Elizabeth Talatu WILLIAMS is a Sexual Reproductive Health expert and girl child advocate. She was recently recognized by BBC Media Action Naija for her work in using the media in promoting and advocating for the sexual reproductive health of young people.
She has worked in the development sector for the last 6 years – with expertise in managing teams, monitoring and evaluation of programs, report writing, and research. Her expertise has seen her manage projects mainly focused on sexual reproductive health, FGM/C, family planning, HIV/AIDs, and gender-based violence.
Her expertise has made her serve in several capacities locally and internationally. She is the National Deputy Coordinator of the African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (AFriYAN), Nigeria, a Leaving No Nigerian Behind (LeNNiB) Champion, a Young African Leader Initiative (YALI) Regional and Leadership Center Alumnus, West Africa. She speaks with Akin Oyedokun in this interview.
Current role: Founder and CEO, Sustainable Impact and Development Initiative for Adolescent and Youth (SID INITIATIVE)
Location: Lagos, Nigeria
What you want to be remembered for: Advancing the sexual reproductive health and rights of young people all over the world.
Tell us how you started out and how you got to where you are today?
My journey started at the age of 17 upon completion of my secondary education in 2013. I applied to participate in the Youth Skills Development Programme (YSDP) in Action Health Incorporated (AHI). I was selected alongside 5 other youths to work as Youth Programme Assistants in the organization. This was my first introduction to the development space specifically in the areas of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.
Although I gained admission into the University of Lagos to study accounting, my passion propelled me to take up volunteering roles with organizations that worked in the areas of SRHR and young people. These work and volunteer experiences birthed my first international engagement. I was nominated to represent Nigeria on the Girls Engagement Advisory Board, which comprised of 10 girls from around the world advocating for the prioritization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. I had the opportunity of speaking on a panel organized by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) just before the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the importance of gender equality.
Afterward, I got selected as a member of the UNFPA Youth Participatory Platform (YPP) in 2016 and elected as the YPP Youth Coordinator for the Lagos office in 2018. I always loved writing and so I started an online Blog called “SRH Hub” where I provide young people with sexuality education. This blog metamorphosed into the Sustainable Impact and Development Initiative (SID INITIATIVE) in April 2019.
Every day, young people continue to fall prey to unplanned pregnancy, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. SID Initiative continues to work to put a stop to this. I am grateful for my team of passionate youth advocates that started this journey with me and my amazing volunteers whose support has been a breath of fresh air. It has not been easy but with God, commitment and hard work, we will achieve our mission.
What time do wake up, and what time do you like to be at your desk?
I am a Nocturnal person and as a result, I sleep past 12 am most days which translates into me waking up around 6-7 am depending on my schedule for the day. I like to be at my desk by 9 am.
A brief rundown of your daily routine?
I hold different portfolios and manage different projects, so my routine is not so much of a routine, it changes a lot of the time. But generally, I wake up, say a prayer, get ready for the day’s work, listen to music which is one of my favorite hobbies and work on the tasks for the day.
How do you keep track of what you have to do, on a daily?
I love my to-do-list. I learned this from my first working experience in AHI and it has been super helpful. It enables me to itemize my tasks for the day in areas of priority and keep track of what I have done and still needs to be done. I literally have to-do-list for every area of my life. It works like magic.
Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in business?
Well, looking back I won’t classify them as tough situations but a part of the learning experience and journey. In the development space, every day is tough but the will to keep working and not give up is what makes the difference.
What is the best business or career advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t overthink it, just start. It has always helped me to work on that idea I have and not keep thinking and procrastinating.
What conventional life or business advice do you disagree with?
You can’t be an expert in more than one field. I used to believe this but not anymore. You can be skilled in more than one field and still be a badass at it. Never limit your potentials or talents. If you are blessed with more than one gift, use it and own it.
If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. Everything I have learned, mistakes I have made and experiences I have gathered over the years have shaped me into the woman that I am. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Tell us about your current role and key traits required to succeed in this role.
I currently work as the Executive Director of the Sustainable Impact and Development Initiative (SID Initiative). I am tasked with managing my team, delegating duties and ensuring timely implementation as well as fundraising for the organization. The key traits for me are empathy, sacrifice, delegation, and effective communication.
Tell us about a task do you dislike but still do and a problem you’re still trying to solve?
I dislike sourcing for funds, I find it to be very difficult, but it is something I will always have to do because of the nature of my organization. I tend to sometimes be a perfectionist, but I am working on it. I am learning to understand that the hiccups that happen along the way are opportunities to learn what shouldn’t be done next time.
Who has had the greatest impact on your career, and why?
Dr. Esther Somefun, UNFPA ASRH/HIV Analyst has had the greatest impact on my career. She has and continues to teach, guide and mentor me in my career path. Many of the skills I have acquired today and the opportunities I have had are a result of her mentorship.
What business achievement are you most proud of?
I am proud of the achievements I and my team – Mary, Nonye, Mosope, Funmi, Blessing, Chimdinma, and Julius made barely a year into the start-up of SID Initiative. In 2019, we were able to positively impact the lives of 374 young people directly in Lagos state. I look forward to doing more in 2020.
Tell us about your greatest weakness as an individual.
I love to assist people, and this is sometimes taken for granted. I am learning to say NO to requests that are not mutually beneficial.
Name two untapped lucrative business opportunities in the world, right now.
For business, I will say fashion and agriculture.
Aside from God, what do you consider your greatest success secret?
Family, Mentors and my Network.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?
I am currently reading Smart Money Woman by Arese Ugwu
What tools, gadgets, or apps can’t you do without?
My phone, laptop and note pad.
What’s your favorite social media platform, handle, and why?
My favorite social media platform is LinkedIn @Elizabeth Talatu Williams. This is because it gives me and my work visibility and access to resources both human and material.
How do you unwind?
I unwind by going to the cinema to watch a movie, hanging out with friends at a chill spot eating catfish pepper soup and a drink. I also love listening to music and playing games on my phone.
Who would you love to have answered these questions?
Dolapo Olaniyan, founder, Gender Equality and Empowerment Network and 2018 British Council Future Leader.