Telling women’s stories is one thing; sharing experiences of women that inspire, empower and motivate is another. Writer, Environmentalist and Founder of the Inspire Series, Glory Edozien shares her thoughts on why it’s important for women to inspire one another with their life experiences, and why we should all be involved in creating stronger, more confident women. She is the Leading Lady Africa for the week; be inspired.
You are the founder of the Inspire Series with Glory Edozien, what is the vision behind this platform?
The Inspire Series is a platform that tells women’s stories. I started it because I wanted to create opportunities for alternative discussions. A space where women could find and share stories that inspire them to live beyond the confines of what society says they should be or do. I wanted to create an avenue to challenge conceptions and show that women are a variety of people, made up of different shapes, sizes, desires and dreams and that we are all valid people, regardless of our differences. So I guess in a way the Inspire Series is about providing engaging conversations which allow people to identify their purpose and walk towards achieving it. I also hope it leads opportunities for real connections, where we can feel comfortable to share our stories and inspire each other.
Why is it important to you that women are empowered and inspired?
Nigerian women really come to the table at a disadvantage. From a young age we are told who we should be and what we must do. Society sets standards for us, long before we are able to even discover our own identities. Then we wake up one morning and realize we haven’t lived! We don’t know if we are really happy! But if you open the door and show women that there are opportunities beyond what society says is available. That being said, a woman is many things and not just about being a wife and a mother, I think by doing that you create stronger more confident women. You create a generation of young girls who know who they are and are change agents in their own ways.
What would you say are some of the challenges women, particularly African women face? Especially when it comes to who they “should be?”
The list is quite endless. In summary, African women are mostly seen as 2nd class citizens. Single African women are 3rd class. Life apparently does not start until you are married with children. We are expected to be behind the curtain, supporting the man and bringing up the children, quietly and respecting our husbands needs and desires. If we are career driven we are seen as ‘bossy’, if we don’t have children or male children, we must do all things to solidify our position in the home or live the rest of our lives afraid that our husbands will find a male child-bearing woman outside. We must look a certain way, be a certain way and talk a certain way to be taken seriously even if you have valid things to say.
Anyone who promotes or supports the cause of women is immediately labelled a feminist. Do you think this label is necessary?
Feminism is treated as a bad word. It’s funny really. Being a feminist means that you believe in equality for BOTH sexes. So either a man or a woman can be a feminist. It means both sexes should be allowed equal access to all opportunities and experiences; which really is valid position to express. But to answer your question, I think labels sometimes can be counterproductive. Sometimes labelling someone or their views as feminist is a way of minimising or even dismissing their opinions and that doesn’t help the underlying intention of the cause.
Can you share some of the challenges that have shaped who you are today?
Wow! That’s a bit of a loaded question. Many challenges have shaped me. In terms of my creative side, it’s funny. I always used to admire people who were creative. I’d say goodness; I wish I could do something with my hands. But I never had a clue I could write or do anything creative. Then almost 10 years ago now, I broke up with someone I thought I would marry. My identity and hopes were so attached to that relationship, that the break up shattered my perceptions of self and hopes for the future. As I tried to rebuild myself, I started writing as a way to express how I was feeling. I would share my articles on Facebook and people would leave comments. Then my friend Osa introduced me to Uche Pedro, Founder of Bellanaija.com….and the rest as they say is history. Looking back now, I’d say, that break up was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
Many things! Everything good will come and do not despise the days of little beginnings. Oh….and that I will always be enough.
You have a PhD in Real Estate and Planning. How do you merge this with your creative side?
I’ll be honest. Some days I think it would be easier to just have the creative side and then some days I wish I was just an academic. But then on other days I couldn’t imagine being without both. I don’t think I manage both as well as I should because one side always suffers. If I am writing an article, there is a report I should be vetting. If I am speaking to a client, I probably have 3 articles that are past due. But I guess that’s life. I am trying to be better organised, so hopefully both sides suffer less.
You are a writer; do you have any plans to publish a book soon?
Of course!!!! And I have so many ideas! But it’s such a daunting prospect. I look forward to it though. Sometimes I think I may take a year out when I have my first child just to write it. But then a part of me is like why wait?
What are some of the challenges of being a single woman in a country like Nigeria?
At first I thought the biggest challenge was the men. Sometimes you meet a guy and you wonder if it was a woman that raised him.
But more recently I have come to understand it has more to do with society’s definition of what a woman is that is the biggest challenge. The fact that if I drive a car, I bought with my own money; someone assumes that my life style is paid for by a man. That if I can afford to own my own home, I must wait until a man marries me and even then I must be careful so I don’t offend his ego. If I am single after 30, it is because I am picky or have a bad attitude scaring men away. A ring and a prefix at the start of my name are of more value than my education or the last name on my birth certificate. No matter how much I achieve someone will always ask: “but why is she not married?” It may seem like I am having a rant but these societal perceptions have driven women into lifelong regrets. It means we see ourselves as closeted human beings waiting for the man to open the door before we can actually be accepted. It makes women feel less complete. Instead of seeking to be unique wholesome individuals we find most women waiting until they are married to unveil themselves.
You were brutally honest about your challenges with psoriasis in ‘Sensitive Skin’ – Wana Udoabang’s documentary. Why did you choose to go public about a very private issue?
Hmmmm. I have never really seen Psorasis as a private issue as such. For one, it’s on my skin so it’s quite obvious. But also, I didn’t see it as ‘going public’; it was just an extension of myself. I had previously done a series on Bella Naija, where I spoke quite openly about it.
I think sometimes we feel ashamed to talk about things when by just sharing your experiences you can be an enormous blessing to others. There is a purpose for pain; to make you better and to help others through their struggles. I was honestly, pleasantly surprised with the feedback I got from the documentary and it is something I would continue to do.
If you had the chance to, what would you change about yourself?
I’d be better organised and read more. Oh and I’d eat better and have slimmer arms.
Name 3 women you admire and why?
I admire many women for different things. The ones that come to my mind today are My mother – because she is the example of sacrificial love and prudent spending.
Oprah – because she is incredibly authentic.
Lydia Sobogun (founder of Taruwa )- because she helped me redefine success.
In your opinion, do women really support women? And would you say that friendships amongst women are genuine?
Female relationships can be tricky and so can friendships in general. But I believe women who genuinely know who they are, are the best women to be friends with. They are supportive and can relate completely without judgement.
Name 5 of your favourite books?
I don’t know about favourites but these are some of the books I have REALLY enjoyed reading:
- Love is Power or Something Like That- Igoni Barrett
- The Arrangers of Marriage- not a book but a short story in The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adiche
- The Kite Runner by Kahleed Hosseni
- The Secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives by Lola Shoneyin
- The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Running my own content management company and facilitating climate change/environmental policy and governance within the international climate polity.
Words of advice for young women trying to come into their own?
Find out who you are and love yourself. It sounds cheesy but I honestly wish this was something I did years ago.
Follow Glory on twitter @MisGloryEdozien and Instagram: InspiredbyGlory
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.