Hon. Olamide Davies Talabi, a commissioner in the City of Newark, USA is the founder and president of a nongovernmental organisation, Women in Shelter Environment (W.I.S.E), based in Ibadan. In this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, she speaks on support for disadvantaged women, the vision of her organisation and spousal abuse among other issues.
How would you describe yourself in few words?
Hon. Olamide Davies Talabi is many things rolled into one. I am a humanitarian, women activist, author and an entrepreneur. I am basically passionate about women getting a fair deal and attaining their potential without the burden of abuse. Every woman needs to live a fulfilled life and be able to stand among her peers. And this is why I am focused on women who are facing challenges.
You are the founder of W.I.S.E, what are your dreams about for the organisation?
I want a world where all women are safe. WISE is going to provide a safe haven and skills for disadvantaged women to help them during their lowest time and get them back into the society. The initiative is nonprofit and will promote, sustain and empower women who have gone through domestic violence.
What is the vision behind the creation of W.I.S.E?
The COVID-19 pandemic was an eye opener; it exposed in clear terms the plight of many women in the society and the helplessness they live on a daily basis especially when the situation took away the source of livelihood of many. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, I saw the gap between men and women. The men could hustle for food but the women, mostly those that work per day, couldn’t. Then I inquired about domestic violence shelter and was told we don’t have it in Nigeria. During the lockdown, women were locked up with their abusers due to lack of money and movement. I felt this has to be handled or either of the parties will kill each other. There was an obvious need for a shelter for women going through abuse because the lack of choices and a safe haven is why many are killed by their abusers and also the reason many turn against their abusers which leads to the tragic stories of spousal murder.
The beginning of initiatives like this paints beautiful stories of hope but often, things change. How do you intend to sustain this initiative?
You are right; starting something like this is not the main challenge but ensuring sustainability. This will not be our story at W.I.S.E because we are passionate about this and we have what it takes to move on. Also, we hope to get sponsors and partners that believe in this vision and the plights of the women to lessen the burden and aid sustainability.
That means you won’t be in this alone?
I definitely won’t do this alone because it is not for glory but to create impact. I am not doing this to prove any point but to improve the society by positively impacting women. So, I won’t be doing this alone; I intend to do it with others with like minds. I am very open to partnership and collaborations because one person can’t do it alone.
W.I.S.E is about women who are in abusive relationships, do men have any role in this whole setup?
Yes, gender issue is not just about women. We hope to continue with seminars and lectures that advocate for no violence in all relationships. Men too face abuse but it’s just more rampant with women. So, we are looking for men that have the mind that no one should be abused no matter their gender and that will see the real need for this.
Death from continuous spousal abuse seems to be on the increase because many don’t think it is a societal issue, what do you think is responsible for this?
Many things are responsible, but poverty is a big one. In a family where there is only one person earning income, the tension is going to be high and will continually cause friction between the couple. But once unemployed women are empowered, things sometimes change for the best
What is the W.I.S.E yardstick to determine women that really need the shelter?
Well, it is simple. In violent situations, many women basically have nowhere to go to. It is such women that qualify to be in the shelter to save them from further abuse by giving them where to run to so they won’t be forced to stay where they will be abused again or exploited by people under the guise of helping them. We are going to work with police department, hospitals and other foundations already on ground to have access to such cases and also ensure that the system is not abused.
What are the provisions available for women at the shelter?
Like I said, the 50-bed shelter home is for women who are in the rock bottom in their marriages and would be a safe haven for women to stay while they undergo psychiatric therapy, medical attention and vocational training. We have in-house social services, psychologists and other required medical staff. We have also partnered with other service providers to give discounts on necessary services that will empower the women. They will be fed three times a day and empowered with vocational training skills
How long will women be allowed to reside in the shelter?
It depends on their circumstances. Their situation will determine the length of stay. But it is not a permanent home, it will be a transit; somewhere they can stay to work out what they want to do and the next step in their life and get vocational training during the time of self assessment. Some can stay for just days while some can stay for up to six months.
You are based in USA, how do you intend to sustain W.I.S.E in Nigeria?
That is easy. Any organisation that must survive must not be fashioned on any single individual no matter the person’s position or capabilities. I have a team of professionals that are passionate about the cause and will be on ground to see to the daily running of the home.
You are a woman of many parts, how do you juggle all these with your role as a mother and wife?
I thank God for his grace. My support system is also strong from my husband to my children and my mother.
What do you have to tell women who are in abusive relationship?
I want to tell them that their lives are precious and the life of their spouse is equally precious; they are important and should not joke with their lives. They need to flee abusive relationships because if they don’t end up getting killed, they may kill their spouse. Either way, both parties’ lives have been wasted in the grave or in jail and this is very unnecessary
What is your advice to young ladies?
Keep your heads up. Know that you can achieve all things if you put your mind to it. You are powerful and enough!
It’s no news that the world is going through a lot of challenges now. What is your advice to women as home builders?
Prioritise your spending and activities. Try to have partnerships with like minds businesswise. One person can’t do it alone.
How do you relax?
I love to dance. Even when I am at home, I play some nice songs, dance and relax
I can’t say I have any. I believe every experience is a teaching phrase. You lose some while you gain some!
What is the place of your husband in all these?
I have a very supportive husband. He is my number one fan. He encourages me on all that I do.
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