Our ability to overcome our fears and challenges takes us to our goal – Ononigbo
Born into a humble family, Mrs Chinyere Esther Ononigbo never allowed her background undermine her aspiration of becoming a success in life. Despite meeting same fate as her mother, losing hubby at the early stage of marriage, Mrs Ononigbo strived against all odds to be a good mother to her children, providing both maternal and paternal as well as material care they needed while growing up. In this discussion with ADA NWANAGUM, she shares her experiences in addition to offering advice to young ladies.
My name is Mrs Esther Chinyere Ononigbo. I am a mother, a wife, a sister and a friend. My life history is like a big book with many different stories. My father died very early, so my mum had to take care of us from the petty trade she did. We are six in number and I am the second to the last child. Of course, you know what it takes for a single mum to take care of six kids with little or no resources. I had my primary education at Community Primary School (Salvation Army) Omaigwe. I spent three years of my life there before going down to Port Harcourt to stay with my paternal uncle. It was there that I completed my primary education at Faith Baptist Primary School, Old GRA, Port Harcourt. Later, l attended Lao-Russell Secondary School, No 6, Emekuku Street, D/line, Port Harcourt. Well, I was not opportune to further my studies after my secondary school education, so, I had to venture into some trade and worked for a while before marriage proposals started coming and I did the needful. I got married and started my own family,. I am blessed with five lovely kids, two handsome dudes and three pretty angels. Life was never that easy even after marriage. I started some business which didn’t go well for me until I ventured into something I took as a passion, and that was when I ventured into catering. It has really taken me far in life, although I cannot yet say that I have arrived or made it big in the catering world but, at least, catering has taken me to a level beyond my imaginations.
My childhood days were not too sweet and not too bad either. It was neither here nor there, but it had its ups and downs. The best news about it is that, it has really helped me in life today. It got me prepared for the future I am facing right now.
My mum played the most important role in my life, being the only parent I had after the early death of my father. My paternal uncle also impacted a whole lot on my life as I lived most of life with him and his family.
Childhood dreams and aspirations
My childhood dreams were so bogus… (Smiles) but I had always dreamt of becoming a medical doctor, hence my interest in the science subjects during my secondary school days, but this dream was not achieved, it totally fizzled out.
I know what I am into today was not what I aspired to be in life. During my childhood days it never occurred to me that I would become a baker, but since most times our dreams don’t come true as we aspire, I had to go into catering, and honestly, I have this passion for it. I would say, I am happy and fulfilled in what I am today.
Fears and challenges while growing up
You see, fears and challenges are part and parcel of one’s life. We can’t live without these two, and our ability to overcome our fears and challenges takes us to our goal. So far so good, my fears are failures, and fear for the unknown.
Overcoming the fears and challenges
I overcame those fears and challenges by being persistent and consistent in my work, by telling myself that I can do it even better, no matter the circumstances I find myself. People say that action speaks louder than words, but consistency is the father of them all, because it announces you.
Greatest career or life threatening challenge(s)
I have gone through a lot of challenges in life, but the most life-threatening challenge I had was losing my husband to the cold hands of death at the early stage of my life and two years after I had my last child. So, having to take care of my kids on my own without any support from anyone, struggled on my own to put food on their table and cloth on their body, and also being able to take care of their studies and every of their needs…it’s indeed the most life-threatening experience for me.
Wife, mother and career woman
I have had a lot of experiences as a mother, a wife and a career woman, some sweet, some bitter and some sour experiences. It’s not easy having kids, taking care of your home and also running your business. But I thank God I am self employed. I had little or no help at all from anyone. I do my baking job from home so it gave me much time to balance the equation so that none of them lags behind. I have the support of my husband (when alive) and my little kids and I think I am really doing good in balancing the three jobs… (Smiles).
As a career woman, I have been able to achieve something in my own capacity, both in my family and the society at large, although I am yet to reach the pinnacle of my destiny. You see, at an early stage of my life, before my marriage could be strong and stable, I lost my husband, and it was not easy for me to raise the kids alone. That task seemed so unachievable but I tell you today, the reverse is the case, thanks to my work and Almighty God.
I have so many of my fellow Igbo women who have inspired me to keep pushing. Late Dora Akunyili, for instance, was a good role model to me. I love her guts so much. She strived so hard even in the midst of men, because our society today is mainly referred to as men’s world. But, she didn’t allow that phrase to stop her from being what she aspired in life. Yes, my mum also, Mrs. Beatrice Okafor, is my very first role model. She really inspired me also because she is a strong woman who was able to take care of us even when my dad was not there, running her trade and taking care of her home.
Sexual abused or harassment
Yes, but I had to pull through it. You know these things seem to be termed the norms of our society today.
Yes, I do. It is a day to day experience for almost all women in our society today. Women are being harassed and intimidated every day in pursuit of their career and it is not healthy for their career, yetl, it’s not a guarantee that their work is secured from the male folk.
Curbing sexual harassment/ intimidations
Ladies should speak out when they are being sexually harassed, and severe punishment should be given to the abusers which could include life jail or paying of huge fine.
Sexual harassment at place of work
The lady should not and never give in to such act because if she does give in, it will encourage them (abusers) to harass more ladies.
Yes, l have encountered it, but that was some years back after I had lost my husband, when land was shared for my son and his uncles. He was still very young and I asked that I should represent him due to his age but they totally rejected my request. But, finally, I was asked to get someone from my father’s place to represent him, so I called my uncle to come and stand for him.
I would love to be remembered as a great mum, who has stood by her children through thick and thin. My son will always tell me, mum I will love to marry a wife like you and that alone gives me great joy.
Advice to the younger generation of women
The younger generation needs to be strong and know what they really want in life. They should have big dream and be focused and work very hard to achieve their dreams. In terms of relationships, they should be able to differentiate between love and lust, and always try to involve themselves in healthy relationships. They should be able to do things according to their capacity and right instincts and not according to the bad norms of the society, because the impact of negative influence and evil acts in our present day society is really alarming.