FabAfriq Magazine

Get Down With Dr.Chichi Menakaya - Surgeon, Human rights activist and Fashion designer

“As a little girl, my mother told me that I had the ability to be whatever I wanted to be and achieve all I put my mind to. This made me believe that I could change the world and make a difference one change at a time. These words motivate me every day…..Dr Chichi Menakaya

Dr Chichi Menakaya is a graduate of College of Medicine, University of Ibadan who currently works as a Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon in the United Kingdom. She has won awards for her contributions towards better health care provision worldwide. She leads generational change and has spoken in over 30 international meetings, numerous local and national conferences with over 20 cited publications. She serves on boards of different charities all geared towards generational change. She has a passion for Gender Based Violence and Gender Equality; which led to founding a UK based charity Okwuí Mask Scheme

      Her brainchild works in both Nigeria and the United Kingdom and breaches the gap between "victim mentality" and "survivors attitude" by means of self-love and understanding the core basics of violence while discovering the power within each of us. She is the CEO of Annomo Health, a luxury healthcare concierge based in London, United Kingdom which provides bespoke services to international patients by connecting them to top medical specialist and services worldwide. In her spare time, she enjoys fashion designing and her fashion line “Okwuís_Frocentric”, celebrates African culture while raising money for business ventures for grass root domestic violence survivors in Nigeria, West Africa through Okwuí Mask Scheme’s “Foster A Woman Award”. She has worn and continues to wear different hats in her life - surgeon, collaborator, educator, mentor, founder, volunteer, leader and team player. As a result she has the unique ability to manage multi-disciplinary projects, people and navigate complex challenges. She loves music, travelling and writing.

Fab Mag: What inspired you to start up Okwui Mask scheme?

Dr. Chichi: The survivors of domestic violence, the shocking statistics in the 21st century and the burning desire to protect these women drove me to start this journey. 


It didn’t start today, it started from my informal sessions in medical school. Okwuí Mask Scheme was incorporated because we became tired of keeping quiet or hiding behind a mask that the 21st century would protect these women. Today, there remains 2.2 million male victims and 4.5 million female victims of domestic violence worldwide yearly. I couldn’t keep quiet about these numbers any longer. Okwuí is my mother’s name, Mrs Ann “Okwuchukwu” Menakaya. “Okwuchukwu” is from Igboland in South East Nigeria, West Africa meaning “The word of God”. This charity was birthed because an extraordinary mother taught her daughter that with her voice, she could be the change she wanted to be and make a difference in life.

Fab Mag: How did your vision become a reality?

Dr. Chichi: As a surgeon, I concentrated on supporting immediate friends who had become exposed to this grievous crime. About 3 years ago, I was exposed constantly to friends, colleagues, patients and even strangers who had somewhat survived yet another predator. I was also confronted by a colleague who had benefited from my informal one-to-one sessions that started from just chatting about life. Lol!! I love to talk. She asked me a question, “Why can’t you help more people like you helped me?”. This was my turning point that sparked a new desire to do more and reach more women.

 I looked at women already in the programme, these women were not uneducated or unaccomplished, they had the best education, jobs and financial freedom but, still lived in this prison of violence. Majority of them walked around wearing a mask to hide their shame and I had to dig deep so many times, to get them to talk about their situations. We had to take a stand, so women across the globe could understand that they were not alone. We started out with motivational afternoons “Amour Meritée”, then we expanded to providing motivational packs to refuges in the UK “Kick Start With Okwuí” and then we launched business venture in Nigeria West Africa “Foster-A-Woman” alongside our advocacy work.  

Fab Mag: You are a surgeon, motivational speaker, founder, and CEO. How do you manage all these roles?

Dr. Chichi: These are my hobbies, so they are easy roles to manage. All these activities are related. My job as a surgeon involves constant interaction with patients and colleagues.


The best surgeons motivate, inspire and encourage all around them to ensure the best medical outcomes. I manage complex teams at work and in my life generally, so believe me these skills are already innate in me to apply outside work. Also, as a surgeon we create or reconstruct, that’s like designing. I have to admit, these roles can be sometimes challenging but, I have a great team that I work with in the UK, Nigeria and the US and without this team, we cannot achive anything. You need a great team to make your dream into reality.

Fab Mag: Can you describe your experience working with survivors of gender-based violence and governments across the globe to find an end to this menace?

Dr. Chichi: Where do I start?! Everyone believes survivors are uneducated and unexposed subdued individuals. This is false because anyone can be a victim of this grave crime which has different faces. Majority of survivors that I have worked with always have valid reasons why they continue to stay on with the predator instead of claiming the love they deserve. Some fail to recognise that they live in violence since the predator can be equated to a situation where people fail to recognise that they are the “prey”. A few others are too scared to leave their comfort zone for fear of inability to survive while others are too scared of societal judgement. I’ve also met women who have had enough and refuse to accept less any more. I tell people every day, gender-based violence is a wood pecker; it chips you slowly like wood till the base gives in and the individual crashes. When it comes to the government, our biggest challenges are changing legislation and we get a lot of resistance especially in Africa due to the huge impact of cultural ideations. Our work with the government is a long way and unless we get citizens to see that some of the cultures are not in their best interests, we cannot make global change.

Fab Mag: As a non- profitable organization, how do you raise funds to push forward your objectives?

Dr.Chichi: Our funds comes from three different sources. First, we have amazing donors who not only give us donations but, also products for our “Kick start packs” for survivors in refuges.

We have fundraising charity balls which is usually targeted to particular projects. Now, our biggest source of funds is through the sales of our fashion pieces worldwide via our fashion line ‘Okwuís Frocentric”. Okwuís_Frocentric label portrays the uniqueness and affluence of African culture by integrating this with global values. This fashion line was born out of a passion to empower survivors of domestic violence. Our production teams are either benefactors of our “Foster A Woman” campaign or local female owned businesses in Nigeria, West Africa who align with our values to empower others. We also have a few male owned local businesses that we support. In May 2018, we started accepting designs from independent production partners to our collections. Most of our benefactors are referred by our representatives in Nigeria, West Africa who are willing to mentor the survivors while they grow their businesses and gain financial freedom. 

 

Fab Mag: Any plans for the organization before the year comes to an end? 

Dr.Chichi: Now, we work with different female and male refugees across the United Kingdom. We hope to expand our benefactor base in Nigeria to reach more women and start more businesses. We hope to also have a charity ball in Nigeria this year. This is exciting since we have been planning this for two years. In August 2018, we will be launching our male fashion line themed “He Matters”. This is to encourage men to get involved with the work towards ending domestic violence.


FabMag: A word of advice for anyone reading this who is dealing with gender-based violence of any kind?

Dr.Chichi: You are beautiful, you are fabulous, you are amazing, and you deserve to be loved. You deserve the best. So, please look at yourself in the mirror. Can you see your strength? You are unstoppable, you are unbreakable, you are stronger than you think. Look around you, they tried to destroy you and you are still standing. You are a hero. Do not worry about what they say, you can survive on your own if you flee. You only asked to be loved. You have committed no crime. It’s not you, it’s the perpetrator. Do not worry about what the world would say, you have only one life. Claim the love you deserve!!!! I love you. I admire you!! I stand with you. You are not ALONE!!!

 

 

 

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