Kate Ekanem, is a 24-year-old writer, girls’ rights activist and Founder, Kate Tales Foundation with lots of written works to her name. In this Interview with ENE OSANG she discusses her love for writing and the plight of the Nigerian girl-child.
What kind of books do you write and where do you get your inspiration?
Basically, I am a writer and a girls’ rights activist. I was born in Etinan, Akwa Ibom state, in 1994. After my mother’s death, when I was two years, I relocated to Lagos city where my father re-married.
I started writing at the age of five.
In 2012, my first travel story, ‘Journey From Kora-Le Berlin’ with the ‘Derive’ crew, Austria, was published online, translated to French and other languages.
My works have been published on Tru Applause Magazine, Pulse Magazine, Huffington post, just to mention a few.
I am a 2016 Runner-up of the Queens Young Leaders Award by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth of England. I am a US Carrington Fellow, a Vital Lady of the Vital Initiative Africa. A Deutche Welle Scholar and the first Nigerian to represent African Union at the Global Girl20 Summit, Turkey.
You were selected to represent Nigeria in Turkey at the Girl20 Summit, what was the summit about?
Girl20 is under the umbrella of the G20 summit, a global summit that selects 27-girl leaders between the age of 18-23 from different countries around the world to represent their country or continent with the aim of assisting the G20 leaders with a communiqué that would help them achieve their goals of creating 100 million jobs for women by 2020.
How did you come to be selected?
I registered through an online process and was interviewed thoroughly before I was chosen. I have been actively involved in community services since I was 18-years-old. I had lost my mother at a very tender age and I am the only child by her.
I grew up with my dad and a stepmother, who made me believe I was a total waste in the family. Education was something expensive for me and when my dad sold his property to assist me through secondary school, hell was let loose in the house and for more than 10 years, my stepmother never forgave my father.
I was terribly maltreated by her and I can clearly remember how I wished I was a boy because I believe the issue was with my gender. I missed my mother and became very lonely. When I could no longer endure the hardship at home, I left home, embittered, clueless and angry with life.
Without going into much details, I started an initiative where I could freely speak up on behalf of all girls going through similar experience. It started with a small gathering of young girls to share my story and I never knew my story was a motivation for others. I started receiving invitations to speak at conferences across the state and I was soon invited out of the country for same purpose.
The breakthrough came when I was chosen out of 3000 girls across Africa to represent the African Union in Istanbul Turkey. No Nigerian has ever been chosen since its inception in 2009.
What was your mandate as the Nigerian/African representative?
After the summit, all ambassadors were sent back to their various countries with a mandate. Mine is to execute a project that would economically engage at least 200 girls and women across Africa. My project is titled: ‘African Women Empowerment’ and it intends to cut across Nigeria, Namibia, Morocco and Ethiopia. I am to train young girls in ICT, photography and bead-making.
My mandate aims to connect Africans. This is a mandate that needs the support of the Ministry of women, stakeholders and corporate organisations. I honestly cannot do it on my own. I need Nigeria to support me on behalf of all Nigerian girls.
What is the significance of this summit to Nigerian girls?
It is an exceptional breakthrough to Nigerian girls. I remember when I was interviewed before I was chosen, Girl20 clearly stated that No Nigerian has been to the summit because of some reasons of not being sure if they will be supported to execute their mandate.
I want to prove them wrong because I strongly believe that Nigeria will support my mandate and make it a reality.
If I successfully execute my mandate, more young girls from Nigeria will be invited to contribute to the decision making of women empowerment globally.
I presently stand as a figure and a voice to the world through Girl20 and on behalf of Nigerian girls and the African Union as a whole.
How would you describe the state of girl-child in Nigeria?
Helpless and hopeless. That’s how the average Nigeria girl child feels. She is confronted by several challenges. Aside from the societal blame for being a girl, the Nigerian girl does only what is expected of her by society. Which is for her to go to school (if opportune), graduate and get married. She has no freedom of making her own choice, she is blamed for being a girl. She is classified as the weak gender, he is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the world.
Blamed for being single and unmarried, blamed for her inability to conceive, blamed for not bearing male children. She is insecure of rape, molestation, early marriage and more.
The Nigerian girl-child does not believe that she deserves to be heard because she was brought up in a society that does not permit her to speak beyond whispers.
How would you compare the Nigerian girl with other girls around the world?
We have a long way to go in achieving a kind of society that will give girls the opportunity to be heard in Nigeria. Although the Nigeria girl is strong and smart, they are limited by unpleasant circumstances.
The girls at the summit were bold, outspoken, extremely brilliant and daring. I watched the girls that represented the USA, France and Australia in particular, and I was wowed by their courage. They were girls that had been given the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and education was not a problem for them because they have it free in abundance, paying little or nothing.
Years of experience working with Nigerian girls made me realise that if given the platform and opportunity, the Nigeria girl will fare better than the girls at the summit. Most of the girls at the summit are not confronted with the challenges girls in Nigeria are made to face.
Speaking for myself, I knew what I went through to fight my way out to be heard. We have to deal with poverty, lack of electricity, water and even internet facilities to browse for opportunities. I admire all Nigerian girls for their resilience and I strongly believe that one day we will excel.
What role do you think government should play to ensure the empowerment of the girl child?
I think the government needs to create a platform where girls will be able to access information on opportunities like the Girl20. A platform that will not only educate but also encourage girls to attend international conferences and summit and be supported to achieve their dreams.
This platform shouldn’t be for a specifically group of girls, it should be for ‘ALL’ girls. And opportunities should be given more to girls from a very underprivileged home. I am an example of a girl born into nothing but ready to change the world around me than I met it.
What is your advice to girls the girl-child in Nigerian?
To all Nigerian girls out there. Listen, tomorrow may be too late and you will be considered as yet another girl who failed. Do it today. Go after your dreams like you never did, the world will open the door to welcome you. It’s a matter of time. Start today.