Nigerian women must trust and support one another —Abiodun Odunukwe
Abiodun Abibat Odunukwe, president of the Redefined Womanhood Initiative, holds an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Business Administration from the Lagos State Polytechnic, Lagos and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Benin, Edo State, worked in many financial institutions and catering before quitting to become a counsellor. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks about her passion for women and teenagers.
What was growing up like for you?
I grew up as Muslim and by choice became a Christian after my university education. I am the first child of a family of four and an only child of about eight years so I had the luxury of being pampered but I was raised with good moral standards by my disciplined parents. My dad used to be a banker at United Bank for Africa (UBA) while my mum is a housewife. I developed interest in banking when I used to go with my dad for his bank’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held then at National Arts Theatre.
What informed your choice of career?
I have always wanted to become a Chartered Accountant. However, the flair for writing, reading and speaking overshadowed my figure skills right from school days. I did not realise this on time and when I eventually did, I made a switch. Though I had worked in various Accounting and Finance firms, being an ACCA student for several years before I packed it up. I lacked fulfillment but kept working. I displayed better skills in administrative duties. I worked in financial institutions and catering Industry within two decades as head of department before resolving to pursue my passion for the family as a parent-teen consultant and family life practitioner.
What is the most defining moment of your life so far?
The most defining moment for me occurred when I published my first parenting book, Redefined Parent. I was still working but I felt there was more to me than what I was doing so, I set a goal to write a book and I achieved that after my 42nd birthday. It meant so much to me because the book opened for me a lot of doors and opportunities. I started to experience fulfillment and in order to increase my productivity, I got myself trained and certified locally and internationally in different skills such as neurolinguistics programming, teen mentoring and psychology, family life engineering, influential transformation (creativity and mind mastery), and family engagement in education and have been engaged by several individuals, schools and religious organisations and still counting.
What is the Redefined Women Forum all about?
Redefined Women Forum started about five years ago as a support group and safe place for women to unburden themselves and get encouraged by one another without the fear of being judged. We started out in the days of Blackberry and we were about seven or eight women who could express just anything on the platform and get relieved. We later moved on to the WhatsApp platform. Early this year, we became an NGO called Redefined Womanhood Initiative. Our vision is to empower women physically and emotionally with evidence of personal growth. We have been organising annual conferences that centre round our vision every November and we usually invite professionals from the mental health space as guest speakers for the event. We have been doing this since 2015.
What motivated you to go into counselling?
I have actively served in the church’s women fellowship since my spinsterhood years. I have related with several types of women with one challenge or the other. Many women usually come to me to seek counsel over different issues but specifically those bordering on self esteem, marital or parenting issues. I wondered why this kept happening. Sometimes I have suffered or I am suffering the exact thing that they came to share with me. I usually share my story, empathise with them and get feedbacks from them. These women are not limited to those who share the same faith with me. I have had my own share of life happenings. I have been hurt severally and broken down emotionally for years and was almost going into depression when God spoke a word of healing to me in 2014 that He had healed me, so I could be a source of healing to other people. At the time the word came, I was still holding on to my pains even though I had the capacity to overcome them. I read books, attended conferences and was voracious when it came to learning. Finally, I summoned up courage to start up the Blackberry Group. Today, we have about forty registered members on board. We are not about having a crowd, we are particular about the transformations that happen to us as a result of interacting with one another unashamedly. It has been a mixture of ups and downs, especially having to relate with women of various backgrounds, exposures, different personalities and so on. I have had times that I truly felt like being on my own and not continuing to lead even in our small circle. There were times that I was overwhelmed by my own challenges and felt like calling it quits but I have got a very strong support system and backbone in the trustees of our NGO. They are available to hold me by the hands when I feel weary. I am highly vulnerable to them and feel safe with them.
What are some of the achievements you have recorded since you started the forum?
Achievements and successes in relation to the transformations that happened to the people I came in contact with and who gave feedbacks of how they had been impacted through our interactions or any of our teachings or experiences shared on the platform. For example someone said to me, ‘I felt better after speaking with you.’ To me, that was an achievement because whatever the person felt l would go a long way to affect her positively. I would love to make reference to our 2018 annual event, a new person was invited for the programme by one of my friends and at the end of the session with our mental health practitioner, the woman came to me and hugged me. She was almost close to tears and said, thank you for organising this. I responded that it was a small thing but she screamed and said ‘no, you don’t know what you have done for me. Thank you.’ Those words kept ringing in my head, that is my definition of achievement.
How have you been combining your role as a counsellor, writer and motivational speaker with the home front?
Luckily for me, being a parent-teen consultant helps me also to focus on my home and re-assess myself vis-a-vis my relationship with my spouse and children and create the needed balance. Sometimes it is a struggle but I keep working at getting better at the various roles I have to play all at the same time.
What is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy of life is to pursue my peace with all diligence.
What advice do you have for Nigerian women?
Nigerian women should be more trusting of one another, render genuine support to one another and avoid envy. Let us learn to celebrate ourselves genuinely and be happy at one another’s successes.