the fact that women can do great in tech too. But in this day and age, we have seen that women can be anything they want to be. There are so many tools, resources, and information available, and more women are constantly being empowered to create solutions in the tech world. In light of this, men and women in our society should be aware of this and stop ridiculing women in tech. They should also stop trying to prevent or discourage young girls and women from getting in because girls and women belong in that space. As more girls and women explore the tech industry, there will be no telling the incredible innovations we will see in the nearest future.

Amazons 5 – Feyisayo Famakinde

If you lived in the world a century ago, women in STEM would have been a laughable idea. In many cases, it may have been a taboo. As time went on, people decided that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to let women dabble into STEM. There was a twist to this, however. Some people started seeing women in STEM as women who wanted to be men. They saw them as women who weren’t beautiful enough to marry or bear children. So, people resented them and discouraged those they loved from venturing into STEM.

Luckily, we don’t live in that world anymore. Although many people are still not used to the idea of women in STEM, women in STEM is one narrative that has come to stay. We have seen that women can take up STEM roles and execute them perfectly. It doesn’t make them men or affect any other areas of their lives. Despite this, there is still a huge gender gap in STEM. Some people are refusing to let go of those archaic beliefs maybe because they don’t know any better or they are not exposed. So, I have made it my mission to shine the light on women who are conquering the STEM world flawlessly.

In this piece, we will be meeting with Feyisayo Famakinde, a young DevOps engineer who transitioned from the English language to tech. Her story is a thrilling adventure one that will inspire you and spur you on to stop procrastinating and kick start your career in tech.

Sit back, grab a glass of juice and enjoy this fascinating conversation.

1. Can we meet you?
Hi everyone, I am Feyisayo Famakinde, a 26 years old budding DevOps Engineer based in Lagos. I like to say budding because I just started this career and I feel I still have so much to learn.

2. What was your university education like?

Oh. I studied English Language at the prestigious (If you like to disagree) Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife, Osun state. My university education was a journey I used that expression because of how everything turned out, I was a little unserious or maybe distracted/unfocused so my first two years were not that great academically or socially because really, I wasn’t doing anything, I just didn’t study. Now that I think about it, it was probably a problem with motivation because I didn’t choose English language but picked law instead but as Nigeria would have it, I got in for English and just free-rolled it. I got serious in my 3rd year because I was afraid of failure – I was told that was the toughest year so in the bid to not carry over a course I buckled up – but really when I got into our courses, I actually liked the knowledge being passed through.

3. How has the journey in a STEM career been like?

From my previous story you would know by now that I didn’t study a STEM course in the university so you are probably wondering how I got into this, it was a little bit of curiosity and finding better career prospects I saw an ad for the 2020 Google/ALC/Andela Cloud Engineer Scholarship and applied then got into the program, we were told to study with some Pluralsight courses and I got so confused because of the terminology used so I decided to do a brush-up course to understand better and I believe my brush up course helped because I went on to win a voucher for the google associate cloud engineer exam which I wrote and passed then there the journey started.
Do I have any regrets? Right now? none at all.. The stability and the great compensation for what I do have been fulfilling.

4. Many people think STEM courses are a no-go area for girls, what do you have to say about this?

I think that’s a stereotype that is invalid maybe it would have been relevant in the days when women were not expected to be independent or problem-solving. STEM is open to anyone. It is basically learning and anybody can learn once you are focused and interested in the subject or topic.

5. What has helped you to attain success?

Resilience. Hitting a wall and never backing down, sometimes it gets frustrating but then the challenge becomes a high that gets you fulfilled every time.

6. What are some of the challenges you have encountered in this chosen path? How did you approach them?

One challenge is the never-ending flow of knowledge oh there are many things to learn you have to keep learning and because DevOps is vested with various tools you have to learn them. A great way I have approached this through is something I picked from the Reddit DevOps community – you need community people – is to know the basics of what you do permit me to get technical a bit, in DevOps, you are always going to need automation, networking and containerization knowledge be good at those and when you come across tools you can use them until you leave them.

7. What one thing did you wish you could have done differently?
I wish I got into this Career early. I don’t usually spend time regretting but I wish I got into this during my service year because I talked about getting into tech a lot but it took me a solid year before deciding on what to do exactly.

8. What advice would you give your younger self?

The future will take care of itself just learn Self-love and believe that you can always handle whatever the future brings.

9. How can you encourage young girls to study STEM courses?

Well, I am in it, I once believed I couldn’t do anything technical, I just felt that was how I was created but look at me doing things today. If you want to get into STEM, believe you can excel in it. There is absolutely nothing that is insurmountable in this path. It is extremely rewarding both intrinsically and financially, there is a great network of support also so I can assure you that you are never alone.

It has been interesting chatting with Feyisayo about transitioning to tech, her experience so far, challenges as a woman in STEM, and what she thinks about other women getting into Stem. I am sure you have learned a lot. A line I wish you would never forget from this interview is: If you want to get into STEM, believe you can excel in it. There is absolutely nothing that is insurmountable in this path. So, if you want to join women like Feyisayo there Is no better time than now. There are resources available and a large network you can leverage. You will never be alone.

To connect with Feyisayo, reach out to her on any of the following platforms:

Instagram – www.instagram.com/thefeyifamakinde
LinkedIn- www.linkedin.com/in/feyisayofamakinde
Twitter – www.twitter.com/mselle_tonya
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/famakinde.anthonia