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‘Many need to be enlightened on giving voice to those with special needs, particularly the feminine gender’

Affiong Ene-Obong

Affiong Ene-Obong is a lawyer, author, and poet. She is also a certified screenwriter and essayist. She has a degree in Law from Babcock University and B.L from the Nigerian Law School Abuja. She is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Port Harcourt (Rivers State chapter), Poets in Nigeria (PIN), Seaview Poetry Club PortHarcourt (Rivers State chapter) and Federacion Internacional de Abogadas (FIDA) – International Federation of Women Lawyers Nigeria (Rivers State chapter). Ene-Obong is passionate about the rights of women and children, particularly those with special needs. Her drive, passion, and excellence motivate others to become influencers, to grow their brands and become the most- sought-after in their fields of endeavour. She also strives to help people build their confidence and pursue their dreams. In this interview with IJEOMA-THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for writing, advocacy among other concerns.

Tell us about your new book After the Storm, and what led you to write it?
After the Storm is a true story based on love, courage, and hope. It tells the story of love and life gone sour and the challenges of filial loyalty and responsibility. The book aims to address issues that serve as a tool for activism towards spurring principal actors, families and the society to act swiftly to the increasing spate of discrimination, dejection, and disregard for persons with special needs by advocacy, affirmation, and affection. The book was birthed from a place of resilience, restlessness, and quest for change nationally and internationally on issues relating to disability. It was written to enlighten others on the importance of an inclusive society, to encourage persons with special needs to embrace their flaws fully, redefine beauty for themselves and live confidently. It answers questions on practical ways to take care of children with special needs as most parents need answers based on experiences. It provides solutions on how children with certain disorders can maintain proper hygiene, sound health, and relationships with people in their environment.

Is this your first?
No. It is my second book. My first book, A Life Called Forever, is a collection of idyllic poems on love, hope and good virtues men hope to experience in an imbalanced world. The simplicity of the language is second to none with themes that drive human existence.

What key message will readers take home from the book?
We need to give attention, show affection and affirm one another’s positive deed to make the world a better place

You are passionate about children and women’s rights, especially those with special needs, how are you championing this cause?
Affiong’s Life Magazine a lifestyle magazine has been created to celebrate, encourage and support persons with special needs. Also by creating awareness programs, partnerships with similar organisations and consultations.

Do you think the policies on inclusiveness is enough and implemented?
The policies on inclusiveness aren’t enough and have not been implemented. My book should serve as a wake-up call on the need to reform our laws to include salient matters for national development

Tell us about your growing up? And how has it influenced your choice of being a woman and child rights advocate
Growing up was the time for teaching, learning, unlearning and relearning. It was time to learn from mistakes and make the right choices. Growing up involved present parents (present in every sense of the word) who understood what raising children were about. I realised that silence had become too loud; many girls and women couldn’t express themselves, many rejected by friends, acquaintances, family, and society. As much as this is still applicable in this age, many need to be enlightened on giving voices to those with special needs particularly the feminine gender. The high level of discrimination also influenced my choice of becoming a female gender advocate, as many were perceived as being different in a negative way. Advocacy would serve as a tool for activism and change.

Tell us how you help people build confidence and live their dreams?
Building confidence in oneself means changing your mindset and having a different outlook on life. Building confidence involves the individual accepting that he or she lacks confidence, paying attention to what you listen to – this preserves the sanity of the person, inner circle and lifestyle. Once confidence is built, you can monetise your passion and find fulfillment in all your hands find to do. I can help people achieve this through podcasts, audio messages, and one-on-one consultation. I can also attend or organise speaking engagements to sensitise children with special needs to build positive self-worth and body image.

With a degree in Law, how did you venture into writing and becoming an author?
Writing is innate. I started writing at age eight when I was commended for writing my essays brilliantly. As a lawyer, a language is a tool of trade, so becoming an author wasn’t a difficult decision. I write for those who see light in my words and hope in my self-expression. Writing is an act of faith and not a trick of grammar; it is instinctive and not compulsive. Over the years, I have realised that writing is a powerful force that can change situations.

What is your message to young people, especially women with special needs? How can they live their dreams?
As a female with special needs, see yourself through God’s eyes and you will become all He has created you to be.

Who is Affiong beyond writing?
Affiong is an entrepreneur who loves art, music, fashion, and etiquette. Affiong is on a journey to self-discovery each day as she earnestly desires to inspire, impact and transform lives with her words.

Tell us about your magazine premiering in January 2020
Affiong’s Life Magazine’ is set to premiere this new year as one of the trending lifestyle magazines across Nigeria and the world with topics on health and wellness, empowerment, safety, literary appreciation, beauty and style, leadership and mentorship, relationships and purpose. Its ethos is to encourage persons with special needs and women to rise above limitations so they can live their best lives. It’s also to encourage members of the society to give them attention, affirm their deeds and show affection through teaching, learning and equipping with all they need to make the world better. The magazine would have a support system change by pushing for local and international policies for persons with special needs. It would create infinite options for an active life despite limitations giving readers the right tools, information, and solutions. It would amplify voices and increase the visibility of persons with special needs at local, national and global levels to strengthen movements.

What is your philosophy of life?
Life is what you make of it and the choices you make spice it up. Live and life would be lovely.

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