‘I Want to Raise Self-confident Girls’

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Mrs. Bolajoko Bayo-Ajayi is a certified marketing consultant, business coach and Principal Consultant, Purple Pearl Consulting. She is the founder of EveryGirl Empowered Foundation and author. In this interview with Peter Uzoho, she speaks about her maiden book ‘Comfortable In Your Own Shoes’ launched recently, and her effort in raising self-confident adolescent girls, among others

Your book ‘Comfortable In Your Own Shoes’ was officially launched on April 8, 2018. Can you tell us about it?

The book offers practical and fresh insights on how to build self-confidence. It is centered on girls and women, as research has confirmed that girls are three times more at risk of suffering from low self-confidence than boys. Low self-confidence poses a limitation to what one can achieve in life if left unchallenged. The relevance of this book cuts across diverse demographics. It’s for young girls who want to grow up to be confident women; those who are at the point of self-realisation and awareness, who are struggling to find their identity; women who have struggled with self-confidence, and parents/guardians who want to raise girls that are not self-limiting or intimidated by the limitations the society places on the girl-child. So the book is one of the tools we are going to use to realise the vision and mission of my foundation, ‘EveryGirl Empowered Foundation’.

What informed the title of the book?

What informed the title: ‘Comfortable In Your Own Shoes’ is first, the realisation that everybody’s shoe differs, and it’s not for me to want to be in your own shoe because you’re another person. You have to be comfortable with who you are and whatever you have. Irrespective of where you find yourself, you need to accept that this is who you are and you should be able to live your life that way.

Is this your first book?

Yes, but it’s the first of many. I have some that I’ve completed but have not been published. Once this one sets up on a good note, we then begin to look at other books that are on the pipeline. One will be coming out before the end of this year.

What next would you be doing after the launch?

It’s really to spread the word about the book. We would be going to schools to look for opportunities to speak to people about this. The books will be available in a couple of book stalls here in Lagos like Terra Kulture, Jed Mega Store, and Laterna Bookshop. It will also be online on Amazon, UK and U.S. So it’s to spread the word about the book and get as many people as possible to read it. And of course, on the foundation side, we will also be using the book to engage with the girls throughout our activities in the remaining days of the year.

What’s EveryGirl Empowered Foundation all about?

EveryGirl Empowered Foundation is a self-funded, non-governmental organisation targeted at young girls between the ages of 10 to 16, and the objective is to support them in building up their self-confidence. You find out that young girls from the age of nine tend to lose their self-confidence due to many reasons and if care is not taken, it goes on to adulthood. The foundation was launched on October11, 2016 when we commemorated the International Day of the Girl-child.

What are the major challenges resulting from loss of self-confidence among young girls?

Starting from body changes, you know a young girl will grow into puberty, we know boys also grow into puberty but for young girls, the changes in their body is more evident; so they become self-aware. Some of them think oh! I’m not good enough and they begin to inwardly suffer that low self-confidence. Some of them fall under the peer pressure and so, you have one classmate that they want to be like; they seem to be like the happening girls. And so for a girl who is not confident about herself having want to be like them and if she’s not accepted to be into their clique begins to feel less-confident and inadequate. And we also know that most times we look at role models especially the celebrities abroad and all the young musicians and artistes and all the influencers. You know when they look at somebody and they see how slim that person is and they look at their body and don’t look like those people, they begin to think they’re not good enough. So those are from the body changing perspective. We also have from the perspective of what you’ve been told before, especially in Nigeria where a young girl has been told that she’s not as good as the boy. Yes, things are getting much more better but we still have instances. A girl then doesn’t feel that she has same level of acceptability versus the young boy. So those stereotypes and cultural limitations also affect a young girl in terms of her level of self-confidence. So it’s really about their ability to want to be who they’re not which is an evidence of loss of self-confidence. You also find out that sometimes parents don’t also help, so when you see some of those little signs instead of those signs to be talked about, parents don’t probably see or they ignore and it also manifests. So a girl with high self-confidence doesn’t mean that you have everything, it’s just understanding that even though I’m aware that I’m not as beautiful as the other person but I’m happy with who I’m, and I’m comfortable with myself.

The foundation is approaching its two year’s anniversary, how far have you gone with reaching out to these young girls?

When we launched, we partnered with a lot of schools, both public and private and we had a lecture and engaged those children, gave them literatures that they can actually take away with them. Subsequently, we’ve gone to schools to talk to them about this issue of adolescent confidence and how they’re sufficient with themselves. What I always tell the girls is that they should affirm themselves, that they’re enough in themselves. I tell them that everything God wants them to be they have it, and so they don’t need someone else to validate it or add something else to it. So we had that secondary school motivation. And we also had a seminar during summer last year where young girls from different background also came and it was the same story. It was like a day programme. We had more interaction with the girls; we had lectures and presentations with sound speakers including myself. We actually used the platform to tell them that they can actually settle things themselves. Of course, there were different areas we took them through: we told them about having self-confidence; we told them about etiquette, because that’s also one of the things a girl should be aware of; we told them about personal hygiene; self-image, and particularly, public speaking. You know public speaking is one area that most people struggle with: you come out and you wonder if you’re going to make sense or sound stupid when you speak in public; all of us went through it. I experienced it when I was growing up and I had to work on myself to overcome it.

With this level of awareness going on, where do you see our young girls years to come?

I always tell the young girls that they’re quite lucky because when we’re growing up there weren’t a lot of awareness. There weren’t a lot of people giving up their time and resources to tell you this is the way. It was just mostly your parents that tell you what you need to know; that tell you about your family’s values and things you need to live by. But now, there are a lot of people, corporate organisations, churches, societies and different entities coming out to empower children generally. And to a very large extent, they have the globalisation: the internet and all the rest of them. Even though the internet, as much as it’s a blessing can also be a curse if not properly used. So they need to be aware and manage that for themselves and use their time properly. So I think they’re very lucky to have been born in an era where information abounds. So they have brighter and more promising future.

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m from Ekiti State, married to an Ekiti man with three boys. I went to Obafemi Awolowo University where I studied Economics. I went straight to work when I finished from the university. Later, I did my MBA at the University of Lagos. I’m a certified performance coach – I had my certification from the Coaching Academy in the UK. Professionally, I worked in Guinness Plc for some years and worked in Coca Cola Plc for quite a number of years too. Currently, I run my own business, a marketing consulting company called ‘Purple Pearl Consulting. I’m also a member of Women in Business (WIMBIZ), a platform to help women realise their dreams through networking, empowerment and all those kind of thing. It also sails along same trajectory of developing yourself and being the best that you can be.

How do you find time to write?

It’s deliberate. You know people that write will tell you that it’s by inspiration. You can’t just say I want to write because the words or the ideas may not come. So thank God for technology: all my devices are connected, so I have my Ipad, my Iphone. When I’m in the car and there is traffic and idea comes I start writing. Because my devices are all connected, they synchronise. When I’m at home I write every 9p.m. So I try to do one hour per day, sometimes I do more and sometimes I don’t do. So it all depends on when the inspiration comes and when it comes, the calendar on my phone reminds me to write.

How did you meet your husband?                  

We were in school together. We met in Ife and we were friends first before we started dating and now we’re 17 years in marriage.

What did you see in him that attracted you?        

I think for me, like I said earlier about family values, when I was growing up there were certain things my father used to tell us that kind of stuck in my head. So I knew that the kind of person I had to take home had to fit those values. So I wanted somebody who has the fear of God. Apart from that, I wanted somebody who has fear for elders. It’s basic to see a boy or a girl that you like and you guys start dating – it’s normal. But what is important and what should form your decision are those other things. So for me, it was the fact that he is a very respectful person. You see the way people relate to their parents and with that you can imagine how they will relate to your own parents. And then, he’s somebody that is also my friend. Friendship is very important in a relationship. Yes, people can be in love but friendship is very very important and you can’t take that away. So I got married to my friend and we love each other.

Do you find time to relax with your husband?

Oh yes, we create time for ourselves. It’s necessary in any marriage and that’s why I work for myself. So I have more flexible time. Though, my husband is quite a busy person. Despite that, we try to create time to relax and, in any marriage it has to be deliberate – some things shouldn’t jump on your lapse. We find time to go out, watch movies, eat out, have holidays together and things like that.

What’s your favourite food?

Yam and fried egg: you know I’m an Ekiti woman.

What’s your hobby?

Reading. I like reading; I like cooking. I’m not the socialising type. I don’t like parties.

What kind of book do you like reading?

I like books that are cerebral. Apart from the professional books, I like books on leadership. Years ago it would have been romance and the rest of them but now, it’s leadership books; books that you read and expand and add on to your knowledge. Also I like spiritual books and the general motivational books.

Do you have particular author you enjoy most?

Not quite, it’s just random. For spiritual books, it’s Stormie Omartian, author of ‘Power of a Praying Woman’. For inspirational books, it can really be anybody. And for leadership books, it’s John Maxwell.