The Future Is Female S01E07: Eniola Olanrewaju

Eniola – possibly the kindest young woman I know. I remember when Alexa, Tracy and I were prepping for the inaugural Elevate Her conference in Lagos and I received an email from Eniola stating:

I saw your event ad. And I took an awful lot of interest in it , i’m into corporate and event branding. Basically I’m a graphic designer and printer and I have struggled with being successful in Nigeria as a female, so I can tell from your organization that you have a heart for these things. I’m willing to help with souvenirs i.e notepads and paper bags. Think of it as a donation so it comes at no cost. It also would be a networking means for my business. Except you already have that covered. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Have a blissful day.

I was so overwhelmed with joy and her general understanding of the importance of empowering women. Since then, she has been working with the We Rise Initiative as our in house graphics designer and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her. So here’s episode 7!

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(LJS) Hey Eniola! Thank you for taking part in this series.

(EO) Hey Laila! I’m glad to.

(LJS) What does being a woman in the 21st century mean to you?

(EO) I strongly believe that being a 21st century woman primarily means having the chance to go after whatever it is in the world that I desire (career, education, etc.). It also means being comfortable in my own body i.e. wearing whatever I want without feeling a sense of judgment from people. This has become an increasingly controversial issue amongst women, where some believe in wearing whatever pleases them, others believe in covering up totally. But as a 21st century woman, I believe we should all just walk in love and do whatever pleases us and not be so judgmental. Women over the years have developed, become more independent, become bolder, stronger and even wiser. Although there’s still a lot of work to be done, I’m sure many women would be proud to say they are 21st century women.

(LJS) I love that. Something there’s a lot of controversy over today is the notion of “modest fashion”. I mean, what can we define as modest? Any way, thats a conversation for another day (lol). So what barriers, if any, have you faced as a woman today?

(EO) I haven’t faced that many barriers, but I can say I have faced a strong mental barrier. I didn’t grow up being the richest kid and most of the boys I knew liked the pretty girls who looked wealthy, this lowered my self-esteem and I started looking for ways to please boys and try to get them to like me. This hindered a lot of things in my life and until I learned to love myself and work hard for myself I was stuck in that little box for a long time, where I made no progress. Today, I have developed into a strong lady, who doesn’t need anyone’s approval to feel good about myself or even do what I want.

(LJS) You definitely are a strong lady. Do you recognize yourself as a feminist? If so, what type are you?

(EO) I have never been one to term myself as a feminist, although there are people around me who are so certain I am.  I don’t read books about feminism, don’t watch videos about feminism, etc. In fact, I don’t even know a lot of feminist activists. I just know in my heart that I can do anything I want to do regardless of gender inequality. And my strong personality also just wants to do anything I can to help other ladies see that they can.

(LJS) That’s fair enough. I do think you can gain a greater understanding by checking out blogs such as Ms Afropolitan by Minna Salami. When did you first recognize the fact that gender inequality exists?

(EO) I think like many people, whether we admit it or not we have all always known somewhere in our minds that gender inequality exists. But I can say I came to this realization about 2 years ago. I applied for a design job and realized later on that the salary for women was way less than that of men, in which case we were doing the exact same type and amount of work. I couldn’t fathom it for the longest time.

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(LJS) That’s shocking. Actually, it really isn’t as it’s so common today but it still makes me burn with emotion every time I hear that. How can we be expected to do the same amount of work for less money? Its ridiculous. Anyway, when you’re faced with barriers because of your gender, how do you overcome them?

(EO) God blessed me with a mother who is extremely independent and strong. And over the years she has taught me how to be just as independent, this has made me set goals that scare me so much, but also keep me going. When I’m faced with any difficulty because of my gender, I think of the goals I have set, that’s the only thing that keeps me going. If I hold on to those barriers too long, they begin to weigh me down, but once I drop it and focus on something else, I can move on with my life.

(LJS) That’s the right mentality. What is your greatest achievement so far?

(EO) Every time I think of how much God has helped me grow, it gives me peace and that alone is the greatest achievement there is. Knowing there’s a God backing you up all the time. Getting signed to the biggest modeling agency in Nigeria (FEW models), having my art featured in one of the biggest art galleries in Nigeria (Nike Art Gallery), getting a lot of recognition for a few of my designs by graphic designers all over Nigeria, finally graduating from the university of Ibadan this year (I honestly can’t wait for this). I’m not where I want to be but I’m definitely not where I used to be.

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(LJS) I’m so proud of you. I remember when I found out that you got signed to FEW, honestly I screamed! Well done girl, you’re on the right path for sure. What does “The future is female” mean to you?

(EO) This means different things to different people. But the statement itself is self-explanatory. I think it simply means, women of the 21st century are no longer going to settle for less, from the newly born female children, to the old women, we are changing the rules, which means we are going to rule the world, one woman at a time.

Eniola is 19 years old, currently studying Computer Science and Information Technology at university. She is also a graphics designer, upcoming film maker and a model. Herself and her little sister have made it a habit to give to less privileged girls every holiday and she hopes to use story telling to inspire not just girls, but all global citizens.

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