She wrote that I inspired her. That she wanted to be like me when she grew up. She wrote how she had not seen many young women doing what I do. She added that I inspired her to read more and ask questions. I thought to myself what was so special in what I was doing? At the time and up till now, I host a political/current affairs radio show. Five days a week I talk polictics, social issues, education, economy, etc. I interview policy makers, experts, analysts, politicans. I’m one of the few young women on radio in Lagos who do this. I still carry her note around in my wallet and pull it out to read once in a while. It reminds me that out there, somewhere, a young girl is inspired by me. As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we need to remember as women forging our paths through various careers and sectors, there is a young girl somewhere who is looking at us.
I could quote the statistics of the global gender parity debate, how many women die at the hands of intimate partners, how many young girls are still forced into child marriage around the world, how many girls and women are still victims of honor killings every year. But for many of us, those statistics and stories seem far from us. What is close to us is – the young girl next door, the young intern in your office, the daughter, the niece, even the sister – who looks up to us to show them the way.
The theme of this year’s celebration is Press for Progress, which focuses on motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive. The ability for us to make progress as women and for women, will also depend on how we bring the next generation of young women along with us on the journey. In her best-selling book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg wrote “we stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us, women who had to fight for the rights that we now take for granted.” Around the world, the fight is still on for some rights that women elsewhere enjoy. But beyond that, we must all recognize that any progress made and that will be made is done on the shoulders of those who came before. So who is standing on YOUR shoulders? Who have you extended a hand to?
In conversations with many female friends recently, I’ve realized that there is a gap in our women chain. There are many older women, that we adjudged to have made it, to have succeeded in their careers, and in balancing work and family, but where are those of us still working out the balance, those of us still working on succeeding? We must also share our stories. We must also share our struggles and yes, our failures. We are also part of the story.
On the way to host an event recently, I told the young female who followed me that I still get butterflies in my stomach before I hit the stage. I still feel nervous as I take the microphone and walk out on the stage. She couldn’t believe it. She said that she never would have believed that I still feel that way. In that conversation I realized that I had to make myself more open to her and other young women in my field to realize that while I am a work in progress, they can learn from the path I have already taken. I am the one she sees everyday, the one she has access to and I have to do better in helping her reach her goals. It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. It is a call to action to look around and see who needs my shoulder to stand on.
I have a daughter now and more than ever I feel the responsibility of living a full life as a woman to inspire her to be all she wants and can be. She wears my heels and wigs at times, will pick up her bag and say she is going to the office. My husband once recorded her listening to me on radio, and she was so excited saying, “I can hear mommy. That’s mommy.” Thinking about this made me realize while she may come to hold Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Christine Amanpour as role models, I would have been her first role model. I would have been the first shoulder she stands on.
So, as we continue to press for women everywhere to be afforded their full rights as people, we must continue to press on with bringing up and inspiring the next generation of girls. There is a young girl watching you, thinking about following in your footsteps, being inspired by you. Are your arms open to her? Are your shoulders ready to hold her up?
Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun is a multi-talented journalist with over 10 years experience in media. She currently works with 99.3 Nigeria Info. Nigeria Info is the first 24-hour, 7 days a week news, talk, and sports radio station in Nigeria. There she co-hosts the top-rated Morning Crossfire, where she conducts interviews with the Who is Who in Politics, Education, Economy, Society and more. She is also part of the management team at Nigeria Info.
She first got her feet wet in radio broadcasting before moving to television for several years and then seeing the challenge of being part of new type of broadcasting in Nigeria, returned to radio to join Nigeria Info. Since the inception of Nigeria Info, Tolulope has been successful in making Morning Crossfire one of the top five listened to shows in Lagos. With a radio market of more than 28 stations vying for listeners and fierce competition during the morning belt, this has been no easy feat.
Since graduating top of her class with an honors degree in Mass Communication, Tolulope has continued to improve her skills with training. She is a CNN Journalism Fellow, trained by the world’s news leader. She has also completed training with some of the best in the field, from organizations such as the BBC, VOA, and Al-Jazeera. Understanding the role of social media in today’s journalism, she has also received training on “Journalism and the New Media Tools.” Tolulope widened her scope of knowledge, particularly concerning conflict and uprisings around the world, with a certificate in “Peace and Conflict Resolution” from the Kofi Annan International Peace-Keeping Training Center.
An award winning broadcaster, she has also worked with various non-governmental organizations in Nigeria on various issues. She worked with the Electoral Reform Group to raise voter awareness from 2011 onward. She was actively involved in the 2011 elections in Nigeria, and is even now working with Enough is Enough Nigeria on encouraging citizens to not only vote but continue actively participating in governance after elections are won or lost.
Her expertise is not limited to broadcast journalism. She is also an event host who brings a professionalism and grace to any event she hosts. She provides the needed focus and direction for the event, ensuring that the plan of the event is carried through to the final detail.
She is a social commentator and as she puts it a sometimes blogger, writing about issues ranging from violence against women, to the globalization of African culture, to her love of read.