In the last edition of the TeenAchiever bulletin, Zuriel Oduwole, a 14 year old film maker and girl child education advocate was featured in the teenspiration column. We bring you the exclusive interview with this amazing young girl. Be inspired!
Tell us about yourself
So my name is Zuriel Oduwole, I am 14 years old and I am in the 11th grade at Connections High School in California. My dad is from Ogun State in Nigeria, and my mom is from Port Louis in Mauritius, so I have a true Pan African background, but I was born in Los Angeles, so that means I’m also a Californian Girl. I have lived in Lagos before, and I love my Eba and Egusi soup, and yes, I eat it with my hands !!! I play in a soccer league in my city, and also in a basketball league. As you can see, I love sports a lot. If I’m good enough, I might play in the Olympics someday – that would be great !!!
The average teenager is uninterested by issues such as education advocacy. Can you tell us what really motivated you to embark on education advocacy especially for the girl-child?
When I lived in Lagos and during my travels to other countries in Africa, I always saw a lot of kids, especially girls selling things on the street, I thought about their parents. It had to mean their parents were poor, because rich people do not sell things on the street on their heads, or chase after cars to try and collect money for what they sold. Also, most of those kids are not in school and spend all their time selling things, it means they would have fewer options in life when they get older. That means they would most likely end up in tough jobs that pay very little, meaning they too like their parents would be poor. That is not cool at all, especially if someone can do something about it. So, I thought to try and do something, and that is how my Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up project began in 2013 when I was 10 years old. What I do is talk to children who are in school, and who are not in school, about the importance of education and what it can do for them when they get older. Now I have spoken to about 24,890 in 11 countries, including Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, South Africa, the US, Namibia and Nigeria as well.
You acknowledge Jesus Christ a lot in your speeches and writings. Please tell us about your relationship with Jesus Christ and how has it impacted the projects and work that you do.
I do not know where to start, but all I have known are my parents first, and they told me clearly that they are not the ones in charge, but the LORD is, and I have to develop my relationship with Him. I have done that since then, and I lean on Him for strength and wisdom. The coolest thing that happens when the LORD leads, is that the most amazing things happen. For example, apart from all the Presidents I have met, a few days ago, I met the US Secretary of State in his office in Washington DC. He had heard of the things I was doing, and wanted to honour and commend me. That was really cool, and we talked about Education, Girls Issues, Global challenges like Syria and things like that. Just imagine me, 14 years old, meeting John Kerry, when he was busy dealing with global issues like Iran, China, ISIS, Syria, Russia Brexit, and there I was, talking with him for about 20 minutes and just chilling too. See, that’s an example of the effect of the LORD leading you and giving you favour. John Kerry is the most powerful foreign minister in the world. His decisions affect the whole world, it really does. And that’s who I was sitting with a few days ago.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?
Some people think it was speaking at the UN last September 2016 on Climate Change & Education, but I would say maybe 2 things, having met 24 Presidents and Prime Ministers across the globe to talk to them about creating policies that makes sure all Girls go to school, and then maybe making my first film that showed in the movie theaters at age 12. It first showed at Genesis Deluxe Cinema in Lekki, and Film House cinema in Surulere, then it showed in Ghana, South Africa, England, and in Tokyo – Japan. So I would say these 2 things, and I’m very grateful to the LORD for guiding my steps in all these. It wasn’t easy, but it happened. I am thankful !!!
Was there ever a time you failed in achieving a set goal? If there was, what did you learn from it?
Yes, when I entered my first film competition at the age of 9, I did not even get to the 3rd round. There are 5 rounds, then you go to the county finals, and then the state finals, and then you represent your state at the National finals in the US in Maryland. I was disappointed, but it meant I needed to work harder. The next year when I was 10,I did, and this time, I won the county finals, so that was a huge improvement.
Was there a significant event that triggered your decision and actions so far?
Seeing many children selling things on the street, and also watching the global news where they always show the negative things about Africa, when there are positive things, but they were not showing them.
You are a teenager of many skills and talents. From setting up advocacy projects, to exerting positive influence on global issues as well as having enviable public speaking and interviewing skills. How have you been able to harness and develop all of these over the years?
First, I pray every single day, and what I ask for the most is wisdom, not a shoe or a cool dress, or a nice gadget, but wisdom. Then that guides all I do, and how I prepare. Plus, I love what I do. I really do enjoy it.
How do you successfully juggle academics and your focus on major global developmental issues?
My parents help me out a lot, and they encourage me. My dad quit his job so he can work with me more on my projects when they began to get bigger and more complex, and we could not afford to pay a staff. He sold his car, we moved to a smaller house, so he could help. I am always grateful for that. I hope that one day, I can repay him, but I know what he would say. «You keep it, because parents sacrifice for their children». But I am still very grateful to him.
What is the one thing you would do, if you had no limitations whatsoever?
I would stop crime before it happens, and I would warn those doing it that next time, they would be in serious trouble, especially those who take the wealth that belongs to everyone else and they keep it for themselves. That is so not cool.
With your involvements in key sectors affecting the human race, what is your vision for Africa and the world at large?
It would be that all children, especially girls get to go to school to at least University. But regarding Africa, that people take a lot of pride in themselves and do all the best they can to make their communities a better place, and be their brothers keeper – really, help those who cannot help themselves, and inspire all those around them. If that happens, I really think the continent would change. I really do.
What is your advice to teenagers who have interest in advocacy and policy reformation but do not have the platform, exposure, opportunities and resources to do so?
I get asked this a lot. I did not have a platform, until I started doing something first. I learned that nobody would come to you and just offer you a platform. You must be doing something that gets you noticed, and then the platform would come. I did not start to get platform, I just wanted to help and do something, and after a while, it turned into a platform. I hope I make a little sense. It is had to explain, but that is what happened. So I would say just find what you like to do, and do it especially when no one is looking at you, or noticing what you are doing.
Your advice to readers of the TeenAchieve!
I have to say know from now that you have a purpose in life. Start by asking the LORD your God, what your purpose is, and that HE should show you what it is. Then have fun doing it, no matter what anyone else says, have fun doing it. But you must believe in yourself also.