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Covid Hero interview with Chinenye Monde-Anumihe

The Covid Hero campaign by The Luxury Network Nigeria, in partnership with Business Day, and Robert Taylor Media aims to applaud outstanding individuals, whose work is critical to the survival of Nigeria in these unprecedented and challenging times. It’s driven by the company’s ethos of partnership and collaboration for greater impact – especially in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus.

The next Covid hero under the spotlight is Miss Chinenye Monde-Anumihe; a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 – Partnerships for Development advocate, with an impressive CV across various world-renowned organisations. Monde-Anumihe has been involved in a number of projects and initiatives and has made a notable contribution to the fight against Covid-19.

Read her interview with Cas Ojo, the MD of The Luxury Network Nigeria below:

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
In many ways I consider myself a global citizen because of my curiosity about the world. It comes from my love for history and a background of moving. I have lived in Nigeria, the U.K., the U.S., France and Switzerland. I love to travel and learn about different cultures and especially cuisines. I developed an interest and passion for international relations, international law, and French in high school, specifically taking an interest in how it all affects Africa. Despite being a global citizen, one thing I can categorically say is that my heart beats for Africa. I became so fascinated by the ideals of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law from a young age and have been puzzled for as long as I can remember why so many African nations like Nigeria have not reached their full potential.

I believe God gave me a heart that has a strong sense of justice and hates seeing human suffering. From university I became determined to understand the legal protection of people, especially vulnerable communities. I studied world wars, genocides, natural disasters, and more. I feel a calling to be a part of the next generation of people committed to fighting social injustice, re-building democratic institutions and ensuring that history does not continue to repeat itself. I am a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 – Partnerships for Development advocate with a passion for building and strengthening cross-sector partnerships to solve Africa’s most pressing challenges.

Please share some of your career highlights to-date, to give us a picture about your professional background.
While in the United States, I worked with New York Senator Charles E. Schumer, which helped me understand the legislative process that the Nigerian legislative system is modelled after. It was very interesting to see how laws pass from initiation to implementation. In Geneva, I worked for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) where I was able to identify knowledge gaps for decision-makers on the world stage. I developed modules and e-learning courses for diplomats, ambassadors, and country representatives to ensure they were well informed before making decisions. Moving back to Nigeria, I sought to develop my understanding of the private sector through consulting. However, I felt a bit unfulfilled in that space, which is why I went back to my passion, becoming a member of the Global Shapers Community – Lagos Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum (WEF). This is how I began to understand the multi-stakeholder approach to development. The public sector, the private sector, and academia, it’s important to bring these key players together to participate in the dialogue, decision-making, and implementation of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and solving our problems.

Though my private sector experience has been extremely valuable. Since 2014, I have worked with executive management in several of West Africa’s largest business conglomerates in capacities ranging from consulting and stakeholder engagement, to risk management and business development providing strategy, research and project management support. In my current office, I work in government and regulatory relations management. I regularly engage public sector stakeholders such as the Office of the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the National Assembly and the Central Bank of Nigeria to support the development and implementation of strategies to utilize the capital markets as an avenue for long-term financing of the nation’s development goals.

Read also: COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu commissions 48-chamber morgue in Yaba isolation centre

How have you been affected by the covid-19 crisis?
The COVID-19 crisis is for me a call to action above anything else. What we are experiencing is a compounded health, humanitarian, and development crisis. The pandemic has exposed the fragility of healthcare systems, racial and wealth disparities, decaying infrastructures, and the lack of social protection systems for the most marginalized people in addition to it claiming thousands of lives. Bearing witness to all of this stirred up my desire to do something within my immediate sphere of influence. I am a member of and support several social impact organizations including the Global Shapers Community – Lagos Hub and Give Back Nigeria, so through several partnerships and collaborations we have been mobilizing resources to provide humanitarian relief items to vulnerable communities. Our outreach programs are ongoing, and we hope to further scale our impact to be able to reach more communities in need.

What challenges have you faced personally during this pandemic?
Personally, I had loved ones abroad that were infected with the virus, so it was difficult to be affected by the pandemic in this way but thankfully they overcame. I had moments of helplessness where I would see the numbers of cases rising and could only think about the communities that live on the equivalent of less than $2 per day and rely on day-to-day business to survive. I thought about the feasibility of physical distancing in low-income communities where several families live under one roof. I cringed at the thought of how many millions of Nigerians already do not having access to sanitation or clean water to wash their hands several times a day as was recommended. I felt that the instructions being given to us by authorities were unrealistic for so many Nigerians and it broke my heart to be confined to the comfort of my home while there were people suffering beyond comprehension. That is when I told myself I had to do something.

How has the viral outbreak impacted your business/career/work?
In what ways has your organisation adapted to this season?
I have been working from home throughout the outbreak which has been quite an experience. Pyjama Zoom meetings and washing the dishes while updating a PowerPoint presentation have totally become a thing! I think my multi-tasking skills have improved. The company has adapted to the current reality very well.

What inspired your covid-19 response?
As a member of the Lagos Hub of the Global Shapers Community, we are very responsive to the needs of our communities within our city. We are a social impact organization and a movement in many ways. We believe young people are central to solution building and policy making to create lasting change so in times of crisis we spring into action. We surveyed and identified the needs in various communities in Lagos including Lagos Island, Ikota, and Bariga to name a few and partnered with other organizations to mobilize resources and provide relief materials to those in need. We have provided canned food, non-perishable food items, free sanitary products, toiletries and several other necessities to over 400 families during this period and are working towards doing much more.

On a broader scale, we also recognized that in the middle of this pandemic, rape, gender-based violence and racial injustice needed to be addressed. Our Hub responded to the rape and gender-based violence outcry for justice in Nigeria with an awareness campaign and have several other initiatives in the pipeline. I was also selected to become a member of the Racial Equity Sub-Committee under the Equity and Inclusion Committee of the Global Shapers Community to spearhead efforts to address racial inequity within our communities and at the global stage. I look forward to sharing the outcomes of the work we are doing soon.

What is your daily motivation and the driving force that keeps you going?
I asked God to give me a heart that breaks for the things that break His heart and I believe that is what motivates me daily. My faith in God is the anchor of my life. As a Christian, the example I want to follow is Jesus Christ. Though I falter, every day I strive to live as He lived. I am guided by Biblical scriptures such as Proverbs 31:8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak, and for the rights of those who are left without help. Speak up. Be right and fair in what you decide. Stand up for the rights of those who are suffering and in need.”

What has the general response been to your project?
The general response has been very positive. The communities we work with are extremely receptive towards us. One thing we take very seriously is building trust. I believe that many communities feel betrayed by their political representatives. Many politicians come to marginalized communities during election seasons to galvanize support and win votes then abandon their constituents while in office. When you do not keep to your promises you have simply used people as props, which is hurtful.

This type of distrust is what will make outreach initiatives for well-meaning organizations very difficult so what we have done is built relationships with these communities over the years to ensure that our intentions are clearly expressed, no ulterior motives. During our Lagos Island outreach project where we shared free sanitary pads to young girls, a gentleman came up to me and said, “I know you. You have been coming here for years to help. I remember the project you did with the children for Christmas years ago.” Though I did not recognize him, I was very happy to know that trust was built because of consistency.

What has been the most testing or challenging part of the process to-date?
The most challenging part of the process has been selecting which communities to support and ensuring you are providing adequate support. Some communities do not require food, they require toiletries. Without engaging community members, you might find you are working amiss. There are millions of Nigerians in need and unfortunately, one organization does not have the capacity to address all social ills. Therefore, I believe partnerships are so important to scale impact and to transfer knowledge. We are still in need of funds and other resources so we will continue to galvanize support.

What are the positives you will take away from this experience?
The most positive take-away from this experience has been witnessing individuals spring into action. It has been heartwarming to see the number of Nigerians willing to risk their own health in the middle of a pandemic to help others. That tells us that we do have a sense of humanity and responsibility to help those in need.

What is the end goal for your vision and what would you like your legacy to be?
My vision is to see a unified Nigeria. My vision is to see the democratic institutions of this nation re-built. I hope to see a renewed social contract between Nigerians because the social contract is the pillar around which everything revolves. As at now, corruption has eroded that social contract and corruption does not exist only within political spheres. My vision is to see young people at the forefront of this movement to shape Nigeria into the Giant that it is meant to be. I have said that we have the power to dismantle systems of oppression and the political, social and economic structures that reinforce injustice and exclusion. I hope to leave a legacy of dedication to re-building what is broken in our societies.

What advice do you have for the public and/or government with regards to the current crisis and its impact on the citizens of Nigeria?
My advice to government is for them to be transparent in their decision-making processes as it concerns their response to the pandemic. Public information should be made available to the public. I think that is critical to re-building the trust that is so desperately needed in times of crisis. I also encourage the government to require youth civic education in schools which will lead to better youth representation and participation in decision-making processes going forward. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that Nigeria must move from an analog mindset. Young people understand the technology revolution better than anyone. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in an era of new and innovative technologies we are seeing around the world. Workflow processes are being automated which improves productivity, efficiency and overall output.

Many of us will even share a workspace with a robot or some form of Artificial Intelligence sometime soon. This is a change we must embrace and who better than young people to help our nation adapt to this new reality? Especially with the alarming youth unemployment rate, as more than half of the population in Nigeria is young people, there are several opportunities for us to move the country forward with young people at the forefront. Aside from that, I would also advise the government to require history and civic education in school curricula. A collective understanding of Nigeria’s history is what is needed for us to heal from the wounds of the past and commit to building a better future for ourselves and for the generations to come. Without an understanding of the nation’s history and civic education, history is bound to repeat itself.

How do you feel about being called a hero?
To be called a hero is an honor but honestly, I consider myself a servant leader. I have committed myself to a life of service to humanity and I don’t think I have any other purpose here on Earth than that.

What are your hopes for the future of Nigeria post-covid?
As I mentioned earlier, COVID-19 has exposed so much about Nigeria and I think now that our issues are glaringly obvious, I believe we should decide to work collaboratively towards a better future for this country. My hope is for a unified Nigeria, one with more integrous leaders, stronger institutions, a much lower poverty rate, lower unemployment rate, and thriving industries. This is not impossible and I believe we can work towards making this a reality.

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