Seated in the lobby at the Four Point by Sheraton was Zuriel Oduwole. She looked unassuming. Her countenance serious as interacted with some of the film participants of the 2018 film training for 90 teenage girls in Nigeria, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, a project fully supported by Sahara Foundation.
Bethel Obioma, corporate communications head, Sahara Group later told me Zuriel was meeting the girls for the first time that day. But the chemistry suggested they had known one another for much longer. Her father, Mr. Oduwole, was seated on another table close to Zuriel’s was engrossed in a conversation with Oluseyi Ojurongbe, manager, Sahara Foundation.
“This is a pre-event,” explained Obioma. “We want them to meet informally in a relaxed atmosphere ahead of their training on Monday.”
A few minutes later, Obioma announced the bus that will convey us to The Lekki Conservation Centre (LCC) had arrived. We got on the bus amidst chit-chat from the girls. The journey to LCC was short. There was free flow of traffic. The ticketing point was packed with people when we arrived. Ojurongbe went to get the tickets after waiting for half an hour we joined the throng of people moving into the larger conservation area.
Our guide, instructed us to move fast on the wooden bridge built across the swampy conservation as the planks could give way if the crowd was concentrated on a spot. With that at the back of our minds we walked for several meters with the guide explaining to us the different kinds of animals like crocodiles, snakes, monkeys and others in the conservation.
There were rest points along the way for people who were tired to take a brisk break. Finally, we arrived at the third stop where our guide asked those who want to go on the canopy walkway to join the queue. The girls joined the long queue while some other members of our group decided to finish the long walk on foot.
Our trip was marked by piercing scream from those walking on the canopy walkway above us. We later arrived at the foot of the tree house where we found a monkey looking at passers-by. In a twinkle of an eye, I saw the monkey walking towards us. Scared, I turned around to see what fascinated him. Quickly, he jumped towards Bethel as he made for the gala he was holding for his son. Without waiting for him to come close, he threw the beef roll at him. The money plunged his sharp teeth into it unmindful of the wrap.
The family Arena was the final stop for everyone. We were stopped just before the entrance by a security man to ascertain if we have the right tickets to use the facility.
Zuriel and her team later joined us at one of the huts on the expansive playground. They all looked happy and relaxed as they shared their experience walking the canopy. Shortly before lunch was served I had a quick chat with Zuriel about her vision to empower and educate the girl child in Africa.
“For me, I think a lot of work needs to be done,” she said of SDGs relating to the girl child. “Just like the example I gave above. It would mean the SDG’s have to change the mind set of people, and that is very hard to do. I met President Salva Kiir because South Sudan has one of the highest rates of Girls Marriage in Africa. Eventually, he said he would speak to the Elders once he gets back home. It’s hard to change people’s mindsets.”
Realising it could be difficult going on the journey alone. Hence her foundation DUSUSU.
“I like that they see some value in what I am doing with Girls Education across the world, and just like the African proverb, if you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go together. I think I have gone very fast in the last 5 years, since I started my project at age 10. Sahara has shown they are serious about Girls Education, so its easy for me to create a partnership, so we can do more together, for Girls Education in Africa, and around the world. That would be so cool to do,” she explained.
Through the partnership with Sahara Foundation, she will be empowering young ladies in Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire who will be guided and mentored to create replicas of themselves for greater impact. Ultimately, her goal is to give these girls who are mostly from underserved communities the power, skills and platform to tell their stories and make a living through film making. The training sessions are scheduled to run from January 5- 17 across the three locations.”