Monday, November 5, 2012

The interview continues as we round up aspects of Stephanie acting career, discuss her love life and then discuss the non-profit work which she will be getting an award for at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY on Saturday, September 6th 2008.

Do you go through a period of petty jealousies when one Nollywood actress doesn't like the other Nollywood actress and and how have you handled it?

I am not a hater but a lover. I am very comfortable with who I am. Jealousy is not one of my traits. I don't think about it [jealousy]because I want to be on the fore front. I have a very good working relationship with all my colleagues.

What advice will you give those that want to get into Nollywood?

Just make sure you have the talent because your talent will always make a way for you. Follow your dreams.

How do you strike a balance between your professional and private life?
Why must I strike a balance? They might go hand in hand.

Do you ever meet guys that are jealous of your success?
or they are intimidated. If he is intimidated, then I don't need to be around them . I need to be with a guy that is comfortable with himself no matter what he does. We all have complexes, he has to believe in himself and know himself.

Are you open to dating people within the industry?
(laughs) It depends on who catches your fancy. It all depends on if you two have a connection?

I know that you have an awards show coming up soon - is that right?
Yes, it is the Humanitarian awards and it will be taking place at the Apollo theater in Harlem on September 6th 2008.

Will you be getting an award on that day?
Yes, I will. I am one of the celebrity activists for the Nigerian Red Cross. Recently, I was in Liberia to campaign against rape and I am trying to create awareness about the condition called Vesicovagina Fistula.

What is that?
It is when young girls get pregnant and go into labor, become incontinent and start leaking urine uncontrollably from their bladder.

I remember hearing that is tied to young girls getting married at very young ages in Nigeria?
Yes, some girls get married at 11, 12, 13 but this happens all over Africa not only Nigeria. I remember that Oprah was in Ethiopia at one time and she went there to visit some of these young victims.
Beyond creating awareness of this issue, are you doing anything to change the culture so these men will stop looking at these young girls as wife material?

That is what we are hoping for with our education programs, we are trying to ensure that these girls get their education and that even if these men still decide to marry them, that they are mature enough to make these decisions on their own and that they have a good education to support their family.

Are there any laws protecting these girls in Nigeria?
There are laws protecting these girls in Nigeria, after all, the legal age for marriage in Nigeria is eighteen (18) years . A lot of people are working to get this eradicated by trying to create an awareness. But, you know, marriage isn't the only issue here, we have an issue of poverty too as well which forces these girls into the hands of these men.

I agree. Beyond, working with other humanitarian organizations on this issue, I know that you are also involved with other organizations on the issue of rape. Now, one of the findings on rape is that it is a weapon used for subjugating women and actually taking away their sexuality - my question is do you ever work one on one with any of these victims?
I have spoken to a couple of victims and it is a sad experience. It is actually very hard. The woman has to decide when to let go because the experience could really mess you up if you let it.

Beyond speaking with some of the victims, what else are you doing in other to change the mind set?
The issue is that Liberia just got out of a war a couple of years back. It is a psychological state of mind, so the U.N (United Nations) is working a lot in changing the psychology of men. It is a new phase that Liberia is going through so that its citizens know that the country is theirs and they decide what happens to it, what futures they want for it and what future they want for generations to come. It has been very effective, people are beginning to dialogue and they realize that it is a new dawn and we need to start to do something differently. I have spoken to some of these men who didn't really know what they were doing, they were basically following instructions. I believe the mind set is changing, at an event that I attended in Liberia, after the speech was given, I heard thousands of men get up and they started chanting, "no more rape". That is a start.

Are there other issues that you are involved in beyond these?
Yes, I am working with the Red Cross and we are raising monies to build hospitals all over the state to give free medical care to the poor. That was one of the projects I was working on before I came to the states.

How will you be staffing these facilities?
We have support coming from America, Canada, Japan and they will be giving us the equipment, support, personnel and all that. As you know, the Red Cross is a big organization and they are really working hard to help us out.


My introduction to Vesicovagina fistula was via a program called Dateline which ran every Sunday, in Lagos, Nigeria in the 90's. I remember watching a story in which a young girl (less than thirteeen years(13) ) from the North was being forced to marry a much older man and she ran away from home to avoid that marriage. I remember Frank Olizie (the TV anchor for that show) tying a potential marriage, to pregnancy and highly likely this abhorrent medical condition which is very expensive to cure. I remember my heart going out to these young girls who were about my age and I remember thanking God that I have enlightened parents who will never do that to their young daughters. But, in retrospect, I realize that their stories (these young girls) could be my story if I were born in a different home and a different time,so I was very excited when I learnt that Stephanie Okereke is involved in fighting for this cause.
I think it is commendable that she is involved in more than just acting and directing movies. Her own directing debut, "through the glass" will be out in November, 2008 in the U.S.A. I wish her a lot more success and if any of you will be around the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York on Saturday, September 6th 2008, please go, meet her and say hi. She will be there by 3 pm and she is very open to meeting and making new friends.

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