Be unapologetic for being a woman — Taibat Hussain, child and SDG advocate

Taibat Hussain is an economist, a development enthusiast and a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) advocate. As a Youth Ambassador of World Literacy Foundation and the Founder of Rising Child Foundation, she is passionate about child education and women advancement. In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she speaks about her education background and experience, child literacy and development, and Nigeria’s out-of-school children and SDG challenges.

IN what ways did life in Ilorin inspire you to become a humanitarian passionate about children and young people?  

Coming from a community that places priority on the education of the male child over the female counterpart, I’ve always been perturbed by such injustices and inequalities. I was privileged to have parents who supported me to aim higher and never settle for less. My father understands the importance of education as my mother’s lack of education is a constant reminder of the life they did not want for their children. This reality made me develop great passion for education—especially that of the girl child—and inspired me to give my best into my educational pursuit and lay a good example for others to follow. I emerged as the best student at all levels of my educational career till date to pass a strong message that investment in a child, especially a female child, is not a waste. My parents were elated witnessing my convocation ceremony as the overall best-graduating student in the university.


Tell us about World Literacy Foundation that recently accepted you as one of their 2019 Youth Ambassador. In what ways do you think the ambassadorship would shape your career?

World Literacy Foundation (WLF), with its headquarters in Melbourne Australia, is an organisation that strives to ensure that every young individual has the opportunity to acquire literacy and reading skills to reach their full potential, succeed at school and beyond. The WLF Youth Ambassador program aims to bring together young individuals from all over the world to develop their leadership and advocacy skills, be a local voice for literacy and education in their community and be a local fundraiser to support a literacy project in Africa where there is one of the lowest adult literacy rates in the world. It is a privilege to have been selected. I believe the period of the ambassadorship will equip me with the leadership, communication, fundraising, and public relations skills to further build awareness around the importance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with special interest in literacy and education.


What motivated you to found Rising Child Foundation? And, what kind of services does the foundation provide?

Like I said earlier, I’m always startled by inequities and sterile systems. I love to create sustainable standards that can be productive and elevating. Although I didn’t have much resources—I was a corps member when I started Rising Child Foundation (RCF)—I wanted to give something back to the society. According to Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” This reason, among those earlier mentioned, gave birth to the establishment of the RCF, which Executive Director is my humble self.

RCF is a not-for-profit birthed out of the burning passion to provide support to revamp the lost glory in the Nigerian education system and ensure every child has access to quality education, irrespective of gender. Since inception, we have executed several projects like the Reading Enrichment Project that aims to revive and promote reading culture among Nigerian students. Activities in this project include Spelling Bee, Storytelling Sessions, Book Donations and Essay Competitions.  We have also launched our Summer Skills Acquisition programme and recently carried out a sensitisation among street children on the Child Abuse Prevention programme.


What stimulated your interest in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)? As an SDG advocate, do you think Nigeria—given its complex challenges—can attain the 17 global goals before 2030?

Every living being should have an interest in sustainable development—that is, the development that meets your needs without jeopardising the need of the future generation. As a youth activist, I am always passionate about any projects committed to building my country and continent. Hence, my interest in the SDGs.

Attaining the SDGs in Nigeria has to do with willingness on the part of the government. How committed are all government parastatals, ministries? How committed are the state governments? Have we domesticated the goals into our project across different sectors? Do we have good monitoring and evaluation methods to track our performance? How often do we carry Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) along? For us to achieve the SDGs in Nigeria, there is need for a paradigm shift from the way we are currently doing things. The government should activate the last goal of the SDGs by partnering with private sectors and CSOs, youths should also be carried along and appointed SDGs advocate in a bid to get all the letters out to the grassroots.


If you were Nigerian president, what would you do to reduce the number of out-of-school children in the country?

I really do not have to be the president to start doing something about that. In my own personal capacity, I’ve been doing something. UNICEF estimates that Nigeria has 10.5 million children of school age who do not get into school at all—the highest in the world.  If I were to be in a position of authority in the country, the first thing I would look at is the budgetary allocation to education and its appropriate allocation, and increase government funding for education system.

Over many decades, the government has abdicated its most basic responsibility to set up children with a basic education. Funding for education, especially primary and secondary education, is terribly squeezed. In 2018, the proposed budget is allocating N606 bn or approximately 7.04 per cent of federal government’s budget to the education sector which is below the minimum 15 – 20 per cent of fiscal year budget recommended by United Nations for developing countries according to (Education for All, EFA, 2000 – 2015: achievement and challenges) and (World Education Forum, 2015). I believe if enough funding was injected into education sector, reorientation campaign carried out most especially in the core northern states, teachers having better pay and training, schools being safe and conducive, and sustainable monitoring and evaluation model being put in place, the number of out-of-school would greatly reduce.


Do you perceive Nigerian society as one that encourages humanitarian and philanthropic endeavours? What are your greatest challenges as a child and development advocate?

Yes, to the best of my knowledge, Nigerian society encourages humanitarian and philanthropic endeavours. The challenges in areas of child and development advocate are circumstances dependent. From experience, the sabotage from government agencies and ministries has been a major cog in the wheel of our progress. We have had cases of letters missing, delay in approval and indirect bribery request.


What three lessons have you learnt from street children?

Contentment, survival and hope.


What do you like doing at your leisure? Who is your mentor and why?

At my leisure I love to read, wattpad (wattpad is an Internet community for readers and writers to publish new user-generated stories in different genres) is my favourite pastime. I also like to volunteer and attend value-adding events. For my mentors, I am always deliberate of whom I look up to. But I’ve selected a few that have impacted my life, the likes of Mall am Bolaji Abdullahi, Mrs Teresa Ameh and Amica Mea. These people taught me what it means to be a leader.


What advice do you have for young people, especially the female ones, who are aspiring to be like you?

Don’t ever belittle yourself because you want others, especially the opposite sex, to like you. Don’t dim your light for anyone. Be bold. Be loud. Be powerful. Be unapologetic for being a woman.