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Princess Onyinyechi Ozoemelam is the founder, CEO, Women Rights Network (WRN). In this interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, she speaks on her passion for humanity and how she wants to use her network to improve the lives of women all around the world.
- Tell us about yourself and how you started off with Women Rights Network?
The Women Rights Network is first of all a vision and then a Network, I had thought about women in general as the mothers of the earth as we all know, which means women could actually be the carriers of the next Generation of greatness..So I thought of bringing a platform that would serve as a voice for women through rights advocacy, mental restructuring, capacity building and economic empowerment to help them actualise this great potentials. The drive of Women Rights Network is fostered on my life time experiences, Some of us have being through phases of mental torture and deprivations but we have found strength out of our weaknesses, I have always believed that being a woman is not my limitation, I can be great it is only but a decision, I needed not wait for a man to achieve greatness, I thought how women in our generation have been imbedded with some wrong stereotypes that is hindering their optimum success. Women Rights Network is keen to address some of this anomalies in Women and against women.
- Going through what you have enumerated , it’s not easy to start up something like this, especially as a young woman. Setting up this organization, what were the challenges you went through?
There are whole lots of challenges, but one of them is setting the goals right because most people who have had my experiences or related , may want to focus on an uprising against men, or to formally or informally teach women to become who they are not. Because women Rights Network is not interested in any of these then the support system was very low, Again we have had men who believed that the network would make women aware of themselves, or that probably we are another exploitative agenda just to exploit people physically and materially.
Another point is women aren’t collaborative amongst themselves. So when you want to start something like this, you realise that saying that women are enemies of themselves, but I will not believe that saying at all because even one person is enough. My believe is that after all my struggles, if it’s only a woman’s life I could transform, I’m contended. First we need to build love amongst ourselves and understand that together, we can achieve a lot more. The challenge I went through is getting support especially from the women who are supposed to serve as an advantage, and a major breakthrough to our women they are the ones who see it as a problem. But I am glad that the grassroots are very ready for WRN, they are my major focus, We believe there are still selfless women in our society who believe in womanhood and it’s untapped potential.. Did you know that every woman is a well of untapped resources? I cannot be discouraged By people insinuating that there are others who have done similar things as WRN.. We are open to collaborations as Women Rights Network is on a broad Mission.
- Since starting off this organisation, what major project or programmes have you embarked on that might have had significant impact on the lives of the women?
Starting off, we needed to do an outreach first that would bring us closer to women and then the youths. We needed to hear them first, When I mean the youths, I’m talking about teenage girls, the adolescents from different age brackets..What we did was to go grassroots, regional. We had an outreach in Imo state and gathered girls,women and widowed women in their categories. We setup a panel and let them share with us most of the issues they have encountered as women. It was so interactive because the younger girls started telling the older ones who were dazed that early marriage is becoming a burden and destroying their lives. “We want to pursue our dreams , some of us want to go into fashion design, hairdressing, stylist, makeup artist, we don’t want early marriages again.” We quizzed the mother to know why they were pushing the young girls for early marriages as they could see how it is destroying their lives. The women were like it was to help their families , because when the grown ones are married out, they can easily train others at home. So it ended up being really interesting you needed to be there, we went into a dialogue with the women telling them it doesn’t still stop their financial problems. These girl could actually work, some have just said they want to be hairdressers and what have you. They can learn hand work and still help the family. It is not necessary to go into early marriage for the sake of the family. At the end of the programme, we empowered some of these women and young girls, distrubuted foodstuffs to families, we appointed leaders amongst them to select girls who went on to learn various trades our organisation sponsored in full..Right there and there we transformed lives and over 500 women signed up to WRN immediately, no more early marriages in the community. That’s a plus and a big achievement by our organisation. These are some of the things we want to be doing. We want to impact lives so that things can be done naturally. Some factors have made us derailed from the right path in life, our girls are going into prostitution, my heart is bleeding.. Some of these factors are mentally and financially induced. Because you see those women, they thought it was just mere selling off their daughters as marriages for money. Now they know that going to school or workshops to learn a trade is actually productive. Marriage is not a guarantee for success. They are married out to men who beat them up, they don’t know nothing, and lives getting destroyed. That’s why we are speaking for women. We don’t want them to be derailed anymore , we want them to actualise their purpose, to be who they want to be because it’s the only way they can add value to the society.
- You have a very laudable programme, don’t you also have any package for the men?
I think there’s nothing women can do without men. I think we are actually even made for the men, so you can’t actually say we don’t have any package for the men. The package we have for the men is that we are rebranding their women, their future wives and daughters into what they should be, into what a virtuous woman should look like. Because right now the culture is derailing, societal influences has now shaped up our women and girls into different entities. You can see it on our social media handle, the dresses they wear and the kind of informations we consume. They are not the kind of information the next generation of good women are looking to have. There should be a platform that is saying something differently, talking about ethics, integrity, fighting against immorality. So this project is also for our men because at the end of the day, women are still made for the men. Whoever you are, no matter how you are shaped up, you are made for a man. I wouldn’t say Women’s Right Network isn’t for the men, it’s even more advantageous to them.
- When people hear the word right as it comes up in the name Women’s Right Network, many people including me is seeing it like another revolutionary organisation fighting for one emancipation. Tell us what does the right stands for?
When you hear the word Right, fundamentally it stands for something significant. For Women Rights Network, you can’t really talk about women without acknowledging that a lot of women are abused. And most of these abuses is what impact them negatively. We can’t achieve anything about women without helping them identify their rights. That’s is why we chose Women Rights Network. We stand to educate you on your fundamental human rights. Your right as a person, life , movement, free speech, association etc, that way you can know how to operate, you won’t be marginalised or abused. Lots of women are being rapped and don’t know what to do. Even if they speak up, it’s not just about arresting the rapist, there are psychological therapy we can provide to help victims. We tagged it Right because we want to expunge all abuses against women and we don’t mean by carrying arms , or by revolution, we are doing that to help victims from all regions, ethnicity and religion. We are for everyone . We can’t succeed as an organization without partnering with organisations that would help bring justice to the abused that is why we are fighting for the rights of the women, girls and children.
- Has the organisation been launched or you are just kicking-off?
We wouldn’t say we haven’t launched our organisation because we have carried out series of outreaches, seminars and workshops because we want to work with information. We’ve gone round the regions to access most of the women and the girls. We want to get information before the major unveiling. We won’t say Women’s Right Network aren’t existing right now, we are existing and carrying out programmes. What we are doing during this unveiling is to get a national face for people to know we have formally kicked-off.
- What should Nigerians be expecting at the unveiling?
They should be expecting a lot. We have programmes lined up that would affect the lives of the people. Also there would be some eminent people in Nigeria who would serve as panelist. They will be speaking on women’s rights and other impending issues. We would also project some of our activities on the day for people to see what we have done and what we may be doing in the near future. Because we have lots of unique things which we are yet to do, the Rebirth of the Nigerian Woman which would cut across the entire federation and many more. These are some few bits of what we would be doing on the day.
- Where do you envision Women’s Right Network in the next 2years?
Oh my God…in the next 2years we should have started visiting some African countries, because Women Right is moving with a speed , especially when you check where the society is going today you would understand that women need to be grabbed, caught to avoid what we have envisioned. Even prior to when I came out to carry the task, I have already envisioned the risk, I have already forecasted the nation in the next 5year and I believe that our outreaches would cushion the effect that we have envisaged for the future. So the next 2 years would surely be great.
Princess Onyinyechi Ozoemelam