Mariam Adebayo is a lawyer in the making, a media enthusiast, a Millennium Campus fellow, and the founder of What About Me (WAM) Initiative. An innovative and creative person, she believes that young people and women have vital roles to play in making the society a better place. In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she speaks about her interest in media, human resources and entrepreneurship; how young people could position themselves better post-COVID-19, what earned her the Millennium Campus Fellowship, some laws that discriminate against women in the country, and her advice for young people.
Briefly tell us about yourself.
I’m the last child of a family of six, and a recent law graduate of the University of Ibadan who has interest in media, law and human resources. I’ve wide experience in law, taxation and entrepreneurship. I’m a good communicator, and I’m also a very innovative and creative person. Most importantly, I’m interested in grooming the younger generation.
You are the founder of What About Me Initiative. What inspired you to found the initiative?
What About Me (WAM) Initiative started when I discovered that educative and inspiring television show for young adults when I was growing up, which is no longer available. This opens up future leaders to junks that might be harmful to their grooming and might prevent them from being change agents and inspiring leaders to the society and the world at large. We’re committed to grooming the younger generation to become efficient leaders through education and entertainment.
You are involved with MSME Hub by FATE Foundation. Briefly tell us about the hub and your job description there.
MSME Hub is an online resources centre for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship related information in Nigeria. I’m a volunteer at the hub. I provide content around human resource, law and financial matters for SMEs. The hub provides information needed for SMEs to move their business forward. It’s basically a one-stop place for vital information for entrepreneurs.
You are a 2019 Millennium Campus fellow. What qualities would you say landed you the fellowship? And how is the fellowship experience shaping your studentship and life?
I would say doggedness, because the application took a lot of processes before the final selections were made. Also, I’m an ardent problem-solver and very proactive. These qualities increased my chances of getting the fellowship.
The fellowship has been awesome. It has helped me recognise the importance of partnership and working with the United Nations SDGs. I now see a better reason why my project should have an international outlook.
The fellowship has made me better. It connected with thousands of social-impact leaders across the globe, making room for partnership, collaboration and expansion.
As a young social entrepreneur, what do you think Nigerian youth should do to better position their lives or businesses post-COVID-19 pandemic?
Young people should ensure they are acquainted with the new normal. They should collaborate in creating the awareness of COVID-19 in whatever they represent. As the world is moving digital, they should acquire relevant skills to properly position them for their career interests and businesses.
Also, they should be proactive and ready to solve problems around them. And for those still at the initial stage of ideas, ensure your ideas or impacts are feasible post-COVID-19, and most importantly, be digitally inclined.
As an advocate of sustainable development growth, looking at Nigerian corporate and leadership sectors, would you say women are marginalised or underestimated?
Yes, I’ll. But I’m aware that things are getting better, as women are taking their place and getting global recognition, hence changing the narrative. So, I’ll say to women that they’ve no excuse anymore. All that’s needed is personal development and the will, then the sky is their starting point.
Definitely, women may face challenges in their journey. But, they should always have it in mind that they shouldn’t allow that to hinder them from achieving their goals. We’ve great women in the society doing great things. Let them inspire you.
As a lawyer in the making, what two Nigerian laws, as regards women, do you frown on and would love to amend if you were the president of Nigeria?
Section 55 of the Penal Code, which subjects married women to domestic violence under the guise that they are being corrected by their husbands; and Section 4(3)(d) of the Income Tax Management Act which provides a form of discrimination on married women, as they aren’t entitled to tax deduction.
If I were the president of Nigeria, these laws would be modified to reflect fairness and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. I would also ensure all appropriate measures including legislation to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women by institutions or persons. Finally, I would enact appropriate legal protection of women’s rights.
You recently hosted a live session online titled ‘The Power of the Media’ with the theme ‘Moral Ascent’ with Chinemenma Umeseaka as the guest speaker. Why this particular theme, and what are the major highlights of the session?
I chose the theme because morality in the society is diminishing, which is harmful to the younger generation. The media is a powerful tool for improvement. But, these days, the reverse is the case.
The major highlight was when the guest speaker, Chinemenma Umeseaka, Special Adviser on Teen Matter to the Abia State governor, shared her impact journey with us—how she feels fulfilled seeing teenagers grow to be a blessing to the society. She also explained the role of the government in regulating the media.
Another highlight was when she shared how she observed the media’s contribution in raising a child properly and solving the ills in the society.
You are engaged in a lot of endeavours, how do you make time for yourself and for your studies?
I engage in a lot of activities because I love personal development. What I do is to prioritise important thing at the moment and to give more of my attention to it, and not allowing one to affect the other. Although I understand my stress meter, I know when I need to take a break or to go further, not relenting.
I’ve learnt that no man has a blueprint of their life. You’re on a path to discover all your hidden talents and potentials. When you’re on a journey to get better, you maximise every opportunity you have.
When you are done with law school, would you love to practise law or would you venture into other professions? And where do you see yourself five years from now?
I want to practise law for a while, to know if I could keep up with the demands. But, if not, I could switch to human resource. I see myself being called to the Nigerian Bar, building my career, scaling my business idea and expanding my initiative.
I want to practise law because I get angry when I see some things play out in the society which shouldn’t be if corruption doesn’t exist in essential sectors of the society.
Who are your three major mentors, and what about them inspires you?
Pastor Funke Obadje. She is my spiritual mother and my mentor. She exemplifies that one can rely totally on God’s plan and have an impactful life.
Ibukun Awosika. I’m always inspired to do more when I listen to her. She depicts womanhood with so much grace. She is a rounded woman and not slacking in any part.
Also, Peju Jaiyeoba. She is a lawyer, social-impact leader and an entrepreneur. I’ve followed her for a while on social media.
What two things are there about you which people do not know that you would like them to know? And, what two qualities do you look out for in a man you are interested in?
I love to laugh. I love good music. I love children. What I look out for in a man is his walk with God and his character. Mostly, a man that can lead, whose vision and purpose aligns with mine, and his readiness to give support in actualising my dreams.
What do you like doing at your leisure? And, if you were to make a wish on your next birthday, what would it be?
I love listening to music, watching talk shows and having conversations. My birthday wish is to travel outside of Nigeria, to get a new phone gadget, and impact 500 needy children.
What advice do you have for young people, especially the female ones who are aspiring to be like you?
I’ll say that you can be whoever you want to be, situations and circumstances notwithstanding. Begin to love and to solve problems, and you’ll see your dreams play before your eyes. When you see things in the society that you aren’t comfortable with, speak about it and try to solve it. As a young evolving change agent, have mentors and be accountable to them.
Also, be intentional about relationships and friendship. Cut off from toxic friends and improperly defined relationships, and seek wise counsel when needed. Lastly, have a good walk with your Maker. He’ll show you great and mighty things about your future.
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