Happy International Day#ChooseToChallenge

We Interview Roseline Adewuyi

I love women so much, and they inspire me in many ways, whether they are examples of women that I aspire to be like or those whose traits I must not emulate. I live for blowing the trumpet of women doing great things both within my space and outside it.

It is International Women’s Day, and I am interviewing my friend, whom I call Star Girl.

Rose is someone close to my heart, maybe because I have seen her evolve from the girl that lived a sheltered life, oblivious to a lot of things, to the outspoken and expressive woman she is today, challenging norms and the status quo. Somedays, I see her tweet, and I screenshot it because I am like this one for the books.

Rose is one of the people who inspire me. In this interview, she will talk about her journey in the corporate world as an African Union Youth Volunteer Corps in a predominantly Muslim country. This is mainly traceable to her degree in French language, having graduated with distinction in her first and second degrees.

I hope that you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Happy International Women’s Day, Guys!!

1. Give us a brief introduction to how you got into the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps?

I got to know about the programme in 2016, but I did not apply. I later saw the call for applications in 2017. I applied, but I was not selected. I refused to give up, so in 2018, I applied again. I was selected this time around, too. It felt so surreal. The African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC) is one of the African Union’s initiatives for promoting youth participation, capacity building, and empowerment through service and skills exchange, driven by the philosophy of pan-Africanism and Youth Leadership. In September 2018, we went for a fully funded pre-deployment training in Rwanda for three weeks. During the training, we were acquainted with Leadership and Conduct in the organisation, Organisational Ethics, Life Skills, and Core AUYVC Values. At the end of the training, we waited to be deployed in organisations where their demands matched our skill sets. Soon enough, I was deployed to an organisation, and I worked there from April 2019 to December 2020.

2. What was your job description in the African Union?

I studied French, so my job description included being a Translator and an Interpreter. I worked with an organisation that deals with Peace and Security.

3. What do you think about gender parity in the organisation where you worked?

The number of women in the organisation I worked for – which was like a regional office of the African Union, was quite low. The number of men was higher, but I would say the organisation prioritised respect for women. I never felt that my gender was questioned when I had to deliver. I also had male allies who were always pushing me. I always say to women that, as part of your support group, it is important to have a handful or more male colleagues in the office who see humanity and competencies before they see gender. These individuals would be your allies and would always stand by you and motivate you to achieve greater things at your workplace.

Another observation I would like to point out is that we still have a long way to go in bridging gender-presence disparities in the workplace. Most programmes that I was part of when I was with the African Union had more male participants. And to validate my claim, at the end of each programme, when pictures were taken, one would only see a few ladies. I experienced this a lot. I believe that, sometimes, there should be active efforts to ensure that women are represented. For instance, when there is a complaint that there aren’t many qualified women to air certain topics, we should be intentional about finding them. I had experiences where I had to search for a considerable time. And because having a female speaker was so important to me, I looked long and hard until I found the perfect fit. On the other hand, I also believe that women should put themselves out there more. They should apply for more opportunities and participate in programmes, conferences, and so on. They shouldn’t let stereotypes or societal constructs box them or prevent them from being the best that they can be.

4. How do you think the issues relating to gender inequalities can be curbed; is it a battle that can be won in the near future? Especially in terms of creating safe spaces for women and feminism.

Hmm, I believe that gender inequality can be curbed through awareness and movement building. These have been going on for quite some time now. We have Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 that focuses on that. I always say realistically that it might not be won completely. I usually feel like inequality will always be here with us – even other forms of inequality like poverty will still exist, but my hope is always reinforced by the fact that things will definitely get better with time. I believe that every action that we take is like a drop of water in the larger ocean of change.

5. How did it feel to have a diplomatic passport? What were the perks of working as an AUYVC?

Honestly, I was quite indifferent. As an individual, things that thrill others do not necessarily interest me. But I must confess that having a diplomatic passport was indeed fun to have during my travels; most times during the immigration process, I had to pass through the diplomatic route. This fast-tracked some activities for me. Having a diplomatic passport also gives people a positive perception of you was a wonderful experience, and it sometimes serves as a springboard for people into working full-time with International Organisations. It

Talking about the perks of working for AU:

There was easy access to high-ranking officials like ambassadors, charge d’affaires, country representatives, etc., so one could network with them and discuss emerging issues. Also, working with AU provides you with the ability to cope in a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary environment. This allows for learning beyond one’s current inclinations. There was also the availability of foreign opportunities and ease of organisation-to-organisation communications on one’s behalf.

6. What do you miss about working as an AUYVC?

I miss that sense of duty, work and service, and the feeling of delivering on my deliverables. I enjoyed my job. I also miss the amazing staff members I worked with. Most were older and as a youth, they were ready to teach me and constructively correct me. I miss living in my host country as well. I miss working with my boss. Several people complain about their boss, but I never had that experience. The relationship was professional, but he (Larry) was indeed a father. I really appreciate the gift of fatherly figure that God has placed in my life. He is such a person that would correct you, and you will end up smiling because it is done constructively and in a loving manner. One could sense his desire for growth for youths. I have met people on earth, but he is one boss I have worked with that I will never forget. One could sense his humanity and his sense of understanding. He is someone that would painstakingly write recommendation letters for you. He taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I will forever consider useful.

He taught me how to pay attention to details. Sometimes, I wonder how someone could embody so much kindness and goodness. He looks forward to seeing one’s holistic growth on the job and progress at all times. He is someone that believes in young people and in our potential. After having a conversation with him, you will often feel valorized. Sometimes, I ask myself what I have done to deserve the gift of people like him in my life. One other thing I really miss is being in meetings that relate to policy change.

7. Expectation versus reality, was there a mismatch?

Not at all; there was no mismatch. My expectations were met as regards the professional setting.

8. What life skills did you learn from the programme?

I learned a lot of life skills like time management, prioritization, cultural and diversity tolerance, empathy, budgeting, taking on challenges, interpersonal relationships, effective communication, collaboration, decision making, and problem-solving.

9. In what ways did those 18 months change your life and your perspective on life?

It reinforced in me that as a young voice, I definitely matter. I was the youngest at some point but I never felt sidelined. I felt like my voice mattered in every decision-making process and discourse raised. Because of my experience there, I strongly believe that the acceptance of youth voice will contribute immensely to the development of Africa.

10. In relation to your passion for gender advocacy, what ways did this programme enhance or hinder this?

The programme enhanced my passion for

gender advocacy because it made me have an in-depth understanding of the corporate world, especially in relation to gender dynamics. With time, I incorporated the things I observed and understood in my advocacy.

11. How did you leverage the power of networking?

To my astonishment, it was quite easy. I met people—the kind of people with whom I might have experienced some sort of difficulty from being in the same space and room with them. I leveraged the opportunity by connecting with them and keeping in touch with them.

12. How were you able to manoeuvre gender bias in a religious state?

Gender bias exists everywhere, so it was more or less the same. I knew what I stood for and kept to it. One of my takeaways from this experience is: Do not live by assumptions. I was a bit terrified to live in the country because I was told that, as a young lady, it wouldn’t be safe for me. I was told that one would not be able to walk freely in the streets, especially in the evenings, as you would be harassed by men. Coming here, I realized that things were not as bad as they were portrayed. I was able to go out in the evenings as often as I wanted without fear.

Another thing is:

I am a lady on a haircut, and I was told that no one would cut my hair because it was unusual for a lady to be on a haircut there, but I discovered that it was all wrong. Some of the barbers still looked at me in surprise when I came in, but after the initial shock, they will eventually get me the haircut.

13. How did it affect your faith and values?

Jacques Derrida says that tolerance is the

most universal religion in the world. I live

by this, and I am always open-minded

towards people who share other religions.

14. Having worked in an international organization, what was your most valuable lesson these past years?

I have learned the essence of acquiring knowledge about diverse religions, cultures, perspectives, identities, and generations to aid diplomacy. I also learnt that you will meet people with different characters, always try to observe, study, and learn without assumptions and bias.

Thank you so much, Roseline, for sharing these gems on the blog. I wish you greater heights.

Rose’s name across all social media platforms is Roseline Adewuyi.

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