Convener of Leadership Conference and founder, Zeal Solutions, Dr Lina Mba, speaks with JANEFRANCES CHIBUZOR about the need to rehabilitate the out-of-school girl-child, her love for Edmonton, Nigerian cultural values and why the forthcoming Leadership Conference will be hosted in Canada, among other issues. Excerpts:
Becoming an ambassador of a multi-racial city like Edmonton in Canada
I think hosting conferences and playing the part of a touristis necessary for me as an aspiring ambassador who loves Edmonton so much. I want to promote and easily access tourist sites. I have already started hosting international conferences and bringing potential investors to the city. I’m doing all these things because of my ambassadorial ambition. So that people can easily access tourist sites. It is something that you need to make your job easier.
Inspiration for girl-child project
By just looking at my daughter, I see how important it is to raise her into a self-sufficient and independent woman that can work, create income and contribute to the economy effectively. It breaks my heart to see that there are many teenage girls that dropped out of school due to early pregnancy and they don’t have the skills to support themselves. Since the Nigerian Government is not designed like the Canadian government that provides support to the less privileged, we need to empower these young girls and help them to acquire skills, such as sewing and hairdressing, while they focus on raising their children.
Passion for conferences and tourism
I started Zeal Solutions because I love to travel and the world is like a global village to me. Now it is very important that, even if you don’t have a visa to go to all these countries, to have a Nigerian passport. There are lots of visa-free countries close to Nigeria that are beautiful. It is very important to explore such countries. When you travel, you have a better mindset and you appreciate other people’s culture. There is this type of education that comes with travelling. I encourage everyone to travel. I am passionate about traveling, tourism and posting. I’m also interested in self-development. I want people to be educated and to enjoy traveling. It is like an all-in-one package: You are networking, getting education and exploring the city of Edmonton. This is awesome.
Also I love to do volunteer work. I founded an organisation through Mercy Foundation. Aside the girl-child project, we have provided learning materials to children in struggling schools. We have also sponsored WAEC examinations for those who could not afford it. Also we do a lot of volunteer work. I love to help people and I love to see our communities develop.
My 5-year plan for Zeal Solutions
We hope to organise more conferences across the world in the next five years. We hope to expand in terms of training and workshop. We plan to go virtual, in a sense that those, who are unable to attend a workshop in person, can attend online. We are all about impact and to make sure we spread our impact all over the world.
Life as mother, wife, etc, rolled in one
It is not easy juggling this whole thing at once. As a wife and mother, I think I am lucky to have a family that supports me. I don’t put my business before my family. It is actually the other way around and I make sure that, in everything that I do, my home is being taken care of. Of course, working as an ambassador and running Zeal Solutions is not easy. This is not the traditional nine-to-five routine. My business is like a personal skill. I still have that flexibility to work within a specific time-frame. This reflects on the girls that we are trying to empower because if they can sew and do hairdressing, it means that they can work within a specified time-frame. This way, they will not be separated from their kids.
The fact is that most of these girls are scared to go back to school. For them, it is very important that the kids come first. And that is what we’re trying to do by raising funds for them to acquire certain skills that they can put to effective use without neglecting their children.
So juggling it all, like I said, has been possible only by the grace of God. You just have to manage your time effectively and you have to plan. I have different journals and planners
Spending leisure time
Travelling is my favourite hobby. I can travel all the time. Another thing I love to do is take my daughter out to play in winter. There are lots of parks here. We visit indoor parks and we go to the library. There are many beautiful side attractions in Edmonton, especially for children. Also there are many art works. If you’ are someone who loves art, you will enjoy the sights in the city.
Shopping is my hobby, too. Although I am a frugal person, I have this constant urge to do some shopping. And often I find myself struggling to contain this urge.
Tourist sites in Edmonton
We have the Aviation Museum, West Edmonton Mall and Alberta Legislature building, among others. There are other historical monuments that the average tourist would love to visit. We have one of the best restaurants in Canada and Edmonton is home to many festivals. We have Farmers’ Market and just so many wonderful things that new tourists would enjoy.
Dealing with challenges
As a black representative, you’re going to face a lot of problems from white counterparts who feel that you’re not qualified enough. This is as much my position as that of other people who live and work in Canada. They will tell you just the same thing, if you ask. When you are black and you are a leader or hold a top job, a lot of people, most of them white folk, will ask questions: Who is this guy? Who is this lady? Where did he get his education from? When did she come to Canada? Is she even Canadian? This is one of the challenges that many immigrants face. And that’s why I encourage people who want to start their own businesses to go on and do it. That way, they don’t have to combat discrimination in the workplace.
Place of cultural values in child development
Raising children is important, but most of the work goes into what you do at home. I try to share our values with my daughter. I read the Bible to her, I make sure I pray with her and I let her know the importance of attending children’s Bible study. I’m very intentional about moral values because virtue starts from the home. If at there is no moral value at home, it will reflect in the child’s character. Everything starts at home. I’m also very intentional about taking my daughter to community meetings, such as Igbo community meetings, Yoruba community meetings and other Nigerian community meetings, so that she can have a sense of belonging and identification.
It is important to know where one coming from and to have a better understanding of Nigerian culture. That is why I try to incorporate moral and social values in the training of the child. I keep my daughter within the community. I don’t expose her and so she is around people with similar values. She is growing up in a home with strong Christian and traditional Nigerian values. So I’m not too concerned about what the society may think or say because she has a solid foundation and I’m here to back her up physically and spiritually.
Although I’m an ambassador, it may shock you to know that I make dinner almost every night. I cook frequently because I am currently on a diet and I’m making like three different meals every day: One for my husband who loves spicy food, one for myself and another for my daughter because she cannot eat the spicy food I make for her father. So I literally cook a lot. Also, I have to clean and sanitise the house because she plays a lot. Canada is not like Nigeria where you can get help easily. You’re going to be surprised that people here do things by themselves. They juggle a lot of things and they are very practical.