Oduwa Agboneni is the Executive Director at Nenis Foundation, a non-profit organisation and corporate social responsibility of Nenis Auto Care. In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, she explained how lecturers in higher institutions can win grants by taking training courses on how to write a winning proposal that will attract funding for their institutions, among other issues. Excerpts:
You founded Nenis Foundation with a vision to transform the lives of girls, women, and youths through entrepreneurship technical and vocational education training, what impact has this made in their lives?
At Nenis Foundation, we are not only focused on honing the skills of our students but we are also keen on developing the right mind set in them as we believe that the way an individual think about his skill and her work etiquette belief counts. This training method has through our programs empowered girls, women, and children to turn their skills into decent economics which has given them the opportunity to live their best lives and has also made them confident.
Managing an auto care seems to be the preserve of boys, do you share in this view and what efforts is your foundation making to bring more girls on board?
It is just a societal belief. We were meant to believe at an early age, that toys and machines are meant for boys and doll babies are for girls. That sharpened our mind set. I do not share in the view, I try as much as possible to start with a mind-set change when speaking with girls, that they can be whatever they want to be. We have also organised lots of STEM programmes and trainings to help increase the interest of girls in fields that the society has created a perception belongs to guys.
You have been a recipient of Royal Academy of Engineering UK grant winner for Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Africa catalyst scheme including the French government entrepreneurial programme on STEM, how do you intend to utilise it to benefit the Nigerian economy?
I have through collaboration with organization and institutions like Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers (NIMechE), Engineers Against Poverty United Kingdom, and others organised capacity building programmes like workshops, boot camps, innovation challenges tagged NIC 1.0, NIC 2.0, and Forging Africa Future Mechanical Engineers (FAFME) which is currently ongoing, has inculcated the entrepreneurship mindset in our engineering youths. Through training, funding, and mentorship they received for their ideas and innovations, I intend to organise more of these programs as we have got loads of empowerment project in the pipeline.
In what ways do you think the country can ensure an equal representation of skilled men and women in the engineering sector?
We will have to do a lot of advocacy and sensitisation, on the ‘engineering for only boys’ mindset’, encourage more engineering for girls initiative right from the dream gap age (three years and above). Mainstreaming gender into professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs) policies and programs will take it further and next step will be implementation.
What lessons can youths who intend to go into entrepreneurship learn with your experience in Entrepreneurship Technical and Vocational Education (TVE) training?
Every big project, company and organisation out there started as an idea in the minds of the founder. They should not be afraid to dream and pursue their dream but while doing so, they should also learn and develop the right skills that would help them in achieving this dream. They should be aware there is great strength in collaboration.
Post-COVID-19, what efforts will your organisation make to ensure an effective leadership and innovation in TVET training delivery for youth development?
Our organisation has always been in the fore front of creating awareness, training and development of girls, women, and youth in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). We have put more training and boot camps in place that would be rolled out few months for now. We also noticed the poor awareness on the importance of TVET, that we would tackle aggressively.
One of the challenges lecturers in higher institutions face is writing a good research proposal to attract grants that would benefit students and their institutions, how do you think they could surmount this challenge?
They can benefit by taking training courses on how to write a winning proposal that will attract funding. For instance, I recently monetized my grant writing skills. I am a grant recipient of over 10 programmes. I am a self-taught grant writer and I am committed to making the learning process easier for members of my Electronic learning hub. I have professors and doctors in my learning hub. So far, we have made progress. They can also learn from research as I would always advise everyone to make the internet your close buddy.