‘Nigerian women can rise to pinnacle of their careers if they are allowed to’
Pauline Rumm is the founder of Motherhood-In-Style magazine, borne out her desire to provide knowledge, establish a virtual support system for mothers on common issues and to address cultural issues impeding progress. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, she speaks on how women can play effective roles in the society and still manage their families.
Tell us about Motherhood-In-Style magazine and how it has impacted the lives of mothers in Nigeria?
Most ideas are borne out of the “see a need, fill a need” concept and Motherhood-In-Style magazine was no different. To give you some background, both my children are born in Germany, and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the joke that is attributed to Germans about them being highly efficient. I actually found this to be true! All my needs were catered to on every level imaginable as I went through the often lonely and traumatic first few weeks after childbirth in the absence of my late mum. This was simply because all the information I needed regarding my baby was given to me, all the medical staff looking after us were so knowledgeable and accessible that I never once felt out of my depth. Upon my return home, it quickly became clear to me that my peers did not have the same good fortune. There were women displaying glaring signs of post natal depression that were being told to just get on with it. There were moms so clueless about breastfeeding that they gave up after a couple of weeks. There were even some who were ashamed to announce they had caesarean section and were left with this pouch as a constant reminder. That was the need that I saw and felt so strongly that I had to fill. Thus, Motherhood-In-Style magazine was “birthed”. I wanted to first of all create a place of knowledge for mothers and beyond that, help them become the best mothers they could be. I became a motherhood warrior.
What have you been able to achieve and what challenges have you faced in seven years of operations?
To me achievement is relative; I am encouraged and discouraged, often in equal measure. My encouragement comes from looking back and understanding how far we have come; seeing the sheer number of women and by extension, families that we have impacted along the way. I get great joy when I hear from our readers and they tell me that things are working out for them because of something they read in the magazine or saw on the website, or from advice they received on our social media sites. We have a thriving community of over 600,000; that is a safe haven for women and indeed men, to air their concerns and seek advice without judgement or reproach. This, I certainly consider an achievement- that hundreds of thousands of people come to us for knowledge- is humbling.
On the flip side, it also highlights to me the sheer lack of information out in the wider community and the country. There is so much that people do not know and this is causing them to make simple mistakes with often grave consequences. For example, a first time mum does not recognise the signs of jaundice in her baby and just hopes that the baby will get better. Her mother also does not understand the symptoms of the common childhood condition and just asks her to pray about it. Yes, prayer is good, but action is better.
Compared with developed countries, have mothers in Nigeria been able to rise to the pinnacle of their careers or are they still being relegated to the background? What can be done to change the status quo?
Change is gradual and comes in different shapes and sizes. While comparison with other countries is interesting, I do not always find them to be beneficial. Our environment might not always be conducive with mothers developing long-term careers, but look at us today, Motherhood-In-Style magazine will be hosting its maiden edition of the Mums In Business fair on the 25th and 26th of November. By definition, this is a fair for mothers and indeed women who have reached or are on the journey towards the pinnacle of their chosen career. So, we are not cowed, we have not given up. We are forging a way forward, one step at a time. Nigeria is a country entrenched in deep tradition and as we know, tradition is very difficult to change especially when it favours one group over another. You see it all over the world. So while I wouldn’t say tradition is a bad thing because it often gives society order and structure, I would say that most deeply traditional societies tend to favour some groups over others. Traditionally in Nigeria, women have been the homemakers, nurturers and keepers of peace. This is fine as long as none of those women have any ambition. Obviously that is not possible, women are just as able and as ambitious as men and the problems arise when they are barred from fulfilling that which they feel compelled to do. Women must be allowed to work if they so choose. We are getting there slowly, if you look around, we have many more female giants of industry than we used to.
What do you intend to achieve with the SME family fair and conference event?
In very simple terms, the Mums In Business fair is the complete amalgamation of our Day 1 vision. Our aim is to help mothers on all levels and by extension create robust and dynamic family units. Benefits to be derived for mums are knowledge, visibility for their business, opportunities to network and to gain support. A business clinic by Sterling Bank will be stationed at the fair to provide financial advice.
There’s also the opportunity to bond as a family; husbands, children and the wider family will be coming out for 2 days of fun as well to support for their mum in business. The conference on Sunday will also provide practical solutions to the many issues mums in businesses face because our speakers are from such diverse career background. Their experiences are bound to resonate across board. The Fair and Conference is actually the ultimate illustration that we can indeed, have it all!
What informed your selection of the eight speakers for the event?
As I said earlier, these women are giants in their respective fields. We admire them and in fact owe some of them a large debt for paving the way. Adenike Ogunlesi of Ruff n Tumble has such an inspiring story to tell about perseverance and the “see a need, fill a need” concept. Indeed all the women on our panel do. We also wanted to have different perspectives, as you know, Nigeria is a big melting pot of ethnicities and we thought it would be interesting to see if there were any differences in their respective journeys to the top, you know, balance was our objective. We also chose our speakers because of their proven ability to impact upon people positively, not just by the words they speak, but through their accessibility. I have met many high achieving women who have given of their time in mentoring or their money, in sponsorship. It is truly humbling what women are able to do when we take our chances. What do you say to our next president being a woman!
What success stories do you expect after this and how do you intend to make the event sustainable?
One of my greatest wishes would be to see hundreds of fathers at the Fair! I want to see dads everywhere; supporting their women and having a great time with their kids. I so much believe in the Nigerian family, I so much want us to love and support each other because as soon as we do that, we begin to love and care for our neighbours and our community and ultimately our country. It all starts with the home you know, everything starts with us getting our foundation right. I know it will take a long time, but Motherhood-In-Style is proud to be stationed at the forefront of that dream. It is an achievable dream and we will continue to champion it. In terms of keeping the ‘Mums In Business Fair’ sustainable, I think that we are always open to learning new things and leveraging on ours and other people’s experiences. We will transfer these same skills to keeping the fair sustainable by changing it up every year and adding some unexpected surprises! To be honest, I cannot say that we have a magic formula that will keep us going, all I know is that hard work, dedication, perseverance and prayers attracts the right kind of help!
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