March 4, 2024

‘People told my parents they have no reason to invest in girls’- Seyi Bolaji shares her gender equality story

Seyi Bolaji is an experienced broadcaster, compère, writer, and advocate (Quality Education, AYSRH, Teens’ Affairs).

She is the founder of ProjectEAC- Educate a Child Campaign, a movement in Nigeria providing less privileged children with the necessary support and motivation they need to stay in school as well as access better education and opportunities to develop their talents and skills. With this, she has been able to reach over 4000 children in northern Nigeria with educational materials.

Bolaji is also the founder of Creative Teens’ Corner and Creative Twenties’ Corner, a platform for teenager/youth around the world where she trains them on creative writing, public speaking and personal development, as well as expose them to opportunities to improve their skills and talents.

What does gender equality mean to you?

Whenever I am asked what gender equality means to me, what I like to say is Gender Equality is for humanity.

Gender equality means that women and men have access to equal opportunities in terms of education, health, development, job, and other affairs. This means that gender equality is about showing respect and dignity for every gender without discrimination or bias. We must always remember that, we are first humans, whether girl or boy. No gender is limited and so, anyone irrespective of their gender can be what or who they want to be.

Our gender does not limit us and we can all succeed whether we are females or males. Again, the whole essence of gender equality is for humanity and a show of respect for humanity. I believe that humanity thrives better when there is gender equality.

I love examples and here is one. Gender equality is ensuring that a female child has access to quality education just like the male child or that woman is given equal pay as that man who does the same job as hers.

What inspired you to become an advocate of gender equality?

I am always so proud to say that while growing, I was surrounded with 6 amazing sisters.

Do you know how the society treats parents who have only female children? Well, I will tell you. I have experienced this a lot of times in the past. I heard people tell my mum that, “look, you are yet to give birth, girls are not children, you need a male child”.

It was heartbreaking to hear a lot of people tell my parents that they have no reason to invest in their girls because to them, we were just “mere girls”. At that stage of my life, honestly, I believed the society and I felt that nothing good could come from a girl child. Soon, I got exposed to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and I decided to learn more about her even after reading the powerful book. This gave me a sense of belonging and it gave me reasons to have big dreams and I DECIDED I was going to advocate for gender equality.

The story changed and yes, that made me become an advocate for Gender Equality. I have decided that I will work tirelessly to ensure that every girl child I come across will believe in herself and know that there is no limit to what she can achieve because gender does not limit us.

What I felt while I was so young was terrible and I have decided not to allow this happen to any other girl and this is why I run a number of initiatives like Creative Teens’ Corner to encourage every child to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams, Educate a Child Campaign to ensure every child has access to quality and safe education and I work with Stand with a Girl (SWAG) Initiative as a Communications Strategist championing the education, health and rights of marginalized women and girls in Nigeria.

In what ways do you contribute to the achievement of gender equality?

For a better part of my life, I have been deeply concerned about issues that fall under the spectrum of social injustices like illiteracy, early marriage, and girl child education. This has propelled me into a number of projects, initiatives and organizations.

Currently, I mentor over 100 teenage girls and I teach them about gender equality and why they should never see their gender as a limitation.

I run a Teens group where I teach every child about creative writing, public speaking and personal development and it delights me that my girls speak with so much confidence and they value themselves.

In the last 2 years, I have provided educational materials to 4000 children in Northern Nigeria to promote access to quality education. When I visit these schools for distribution, I demand for equal access.  Here is an analysis of the 4000 children reached, I will say I have reached 2000 girls and reached 2000 boys; this is gender equality.

I also work as a Communications Strategist with Stand with a Girl (SWAG) Initiative to advance the education, health and rights of women and girls in Nigeria.

Some people believe gender equality is not achievable, especially in Nigeria. What is your take on this?

Gender equality is achievable anywhere in the world and that’s Nigeria inclusive. Progress, no matter how little, is still progress. I believe we are getting there even though a lot has to be done.

In Nigeria today, we have women in Science and Technology, women in leadership, women in politics, women in all spheres of life and much more are still coming. Women have a place everywhere and women are still rising.

Sometimes, it’s tough because of gender roles and how the society prescribes and describes who one should be but there is progress. There are women who have gone ahead and others are still coming. In fact, watch out for Seyi Bolaji. I am coming. Gender equality is achievable.

What do you consider as the challenges facing gender equality and the best way to solve them?

There are several challenges facing gender equality in Nigeria, but I will look at a few.

It’s funny how the society calls a female doctor, Dr (mrs). Can we all just call her Dr. A doctor is a doctor whether male or female.  

Our society describes and prescribes who and what a woman should be and so you hear things like “woman should be seen and not heard” Who made this rule.

Who told us women belong to the kitchen? Who?

One thing we must do to stop this, is to inform the people and this is why advocacy is important and another thing we must do is train our children equally and the best way. A child is a child and gender does not define what they should do or who they should be.

Also, we are bias yet we do not even know. Recently, I met a man and he told me, “I can never employ a woman and the reason is, women are always distracted”.

My response was, who said that to you? Well, I think you should learn to be specific. If you have a problem with one woman, say it and call her name but you should never say that all women are like that one woman.

It’s simple, if Seyi is distracted, it is because she is Seyi, it is not because she is a woman.

We must learn to stop naming all women for what one person cannot do. We must learn to respect and treat everyone with so much love, dignity and value people.

And finally, I want you to write this in your room so you can see every morning: we are first humans, whether male or female.

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