Ogo Maduewesi is a social entrepreneur and runs a foundation called Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation which supports people living with Vitiligo; with special focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and a drive for global outreach. She took time to share with Virtue Digest her views on several issues spanning personal development and mastery to the ups and downs of being a social entrepreneur and running a foundation.
Please tell us about yourself.
I am one Nigerian girl who is from the Eastern part of the country, from a family of six. I hold a Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Management, Higher National Diploma (HND) in Business and Management, Certificate in Entrepreneurship Management, Social Sector Management, Advocacy and Citizen Engagement, Using Media for Development and quite a number of certificate programmes.
Today, I introduce myself as a social entrepreneur because I do some social work and I run a foundation called Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation which, as the name implies, supports people living with Vitiligo focusing primarily on Sub-Saharan Africa, but going beyond that to an extent, globally.
I am a very positive and confident human being who thinks outside the box. I don’t believe in the norm. I have a slogan which says: ‘Who made the rules’? If a fellow human being made a rule that doesn’t work for me, why can’t I make mine?
What was growing up like for you?
I grew up in my home-town Nnewi. Things became increasingly difficult for us financially towards the later part of my secondary school days. Being the first daughter, I had to help my mother. In the mornings, I would hawk pap and bean cake before going to school. My mum drew me close and made me realize the situation of the things in the house so that taught me I had a duty to help ensure we had something to eat from the proceeds I made from hawking. During holidays, I also had to lend a helping hand to sell puff-puff while my peers played and had fun. I never saw it as anything bad rather I saw it as a responsibility to help my mum so there could be food on the table; even though there was a time I was nearly molested while hawking. As a way of appreciating my effort, some holidays, she would get me some shoes or some school bag that was in vogue.
Could you tell us some of the major or critical decisions you took at various times of your life that you think resulted into who you are today?
I had a cousin whose father was a professor and all the kids spoke, walked and generally behaved in a way I admired. So, I consciously used them as a bench mark, telling myself that someday, I too would be like that. While my peers got married at 16 or 17 years, I kept telling myself that I had a target. So, one of the critical decisions I took was to insist on having an education, as opposed to my peers who were getting married because that was the norm then. My major preoccupation was to go to school.
When I turned eighteen, I announced to everyone who cared to listen that I was now old enough to make my decisions. At some point, my dad stopped me from reading because he assumed I was rebellious as a result of the books I was reading. He threatened not to pay my school fees in Higher institution for reasons best known to him, well somehow that was the only way to get me to do certain things I refused to. After a while, I called my parents and told my dad that paying my school fees was his responsibility and he had to do it.
It got to a point where my dad got fed up with my misbehaviour and asked what I wanted and I told him all I wanted was to go to school.
What are the major obstacles you overcame in the process of becoming the woman you are today?
I was brought up with zero level of confidence. My mum didn’t like to hear us accept compliments or even commend ourselves which affected me to a large extent. This resulted in my inability to communicate effectively and confidently.
Being brought up with zero level of confidence caused me to consciously and deliberately work on myself. Oddly enough, breaking out with Vitiligo helped much more; this is because it brought out a stronger side of me. I don’t see my not gaining admission into the higher institution on time as an obstacle. In fact, when I talk to young people today, I tell them it doesn’t matter when you do it, get to do it, and don’t just stop. Age is nothing but a number. It’s a mind-set thing. Set your mind to whatever you want to do, and get it done. I don’t like to hear people say, ‘I have tried it and it didn’t work’.
One other major obstacle I overcame was to be able to speak English fluently. Effective communication is what works for me. Whether you pronounce it well or not is not the issue, as long as your audience can decipher and understand what you are saying.
Another obstacle which I am still working on is speaking fast. Most of the time, people don’t hear what I say and it’s something I’m still working on. I’m also learning to smile now. I think I got my serious look from my dad. I don’t take offence when I’m told to smile; I just quickly do the needful and appreciate them. I used to come across to people as mean even though I am not and beneath that tough look is a very soft person who could be very vulnerable and so many people have taken advantage of that. So I have accepted it as who I am and it kind of shields me.
What are the life lessons you have learned in the process?
One of the things I learned and I’m trying to see in others is to instil confidence in children; which I have started doing with my younger sister’s kids. I advocate for children to be allowed to freely express themselves by talking and asking questions. Cane should be used when necessary and not to shut the child up. I don’t believe in excuses. Drop the excuses and achieve whatever you have set your heart to do. What exactly do you want? What do you want to achieve? Go for it. Believe it, think it, and do it. That mind-set helped me a lot. Don’t live at the mercy of other people because they also have got their issues. Excuses are not tenable.
What brings you fulfilment as a woman or a person?
The work I’m doing with Vitiligo and ultimately, what I’m working on now (confidence-building to all levels) brings me fulfilment. It brings me fulfilment because I’ve heard people say ‘Oh Ogo, I wish I had met you two years ago’. Working on Vitiligo is the highest fulfilment I have had in my life. It’s not been financially rewarding, but I’m so fulfilled that I’ve come to define my own success- it’s not really about material things. I told someone recently, that ‘If I die today, I will die a fulfilled person’. Hearing people say they went after their goals after I encouraged them brings so much fulfilment to me.
I hear people say ‘do you know what you’re working on?’ Confidence is a huge issue that many people aren’t talking about. My forthcoming book will be focusing on Confidence for people with altered images not only Vitiligo. I encourage people to enhance their uniqueness and be proud of it.
Another fulfilment for me is living above societal pressure, societal expectation and societal demands. The society doesn’t dictate for me. There’s a whole lot the society wants you to be and I won’t accept it. I keep challenging it. Who is the society? It is you and I.
What are your personal values and how have they impacted on your career and general way of doing things?
Credibility is something I can never trade for anything. In all I do, I always hear a voice telling me ‘Ogo, you are on a journey’, especially when in some kind of situations. That keeps me in check. Transparency is another value I hold dear. I like to be open in all things I do, not because I owe anyone an explanation, but because it’s a principle I’ve adopted. For me, make the mistake but learn the lesson.
What books and relationships have shaped your thinking and changed your outlook to life?
I’m a fan of John Maxwell’s books and I love John Maxwell Bible. That’s what I’m using now. I do lots of reading online now. I love the movie ‘The Secret‘. Lately, I’ve been reading e-books. I read Brian Tracy’s books a lot too. I love Louise Hay. She sent me some of her books, which are life-changing. But sadly, in 2011, as a result of a terrible flood, I lost all my books. Generally, I prefer practical books to motivational books. The practical things I have seen in life have shaped my thinking more, that is, life experiences.
What do you do to unwind or recharge your battery?
I love to window shop both at home and abroad. My ‘me-time’ helps me to unwind a lot. This affords me the opportunity to think and hear myself. I am my best friend. I do the mirror-talk a lot. I talk with Ogo a lot. I tell myself a lot of positive words in the mirror. While alone, watching people and events inspire me. Also, I love to take long walks. Unfortunately, I live in Lagos where the roads are so busy and not conducive for taking walks. I love nature. I enjoy walking in the woods or just savouring the green scenery of nature, listening to birds chirping, and just seeing the trees. I also like the beach.
What are your favourite holiday spots?
Take me to any country side and I’m fine. The woods is a beautiful place to be.
Do you think as a woman you can have it all?
I think it boils down to you whom you are, what you want and what you’re going for. I said what you’re going for because I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to a man because he is a man. I need to know and see that you agree with what I’m doing and I also need to align with whatever your goals are. I want to have my money, be able to surprise my husband with exotic gifts once a while. I want to be able to do some things in the house that bring me joy.