You cannot meet Arit Okpo and not be enamoured by her charisma. As you start to talk to her, you witness something truly special- the gem that she is begins to unveil even brighter, as question after question meet answers.
Arit Okpo is the media entrepreneur to watch out for. She currently focuses on documentary filmmaking, voice-overs, TV presenting and event moderating. She has produced and presented content for the EbonyLife TV platform and is the current voice of CNN’s African Voices as well as season host for web talk show Untold Facts, produced by The Initiative for Equal Rights. She shares about her journey, her struggles and the glory…
Hmmm…I was a performing child. I recited Bible verses in church, I acted in dramas and participated in reading competitions in school. I was confident and outspoken. I remember doing one of those Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) exchange programmes that used to be so popular in those days when I was about 7. I have a picture in my head of myself in a double wrapper, holding this microphone with the cable dangling behind me. I was such a talker that everyone thought I would become a lawyer. My mother tells me often that my favourite question has always been – Why? Of course, I didn’t think of these things that I enjoyed as a pointer to a career; all I knew was that they were fun and I was good at them. I got into school, was placed into the Science and Technology class and ended up studying Biochemistry. That was never part of the grand plan but I’m so glad I found my way back.
I think that one of my biggest challenges has been creating a bridge between being a creative and making a career. As a creative, I like to make things, but I haven’t always thought about how to monetize these things I make, or about how to ensure that said monetization is commensurate for my work. So, I’m learning to approach work from two angles – first in the sense of what it is that I am creating and then alongside that, making sure that the job is paying me and building my career.
Very closely related to that has been creating strategies and plans to make sure that I actually do the things I dream of doing. I constantly have plans and ideas, but I haven’t always been structured in breaking down these ideas into a realistic plan. It has been a beautiful (but not always easy) journey of turning my passion into a business.
…On the Moment that Changed Everything
The big spark moment was working with Mo Abudu at Ebonylife TV. It was a transition into working in the media full time. I had been planning a softer entry into the industry and working and learning during that period jumpstarted that process beautifully.
Before this break out moment, I had felt insecure about my ability to do the work that I do, I struggled to accept that I did deserve everything that was coming, I felt that things needed to be more difficult for me to earn them. I have a fierce work ethic and such a willingness to do well; if I had added more self-belief to that already powerful mix, what a time it would have been.
…Of Friendships and Partnerships
I think that friendships are important for life in general and so I think of my friendships/partnerships more within the context of Arit as a person. I can say that I know a diverse group of people who do so many different things for me. Some are achievers in their various fields, and so they challenge me to think outside the box. I have friends in the industry whose shoulders I can cry on and who get our unique struggles. I have many friends who are women and it gives me joy to celebrate them and have them celebrate me as we continue to achieve and transcend in our various fields. I have met many people who have loved my work and invited me to be a part of their projects. These relationships intersect and connect to support, build and challenge me.
…Most Memorable Day
I have had many! The day I met Richard Quest and worked with the CNN crew in 2017 for Quest Business Traveller – when I got to watch the episode and reflected on the work that we did, I was encouraged to think of my work beyond Nigeria. In 2018, I got to interview Seun Kuti as part of a UN Allies project and it was a very impactful experience having him talk about his art in relation to his advocacy. I currently work with TIERS Nigeria as host for their web series Untold Facts – we talk about the experiences and perspectives of LGBT people in Nigeria; this job in particular gives me many moments of gratitude that I am able to speak and use the media to advocate, enlighten and share in such a powerful way.
…On Africa and the African Woman
My biggest piece of advice for women in Africa would be – dream your dreams for yourself first. As African women, we are often raised to think of life purely in the context of others; be a good daughter, a good partner, a good mother etc. What can happen with this is; we never really get to explore what we want for ourselves. Our dreams are always dependent on the presence and approval of those that we are taught to exist in the context of. So, before anything else, ask yourself – What do I want for myself? What is the thing I personally want to do? Make that your anchor, and ensure that everything else that you do exists in a dynamic balance with you and your dreams for yourself. Don’t be afraid to take the steps: run for that office, push for the promotion, delay your decision to marry until you are ready, refuse to be in situations that diminish you as a woman. Every time you make a choice that affirms you as an individual, it becomes easier to operate from a place of personal wholeness and that ensures that those around you are challenged to relate with you in the same way.
…On Government Programs and Policies to Help the Nigerian Woman
As things stand, women are vastly underrepresented across spheres of influence in Nigeria and we see the impact of this in the creation of laws and policies that consistently disenfranchise us. So, governments need to ensure that policies, job positions and opportunities actively exist for women, and not for figurehead positions like officer for women’s affairs and all of that, but for strategic and influential positions. Women with the right qualifications for these positions exist, but they often do not have the visibility or support to step forward. This can be done with a target to ensure a certain percentage of female representation within key sectors and positions within a certain number of years. Then, to add to this,
- Programs in schools to encourage and support women in more stereotypically male careers
- Funds and programs that make it easier for women to access financing and expertise for businesses, with tax breaks and market support.
- Policies to ensure that women earn as much as men, have recourse in cases of sexual harassment and are not discriminated against when they choose to start families.
- Laws need to become fairer to women. It is absurd that women cannot confer citizenship, cannot work in certain industries, can be married off as children and still do not have Gender and Equal Opportunities representation in the laws of this country. In 2019!
- Women can be supported in running for office. Many women do not have the financial and human networks that men have, and this comes to play very powerfully in politics. So – governments need to make it easier for women to access forms and run campaigns.
- Operate from a place of personal wholeness and you’ll lay the foundation for how others will treat you
- It’s important to find a way to properly monetize your passions, so you can do what you love and get paid for it.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.