At the 2018 African Women in the Media (AWIM) Conference I met many women with inspiring stories. One of them was Maimuna Kolo, the first Female Press Secretary to serve the deputy governor of her state in Minna. We laughed together as she shared a little glimpse from her journey into getting to her present work. Life has dealt her some blows as she lost her first husband yet she rises above her loss to become the formidable woman she now is. Let me share with you a bit from my interview with her.
Maimuna Kolo: I grew up in Jos. While in Jos, my first husband passed on may his soul rest in peace and I moved to Minna where I remarried. Broadcast journalism has always been my passion ever since I was a little girl. I will sit in front of the mirror, start reading story books, practicing how to read the news. At that time one of my role models was Bimbo Roberts, I loved the way she read the news. So I wanted to be that kind of person. When I was writing my JAMB, my dad, may his soul rest in peace, didn’t want me to go into the media because of the stigma that is attached to women in the media. But I was stubborn, he didn’t know and I put in for Mass Communication. And that was the course I studied even though he was not happy. But I wish he was alive now to see where I am now and what I have become.
A.A: Did you ever work for a media organization
Maimuna: I worked for the state TV. I was a producer, presenter, and a news reader. When I moved from Jos to Minna and I got the job at the state television, at the interview I was asked about how many years of working experience I had. I said none. And they said, “we mean where have you worked before?” I said, “I have never worked before” because my late husband didn’t want me to work and this is my first time working. It was after his death that I moved to Minna. They were so surprised because when I auditioned I read the news perfectly. They thought I had experience but It was all about my love and passion for the job.
A.A: In other words, you are saying if a woman reading this now has a dream, regardless of whether she has experience or not, she should just step out?!
Maimuna: She should strongly step out! She shouldn’t let her dreams die. Like I told my children, at a point in time, “I have lived my life for you but now I want to live my life, I don’t want life to pass me by”.
So if you have that passion for anything, you should step out; don’t let anybody kill your dream. Make your dream come true. – Maimuna Kolo
A.A: Fantastic, so how did you land this job as the first female press secretary to the deputy governor of your state?
Maimuna: Since the creation of the state no woman has ever held that kind of position. Actually, I have never met the deputy governor until I was appointed as his Press Secretary. I didn’t lobby or beg for it but I remember saying it some time to someone that I wished to be the press secretary; maybe the right people heard about it, I don’t know. But I was just sitting in my office when I was summoned to the government office to come and collect and appointment letter. I was surprised and wondered but I went anyway and that was how I got my letter.
A.A: Some people say nothing just happens; you must have done something or sowed some good seeds. Were you covering bits at the statehouse as a reporter?
Maimuna: Honestly I wasn’t. I was just doing my thing as a producer, presenter, and newsreader on my station, I have never worked in the government house.
A.A: So we can say providence smiled on your hard work.
Maimuna: (Laughing) Yea, you could say that and I am not a politician nor have I ever been a part of politics.
A.A: How is life now as a press secretary? Being the woman, how do you manage the men that have to work with you in working for the deputy governor? How do you manage your time and the challenges?
Maimuna: It has not been easy because when I first got the appointment, the men were not ready to accept me as their boss. An interesting thing happened; a man worked up to me and congratulated me for my appointment as the Press secretary to the wife of the deputy governor. I smiled and said no, I am the Press secretary for the deputy governor. The man gave me a cynical look and said aloud, “No, A woman, Is impossible! I responded and said, Yes! A woman, I am the Press Secretary and it is happening”. I have 13 men working in my team; they make up my cameramen, photographer, managers of public address systems, the driver and more. They were all not corporative at first but I devised a method to put them under control. We had a meeting and some were even rude to me but I didn’t mind but I finally managed to get them to work with me.
A.A: How did you do that? Did you make them your friends or wielded your authority wand? (Laughing)
Maimuna: I used both. I became friends with them because if I don’t make them my friends they would not give me what I want on the job. If any of them fell ill or had a wedding ceremony I honor them by paying a visit and being a part of their celebrations, sometimes I ask about their wellbeing, wives, and children.
A.A: That is a beautiful leadership principle, using a leadership style that cares for staff members. How do you manage the odd hours of work?
Maimuna: Sometimes I have to leave home as early as 5am to meet up with my team for an assignment. At other times a travel assignment comes up after I must have left for work, then I would have to call my husband to inform him; pack my things and we are off.
A.A: So your job as a Press Secretary demands that you travel all the time, Is your husband supportive of you?
Maimuna: He is very supportive of what I do and even encourages me. He is also a journalist who works with NTA international and knows what the job entails.
A.A: (Laughing) And I guess the money too that comes with being a Press Secretary. Alright, your final words for women who have a busy schedule. I have had conversations where people believe that if a woman wants to become a politician, her home will suffer and In fact, Widows are better for such roles.
Maimuna: There is no woman job, there is no man job. If a woman has a passion for whatever please go out and live your dream. Some women shy away from taking on certain roles. For on my job when we travel in a convoy I happen to be the only woman.
There is no woman job, there is no man job. If a woman has a passion for whatever, please go out and live your dream. – Maimuna Kolo
A.A: What are you doing to encourage other women to come on board?
Maimuna: I mentor female youth corps members posted to my office and engage them even after their service year giving them some stipend to manage until they get a job. I also have a female journalist in my former office that I have brought on board to work with me in the government house.
Making Visible women in Leadership Positions or Aspiring.
Adebisi Adetunji (C) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Media content provider, Trainer & consultant-@debisibusybeemedia, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer, Controller Programs (FRCN) Catch me on Twitter – @DebisiBusybee, Facebook & email – firstname.lastname@example.org