Dec 20 by Julia Sumouske
Recently, a list of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Africa, published by New African Magazine, was released. Powerful politicians, business moguls, music producers and celebrities topped the list of influencers. Who else was included? None other than 11-year-old Zuriel Oduwole from Nigeria.
Zuriel is celebrated for her desire to see all girls in Africa empowered and in school. She has made a name for herself by interviewing major public figures and for directing her very own documentary. Not only has she become a veteran journalist, but Zuriel made history as being the youngest person EVER to be interviewed by Forbes Magazine!
I recently got the opportunity to interview Zuriel over e-mail. Check out what this impressive 11-year-old girl had to say.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge girls around the world face today?
The one I know about the most is that they do not get the same chances as boys do to get an education. And sometimes they have to get married very early – like, 13 years old or 14 years old and that is not nice. Sometimes, I see on the news what it is like when they get married early and it is sad.
- What influenced you to start the "Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up" program, which is designed to empower girls in Africa?
I used to watch the news with my mom and dad and I would see young girls in countries like India who were working to make bricks, or build houses, and sometimes boys also working in dirty places. Sometimes they are young like 5 years old or 6 years old. Also when I travel to places like Ghana or Ethiopia or Nigeria, I see girls like me selling things on the street, with trays on their heads selling food. Sometimes, they have to chase the cars to try and sell one small thing, and they might get hurt. Then I look at myself and my younger sisters and I think we have a great opportunity and I think we can do something about it.
- What are your future plans for the program?
I want to continue to visit the schools in many countries and speak to girls and their parents and government leaders about the importance of education for the girls. I have done the project in three African countries already: Nigeria, Malawi and Tanzania.
- Out of all the extraordinary people you have had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting, who taught you the most?
I would say they all taught me different things because they come from many different backgrounds. President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana taught me to be fearless, because he led a successful revolution and he taught his daughter to fly a fighter jet when she was 13 – and I am only 11 now so that is cool. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia taught me to study harder and work harder as a young woman. Africa’s richest person Aliko Dangote showed me what he was doing around the world to help the poor – even in Pakistan, and he is not from there, which means there is no boundaries when helping others.
Who was the most entertaining? Venus Williams. Definitely Venus Williams because she was funny and said things that made everyone laugh when I asked her my first question. Also President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia was funny in her answers.
- What are your plans for the future?
I want to do more documentaries about girls and women doing great things in places where usually it is men that do those things. I would also like to do documentaries that show the challenges girls face, so maybe those who watch it will be inspired to do something.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would be 21 then, so I will probably have my master’s degree and will be teaching young women in Africa how to make documentaries and tell their stories. That would be really neat and nice.
- What's your vision for a perfect world?
I’m not sure I can answer that, but maybe where everyone’s voice counts, no matter where you are from and what you look like.
- How can others get involved?
I think everyone should ask themselves what they can do to help and try to do something. Girls are special. We all are special.