#ImpactandCommunitySeries: “Do not shrink yourself or dim your light to make anyone comfortable around you, you are here for a reason” – Esther Ijewere, social activist, Author & Founder of Rubies Ink Initiative

Esther Ijewere is an enterprising social activist, women’s advocate, Columnist,  Author and the Founder of Rubies Ink Initiative for Women and Children – A Non-profit outfit devoted to  advocacy, development  and social enterprise solutions amongst others. As a social advocate, she is the brain behind W.A.R-Walk Against Rape, an advocacy initiative created to lend a voice for the victims of rape and demand justice for the perpetrator’s.  Esther is also the initiator of Project Capable; a youth mentoring initiative geared towards creating a can do mentality in the lives of secondary school students. Being an emerging young leader. 

Esther is the youngest recipient of The Idea Builders Women Mentoring Women Award, winning Mentee of the year 2010 and “Women Enterprise Award” from Vital Voices International & Exxon Mobil. She also won the award for “Best Use of Advocacy” from her Alma Mata; Olabisi Onabanjo University in 2012, for her contribution in fighting and creating awareness on Rape, In 2016 Esther bagged four awards for her platform Women of Rubies, notably among these award is “Young Person of the Year” and “Wise Women in Media” awards.

She is a Fellow with Vital Voices Global Leadership USA; an organization founded by Hillary Clinton and aimed at empowering young women change makers all over the world. She has toured several secondary schools, serving them counsel and sharing with them messages of hope for a greater life. One of her major interest is advocacy and counseling on issues surrounding women, child sexual abuse, family values, and youth empowerment

She unveiled her first book on rape and violence against women, titled “Breaking the Silence”. The book is a guide to enlightening young women on knowledge needed to survive sexual situations. So far, it has helped to create an avenue for people to come out without feeling bad or fear being stigmatized to tell their stories and over 50,000 copies donated.

She is also a columnist with the Guardian Newspaper, her page “ Women of Rubies”  a  platform  used to celebrate exceptional women with inspiring stories. Esther recently started a platform for men called “Men who Inspire”, to further balance her advocacy work as an advocate, and also kicked off the #GettalkingwithEsther show to spread positivity on social media.

 

A brief introduction to the ‘Esther Ijewere’ we can’t find on the internet?

The Introvert, who loves her own space, the multi-tasking single mum who works hard so her kids can learn all she was not taught. The deep soul, and very spiritual woman who prays a lot.

The writer who writes for several platforms with different pen names, aside the platforms known to the public (Now that is something people don’t know, LOL). 

The very private woman who prefers to share her work than her personal life. The emotional daughter who cannot do without speaking to her Mom daily. 

Over the years you’ve been neck-deep in advocacy and activism for women and girls, tell us why you’re so passionate about this, how did you get here?

My affinity for change, I have a deep yearning in my spirit to make a difference in the world, live purposefully, use my voice wisely, be a ray of hope to silent victims of oppression and Injustice. I got here by simply following my dreams and not seeking validation from anyone but God. I got here because I surrendered myself to be useful for God’s glory on earth and be an empath unapologetically. In a nutshell, Grace found me.

Can you share major projects you’ve been involved in and their impacts?

Walk against Rape is my flag off project as a social activist, and the pioneer movement in Nigeria, we  kicked off in 2010, and created awareness through our peaceful protest over the years, where over 2000 people from different sector of the society come out en masse to walk the talk with us, and encourage silent victims to speak up and demand for Justice.  We have also organized several sensitization workshops and outreach prgrammes to educate people at the grassroot level on the scourge of rape, as well as school students. I also wrote a handbook on Rape called “Breaking the silence”, it was endorsed by the Federal and State Government respectively, and it became a toolkit for our workshops. We have also partnered with the DSVRT to organize several outreach programmes across the state through our Walk against Rape platform.

Women of Rubies: I started this to celebrate women, and give them a voice in the society, so far I have interviewed and profiled many women both on my Guardian Newspaper page, and my blog, by sharing their inspiring stories, and bringing their truth to the front burner. One of the greatest impacts of the platform is the empowerment funds we give to women to support their businesses, as well as the free training programmes we organize monthly to help them gain new skills that will provide sustainable income, and enable them support their family.

Men who Inspire; This was borne out of the success of the women of rubies platform, and the need to reflect g balance, we started in 2018 , and we’ve featured over 1000 men via the platform, and used their stories to encourage other men to “Become”.

Let’s talk about “Get Talking with Esther”. Can you shed more light on this project, why you’re launching it and its mission?

I am very expressive, I love to write and read from people, I love to celebrate people and give them hope, I love when I can feel people’s thoughts through words, and “Get talking with Esther” is just about that.  A #Tweetchat session that will give you the ambience of a show.

Basically, using my platform, years of experience, and skill set for social good to give everyone a voice. We are going to be fixing broken tables, Bringing “Under the table” conversations to the front burner for positivity. Sharing life experiences, healing, and learning. My mission is to use the show to spread positivity on social media, especially Twitter.

You have years of experience as a social activist and advocate, also as Founder of Rubies Ink Initiative, tell us about your projects, past, present, or future and their mission?

As mentioned in question 3, the mission is to add value and continuously churn out development projects to give hope to the helpless, shed the spotlight on unsung heroes. As for future projects, I don’t announce anything prematurely, for now, we are just making the best of our present projects. Coronavirus has taught us to be mindful of the present and live for the moment, we have adjusted to that new norm of mindfulness.

How have you been able to measure your impact with these projects over the years?

Every project has impacted lives and added value, we have served those at the grassroot and the high earned professional, the ripple effect of the work we do is unquantifiable, and that’s the reason why even after 10 years, with all the bumps and losses we’ve encountered, we are still very relevant in the sectors we represent, because God is fully involved in everything we do. 

Can you tell us about experiences you’ve had on your journey that can serve as lessons?

There are so many experiences but lived and professional that shaped my journey, however I believe in myself like my life depends on it. I am not one to give up easily, I will rather try again and again and learn from my mistakes, than give up on anything I set out to accomplish. Above all, I don’t do anything without speaking to God first, while I understand I am a vessel, I also know everyone isn’t my assignment, and that has made me develop a personal relationship with God, and put him first. This is the most important lesson I have learnt. 

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Having the right support systems who truly believe in you; Many people didn’t believe in me when I started out, perhaps because Rape was somewhat of a “Taboo” at the time in the Nigerian context, being a social activist has it’s downsides, but every challenge I face I see as stepping stone.

There is also the issue of funding; This is actually one of the greatest challenges I have encountered, but with wisdom, improved skill set and re-alignment of my vision, I will say there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I am hopeful things will get better with time. 

Are there women who inspire you? Who and why?

My mom is my biggest Inspiration, she is my biggest fan and support system. My mom is my number 1 encourager and cheerleader.

Oprah Winfrey is another woman I really love, we have some similarities in our life journey, and I love how she changed her narrative and flipped her life script. She is living intentionally and conscious of her light, that is one of the greatest assets any human can possess, I draw a lot of inspiration from that.

Every woman giving other women a voice inspires me, every female who owns a women’s platform inspires me. We are all serving a higher purpose bigger than us, and that is inspiring and worthy of emulation.

If you had 60secs to address women and girls all over the world, what would you tell them?

Do you, the world will adjust. Do not shrink yourself or dim your light to make anyone comfortable around you, you are here for a reason, make sure you use everything God has deposited in you wisely. Live, don’t just exist. 

Live purposefully to the point where your name becomes a solution to a problem you solve. Above all, make sure God Is the center of your world, and once you commit anything into his hands, take your hands off the wheel.

 

The LLA Grassroot Series is a monthly interview series that highlights the achievements and journey of African female who has demonstrated exemplary initiative at the grassroots level.

The vision is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through impact at the community level.

It is an off shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.

If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things at the grassroots level, email lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.

 

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