‘Women, Never Give In To Despair’
Mrs. Edith Olubunmi Adesioye is a Minister in the Church of England; a chartered banker; Managing Director, Rehoboth Syndicate Consultancy Limited and founder, Women of Perseverance and Dignity, and author of Never Give In To Despair. She speaks on what motivated to help to women.
YOU have likely come across Mrs. Edith Bunmi Adesioye, a chartered banker, Anglican minister and founder, Women of Perseverance and Dignity, an organization based in England.
Since she breezed into Nigeria in November 2014, she has spoken to women and young people in churches. This ebullient speaker says she was born to do this – bringing comfort to the despairing. It is not easy to deny this as some teachers she addressed just before the beginning of the chat with The Guardian came to shake hands with her and show appreciation for her words of encouragement to them that morning.
But motivating and pointing out to the confused that they do have a rightful place in this world was instilled in her early. Her maternal step-grandmother, Chief (Mrs.) Wuraola Esan, a known activist of her time, fought for the emancipation of women. So did her aunt, the late Chief (Mrs. Jade) Akande, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) fight for equal recognition and rights for women until she passed on.
Chief Esan may not have been her biological grandmother, as she explains, but she had a direct influence on their lives because her grandfather, Chief Owolabi Esan married the activist when her grandmother passed on; her mother was only one-year-old.
Her family treated her as an individual and not a gender, she pointed out. “I was instilled with confidence early in life.”
She went to school as many young people her age and started a career in banking at the then National Bank of Nigeria, London branch. She worked there for 12 years.
“In those days, banking was dominated by the men. Even at National Bank, I was denied promotion because of gender, so I moved to other banks. I still met the same problem. I noticed that the industry was biased against women and there were few women working in banks in the city of London. I joined the organization, ‘Women in Banking’.”
She was the only black female member of this group. At Bournemouth University where she went to specialize in Banking and Finance, she was the only female and black woman in the course.
Her experience as the only female or only black woman was that she had to work twice as hard as her male counterparts.
“But I felt confident, I was not intimidated; being among all males can be oppressing if you are not sure of your capabilities. I studied hard so that it was not thought that I was favoured by lecturers. But I will say that I enjoyed the company of my colleagues because I discovered that men are easier to get along with.”
However, her journey to help other women began with these experiences. “I decided that I must help women in general so that no woman goes through what I went through. I fought all the way for every promotion. My marriage broke down in 2006, but I have moved on.”
Mrs. Adesioye puts her being and success as a grace from the creator and says she has come through thick and thin because she comes from a Christian home.
“I have embraced God and have raised my children in a Godly way. I come from the type of background where the whole family had morning devotion together. I was born in Ibadan but when we visited my granddad in Lagos, he played the piano every morning and taught us a new hymn every week.
“I had my secondary school at Our Lady of Apostles School, Ibadan. Primary school was at Victory School in Ibadan also. My mother taught me in Primary Two. She did not show favouritism and she was happy to use the cane.”
Her classmate and friend of many years who is the proprietress of exclusive Bridge House College, Ikoyi agrees. “She caned the daylight out of us,” she said with a tone suggestive that she still feels the pain after all these years.
Mrs. Adesioye observes however that the discipline helped form the person she is today. “She was firm, loving, hardworking and a determined woman”.
Her father, Mr. Adebayo Akinlotun travelled to the United Kingdom when she was seven years old, but she went to Ibadan Polytechnic before moving to England where she has lived for 41 years now.
She worked in the banking sector for 26 years and rose to the post of Assistant Director at Dresdner Kleinworth Benson. Her two daughters are accomplished journalists; they were not trained for it.
Their mom believes that it is in their gene. Their grandfather, Ebun Adesioye was a one-time Editor of the Daily Times. The eldest, Lola has had a stint with CNN. She studied at Cambridge University, excels on the piano; is fluent in English, French, Spanish and German. She is also an accomplished ballet dancer, the proud mom says, adding that she plays the saxophone as well. Lola writes for The Guardian of London.
Ayo, the second daughter, worked with Channel 4 before she located to Rio De Janeiro, the Brazilian capital.
Her Women Of Perseverance and Dignity Ministry takes her on trips around the world and she has spoken to women in cities like Frankfurt, Zurich and some parts of the United States of America, encouraging those who think that life is not worth living to pick up the pieces and move on. She preaches at her native church, Christ Church, Anerly, London.
The current trip to Nigeria has seen her at youth conferences, Christ Church Cathedral, Marina, Lagos where she met the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) and the youth wing of the church. She has been at some churches of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
Her advice to women is to know that are they in this world to fulfill God’s purpose. “Do not see yourself as second class citizens; but that is not to say that you should behave like men.
“Appreciate your womanly qualities, they are not inferior. Hold your own wherever you find yourself and strive to excel. Unfortunately, discrimination is a global thing, but whatever happens, you should never sell yourself short; don’t give up.
“See yourself as overcomers because you will always bounce back although it may be difficult initially. As a woman, you are expected to work harder; associate yourself with positive people who support you.
“Do not feel bitter or resentful; they are obstacles to dealing with issues. Your feeling of unhappiness will not last forever, have a vision and make sure you are working towards it. Learn to forgive”.
To young people, she cautions: “Even when the home is not conducive, have the confidence that you will grow and be bigger than any problem. Be guided by that experience. Know who you want to be.
“Think of your role as the future leaders and you will see that you can play a positive part in any part of the world. Build a good relationship with people you meet. Identify your outstanding qualities.”
She is happy that through her Rehoboth Christian Bookshop in London, many people have become Christians. Her company, Rehoboth Syndicate Consultancy, which she is the Managing Director, she says, specializes in financial and relationship empowerment, career, leadership coaching and mentoring.
Women of Perseverance and Dignity ministry has existed for nine years, she says, adding that it helps women to cope with divorce, widowhood and separation. Abused and marginalized women find comfort there, also.
Men do attend their monthly meetings asking to be counseled, she says, but adds: “Experience makes me want to help women now.”
She has been invited to join an organization that answers The Change Practice; she says however, that it is not a political party.