The kidnap of over 200 school girls in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, was a pivotal event that expanded the global focus and discussion about child safety in Africa.
Worse still, the rising number of child sex abuse cases, molestation and violence against children remains a major concern for parents across the continent. However, despite these growing threats, only a small percentage of children know what to do in a precarious situation, and how to report these incidents.
Njideka is a trained lawyer in Nigeria who abandoned a legal career to promote child safety, and teach kids how to develop and defend themselves.
In this article, she shares her reasons for choosing to pursue her true passion, and the impact and achievements she has scored so far on her journey to educate, empower and excite millions of African children over the next ten years.
Tell us about yourself. Although you trained as a lawyer, how did you end up working with children?
I am Njideka Obi, Founder and CEO of Safer Smarter Children Inc. I’m a mother to three amazing children aged 6, 4 and 2, a girl and two boys, and wife to a loving and supportive husband Barr. Chukwuemeka Obi.
I had an amazing childhood. My dad was a disciplinarian who doted on his kids but was quite strict. In fact, his disciplinary measures shaped me into the strong, confident woman that I am today and I will forever remain grateful to him for that.
I studied law at the University of Nigeria and was called to the bar in 2005 after which I worked for some years with the Afrihub ICT institute as a Legal Officer.
Although I enjoyed working at a corporate job, I discovered I wasn’t fulfilled. I knew something was missing. I have always been passionate about children, and I love writing inspiring children’s stories that impact positively on their lives. My passion grew stronger as the years went by, and coupled with the alarming rate of child molestation, kidnap and other forms of violence against children, I made a decision to become a child safety advocate.
As a child safety advocate I felt the need to teach children effective body safety rules and skills to keep them safe through my education and awareness initiatives. Today, that passion has taken the form of Funbug, a magazine publication targeted at children, and the Safer Smarter Children initiative.
What exactly is Funbug Magazine, and what inspired you to start it?
Funbug Magazine is an educational magazine for children. I was inspired to start the magazine because I noticed there aren’t enough materials on the market that educate children about basic issues of life, how to protect themselves from danger, and current affairs and events that are written in a child-friendly language.
The magazine has become a favourite for children, especially because of its inspirational stories that teach children good morals and virtues.
It also has a health and nutrition segment, brain-boosting games and puzzles and several other forms of content that keep the kids engaged, excited and informed.
How did you move from ‘idea’ to ‘action’ with the Magazine and your other intiatives?
When the idea for Funbug Magazine and my child body safety Education program came to me, I knew I had to swing into action immediately because I was really passionate about educating children on how to protect themselves from numerous dangers out there.
Up to 95 percent of child sexual abuse and other forms of violence against children is preventable through education and awareness. So, I felt a huge responsibility to apply my knowledge and passion to help as many children as possible.
Lately, there has been so much talk in the media about child molestation. Child sexual abuse is increasing at an alarming rate and there is an urgent need to put a stop to it and that is exactly what my SaferSmarterChildren initiative is doing.
We educate children on how to recognize sexual abuse, how to react to it and how to report it.
We also educate them on how to avoid being kidnapped and what to do if they find themselves grabbed forcefully. They also learn how to avoid getting lost and what to do if they are lost.
So our education is all about safety. Most parents cannot be with their children every time and we just can’t deny the fact that there are numerous dangers out there. We need to equip these children with knowledge and lifelong skills to be able to take charge of their safety.
So, going from ‘idea’ to ‘action’ didn’t take too long for me. I just started writing my stories for the Magazine, got an amazing illustrator to illustrate it. He did an amazing job and that was how my idea for Funbug magazine came into life.
What were the main challenges you faced with getting the magazine off the ground?
The major challenge I faced was the hike in price of printing materials and services. When we started Funbug magazine, the economic situation in Nigeria had taken a downturn and the prices of everything went up, including printing.
The idea was to make Funbug Magazine available and affordable to every child in Nigeria irrespective of their social and economic situation. But due to the increase in printing costs, we have had to increase the price of the magazine to N200 (~$0.60).
The funds realized from sale of the Funbug magazines is used to finance our child body safety trainings. All the training and awareness programs we have done so far have been for free.
What are the top 3 things children, parents and school teachers are saying about Funbug and your initiatives?
The feedback has been awesome! In fact, the magazine has surpassed our expectations, as more schools are subscribing to the Magazine.
Parents have been piling the pressure to release more editions of the magazine; and the kids tell me how much they love it. Actually, I marvel at the reception and goodwill the magazine has earned so far.
Yes, I knew I had produced something wonderful for children but I never expected the outpour of love to be as effusive as it’s been.
The three things they are saying about the Magazine and my initiative are:
The school authorities are glad we are educating their children on how to take charge of their safety through the training workshops and child safety awareness programs we deliver.
The kids say they love our inspirational cartoon stories, and parents are happy to have a magazine that helps their kids cultivate a passion for reading and build their vocabulary as well.
Where do you see yourself and your initiatives in the next 10 years?
The vision of our Safer Smarter Children initiatives is to train millions of children across Nigeria on how to protect themselves from the growing number of predators out there. We are working really hard to have a country where child sexual abuse is tackled and prevention becomes a top priority.
Over the next ten years, I see many primary schools across Nigeria subscribing to Funbug Magazine, and an expansion of our programs and materials into other countries across Africa.
We are keen to partner and collaborate with private organisations and the government to ensure that our child safety education gets to millions of Nigerian children.
Where can anyone order Funbug, or invite you to work with kids?
To order Funbug Magazine or register your school for our training programs and other initiatives, you can reach us through any of the channels below. We’re also keen to partner and work with individuals, private organisations, NGOs and government agencies to increase the impact and reach of our programs.
Our channels are:
Telephone: +234 808 202 3568
It’s common belief that entrepreneurs are restless people. Tell us about the next big idea in your pipeline.
I have so many ideas in the pipelin. I want to create an educational magazine for teens as well. There’s also an idea in the works to roll out an educational app for teens, where they can gather crucial information, learn and interact. I have a whole lot I’m thinking of doing, and they are all educational resources.
What’s your single most important advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business?
My advice to entrepreneurs looking to start a business is that starting your own business is not for the faint-hearted. It can be very stressful and will demand a lot of your time. But as long as you’re convinced you really want to do it, never give up on your dream. You must persevere and stay focused. In the end, it could be the most fulfilling thing you have ever done in your life.