At a recent event when the winner of ‘New African Woman On The Rise’ was announced,
journalist and presenter Emeline Nsingi Nkosi was taken aback and very intrigued to see a confident girl take to the stage. Zuriel Oduwole, a 13-year old Nigerian, female education activist best known for her work on the advocacy for the education of girls in Africa left her in awe. Zuriel’s Wikipedia page says “Her advocacy has led her to be the youngest person to be profiled by Forbes. In 2014, at age 12, Oduwole was the world’s youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced work screened commercially after her film showed in two movie chains.”
As a young filmmaker, P&G hired her in June last year to create a documentary on Girls Confidence.
Zuriel was recently referred to as “The Most Powerful Girl in The World”.
We asked Emeline to interview her.
A presenter and creative with a background in Fashion Textiles, she founded M about Town (a London-based show) and is currently working on season 2.
Passionate about working with charities and social initiatives, Emeline is the presenter for Esimbi, a social enterprise working to bring work experience to the Afro-Caribbean community and recently embarked on a journey to India in November 2015 to film a documentary on the volunteering charity named Indigo Volunteers. Here is her inspiring interview to fuel you through the week
Wonderful to meet you Zuriel, tell us who is your biggest inspiration?
I would probably have two. One is a person, and the second is a group of people. So, for the person, it would be President Nelson Mandela, because, after 27 years in prison, he forgave all those that put him there when he became President and encouraged the country to do the same. That is very, very cool, beyond inspirational. It taught me about life. The other is a group, and it is the many Girls across Africa who do not have water, or electricity, or are in difficult places yet have to fight to go to school or have to walk to school. That inspires me to do more because I have all that they do not have. So I have to do something. Right. I have to. I just can’t watch. I have to do something, I think.
What motivates you every day?
My parents always told me and my younger siblings that there is nothing called I can’t. Instead, we can say it is difficult. But if it is difficult then it can be done if we focus.
When we travel to African countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria and Ghana, I always see a lot of young children, especially girls, selling things on the streets, sometimes chasing cars just to sell something small for their families. Sometimes, they get hurt. Sometimes, their shoes fly off when they chase the cars. It is not nice to see. Sometimes, the girls cry because what they were selling would get knocked down-all so sad to see.
So I thought if they were in school, they would be safe.
Also, it means that when they get older, they’ll have more options.
So I started to talk to Presidents of African countries about making policies that would allow all children- but especially girls- to go to school until at least around 18. I also began to read and learn more about why Africa has so many children out of school, especially Nigeria with more than 10 million out of school. Do you know that’s more than the population of Switzerland or the Population of Norway? So I get excited trying to do something to change all of this and some of the Presidents I talk to like what I’m doing, and they encourage me to continue.
When were you first aware of gender inequality?
I found out why girls don’t get sent to school in Africa, where the resources are usually very little. The boys get to go to school first, and the girls stay at home. Also in some cultures like in South Sudan, the girls are not even supposed to go to school, but instead, get married when they are 12. So I went to talk to President Salva Kiir (below) about this. He was surprised I wanted to talk about this because I was only 10 years old then, but he listened to me. I also spoke to other Presidents, now 18 in total, and I talk about many things on Education, and how we can send the children to school so they have more options in life when they get older.
If a change needs to start with the younger generation, how can we instigate gender equality?
So I think the easiest way is to show and tell. I talk to many mothers in many countries, and sometimes in rural areas like in Namibia, Ghana, and Nigeria. I show them me as an example of what a Girl can do, and I tell them their daughters can do the same too, and maybe even more than me. They always smile when I say that. Sometimes, I show them ‘me’ in Newspapers…Three weeks ago, I was in The Namibian Newspaper in Namibia. Two weeks ago I was in The Voice Newspaper in London. Last week, I was in The Guardian Newspaper in Nigeria…. and then they have many questions.
Girls can do what boys do, and if we are given a chance to show ourselves, we can even do more than boys.
So I am going to give you some examples.
Did you know that the youngest person in the world to be featured in Forbes Magazine was 10 years Old – and a girl?
Do you know that the youngest person in the world to show their work in a Cinema Chain was 12 years old – and a girl?
Did you know that the youngest person in the world to meet and interview 15 incumbent Heads of Government was 12 years old- and a girl?
We just have to tell young people what girls can do, so they know anything is possible. We have to show them that girls can do what boys may be able to do. I know boys don’t want to hear that 🙂 That is why I started my Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up project, talking to children about the importance of education and I have now spoken to more than 24,600 children in 11 countries about this.
Education is very important, as my good friend President Jakaya Kikwete told me (when he was still President of Tanzania and invited me to visit in 2013 for International Day of The Girl Child) that he too believes Education is key to success in life.
How do you close the gender gap?
If we continue to do as written above, it would start to happen. All children [boys and girls] must go to school too. And we must get more people involved also. Like Teachers, moms, dads, grocery store managers, police officers, everyone, because they too have daughters, or their friends have daughters, and nieces too.
What advice would you give to a growing woc social entrepreneur? Knowing what you know now from the documentaries and interviews with head of states.
The first thing would be to believe in themselves and not listen to anyone who says they can’t do anything they want to. Also, they should start early and start young if they can. Also don’t be intimidated at all about meeting or interviewing Heads of State of Presidents or Prime Ministers, because first and foremost, they are people. Maybe also to share their success stories and those of other Women of Color. That way, they would all see everything is possible, because people have done it, or they are doing it.
What do you predict for the future of woc in social enterprise?
Very, very, very bright 🙂
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Programming Robots, playing with my siblings, riding my bike with my family on Venice Beach, and playing board games and trivia. I also play in a Soccer and Basketball league, so I enjoy that too. I like winning
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t think I have one. I’m only 13! 🙂