The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, in this interview, spoke to Daily Trust on her early years, career, family life, and more. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: How were your growing-up years like?
Idayat Hassan: I grew up in Lagos, and it was so much fun – my parents and siblings are so much fun. And importantly, my life today is defined by that period. In my house, there was so much democracy; we always voted over issues, what to eat, watch, where to go, and who gets what. My dad also trained us to read and know a bit of everything, ask questions without fear and always to aim high and above all, to trust in God and His sufficiency.
DT: Were you a human rights activist in school?
Hassan: I was a leader in my primary and high schools, but an activist for the most part of my university days. It was always about rights and responsibilities for me. I even belonged to an ideological movement on campus.
DT: How did you cope as a female activist in a male-dominated sphere?
Hassan: (Laughter) It is true that women suffer discrimination but I have been so lucky working with very supportive men in the field. In fact, in the thick of the work, gender does not come in.
DT: Was there any time you wanted to quit activism?
Hassan: Yes, I wanted to leave for a profit sector in 2010 and that was before I joined the CDD. But since CDD, I love my job and always wish to do more.
DT: How are you coping as a female manager of an organisation like the CDD?
Hassan: In CDD, our core values include feminism, so discrimination is not encouraged in the workspace irrespective of who you are, and this consists of the junior to executive officers.
Apart from that, managing CDD has been an easy task as a result of the support I get from colleagues in the office and also the male champions who are my bosses. My male colleagues experience some challenges I should have encountered. On several occasions, they have been jeered for working for a woman and being happy about it.
However, they are unperturbed. For us, male champion and positive discrimination is a familiar word in CDD. On working with other colleagues, principally it is about what you know and skills you bring to the table. I enjoy my work, and after this experience, I wish other organisations will take the leap and give women opportunities to serve.
DT: How are your parents coping with your activism work?
Hassan: My parents respect me for what I do, and are my greatest support system. What I find funny though is when they notice I’m silent on raging national issues. They probe me, and ask if I’m not veering off objectivity, neutrality or fatigue.
DT: How is your family life like?
Hassan: I am lucky to have an understanding family. I am a very busy person and travel a lot. With my partner’s support, I make things happen. However, I never joke with school holidays because that is one period I have everybody around. I don’t joke with at all.
DT: What is your favourite food?
Hassan: The only item I put in my tummy which I call my favourite, is black tea and cake. They make me feel good.
DT: What are the things you like about your job and why?
Hassan: It provides me opportunities to do a host of things, like write, speak, travel, innovate, and so on. The possibilities are limitless. It just takes me everywhere.
DT: What are the things you dislike about your job, and how are you coping with them?
Hassan: Travelling. I used to love going on holidays, but travelling for holidays is not so much fun again. I cope these days exploring holiday spots in Nigeria.