#LEAPISPARTOFMYSTORY WEEK 30: Onyinye Etoniru

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Onyinye Etoniru,

Strategy Adviser, Joe Etoniru & Associates

I remember vividly, that was eight years ago; I was a Diploma student at the University of Lagos. I would wake up every day excited to go to class. I love learning, but being in class was a bit tormenting for me, especially when I had to address the class or make an attempt to answer a question. I sometimes would know the answer to the question being asked but would never answer. I often felt what I was going to say didn’t matter and people may not listen to me. I had an inner self which was confident, intelligent and cheery but somehow that never really showed extrinsically to my peers in class. As time went on, I hoped I would overcome my fears and be able to express myself in class without cringing.

In my third year, I heard about the Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) organized by LEAP and immediately applied. Being a part of the YLP experience changed my views about life. I met a lot of great people who I am still friends with till date. I was able to craft a mission statement as I gained clarity about the legacy I wanted to leave behind. It helped me reconnect with my inner self as I became more self-aware of who I was and who I wanted to become in the future. Furthermore, the content and useful training method of the facilitators was imperatively contributory to boosting my confidence, my ability to speak in front of a crowd, belief in myself and improving my leadership skill. It was indeed life changing. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. Said in one of his quotes ‘’ An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity’’. I started looking out for ways I could do something for my country, not asking what my country will do for me.

 After my YLP experience, my perspective about life changed. I started looking beyond myself to looking at how I could influence change in my community. Sometimes in life we tend to have an experience that introduces a big shift and changes our philosophies of life. I would say, that’s what happened to me. In school, I got involved with volunteering for clubs and various social activities in my area of interest. I grew as an individual and it helped me explore my capabilities and expand my horizons.

My engagement with LEAP has immensely contributed to who I am today, as a change agent. During my service, before my passing out ceremony, I started a self-leadership and change conference (TLC)-True Living Conference, which is focused on raising a generation of leaders that live true to their essence and influence others to do the same. TLC, in its unique way has helped individuals realize who they are and how they can use principles and habits to lead themselves to their dreams, so they can be in the position to help other people. It has helped them realize that true change doesn’t start with the next person but themselves. The conference is an annual conference with a mentoring challenge as one of its features, equipping the participants with a revolutionary mindset and tools to find their place in the world.

In 2012, I published my first book, the Journey of a Higher Life. The book is a Christian Living/inspirational book that focuses on overcoming practical issues of everyday life. It contains 70 great lessons inspiring people to live everyday as a winner. As a writer, I have done book readings and exhibitions in Nigeria, Ghana, and United Kingdom. Being a writer has given me the opportunity to speak to thousands of people and a wider platform to reach more people through my twitter show #Trueinspire.

I am a young vibrant lady, a deep lover of God, the youngest in a family of three with a keen interest in Business, International management, real estate investment and improving the educational sector in Africa. I am a bizadventurous entrepreneur, the brand owner of Virginites; a lifestyle brand inspired by symphony and art and host of #Trueinspire show. I currently work as the organizational design and strategy adviser at Joe Etoniru & Associates, a leading real estate company. I have a Master degree from Henley Business School, UK, a first class degree in Estate Management from the University of Lagos. I am an advocate of true living, passionate about helping people especially young women to realize their dreams and making a difference in my generation.

Every day, I take   little   step towards my dreams, because I believe that the big steps are in the small steps. I look out for ways I can creatively solve the challenges in Africa and consciously influence the people I come across in my life positively; because one of my endearing values is contribution. I also don’t forget that #LEAPISPARTOFMYSTORY.

Have you got an interesting story, send an email to info@leapafrica.org

#LEAPISPARTOFMYSTORY WEEK 29: Isimeme Ejodame-Whyte

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Isimeme Ejodame-Whyte, Senior Special Assistant on World Bank Projects 

The first born of Mr and Mrs. Festus Ejodame, I was not birthed with the proverbial silver spoon but had a humble beginning growing up, with most of my childhood spent in the popular western city of Ibadan.

Leadership and public speaking is not new to me as I was appointed Vice-President of the Interact Club and bagged the award for “The most out-spoken student” at African Church Grammar School at my valediction.

At the age of 19, I returned home to Edo State with my parents and siblings to begin a new life, it was truly the beginning of new things in my life and as a butterfly would spring to life from a pupa, my inner yearnings to make a difference in my society began to gain expression.

I joined Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI) from 2002 – 2004 and worked at Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), where I received a one-year training.

It was at a KIND public ceremony, I learned about LEAP Africa. I was nominated for the LEAP Africa Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) where I received mentoring in the art of leadership, negotiation skills, networking, time management and a whole lot of other life-equipping skills.

By this time I was already a certified peer educator imparting knowledge and inspiring young girls to be the positive change in their society. I was also a child delegate to India in 2003 on an exchange visit sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation on the theme “Maternal Mortality and Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in India and Nigeria”.

In 2004, I started my own Non-governmental Organisation, Young Girls’ Foundation Nigeria (YGF Nigeria). The organisation is an expression of my deepest desire to teach young girls life-management skills, empower them intellectually and socially to make a difference in society, and for them to have an open friendship with their parents, to influence their peers positively and be equipped to be decision makers in the society.

By the time I was rounding up the YLP training in November 2005 I was ready to impact the world! One of LEAP Africa’s core convictions is that young people should be positive change agents in their society. It wasn’t long before I proved this conviction true.

In 2007, I was selected by the British Council to serve as a youth ambassador for the Belongings Project in the UK and Africa, after a careful and rigorous selection process that saw over 15,000 youth applications from Africa. On my return to Nigeria from the UK, I put together a program tagged “PARADIGM” which was sponsored by the British Council and Society for Family Health to mark the 2007 World AIDS day.

Under my watch as Special Assistant on Non-governmental Organisations, I brought together all NGOs in the state under the umbrella body of CONGOS (Conference of NGOs) which gave them a common voice and provided a channel for the various NGOs in the state to interface with Government.

In 2013, I attended the Spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington D.C., USA. I was also a delegate to the United Nation Commission on the Status of Women in 2013 (UN CSW57) and 2014 (UN CSW58) at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York.

I am currently making my impact in the state in collaboration with the World Bank as the Senior Special Assistant on World Bank Projects and Social Accountability Officer for the SEEFOR project.

Although I have a background in the sciences, having graduated with a BSc. Degree in Microbiology from the prestigious University of Benin, my passion for social work and human capacity development remains  undeterred. I am fun to be with, full of life, a lover of God and compassionate. I’m also proactive, full of ideas, a great cook and not one to shirk my responsibilities.

#LEAPISPARTOFMYSTORY

Have you got an interesting story to tell, email info@leapafrica today!