By Josfyn Uba
For Ezinne Kufre Ekanem, no woman should be idle because there is something she can do that will bring her not only profit, but also satisfaction.
She believes that every woman’s dream is valid and can be actualized, no matter how late she thinks it may be, only if she is determined to chase it, in spite of all odds.
She is the anchor of a radio show, UpyouwithEzinne, aimed at encouraging the woman, to be the best she can be in any given circumstance.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Ezinne recalled how she was able to re-evaluate her life and found a balance, when her husband took ill and she was saddled with the burden of caring for him.
Therefore, she urged women not to lose themselves while navigating through marriage, motherhood and even when the nest is empty.
What is the idea behind the programme, UpyouwithEzinne?
Several years ago, I was a guest at a women’s conference where I spoke on a woman and her dreams. It was well received that I was made the keynote speaker for the United States of America version of the same conference. That gave rise to my book, Up You. So the concept of Up You is that of a woman’s incredible attributes and the validity of her dreams. It is about the realization of her dreams because before time, she had dreams. These dreams were in your heart. I do understand that life happens. We get married and have children. As we are translating, we tend to forget some of our dreams. But we get to a point where, maybe adversity comes or the children fly the nest, and then you find that you have to revisit those dreams. For most of us, we revisit it in regrets and we feel like it’s too late to start to do that. And so the book is actually all about you. So, I wrote that book to encourage you. And that no time is late. You don’t have to squash your dreams. You can keep them on the burner until you find the time and the season to chase those dreams. And from the book, we birthed the radio programme. So essentially the UpyouwithEzinne radio programme is to amplify more on what the book and all the talks I have been doing. I try to reach a wider audience with the same message. And so we try to do this by not just sharing my thoughts alone, but getting other women who are doing well in different areas to come and speak to the women. That’s basically it. It’s an upbeat one-hour radio show aimed at encouraging the woman, to keep going and being the best she can be in any given circumstance.
How has it impacted on the lives of women, generally?
The programme has been impactful. I am amazed at the quality of women and the reach it has attracted. The messages we get from women every day and people thanking us for what we are doing to help women see right and do right. We are being listened to from all over the world. When my people pulled out the statistics to me, on a certain day, I was humbled. It has grown from one station to another station. And I have a group of people turning into podcasts. As a result of the radio programme, we started the skill mastering programme in digital skill mastering so women can sit at home, take advantage of the digital world and make money.
From your experience, what do you think is missing?
Since 2015, I’ve had conversations with women both on radio and everywhere. And I hear them make sense. They know what to do. What is basically missing is how to do it. And you’ll find that for all these women, they may or may not know themselves but every one of them is in their silo, seeking for how to do things. I found that the conferences that were holding were largely of two types. There are spiritual conferences or business conferences. At these spiritual conferences, the woman gets filled up, she’s given hope, her faith is grown. And she goes home, prays and fakes it, but nothing changes. You find that she’s not satisfied. There’s a gap. In the business conferences, most of them talk about things that are over everyone’s head. I don’t know why they think that you have to speak a lot of big English and throw around big theories. We are real people with real problems. We want our problems to be solved. Even when you go to these conferences and get to the end of it, you’re wondering what you learnt from it. Just a few catchy words and it ends. She goes and applies whatever she can from it and excels at work, breaking the ceiling and competitive against, yet, there are gaps in the middle. In between her spirituality and work life, the woman is missing. We need to fill this gap and stabilize.
What happens when a woman is lost in her marriage or process of motherhood?
I remember that after I got married, I told my husband that he needed to make me happy in our marriage. And he categorically told me that he was not the one to make me happy. I couldn’t rationalize it. Then, I prayed and realized that it was not my husband’s responsibility to make me happy. Of course, he would do some things that would make me happy but my happiness needs to stem from myself. Irrespective of whether I’m married to him or not or even not married at all, nothing should replace my own self and my source of joy. So, women have to know that they need to find this. But we tend to get absorbed in marriage. It’s okay so long as you don’t lose yourself. You must find your own joy. You have common interests, but also find those interests that are not common to you and build on them. That way, you’re standing on your own.
After some years in our marriage, my husband took ill and I dropped everything to look after him. One day, I realized that I was just sitting down, not doing anything, not talking to anyone and refusing to go anywhere. Literally stopping my life wasn’t the solution. It hit me rather than square. And I had to live again while doing what we had to do. So, I got up. Every week I knew where to aim. I had to do something for myself. And you find that you have a balance. I do not subscribe to a woman not finding herself or losing her dream because she’s married or even because she’s had children. So, if you’ve been married and it puts a lid on you, then you should reevaluate it. And you know in life, I believe that everything can be negotiated. You can negotiate anything with your husband. Use the right voice, place the right markers before him and you feel that you’ll be able to live your life and thrive. And if you’re doing everything within reason, the man will see the changes that these things are you asking for, is yielding in you and you will be super proud and a lot of you wouldn’t do more. I think every woman knows how to negotiate what she wants within the context of a marriage. And moreover, no healthy woman should be idle.
Why should a woman care about herself, at all?
A woman should care about herself because she is first and foremost a nurturer, co-creator with God. If there is no woman, there is no life. You can’t give what you don’t have. God in His infinite mercy, created a woman as help mate to man to complete His creation in man. I think women do not understand who they are and the role God created them to play in life. For anything to come to be, we must be there. A woman is the one who births life and nurtures it. They say if you train a woman, you train a nation. That society is failing is because the woman failed to be a rounded and upright woman. So, given all of th, the woman needs to take care of herself. You need to take care of your health, which is primary. You need to understand the changes that occur as you approach midlife and manage them. You need to have that knowledge to manage them so that it doesn’t look like you’re going crazy, or you can’t manage it when your hormones starts acting up. You need to invest in your mind, mental health and wellbeing because it’s only from the point of self-wellness, preservation, self-care, self-love, that you can reach out and be able to look after every other person. Women must learn to put themselves first, before others. Help yourself first so you can help others.
What can you tell me about the Nigerian woman’s sense of drive?
The Nigerian woman is driven. She is a go getter. She wants it, whatever, it is. Majority of the Nigerian women are MeToo. What does that mean? So just when she’s doing well in this area, another person only remembers to explore area as well. We don’t take time to find our own selves, find our niches and stay there. We don’t work our season. We want it now. We are like the Indomie generation.
I was once told an inspirational story of a wife of a diplomat who later maximized her potentials from her ability to speak different languages from the different countries she had transversed with her husband while she was a full house wife.
After raising her kids, her husband retired the nest became empty, she found her dream. She became a conference interpreter for Presidents, Ambassadors and top notch people. So, she went from being a housewife to being the one who projects what the President of states at conferences. All those intervening years when she was moving from country to country were not wasted. They were her seeding years. So, that’s what I find missing with Nigerian women. They want it and they want it now. They don’t see the bigger picture as a time to be a wife. There’s a time to plan and time to keep it on the burner. With those intervening years, you build a massive support system that will enable you to do other things while you chase your dreams. In all, you can’t beat the Nigerian woman.
What’s the most touching or remarkable story you heard on your programme?
The story is that of Dr. Irene Olunmese. A woman who had a lung transplant and both legs were amputated as consequences of the transplant. And she lived and went everywhere carrying oxygen for seven years. It’s an amazing story. She is such an inspirational woman. She is a woman whose health challenges did not stop her from reaching her goals. In spite of all the health challenges, she still has a twinkle in her eyes. Remarkably, she turned her adversities into touching lives and lifting other people up. It’s a story of adversity turned into triumph and profitability. It is a story of God’s abundant grace. Even before I interviewed her, I had listened to her interview and I was stunned at her resilience and strength of character. Her mantra is: “I cannot accept, I cannot as my default.” She is a bunch of encouragement for anyone who feels down and out.
You cannot see the twinkle in her eyes, in spite of all her travails, trials and serious health complications and still sit gloomy and be asking God, why me? Here is a woman whose lungs have gone before her, lost both limbs and I wonder how she still manages to smile broadly and praises God. Then, she sums it up that “my feet of grace have taken me to places where my natural fate could never have taken me”. And that is a heart of gratitude.
What does fulfillment mean to you?
Fulfillment means knowing that I did my best in any circumstance and combat life with what I call, full crush. I live fully and wake up every day, full of energy and come to my bed at night, completely spent. That is fulfillment.
For me, knowing that I pulled everything I have at every given circumstance and I’m fulfilled. When I look at it and see that there’s nothing else to give, I mean, it’s akin to what the Bible says that having done all that I have to do, I stand and allow my Father in heaven to take the glory. And then, I enjoy.
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