Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Amb. Unyime Ivy-King says, 'feminism is all about creating an equal playing field for males and females.'



This is concluding part of our educative, informative and interesting interview with AMB. Unyime Ivy-King. Indeed there is so much to learn from this woman who has affected and is still affecting lives.

Tell Me About Your Ngo Activities In Relationship To The Girl Child And Youth.

I do not have an NGO of my own yet, but I am in the process of registering a Foundation to raise support for the NGOs whose efforts I believe in and identify with.


I have sometimes supported or greatly identified with the advocacy of NGOs like: Project Alert on Violence Against Women, whose ED, Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma runs a shelter for abused women- I have visited the shelter and seen just how great a job she is doing, and Idea Builders, run by Mrs. Lucy Kanu, whose flagship advocacy, Women Mentoring Women, is bridging a gap between young and older women.

I also participated in the advocacy against baby factories Conundrum in Enugu, which was organized by Mrs. Mary Ikoku of Working Moms magazine - a burning issue in our time as this unhealthy practice subjects young girls to mere baby making machines with or without their consent.

I have done a lot of online advocacy in support of the girl and boy child and through the CSR arm of our company, Security Clinic.

I have been to many schools and organizations to speak to both students and teachers, and even parents, on security and safety, especially on the issue of child sexual abuse.

Last year, I came up with a mentoring program idea and I sold the idea to my husband, he eventually bought the idea and this culminated in a major event we had last year in November at the E-library in Uyo, tagged: Kings'men: A Day With The King. It was a free, one day entrepreneurial and inspirational meeting in Akwa Ibom for the youths We had guest speakers and a panel session with some seasoned entrepreneurs. It was quite explosive and an eye opener to the fact that there are still huge mentoring gaps that need to be filled in society.

As a couple we have done a lot in our personal capacity, to provide mentorship to lots of people, away from the glare of the limelight. Through our company, Protection Plus Services Ltd, we are responsible to over a 1600 staff every month- both contract and regular staff inclusive. The Kings' men idea came to me because I wanted what we do to be more structured as I have seen God use us to affect many lives. A Day with the King, was a free event. We had planned to have maximum 400 people in attendance from the initial 250 we planned for, but we ended up having over 600 people at the venue. As a follow up to that, we are doing a formal registration of that platform- Kings'men Foundation and a lot of activities are planned for this year.



I hosted an event during the International Women's day this year, which I tagged: Take off the Limits and we had an interesting line up of speakers who came and spoke to participants and motivated women to support each other to grow. That event too was self-funded but I was also happy and blessed to have many who volunteered valuable services for free, including the venue I used.

 I also started having home book readings - the idea being that I would use my book to reach out to clusters of families per time and use the issues raised in the book to jumpstart conversations about dysfunctional homes and solutions .

The first one happened in my own home and I have friends who have volunteered their homes for me to use. I have many other projects in the offing which I do not want to talk about just yet, but be sure they will materialize shortly. 

I do not just advocate for the girl child alone, but for the boy child as well, because when men understand what true Manhood is, and young boys are taught how to be real men, our society would be the better for it. 


What Are The Greatest Challenges Facing The Girl Child?
The historical paradigm of power, which positioned girls and women in subordinate roles resulted in them being excluded from education, wealth and policy making, hence limiting the number of females in leadership positions. The girl child was to be seen and not heard as it was believed that she belonged in the kitchen. Often times, if a choice had to be made about who would go to school, where there were scant resources in a home, the male child was often the candidate of choice, while the girl would be encouraged to go get married.

Indeed times have changed, and a lot of strides have been achieved in this decade than previously, but the girl child still has to grapple with inimical societal issues like: child marriage, breasts ironing, gender based violence, maternal health issues, reproductive health and rights, employment opportunities and access to education. A lot of the challenges to the girl child’s success in her field of endeavor is now more of unconscious biases than an overt attempt to erect barriers to her growth.

Another challenge I see are older women, who have succeeded in surmounting some of these challenges, who are not prepared to support the next generation of women with their wealth of experience- but thank God for those who do a lot to support another woman and girl. 

I believe that if young girls see more women leaders, who are succeeding in their chosen fields, who encourage and mentor them to believe that they can be anything they dream of becoming, it would help a great deal because it is easy to transform into something you see. 


Recently A Bill For Gender Equality Was Thrown Out By The National Assembly, How Did That Make You Feel?
The Gender equality bill which was entitled: Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence against Women, was sadly thrown out during the Senate's plenary session just days after the International Women's Day celebration. It made me feel like we have taken several steps back, just because the male dominated Senate selfishly checkmated the bill, which makes this the third time that the bill has been rejected.


It is ironic that even though Nigeria had ratified the Maputo Protocol, which is an international treaty on Women's rights, and the African Union Women's Rights Framework she failed to give her nod to the Gender Equality bill. Some of the areas which the bill highlighted included: Equal Access to Education, strengthening of the laws on Violence against Women, Ending Abduction of Girls, Sustenance and Promotion of Entrepreneurship Opportunities, Gender Mainstreaming and Gender Equality.


Out of the 109 senators in the country, only 7 are women, which reveals a glaring imbalance in the number of women involved in politics. This was one of the things the bill sought to address as it called for more women's participation in politics without any barriers or restrictions.

The bill was rejected on religious and cultural grounds. I strongly believe that when a country does not value its female population or see the value they bring to the table, her growth potential is stifled as she does not function in her full strength. An army that wants to be strong needs to march out in the full strength of its troops, recognizing the potential of each trooper and harnessing the tenacity, motivation and capabilities of everyone for the overall success of the team. When half of the troop is left behind, it reduces the strength of the army and this is what has been happening in this nation- half of its troops have not fully been brought on board.

It is not about women competing with men for superiority- no gender is superior to the other -it is about complementing differences. 


At What Age Do You Think A Woman Can Be Said To Be Mature Enough To Marry? 
Hmmm, that is a dicey one because age is sometimes not parallel with maturity. I have seen mature young women and extremely immature and childish older women. However I do not believe in teenagers getting married. Even if one is young and mature, the added advantage of age also brings with it added hindsight that would help one guard against some unnecessary mistakes in marriage. I cannot state a particular age but I would just say, I do not subscribe to teenage marriages. 


There Is Feminism Now On A Lot Of People’s Lips. It Is A Very Misunderstood term. What Does Feminism Mean To You?
First of all I am a woman and proudly so and I have no secret wish to be a man.  I do not believe that being created in this gender was a mistake and I revel in my femininity.  I also understand that men and women are created equal in status, but different functionally. The word, feminism, is seen as a negative word by many and suggestive of women desiring to be like or overthrow men and displaying unwarranted animosity towards the men. 

In my view, feminism is all about creating an equal playing field for both males and females. If a woman decides to go into the corporate world, she should not be paid less and a man paid more for the same job functionalities simply because of the gender disparity. Likewise, if a woman decides to stay at home and look after her children, she should not be made to feel less than the other person simply because she made that choice, because child up bringing is a full time job in itself. Her choice should be seen as a valid one and respected. 

Feminism, in my own understanding, is all about understanding the gender roles, celebrating our differences and working together to make the necessary impact in society which benefits all. It is not a competitive relationship- it It is complementary and that's that. 


You are happily married. Does it take a lot for couples to be happy and married for long?
Marriage, even at its best is no walk in the park. No matter how long or how short two people have courted, the marriage proper always springs unanticipated surprises- remember that two people from completely different backgrounds are coming together with their own unique baggage from their past. I have been married for nearly 14 years, come September 13th this year and I would say that it takes a lot  for couples to be together. 

I do not know about others, but marriage to the man I married, has been an interesting experience because I have a spouse who has made being married so easy- and I hope I do the same for him. We have had our challenges, no marriage is immune, but the key thing is that we see us as a team and we are always ready to work through our differences. Even through the stormy times, we have not let go of each other’ hands and our shared faith helps greatly. 

I see us as a strong team and I am always thinking of ideas to project what he does better and he also pushes me to be my very best. I must say, the support from my husband has been enormous. There are so many things that I have been able to do because of his support and he has also been able to do a lot because of my support. I do not want it to sound like a cliché, or say something because that is the expected response. Like hubby keeps telling me in jest, ‘you would make a poor politician’ simply because he knows I dislike deceit and sugar-coating things.

There have been times when I get tempted to settle into my comfort zone, but he pushes me to give my career my best shot. He has shown his support, not only in talk, but indeed as well. He sponsors my projects and does it without ever grumbling or making me feel inadequate. I hear a lot of women say that they cannot ask their husbands for money and they want to ‘prove’ that they are independent. While their stance may be predicated on their peculiar experiences, I unashamedly share my needs with my husband and where he can help, he does that without flinching.

Emotionally, he is there for me and continues to be my ‘besto’ and confidante. We have date nights on Fridays, when we are both in town and sometimes we travel together. We do our best to build and nurture our relationship and ensure that the children do not interrupt that flow- they have their own place, but he comes first and vice versa. Maybe because I am first of 4 children- by the way he is also first of 9- couples with the fact that I exposed my mind very early to lots of books which were considered beyond my age, I developed really strong, independent tendencies.

I remember writing him a note when we were still dating and advising (warning) him that I did not want gifts from him because I would work hard to buy anything I wanted for myself. He has grown to understand me, as I have also grown to understand him and we are learning to love each other, warts and all. We laugh over it now and I can tell you that I even demand the gifts now, hahahahaha.  


When we got married, we had no dime to our names, but we just enjoyed each other's company and I remember those days- we were squatting with a friend in their home and had to sleep on a mattress on the floor, but oh, how we used to laugh together! We laughed so much because we were always 'gisting' together and our friend, out of curiosity asked us one day why we were always laughing so much at night. One would have expected that given the circumstances we were- broke and all, we would be depressed. But we learned to laugh through the trying times and till now, we still laugh a lot together.  



So, yes- staying together as a couple takes a lot. It takes genuine friendship, tenacity/determination, genuine love and it takes not dwelling on the challenges of the moment, but trusting that God will make things all beautiful in its time. 

You Have For The Young People Reading This Interview?
I would say, whatever you do today when you are still young and strong, do not forget that the twilight years are coming, whether you want it or not, old age will come some day and it is wisdom to make hay while the sun still shines brightly. No matter how intelligent and smart one is, one would always need the balanced opinion of another for better effectiveness so do not despise others as no one can exist in isolation. Look for positive role models in your field to emulate and learn from. 
Whatever you sow today, you will reap tomorrow and every action has repercussions or consequences. Never forget that and do not let anyone despise you because you are young. If you expose your minds to positive things you will act in positive ways. 


What Legacy Do You Want To Leave Behind?
I want to go knowing that I said all I had to say through my writing and left behind words, which would keep on speaking generations after I am gone. I may not be able to change the world, but if I can begin by affecting that one person in my radar, who becomes positively impacted by something I had said or written, then I would go fulfilled.


THE END

4 comments:

ubong king said...

Very detailed...

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