I Want to See a Nigeria That Respects Children

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At nine, the current Little Miss Nigeria International 2020, Queen Toluwanimi Omole, is already living her dream of speaking up for the rights of children in Nigeria and the world at large. Through her pet project, ‘Toluwanimi Child’s Rights Initiative,’ the child rights advocate is engaging various stakeholders on critical issues as child abuse, child labour, malnutrition and molestation. In this interview, she talks about her passion, activities, motivation and dreams to fight for the rights of children. Sunday Okobi presents the excerpts:

At nine, you have recorded quite an impressive academic feat and garnered credible global attention by winning several awards. Can you share some of them with us?
Firstly, I must acknowledge the grace of God, my parents’ love and support from my teachers. I have been privileged to represent Delphi International School, Lekki, Lagos, at various debates and quiz competitions and we have won a lot of awards in these competitions. I also won the Sterling Bank award for best student in Literacy and Numeracy; Mathematics Whizkid award, and was also voted as the most audible orator during an inter-school debate competition powered by the Voice of the Voiceless initiative where I led Delphi International School to victory. In addition, I won spelling bee competitions in my category at Delphi International School and also represented my school on the Kody and the Kids radio show on Wazobia FM.
I was appointed as the ambassador for ‘Save our generation initiative’, and also won an award in recognition of my child rights advocacy initiatives which I dedicated to every Nigerian child.

As a child rights advocate, what’s the focus of your pet project?
My pet project focuses on child rights because my vision is to ensure that the Child Rights Act is passed and enjoyed by every child regardless of his or her gender, race and societal status. We (children) are the leaders of tomorrow, but if anything goes wrong with the children today, it will affect the future and produce bad leaders, hence, my advocacy for the proper guidance and protection of child rights.

So now what are some of the significant tasks your pet project is currently handling?
Recently, I initiated a weekly programme called ‘Child Rights Corner with Queen Tolu’ on my social media platforms, @queentoluofficial on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with the aim of providing useful information on the Child Rights Act; campaigning against all social ills plaguing Nigeria children and the adoption and enforcement of Child Rights Act on different media platforms, including newspapers, radio and television stations and social media.
Presently, due to the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the weekly airing of the Child Rights Act programme was put on hold, but notwithstanding, I organised a minute video challenge competition for Nigeria children during the total lockdown, encouraging them to share their lockdown experience, and it was amazing.

Can you tell us about your background?
My name is Queen Toluwanimi Adeola Omole. I was born in Lagos on October 1, 2010, to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Oluwaseun Omole from llesha West Local Government Area of Osun State. I am the first child in a family of two children. My father is a banker and fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) while my mother is a lawyer, who works with the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
I had my preparatory and nursery education both in Honeytots Nursery School, Shomolu, Lagos and Arit Private School, Ojodu Berger. Currently, I attend Delphi International School, Ikota Villa Estate, Lekki, Lagos.

Your dad is a banker while your mom is a lawyer. What inspiration do you draw from them?

My parents taught me that I can achieve all my dreams in life and should always set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. The inspiration that I draw from my father, being a banker, is that bankers are accountable and professional, and banks play a key role in financial intermediation in the economy. He believes that leadership skills can be developed early in life, and this has inspired me to aspire for leadership roles now and in the future.
Also, my mother, being a lawyer, believes in justice, equity and rule of law. She manages her work efficiently and tries to smile no matter the circumstances, and that gives me strength and inspires me too, perhaps, that is part of what influenced the choice of my pet project, which is focused on child’s rights.

How did you become Little Miss Nigeria International 2020 and what has the experience been for you?

I participated in the Little Miss Nigeria competition in December 2019 alongside several other talented kids from different states in Nigeria. The objective of the competition was to select a smart kid ‘whizkid’ who can speak up for other children as well as show solidarity for their cause. I spent a lot of time researching and practicing ahead of the competition, and through God’s grace and hard work, I emerged the winner.
Also, my experience as Little Miss Nigeria International 2020 has been awesome. It has given me the golden platform to advocate for the rights of fellow children; campaign for the adoption and enforcement of the Child Rights Act on different platforms including electronic, print and social media. I was also invited to participate in an All-Important Walk to End Violence against Children organised by Lagos State Ministry of Youths and Social Development led by the wife of the Lagos State governor, the Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, top government officials and other important stakeholders.

Who is your role model and why?
My role model is the late Chief Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. She was a teacher, a political campaigner and a woman’s right activist. She inspires me because of her strong will and selflessness. Though she was not a beauty pageant, I believe that I can achieve all she achieved with my position as a beauty queen.

What is your dream career?
I will like to be a paediatrician because being around children gives me joy, and this will give me the opportunity to care for their health needs.

What significant things will you want Nigeria to improve on?
Nigeria is a great country with lots of potential, but more attention still needs to be given to children’s rights. The average Nigerian child on a daily basis faces all manner of social ills and abuses like genital mutilation, child marriage, child trafficking, child labour, hawking, malnutrition, and other forms of child abuse, including sexual abuse which expose them to reproductive and sexual infection.

Also, as Little Miss Nigeria International, and through my interaction with other children, I have realised that we need to bridge the gap between the less privileged and the privileged as well as help the former to safeguard their present and future by advocating for their rights; empower them on self-sufficiency, self-reliance and the need to believe in themselves and our beloved nation.

To this effect, I have initiated a campaign with a focus on child rights advocacy which will be a beacon of hope to the less privileged children around the world, particularly in Nigeria, with the support of Little Miss Nigeria Project, Delphi International School management, family and friends.
I will also embrace the opportunity to partner Lagos State government, the forum of the governors’ wives, security agencies, media agencies, reputable non-governmental groups and well-meaning Nigerians with regards to advocacy for the rights of Nigerian children.

How do you balance your growing popularity with your studies as well as your relationship with your friends?
My growing popularity has made me more socially active, but I have also ensured that quality time is dedicated to my academics, as education is the key tool to change the world. I have been very conscious and sensitive to other people’s points of view, and learning the rules of engagement required in relating appropriately.
I would say that self-discipline and humility have been core values that have guided me every step of the way.