Nigerian born, Ireland based Journalist, Playwright, Poet, Activist and Womens’ rights advocate Islammiyah Saudique (Ayaba-Kadejo) is the Founder, Amdalah Africa Foundation (AMDAF) a non-profit organization registered in Nigeria and Ireland to promote the development of women . In this encounter with our news correspondent. She spoke about gender based issues, her new pet project dedicated to the empowerment of womenfolk  tagged  “Isla and Friends Hangout” and sundry other issues. Excerpts

Why propagating gender equality?

Contrary to misconceptions about gender equality, it is not about women being the head of the family, controlling their husbands or being the same; gender equality is about being fair to men and women. It’s about men’s and women’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities not based on whether they are born male or female. I believe in fairness and I love to pursue and achieve my dreams, not being  limited because I am a woman. If I can’t have something, it should be because I do not qualify for it. I believe every woman should have opportunity to be who she wants to be. That’s why I am so passionate about this cause. 

Your programme “Ladun Loyin” on Facebook is a popular program viewed by millions of people worldwide, can you let us into the philosophy and concept?

I am a through-bred and proud Yoruba girl. I love my tribe, the language, culture, funny analogies, proverbs, dressing and a lot of things. Then, I realized my generation isn’t speaking Yoruba language or promoting the culture or selling it to their children. We are more comfortable promoting English language and foreign culture to them. We even go as far as struggling to have foreign accent as we become ashamed of ours. This doesn’t seem right to me. I know with globalization, the phenomenon of local language extinction is real. If our language isn’t protected and promoted, it can go into total extinction, give it one or two decades. That’s why I started ‘’Ladun Loyin’’ to promote Yoruba language and culture; and as my own effort to prevent Yoruba language from going into extinction.

Women have always agitated for inclusion in socio-economic activities, yet we have seen women occupying many key positions, are the proponents saying woman are being marginalized?

There is gender-gap in work place, irregular income between men and women, eligibility issues at workplace, such as documents requiring a male to sign for an adult female and unfavorable conditions attached to financial services. Some women are not even allowed to work at all, while some have to put their jobs on hold to meet family responsibilities or expectations. These, among other issues are sobering realities which make men’s socio-economic inclusion higher than women’s.  Politically, we have seen few women occupying some key positions. Not a case of many women yet. The 35 per cent Affirmative Action bill was introduced in 2017 but was rejected by the 8th National Assembly. Women are still been lowly represented in governance in Nigeria despite agitations, pleas, promises, and the fact that we have well qualified women; even some women are more qualified than men. President Muhammadu Buhari during his campaigns promised to implement the 35 per cent national gender policy in his appointments; but he didn’t fulfill the promise. Only  seven women made the list of 43 ministerial nominees; that’s about 16 per cent, in a country where 49.4 per cent population are women. Yes, women are been marginalized. Women have the highest number of registered voters, and the highest number of people that voted were women; but when it’s time for positions, women take the back seat. 

Do you think a world of equal women participation with men is achievable?  

I will not give a straight yes or no answer without explaining a reality and some misconceptions. The reality is that people discriminate based on gender; even when everything else is equal, women are at a disadvantage to men in many domain. This is because men are perceived as superior, being more capable, stronger and better even without any evidence apart from being biologically male. There is misconception about what feminists means when we say ‘equal’. Equal is not identical. We are not saying males and females are the same with no distinguishable differences; and equality does not mean eliminating all the differences in term of behaviors, preferences or abilities. Even without any gender discriminations, there are some jobs we will always have fewer females doing them, due to required physical strength. Also, equal participation does not mean men and women should be treated the same way. Sometimes, our legal rights wouldn’t be the same. Men, for instance would not need maternity leave for pregnancy and birth. Sometimes, equity is required to achieve equality; this means recognizing differences in abilities to achieve a desired goal. So, is  a world of equal women participation with men is achievable? Yes, it is very achievable if we all understand that gender equality simply means judging a person based on merit, and not discriminating against any person based on their gender. Legal rights are not enough, what is achievable or not lies in our minds, orientations, perceptions, prejudices, and biases; and these are the things we need to fix.

You are also behind an empowerment programme for women, tagged ” Isla and Friends Hangout “,  what message are you trying to preach through this?

Isla and Friends Hangout is a Community Outreach and Women Empowerment Initiative put together by the Women-only WhatsApp Group I created in January 2019; sponsored by the charity organization I founded, Amdalah Africa Foundation (registered in Ireland and Nigeria) . The focus is on  the people on the street, to educate them about domestic violence and mental health. I have been talking about that on social media for over  two years; and I think we should do more. There is  also a visit to the SOS Children’s Village in Isolo Lagos; that’s a way of giving back from our widow’s mite; and the third leg of the Hangout is the Women Empowerment Luncheon, which features talks and practical tutorials on small and medium scale businesses women can do to make money.  All I try to do is what I dedicate my life to do long time ago- and that is making impact in the lives of people. I’m passionate about women development; I have talked about it for years. I even wrote a Book on Domestic Violence, I believe doing this is like walking the talk, and for every person who benefits, it’s like a ripple effects, many people will benefit from them too. That gives me fulfillment.  

Many people share the view that growing moral decadence in the society calls to question the role of women in the society, can you react to this?  

I strongly believe mothers have great impact in the lives of their children; and as a matter of fact, raising a good child should be a priority to all parents; not even our jobs should be prioritized over the affairs of our children. Being a mom, and a dad, is a responsibility, it’s a trust, and every parent should strive not to fail. Mothers (women) contribute to the physical, mental, moral and social wellbeing of the child. We are the one who teach the children how to live, whether directly or indirectly, the teachings of a mother shape a child’s life. Women have a lot to contribute towards curbing moral decadents as they spend more time with the children. I will advise women to take this role more seriously. Our children should not be left to be raised by the social media. A lot of causes of moral decadence include disunity in the family, broken home, lack of communication, and negligence on the part of the parents. 

How do you think today’s youths who are now turning to parents can properly raise the future generation in terms of effective parenting?

Parenting is a continuous process, it never stops. No one has a perfect template of parenting, and there is no one cap fits all.  They should not be afraid to try and explore. It’s a responsibility and trust they’ve taken upon themselves. Let them try their best, and if they need help, they should ask. We parents should let them explore and grow, we should not interfere unnecessarily or force our ideologies on them; but be on standby in case they need us. 

You have had both local and international exposure; how would you rate the value and respect accorded women in Africa or Nigeria to what obtains in other climes?         

Gender discriminations is everywhere in the world, but the degree varies. Comparing the Nigerian society to Europe where I live, the Nigerian society is still very patriarchal. Men and women are still being treated based on biological feature of being male and females. There’s still that general belief system that the best place for a woman is her kitchen. This reduces an average woman to an inferior domestic commodity. These bring disrespect to women, from the home, down to the secular society. What makes the difference in Europe is the formal education of the girl-child, continuous efforts toward elimination of all forms of violence and abuse against women; and above all enforcement of laws. Though a traditional society, if Nigerian government can take girl-child education more seriously, criminalize child-marriage and enforce laws to punish offenders, there will be more deserving respect for women; and protection of their rights. 

We are aware you also a playwright,  you want to tell us about this as well?

My first two Books were written in 2003 before I relocated abroad; titled Agony of a Dying Daughter, and Who Owns the Child? My latest and third book was published by AuthorHouse UK in 2017, titled Wedding Anniversary. It’s on domestic violence, the culture of silence and effects on the society. Its available on Amazon. Agony of a Dying Daughter, published in 2003, tells the story of an ignorant mother who taught frequent sickness of her child was because her mother-in-law bewitched her. The book exposed causes, prevention and management of sickle cell anaemia. It teaches people living with sickle cell anaemia to seek medical help, never to give up on themselves, find love and live a happy life. ‘Who Owns the Child?’ also published in 2003 is a story of love, secrecy, betrayal and revenge; which centers on controversies about the paternity of a child. The story distinctly portrays that it is never possible to have a bastard, what you have is irresponsible parenthood. Laced with humor, it encourages respect and honesty in relationships.

Who is Islammiyah Saudique (Ayaba-Kadejo)?

Islammiyah is a trained broadcaster, a published author, public speaker and a gender activist. I studied Mass Communication and obtained Master’s degree in Gender, Globalization and Rights from National University of Ireland, Galway. I’m the founder of Amdalah Africa Foundation, a non-profit organization to promote value, justice and development of women of African descent through advocacy and community mobilization. I am also the Convener of Africa Women Roundtable (Ireland) – an emerging global women conference which creates a platform for women of African descent to hold conversations surrounding their identities; and Isla & Friends Hangout (Nigeria.) I’m still learning, growing and evolving. I’m happily married with kids. I can be reached on info.amdaf@gmail.com or info.islammiyah@gmail.com 

Thank you.

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