A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a show on Oprah Winfrey’s TV network about colourism. Colourism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
We live in a world where discrimination and preferential treatment exists. Even though it is frowned upon, the truth is that it is very much a part of our society. This preference comes in different forms. It could be based on class, race, gender, tribe and even colour which is where colourism comes in.
Colourism has been rife in our society but only just started getting more attention. The talks on colourism were further ignited recently by “Mathew Knowles“. He said that light-skinned girls receive more commercial success than dark-skinned girls. Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna his daughters Beyonce and Solange were used as examples.
He also mentioned that as a Young man(dark-skinned), he only dated light-skinned girls’ and he was attracted to his ex-wife -Tina Knowles because he thought she was white. “I had been conditioned from childhood,” he said, with his own mother telling him ” Don’t ever bring no nappy-head Black girl to my house” when growing up. This resulted in years of dating “white women or very high-complexion black women that looked white”.
Is Colourism a feminist issue?
Can Colourism be said to be more of a feminist issue? Mathew Knowles is not the only man to admit dating only light-skinned girls, a number of guys also do. Most music videos feature only light-skinned girls and whenever a dark-skinned girl is used it’s mostly for something negative. “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl” a lot of dark-skinned girls have been told this before. Beauty is being attributed to skin colour and light-skinned girls get most of the attention and success. I don’t think it’s a feminist issue it’s just more common with women.
Why Colourism matters
Colourism affects Africans, East and South-east Asians, Latin Americans, the Caribean and African Americans. The danger of colourism is that it causes low self esteem. This is why some dark-skinned people bleach their skin.
Skin bleaching refers to the practice of using chemical substances in an attempt to lighten the skin or provide an even skin colour by reducing melanin concentration in the skin. Skin bleaching/whitening can be dangerous as some of the products used to achieve this contain toxic products that are harmful to the skin. In the UK, a Nigerian couple were recently sentenced for selling toxic whitening products.
Beauty is self-love and self-appreciation and it starts early, It is important to let our children know this from an early age. A light-skinned friend of mine shared with me how her darker daughter had told her a few times that she wished she was the same colour as her mum. She said her daughter would always want her hair done in a way that would cover her face. This broke her heart and she constantly told her how beautiful she was. She was worried about it affecting her confidence.
This is why these conversations need to be had, the narrative needs to change! Mainstream media, entertainment and social media etc need to give more dark-skinned coloured women opportunity and exposure. Whilst there are a handful of dark-skinned leading ladies, the same cannot be said of men.
Colourism and racism
Colourism came out of racism, it has its roots in slavery where light-skinned slaves were treated better than dark-skinned ones by their slave masters. This was because they were usually their family, while they didn’t officially acknowledge their offsprings from the African women, they were given preferential treatment.
In the case, of Europe, Colourism was more of a class thing. The ruling classes were perceived to have fairer skin than peasants. This was actually because they spent more time indoors while the peasants were tanned from labouring outdoors. This resulted in light skin being associated with the upper class and the elite while dark skin was associated with the lower class.
Unfortunately, Colourism didn’t disappear with slavery. Light skinned African Americans received employment opportunity offers that were not given darker ones which is why most upper-class African Americans are light-skinned. The brown paper bag test also applies here where African Americans were refused admission into different societies and clubs if they were darker than a brown paper bag.
An American Senate majority leader once suggested that Barack Obama had a political edge over other African American candidates because he was light-skinned and had no “Negro Dialect. According to Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt, African-American defendants are more than twice as likely to receive the death penalty as lighter-skinned African-American defendants for crimes of equivalent seriousness involving white victims. Also, Lighter-skinned Latinos in the United States make $5,000 more on average than darker-skinned Latinos.
Colourism did not start today and it will not end if we don’t start discussing it openly. It’s unfortunate that children also see it and it affects their confidence. We need to let our children know they are beautiful no matter their skin colour, hair or appearance. It is important that they believe in themselves from an early age. Buying them toys of dark-skinned dolls as well as literature with dark-skinned heroes and heroines also helps. Luckily, there are so many books now with dark-skinned families and children and a lot of them teach body positivity.
I leave you with the beautiful song by Beyonce “Dark Skin Girl” it’s a positive message, one that we should all be telling our daughters.
The reports of suicide in the news in recent months has brought my attention back to mental health problems and I picked OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) as one of the common but less well-publicised mental health problems which is associated with an increased risk of suicide.
The worldwide prevalence of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is approximately 2% of the general population. It is thought that 1-3 in 100 people have some form of OCD behaviours or traits.
What is OCD?
A disorder is
defined as an illness that disrupts normal physical
or mental functions. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health problem.
Symptoms typically include recurring thoughts and repetitive actions in
response to the recurring thoughts.
What are Obsessions?
Obsessions are unpleasant thoughts, images or urges that keep coming
into your mind. Common obsessions include:
Fears about contamination with dirt, germs, viruses (for example, HIV), etc
Worries about doors being unlocked, fires left on, causing harm to someone, etc
Intrusive thoughts or images of swearing, blasphemy, sex, someone harmed, etc.
Fear of making a mistake or behaving badly.
A need for exactness in how you order or arrange things.
Obsessions can be about all sorts of things. Obsessive thoughts can make
you feel disgusted, anxious or depressed. You normally try to ignore or
suppress obsessive thoughts.
What are Compulsions?
Compulsions are thoughts or actions that you feel you must do or repeat. Usually, the compulsive act is in response to an obsession. A compulsion is a way of trying to deal with the distress or anxiety caused by an obsession.
For example, you may wash your hands
every few minutes in response to an obsessional fear about germs. Another
example is you may keep on checking that doors are locked, in response to the
obsession about doors being unlocked. Other compulsions include repeated
cleaning, counting, touching, saying words silently, arranging and organising –
but there are others.
Impact of OCD
In popular culture and frequently within the media OCD is mistakenly portrayed as a positive trait and personality quirk, but in reality – for those that suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it has a devastating impact on their life. The obsessions that you have with OCD can make you feel really anxious and distressed.
The severity of OCD can range from some life disruption to causing severe distress. You know that the obsessions and compulsions are excessive or unreasonable. However, you find it difficult or impossible to resist them.
OCD affects people in different ways. For example, some people spend hours carrying out compulsions and, as a consequence, cannot get on with normal activities.
Some people do their compulsions over and over again in secret (like rituals). Other people may seem to cope with normal activities but are distressed by their recurring obsessive thoughts. OCD can affect your work (or schoolwork in children), relationships, social life and quality of life.
OCD can be so severe that it can seriously impact
on some or all areas of a person’s life, sometimes disrupting or completely
ruining: Education, Employment, Career development, Relationships
with partners, parents, siblings and friends, Starting a family.
Also, some of the behaviours that people do to cope with OCD (including compulsions) can also have devastating effects, for example, Substance abuse (self-medicating with alcohol or other substances or harmful drugs)
Who gets OCD and why?
The cause of OCD is not
clear. Anyone at any age can develop OCD but it usually first develops
between the ages of 18 and 30. Up to 2 in 100 children are also thought to have
OCD. If you are concerned that you may have OCD, you should see your doctor and
explain your concerns. Is there any thought that keeps bothering you that you
would like to get rid of but cannot? Do these thoughts interfere to the extent
that you respond to them with some compulsory actions so much so that it
interferes with your daily activities by taking a long time to finish them or
not even being able to perform your daily activities or function?
A detailed assessment is
needed for OCD to be diagnosed. This may either be carried out by your doctor
or by a specialist mental health team. The assessment will look at any
obsessional thoughts and compulsions that you have and how they affect you and
your daily life. Children with OCD may be referred to a specialist mental
health team which is experienced in assessing and treating children with OCD.
What is the treatment for OCD?
The usual treatment for OCD is:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT); or
Medication, usually with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medicine; or
A combination of CBT plus an SSRI antidepressant medicine.
behavioural therapy is a type of therapy that deals with your current thought
processes and/or behaviours and aims to change them by creating strategies to
overcome negative patterns, which may help you to manage OCD more effectively.
Recent studies suggest that people with OCD are 10 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. Actively thinking about suicide (sometimes called suicidal ideation) also appears to be relatively common among people affected by OCD. This risk can be further heightened when an OCD sufferer develops depression because he or she is unable to relieve themselves of the disabling symptoms of OCD.
The take-home message is to seek help early when suffering from symptoms of OCD or indeed any mental health problems. We all have a role to play in reducing the suicide rates in our community. Being aware and supportive of people with mental health difficulties goes a long way to relieve their distress and prevent the rising rates of suicide.
OCD UK, WHO, VeryWell mind, Time to change.org.uk, NHS Self Help
therapies. NHS Cognitive behavioural therapies.
Suicide Risk in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Exploration of Risk Factors: A Systematic Review. (PMID:29929465)
On this edition of ‘how we met’, I have the privilege of sharing Shweta and Amar’s love story. They are parents from my little ones (who’s not so little anymore) school. Shweta and I bonded over our love for writing. She’s a working mum and a blogger by the side and her sense of humour is out of this world.
I find her writing style intriguing and I hope you do too, you can check out some of her blog posts here. You’ll definitely be hearing more from Shweta on the blog. In the meantime please enjoy her beautiful how we met story – a decade and forever.
Thank you, Shweta. 🙏🏽
A decade of Love(10 years).
Last year my husband and I celebrated 10 years of togetherness. That’s a decade with one person! And the first thought that comes to my mind is wtaf! Like where has the time gone?!
From university students to becoming parents, we’ve done everything together. We’ve grown up together from the fresh-faced kids we were at university. Gone are the days of staying in a cinema for the entire day because it was too hot outside and we had a day off! We have spent entire weekends at the cinema in 2009 because of a combination of an unbearable summer and not much else to do!
So what happens when I begin to reminisce about the last decade? For one, I begin to resent the busyness of life in the now. I wish for an hour when we both can be with each other without the kids needing us or us discussing regular routine life. To be able to see each other without the parent or teammate hat on..as just us. The foundation on which rests our life and legacy. I want us to clean our glasses and see each other as the people we fell in love with. The gangly boy and the bespectacled nerdy girl.
I met Amar on 4th Oct 2008 and he was the 4th person I met in the UK since landing there that morning. I was flustered and jet-lagged, eager to drop my bags in university accommodation and call it a day. I walked into the university flat and saw the guy, big glasses and a red and black checked shirt eating cereal out of a football bowl. Turns out, we were the only two Indians in the flat. In 12 people, the two of us found someone we could talk to, relate our troubles to and cook Indian food together.
Food has been a massive part of our relationship. We were known as the cooker and dishwasher pair at university! I cooked and he chopped and cleaned! It was a good deal until he caught on and decided to learn to cook by himself! All the cooking experiments that we both subjected each other to, are hilarious- notably, in the early years of our relationship, I really wanted to cook Upma, a roasted semolina dish with spices, onions and chillies. This dish needs hot water added to it, in small bursts as it expands and absorbs water as you stir it. When I made it the very first time, I kept adding water and it kept getting bigger and bigger. With no one to guide me, I got super nervous and spend half the evening in the toilet as the stress triggered my IBS! 10 years later, when our son was born and my mother in law was here to take care of us, one of the first things Amar learned to cook was Upma, because I love it and had never had the courage to cook it since that dreadful first attempt!
So what are the things I’ve learned after loving and sometimes hating the man I’ve loved for nearly 11 years now:
Love is NOT all fun and roses: All couples learn this about 7-8 months into the relationship, it’s not all about kisses and passion. You’re actually with another human being who has opinions, ideas and habits that you will find infuriating. In fact, if you find yourself agreeing to everything your partner says and does, run for the hills. Your relationship has to be worked on, and like another work- it’s at times, very very hard to work at and you do it because you love them.
Noone will love you the way you want to be loved– Yep, I said it! As two very very different individuals, our love languages are miles apart. Amar is all about actions – he will cook for me, do the laundry, cuddle on the sofa, expect me to continuously stroke his arm as he drives or sits next to me and will cuddle me at night. But ask him to say it in words and I’ll get nothing- nada. After years and years of saying I love you on the phone and at the end of most nights and fights, he says it now. His love language is clearly all about actions and doing- whereas I’m a words and gestures person. I find a funny picture and I’ll send it to him. Go crazy on his birthday with food and gifts and he won’t bat an eyelid, because that’s not his thing. Coming to an understanding that all love is expressed and that you have to see it to know it, is a very very important lesson I learnt. He loves me immensely, just in his own way!
Give each other space– As an only child, I’m used to being on my own and in fact, love my company. Being one of those couples who do everything together has never been us. Amar meditates, runs and cycles- all by himself. He ran the London marathon in 2017 and I cheered him like crazy. I paint, do life coaching, blogging and bake. And he supports me wholeheartedly. We each take time off to do these things and come back to life refreshed and recharged. Life tends to get too busy and taking a break to find your centre is key to a happy and thriving relationship.
Be strong for each other- Every human being struggles, even the most sorted person. After the birth of our kids, I had postnatal depression. Amar was there for me and helped me through it and got me the best possible care. Through all illnesses and family issues, we’ve stood by each other and kept the other person strong. We have a deal- one person breaks down and the other holds them up.
Always know what’s at the core- We all have flaws and challenges and as a couple, it’s sometimes hard to keep your head on straight when you’re arguing. And boy have Amar and I had our share of arguments! Everything from stinky farts to accounting to how to arrange the dishwasher has been argued upon and we will continue to argue about everything under the sun. What we never forget and lose sight of is what is our core. At the core is a relationship that is forged on mutual trust, a love that has endured everything from unemployment to hospitalisations and a lot of change. We remain solid and will always weather the storm.
Since we got together in our early twenties, we’ve grown together, found each other and build a life and put down roots. Our journey through the first decade of adulthood has taught us so much and we only hope to endure in love and togetherness- ending up on a bench, in a park, all old and grey, arguing about the right way to feed ducks while the sunsets.
In light of recent events regarding sexual, domestic as well as child abuse, I thought it imperative to write about abuse.
It is important for everyone to understand what abuse is, types and how to detect it.
What is Abuse
Abuse according to Wikipedia is the improper usage or treatment of a thing, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. It also means the violent treatment of a person or animal. It is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights and in the worst cases can result in death. There are different types of abuse, and abuse in whatever form often leads to devastating outcomes.
Abuse can happen to anybody – young, old, male, female, animals even objects can be abused. Abuse is always wrong and can be difficult to talk about. This can be because of fear of stigmatisation, shame, guilt and confusion.
Abuse is often about power and the person who abuses uses that power to get an individual to do things they don’t want to do. It is hurtful either mentally or physically.
Abuse isn’t always carried out by a stranger, it can be by a familiar person, which can make it hard to speak out. The danger is, family or others who don’t know about the abuse will think it is safe to leave the victim with this person. This is why it is important to be aware of any abuse as soon as possible
Abuse is always wrong and if you tell someone, they can help to make it stop.
There are many different types of abuse and they all result in behaviour towards a person that deliberately or intentionally cause harm.
Physical Abuse: This is when someone hurts another on purpose. It is the most common type of abuse and certainly the easiest form of abuse to spot as it is non-accidental harm to the body. It can range from physical injuries such as hitting, pushing, wounding etc. to things such as misuse of medication, inappropriate use of restraint and dehydration/malnourishment.
Sexual Abuse: This is when an individual is touched where they shouldn’t be or forced, tricked, or pressured to take part in a sexual activity. Sexual abuse includes being touched, kissed or forced to have sex without consent and often by an older person.
Psychological Abuse: also known as Verbal or Emotional Abuse is when an individual’s self-esteem and emotional well being is being damaged. It is deliberately causing emotional and mental pain. Verbal abuse is when an individual is being constantly shouted at and told horrible and demeaning things. While emotional abuse involves deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore an individual. Emotional abuse can be part of other abuse and it can also happen on its own.
Neglect: This is when a person – usually an elderly, young or dependent person is not being looked after or kept healthy.
Modern Slavery: Modern Slavery is an international crime. Slave Masters and Traffickers will deceive, coerce and force adults into a life of abuse, callous treatment and slavery. It includes human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, such as escort work, prostitution and pornography. Debt bondage – being forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to pay etc is another form of modern slavery.
Domestic Abuse: this could be a kind of ‘physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence, it, however, takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and forms a pattern of cohesive and controlling behaviour’. People should be aware that domestic violence is not always physical and also includes forced marriage and so-called ‘honour crimes’.
Child Abuse: Child abuse is more common than we like to think and could happen to any child anywhere. Statistics show that every year thousands of children are abused physically by a parent or someone known. Child abuse is characterised by any actions of a carer that could potentially harm a child’s mental or physical health. Research shows that many aggressors were abused themselves as children. Child abuse, unfortunately, could take the form of any of the abuse types on this list including child labour and exploitation.
Abuse is usually about power, it involves someone using their power to get another person to do what they do not want to do. Abusive behaviour can have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being – not only at the time of the abuse, but there can be lasting effects throughout a person’s life.
Signs of Abuse
unexplained changes in behaviour or personality
becoming withdrawn and isolated
becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
lacks social skills and has few friends, if any
poor bond or relationship with a parent
knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
running away or going missing
always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body.
Expressions of anger, frustration, fear or anxiety
An air of silence when a particular person is present
Uncooperative and aggressive behaviour
A change of appetite
Signs of distress: tearfulness, anger
Bruising, particularly to the thighs, buttocks and upper arms and marks on the neck
Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
Bleeding, pain or itching in the genital area
Unusual difficulty in walking or sitting
Foreign bodies in genital or rectal openings
Infections, unexplained genital discharge, or sexually transmitted diseases
Pregnancy in a woman who is unable to consent to sexual intercourse
The uncharacteristic use of explicit sexual language or significant changes in sexual behaviour or attitude
Incontinence not related to any medical diagnosis
Poor concentration, withdrawal, sleep disturbance
Excessive fear/apprehension of, or withdrawal from, relationships
Fear of receiving help with personal care
Reluctance to be alone with a particular person
Physical evidence of violence such as bruising, cuts, broken bones
Verbal abuse and humiliation in front of others
Fear of outside intervention
Damage to home or property
Isolation – not seeing friends and family Limited access to money
No explanation for injuries or inconsistency with the account of what happened
Injuries are inconsistent with the person’s lifestyle
Bruising, cuts, welts, burns and/or marks on the body or loss of hair in clumps
Subdued or changed behaviour in the presence of a particular person
Signs of malnutrition
Failure to seek medical help.
Signs of Psychological Abuse
Loss of sleep
Unexpected or unexplained change in behaviour
Signs of Neglect
Untreated medical problems
Deprivation of meals may constitute “wilful neglect”
Abuse is never good and we all should do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone around us. Let’s all be aware of the signs so that we can look out for it not just with our children, but with their friends, neighbours, employees, colleagues etc. You may help save a life by being observant.
During my research on abuse, I came upon a type of abuse which may not seem so common but is apparently very common now in our society.
“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest,everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly,saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.
Spiritual abuse revolves around a person’s spirituality or religion. This type of abuse includes attacking another’s belief system, denying access to a house of worship or forced participation in a cult and exploitation
Spiritual abuse’ covers a wide variety of behaviours, but can be summarised as the use of spiritual authority or spiritual means in order to demean, manipulate, control or exploit someone. It involves Psychological manipulation and could be intentional or innocent. Sadly spiritual abuse could take the form of financial exploitation as well as sexual abuse and parents should be observant of their children and relationships with spiritual/religious leaders as well as religious brothers and sisters.
My major concern is on child abuse. It’s hard to believe the stories coming out recently about sexual (child abuse) that has been going on over the years. It gladdens my heart that victims are now finding their voices and talking about their experience thereby finding healing as well as helping people know what to look out for.
If you’re one of the people who blame victims, please desist from this. You were not present and have no idea what victims have endured over the years. Some successfully block such encounters but not all can do this. Whilst I’m aware that some ladies lie about it, most of the cases are true and the victims should be supported not victimised.
Predators are people who ruthlessly exploit others. A common trend in sexual abuse stories is the predators are usually known to the victim. Predators are usually people children are familiar with and have access to the children. We’ve seen sad cases of fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters as well as domestic help molesting children. The best a parent can do for their child is to be present. If you can’t be present most of the time please be observant and ask questions. If you can, put CCTV around the house and any other security measure you can.
Please be aware that female employees also abuse, don’t let your guards down because you have a female maid, female maids have also been known to abuse both male and female children sexually, emotionally as well as physically.
Be accessible, let your child(ren) know they can tell you anything
Tell them about their body, let them know what part of the body is private and should never be touched by anyone.
Assure your children that there is nothing at all they do that can ever be too bad to tell you, let them know you’ll love them no matter what.
Teach your children to respect other peoples privacy and body.
Let your children know anyone who tells them to keep a secret should be reported.
Let them know they should scream if they find themselves in a situation they’re not comfortable with.
Do not leave your child(ren) alone with drivers, lesson teachers etc.
They’re so many things to look out for as we live in a wicked dark world, the best we can do is be vigilant. Ask questions, more questions and even more questions and don’t make any topic a taboo. Please beware of grooming.
Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Children and young people can be groomed online, in person or both – by a stranger or someone they know. This could be a family member, a friend or someone who has targeted them – like a teacher, faith group leader or sports coach.
It can be difficult to tell if a child is being groomed – the signs aren’t always obvious and may be hidden. Older children might behave in a way that seems to be “normal” teenage behaviour, masking underlying problems.
Signs of grooming include:
being very secretive about how they’re spending their time, including when online
having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
having money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
underage drinking or drug taking
spending more or less time online or on their devices
being upset, withdrawn or distressed
sexualised behaviour language or an understanding of sex that’s not appropriate for their age
spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time.
A child is unlikely to know they’ve been groomed. They might be worried or confused and less likely to speak to an adult they trust. If a teacher is taking interest in your child and showing them favour be very careful and report to school authorities if it’s getting out of hand. Let your child know to inform you if any teacher is giving them preferential treatment.
The world is innately evil, abuse didn’t start today and unfortunately won’t end anytime soon. The best we can do is empower our children by giving them information so they know what to do if they find themselves in such situations. Please be a present parent and an ever-ready listening ear to your children, that’s the best service you can offer them.
Tola is mum to 2 boys and a beautiful princess Mo, who was born with an extra chromosome. Read about how Mo’s birth has motivated Tola into starting a foundation for children with down syndrome especially those born into less privileged homes and how she’s helping Mo blossom and break boundaries.
Lets meet Tola;
My name is Tola Makinde, you can call me TM although some people I’ve known for over 4 decades call me Sola.
I am from Ikare Akoko in Ondo state and the first child of my parents. I started my education with Stee international School, (popularly known as Subuola nursery and primary school as far back as 1978). I attended FGGC Bida for a while before crossing over to Federal Government Girls College Shagamu, in Ogun State and later obtained a BSc in Business Management from the most peaceful university in the caliphate city of Sokoto, Usman Danfodio University.
I am an advocate for persons living with Down syndrome and other intellectual or learning differences; bridging the gap between children with special needs, their families and community. I describe myself as a caregiver, a creative thinker, counsellor, an early intervention enthusiast, a developmental interventionist for children born this way. I love playing and helping children realize their superpower.
Deeply concerned about my daughter’s development, I gave up my 11 years career as a seasoned banker and continued my small scale self-employment before making a lifelong decision of devoting my time and energy to ensuring that children living with Down Syndrome and their families are encouraged so that they never feel alone on the journey.
Some of my friends think I’m funny but I think I just love to be light-hearted and happy. I am free spirited, unapologetic about it and love to be myself. Trust me, I’m still practising how to be calm by sitting (not standing) to watch a movie or two. In my secondary school days, I participated in sports and I represented my school in high jump and javelin.
You mentioned your daughter in your introduction, was your pregnancy with her different from that of your older children?
was smooth except for one or two bouts of malaria compared to my other
pregnancies. Nothing in pregnancy
suggested that she would be a special child.
Also, no prenatal test was carried out to check for genetic
abnormalities. The Chronic villus
sampling test (CVS), a prenatal test or the Amniocentesis (Amniotic Fluid Test..ATF)
is a test that’s rarely done in Nigeria to detect birth defects.
How did you discover she had a special condition?
Five days after my daughter was born, the doctors confirmed a diagnosis of Down syndrome. It was a rude shock! I was in denial initially and didn’t want to believe it as I had prior knowledge about Down syndrome and its lifelong challenges, most of which can be addressed with the right intervention. I thought about the reality, the pain, sacrifices, the trauma and the society plagued with ignorance.
How did you and your family react to the diagnosis?
It was a rude shock as mentioned earlier, for a couple of weeks or months, it felt like the world had crumbled on me. The shame, rejection. I asked so many questions but didn’t get answers. It shook my faith in God. Why would God give me such a child?
I felt I didn’t deserve to have a child like that. I was angry and sad and was trying to check if I had failed God in any way. The good part is I didn’t have to live in denial for so long. It was very hard to recover from the shock but I moved on shortly after.
What Obstacles did you face after delivery?
I didn’t see my baby 24 hours after delivery. Her delivery was different from my previous
ones. There was so much silence during
her delivery and the doctors and nurses wore long faces. She has birth asphyxia, a condition where
babies do not cry after delivery. I
immediately knew there was a problem.
Five days after she was born, the doctors confirmed a diagnosis of Down syndrome. It was a hard time for me but I handled the stigma well because I knew people were simply ignorant.
Some days, I prayed I would wake up from my dream, I wished the features away but ironically, the features are more like the hallmark appearance unique to Down syndrome. I lived in fear of the unknown because I knew there was little or no acceptance of the condition in this part of the world. It was a tough time for me. It felt like the whole world had crumbled on me. She was diagnosed with heart defects and that meant surgery. It was a very turbulent period for my family.
I faced it with all I had, took the bull by the horn and keyed into early intervention with God on my side. I started physical therapy when she was 2weeks old and intensified as the months rolled by even with the heart condition which subjected us to frequent visits to the hospital for oxygen and nebulization. The most important thing during this period was that God gave me the grace to face it, my husband and immediate family were there for me and I had a few friends I could cry to.
How did you overcome the obstacle?
It was the beginning of a long-life journey. Those obstacles came in different measures and for a moment I felt there would never be an end to all the challenges. The roller coaster emotional ride began. Not enough tears could change the diagnosis. I would cry with my mom daily. It was from one sad news to another back then.
Like I said earlier, there were frequent unplanned trips to the hospital to give her oxygen, monitor her breathing, nebulise her and 6 months later after a 2nd echocardiogram was carried out, it revealed her tender heart had a defect. How does one overcome such? Another phase of worrying, stress and hopelessness overwhelmed me.
My friend in the United States helped me through the initial stage. I started engaging Mo in various oral motor, physical and occupational therapy. I did not let the scary reports I read about Down syndrome get to me. My husband and family were very supportive. All these helped me to overcome all the challenges and kept me focused and busy even before she was finally diagnosed with a heart condition at six months old.
What have you found to enjoy about having a child with additional needs?
I never knew I would one day make use of my specially gifted creative ability. I probably made use of it 30% as a banker. Having Mo in my life was the game changer for me. It has unveiled the other me, wits and all.
I discovered I could think creatively and put to good use ideas that often drop in my heart, even when I began to work with her as a baby. She got my attention big time. We spent hours and hours together. She has taught me to never give up on my dreams, build resilience and be happy irrespective of what people do to me. She came to my life to teach me how to be patient in life much more than I thought I knew.The short of it is that I am a blessed woman who has been able to turn her mess into a message and found her purpose from pain.
How do her siblings relate with her?
They are super awesome. They have learnt to understand her and of course been a great support system for her. I began educating them a few years after she was born. They love her irrespective and it’s funny how I watch them feel frustrated and the next minute, I hear words like, “ I love you, I forgive you”. It shows that they will find it easy to love and forgive and that, of course, is hard for so many of us.
How do people relate with her
At first as a baby, she was so flexible and small for her age and not many people wanted to carry her. In public places, on some occasion, people have had to relocate their seats away from us.
She is a happy child and loves to make friends so only a sadist would run away from her. I guess awareness has helped a lot though I have once been told to try and have another child that is normal. That was ignorance at play.
What are your greatest worries for her in the future
Well, I can’t say I have so much to worry about because her future is in Gods hands. We have supported her from the day she was born, and we have a strong belief in the fact that she will achieve her dreams.
People with Down syndrome need to be given a chance at life and they have dreams and aspirations. They want you and I to believe in them and expect the best from them. Her future is bright, very bright and in her maker’s hands.
Can you share some of your happiest moments in raising Mo
I have so many happy moments to share. She is very caring. She got introduced to dancing ballet at age 4. I have tried all sorts of makeshift ideas to enhance her development. I do not look at her health issues or inability, I just keep pushing her with the right support and exposure. She made me proud when she first had a solo ballet presentation at age 5 during the Angels unforgotten Gala night in South Texas.
Mo loves writing, in fact, she can’t do without holding a pencil and paper in a day. She also loves making friends and plays the mother role when she is with her friends. She developed a love for ballet and had her first performance in March at Golden Tulip during a charity ball organized by Buzopat and her second performance was in the USA, San Antonio during the Angels Unforgotten Africa’s 1st Gala night for Down Syndrome. These are a few of my happy moments. Just watching her breaking barriers makes me glad.
What struggles does she have as a result of her condition?
There are other
co-existing challenges, but we focus on her strengths and abilities. With continuous support at the centre where
she attends and at home; because all hands are on deck, I am sure she will keep
winning; those struggles have an expiry date.
All I can say is she is a fighter.
She never gives hope. She loves
What do you hope parents can take away from your story in raising her?
Early intervention has helped us grow. God has been my strength through it all. We are not 100% but we started early. It could have been worse, but it gets better by the day. Parents should not focus on those milestones that are being delayed. My daughter sat at 9 months, walked around 18 months. Wore braces from 13months and used other adaptive devices to help her gait and balance until she was 4years.
There would always be make shift options. It’s better to be doing something about it than just watching. People said I was too worried, but they didn’t understand I was just supporting her to achieve success. We must first try because giving up is never an option.
What progress have you seen in her since her diagnosis?
Too numerous to
mention and I thank the Lord, my family (home and abroad), friends and her teachers.
What treatments/therapies have been successful
Virtually all forms of treatment and therapies she has been exposed to have worked. All that being said, she is still a work in progress. Aren’t we all? Continuous support and various interventions that enhance independence, skill acquisition, play, extracurricular and education have all been an integral part of her development. We do regular checks at the hospital too. Most importantly, God has kept my beautiful heart warrior.
How did she get into ballet?
At age 4, I noticed she would always want to hold my hands and prompt me to dance. She loved watching salsa dance and so I encouraged her. I would always dance with her and one day I introduced her to a ballet instructor and she started classes.
Her smile and excitement on her face speak volumes when she watches performances on TV. I once decoded it as ‘’ how can you help me dance like this mum, I love it’. Without wasting time that day, I started dancing with her and got her a home ballet instructor. Before the 4th rehearsal, she was able to do a presentation in Nigeria with her brothers, then she had a performance at the Golden Tulip hotel at Buzopats Charity ball and a solo in San Antonio. Now she does it effortlessly and we hope to see her get to the top with it.
Can you tell us about your foundation?
I founded Moyinoluwa rainbow foundation a.k.a Mo-rainbow in 2014. My vision was to have a direct impact on children, families and the community as I journeyed through life with My daughter Mo. We are a government approved special Education and vocational centre.
Our goal is to provide early learning interventions to children so that they can live normal and less dependent lives as well as be a joy to their parents. We have established MRF to enable us put a face to Down syndrome through advocacy and enlightenment campaigns and give hope to families who have just received a diagnosis and feel like doing away with the child. Basically, we are on a rescue mission as having a child with Down syndrome is seen as a taboo or spiritual attack.
centre was inaugurated in 2015 as a matter of urgency as we discovered many
children are being locked up at home from a very young age of 2years old, kept
in spiritual homes where some are starved in the name of setting
them free from demonic oppression, left to die, taken to villages to
suffer for being different or poisoned.
We create an enabling environment for
children born this way using play, Extra- curricular activities (Music, sports,
Dance , Modelling, gardening and other activities that will eventually
give them a voice and make them relevant in future.
The name Mo is Moyin’s nickname and the Rainbow was a name God gave me when my
heart was so troubled from not being bold and ready to answer the call to be on
this rescue mission. We had put in
another name and followed up with CAC to conclude the search but the name was
not approved and the whole process was more than 3 months. One very cold winter morning, before day
break, I woke up to use the bathroom and I heard a voice saying” look up, what
do you see in the sky”? While I was still trying to think, I heard the answer
“Rainbow”. I was transfixed and
immediately sent a text to my lawyer and in 2weeks, the name Moyinoluwa Rainbow
Foundation was released and approved.
The rainbow signifies hope and the promise of God after the flood that
destroyed the earth.
Starting the centre
The inspiration behind Mo Rainbow began
after my initial frustration of not getting help with early intervention. God
gave me this vision one day in my living room after Moyin clocked 3 and I could
only look back and appreciate God even more as we had moved from struggles
(with feeding, crawling, standing, walking, talking, heart surgery) to success
as I have an endless list of what she is able to do with God’s help and
unrelenting efforts, never say never attitude and of course non-stop therapy.
The foundation helps with identifying every child’s strength through individual programs tailored according to each learner’s needs. We discover many talents and help the children develop them, acquire skills and independent living.
The foundation has set out to support children and young adults, train parents and empower those from low income earning families. We have survived through donations by individuals and corporate bodies and we provide special education needs using a multidisciplinary approach and one on one sessions to help a child make the necessary progress
Advise to families of recently diagnosed special needs children?
need to embrace, nurture and provide for their child like they will naturally
do for their child without additional needs. I know it’s hard for parents to
cope sometimes especially with the cost of care and delayed milestones, but
trust me, you need to see the face of beauty in your child, show love and give
equal opportunity. Learn, relearn and unlearn especially outdated information
and myths about your child’s condition.
parents give up on their child, see it like they are wasting their time and
resources and sometimes wish the child away or dead. Its heart wrenching for me
to see parents neglect their children, or fathers walk away from their homes,
calling their wives or their children names. If a parent doesn’t show any
interest in giving their child a voice or being their advocate and microphone,
no magic should be expected. My daughter lights up our world, life would have
been boring without her. There is hope after a Down syndrome diagnosis and
every child is a blessing.
Finally, I would like to say to parents ‘’hold your horses, find a support group around you, be the voice for your sons and daughters better still be their microphone. Do all you can to start early, sacrifice and do all you can to support your child. Now is the time. You will see how they begin to thrive, become stronger and find their voices because you gave them hope, support and encouragement. Desist from passing the buck. Don’t be in a haste, celebrate your child and the world will help you do same. Sometimes we want things the right way…hell no! it’s a process. Even when there are no grains in the barn…when it doesn’t look like things are happening, God is working, grapes will come to the vine.
If you’re someone who’s been looking for ways to give back, the Morainbow foundation is a good place to start. I’ll do another post on the foundation and the incredible work Tola and her team are doing soon.
No child deserves to be locked in prayer rooms sometimes leading to death, no child deserves to be mocked and called names because they were born with additional needs. Do what you can to raise awareness and educate people about special needs. Every child deserves love, acceptance and for their voice to be heard.
Above all, let’s be supportive and kind to each other, you never know what another person is going through. Be kind.