Susty Person of the Month – Alero Okoroleju
Alero Sandra Okoroleju is the Founder and Chief Executive Director of RUDERF NGO, a nonprofit organization aimed at addressing issues of unemployment and youth restiveness prevalent in the Niger Delta and across Nigeria through education and skill acquisition programmes.
After gathering enough experience working for notable NGOs in Lagos and Abuja, Alero decided it was time to apply her expertise through the establishment of RUDERF to the development of her home state, Delta.
A graduate of the University of Abuja and a Leap Africa SIP Fellow, Alero has a soft spot for women and girls and is decidedly committed to taking as many girls and single mothers as possible out of the streets to empower them and help them nurture their potentials.
Below, Alero shares her passion and experience.
What drives your fierce passion for development work?
The rationale behind my passion is a collection of all my life’s experiences, the bad, the good and the ugly. I am the literary small town girl with big town dreams; raised in a large polygamous family where otherwise sufficient resource had to be utilized by a large number of siblings in a constant competition of survival of the fittest. Sapele, where I was raised is a small town, lined with traces of previous civilization in the colonial era, seemingly developed but otherwise exposed to the stench of small-town politics where the large fish, gobbles up the booty while the smaller fish are left to scramble for the crumbs; leaving in its trail a stream of poverty and lack.
What is the raison d’etre of RUDERF NGO?
At a tender age, I was exposed to books and a robust library, which birthed my interest in knowledge and education. However, growing up in a semi-rural community made me experience firsthand the lack of opportunity for thousands of children who could neither read or write. Who were automatically excluded from opportunities to better their lives and improve the living conditions of their families in the future. I was moved to action by the thought that, this was as a result of no fault of theirs but circumstances beyond their control. I believe that I have the opportunities I have not because I earned it, but solely by the family I was born into, thus I see it as a personal goal to help to ensure that every child has access to education regardless of their background or community.
Why does RUDERF focus more on girls/women?
The most prevalent problem I perceived from a tender age was the subjugation of females. Their lack of a voice and expression of the women in my life and around my community; the most alarming of which was the fact that majority of women were left to fend for their children and family, irrespective of the presence of a father figure. As a result of this problem, larger societal challenges were prevalent due to poverty, such as lack of education of a large population of children and youth beyond basic primary education. As a result, ignorance, low morals, prostitution and increased crime rate were prevalent.
These experiences and lots more were a brooding pain in my heart, but the moment that birthed my social entrepreneurial journey in advocacy and impact through the SDG’S was a personal challenge, someone very close to me ended up with an unplanned pregnancy as a teenager and was forced into early motherhood and eventually marriage. The level of suffering and poverty she was faced with was a brutal pain that brought the problem home and it was a pivotal point that propelled me into this journey and my choice for advocating for the development of women.
Did you encounter any challenge when you started RUDERF initially?
The first challenge was opposition. I had recently left a good job with an NGO in Lagos city due to health challenges, where I learnt to use the resources of the SDG’s and had to relocate to my childhood community to be closer to family. While recuperating, I decided to begin this journey of impacting in opposition to getting back to job hunting.
Following this, my family thought I was crazy, everyone said, go get a job and forget about this impacting lives but I stood my ground and told them, my advocacy will not only create employment and other opportunities for me but will impact and become a platform for development for other youth and the community at large. All I had was my passion, 1-year experience in the non- profit sector, limited network and my savings.
Thus I began to reach out to my networks, started building a team, began online and offline publicity to create awareness for my initiatives, began the planning and structuring of innovative programs to impact lives but was stopped short by an obvious challenge. I had no office or place to begin, so I turned my bedroom into my office, I purchased a printer and office equipment and RUDERF was a reality.
So what are some of the wins you have recorded over time?
In our two years of existence, we have achieved some of the following milestones:
- 5 full time volunteers, 5 project based volunteers.
- 1200 girls impacted through mentorship, and mind development initiatives.
- 2000 children impacted through school outreach programs and school aid provision.
- 150 youths impacted through skill acquisition in Renewable Energy sources and Creative Recycling.
- 30 Teenagers empowered through mentorship programs.
- 300 youths impacted through collaboration with a youth-led organization in self-development initiatives.
With the wave of youth involvement in governance and politics sweeping across the world, what’s your advice to young people?
My advice to young people in Nigeria and across Africa is simple, we are in an era of change and innovation, beyond looking out for opportunities, we must begin to change our mindset and perceptions in line with current trends.
We must identify the prevalent problems affecting our societies and the world at large, build networks, collaborate and consistently innovate towards creating solutions to these problems. The moment we begin to see ourselves as the solution to global problems, then we cease to seek opportunities and start creating them for the generations to come. The consumer mindset is the greatest problem of youths across the world. If the youths transcend from consumer to producer status our world can only benefit immensely from our diverse, complex and productive minds.
What do the SDGs mean to you and which is your favourite SDG?
The SDGs is simply a structured plan that identifies the worlds pressing problems, with a developed support plan to help individuals, organizations and nations in working collectively to solve its problems. The SDGs are a major resource and opportunity of our time, I encourage those who have a heart for social impact and development to tap into this wealth of resources and start creating change. I focus on SDG 4; quality Education.
How do we contact you if we have questions or want to make enquiries?
You can reach us on [email protected]