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An Interview with Racheal Inegbedion, Founder at Initiative For National Growth Africa!

Rachel Inegbedion is a female founder and expat who recently spoke about her expat life. She is a leader who has made a name for herself in her field. Her insights into the challenges and rewards of living abroad are valuable for anyone considering a similar experience.

1: Tell us about your journey.. You are originally from Nigeria and now you live in St Andrews,

Scotland? Where have you lived and worked? What challenges have you faced along the way as a

female expat?

My life's work centres on recognising opportunities, exploring innovative approaches, mobilising

resources, managing risks, and building viable systems and organisations. I am a Nigerian and

have lived most part of my life working in Nigeria and partnering with other international

organisations in the United States, United Kingdom and other parts of Europe to improve the

lives of persons with disabilities. I manage the Special Needs Initiative for Growth, a Nigerian-

owned NGO that is concerned with providing resources, support and practical programs for

Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). We train PWDs in demand-driven IT vocational skills and

career development to support their employment or self-employment. In my leadership, I

provide mentorship and work with other organisations to offer internship opportunities where

they can integrate their skills. As a female expat, I can say that apart from the hurdles that come

with an average daily life, as we can all know it, I have not had any reason to feel less of myself

or encounter challenges that feel so cumbersome for me not to break through. It has been a

great learning curve for me as I use my experience to empower others to believe in themselves

and pursue their greater heights.

2: You are doing incredible work with the non-profit known as ‘Special Needs Initiative For Growth’

(Initiative for National Growth Africa) where you empower persons with disabilities. Tell us more and

how this initiative got started.

While visiting a home for individuals with disabilities, a life-changing incident occurred. Upon a

visitors arrival, the residents sang a welcoming song and participated in prayer. One of the

young women, who had a melodious voice, sang longer than the workers anticipated. I

witnessed a worker strike the young woman and order her to quiet down. My anger was

palpable. I addressed the situation with the homes head, and the worker apologised. However, I

realised that this was not just an isolated incident, and a significant shift in how people with

disabilities are perceived was necessary within my community in Nigeria. I began to envision the

possibilities and realised that the hardest part of creating change is taking the first step. My

advice to anyone looking to make a difference is to begin without worry about failure, obstacles,

or judgment. Just start, and thats what I did.

Established in 2017, the Special Needs Initiative for Growth (SNIG) is a non-governmental

organisation based in Nigeria that is dedicated to equipping persons with disabilities (PWDs)

with the necessary resources, support, and practical programs. Our main focus is on providing

demand-driven vocational training in IT skills and career development to help PWDs secure

employment or become self-employed. As the leader of SNIG, I provide mentorship and

collaborate with other organisations to offer internship opportunities that allow PWDs to apply

their skills and gain real-world experience.

Most of our projects within the past five years have helped increase the socio-economic

prosperity of 8,976 youths with disabilities in Nigeria such as down syndrome, autism spectrum

disorder, visual impairment and cerebral palsy who are currently undergoing programmes

through an internship, part-time jobs, full-time jobs and entrepreneurship.

Due to my team’s passion and work, the organisation has received several recognitions from

within Nigeria and across the globe.

3: What advice do you have for women who are looking to advance their career and specifically

overseas in countries that are foreign in culture, work environments and language…?

Conduct thorough research: Before committing to work in a foreign country, conduct

extensive research on its culture, work environment, and language. Understanding the

customs and norms of a country can help you navigate the workplace more efficiently

and establish better relationships with your colleagues.

Build networks: Building professional networks is essential for career advancement

worldwide, and even more critical when working in foreign countries. Attend industry

events and join professional organisations to meet people in your field and develop


Learn the language: If you are working in a foreign country with a different language, put

effort into learning the language. This can help you communicate better with your

colleagues and foster stronger relationships.

Keep an open mind: Working in a foreign country can be a challenging but enriching

experience. Keep an open mind, be adaptable, and embrace the new experiences and

difficulties that come your way.

Find a mentor: A mentor who has experience working in the same industry and culture

as you can be an excellent source of guidance and support while navigating your career

in a foreign country.

Look for opportunities: Don't be afraid to explore new opportunities and take on fresh

challenges to grow and advance your career, regardless of where you are in the world.

Take care of yourself: Working in a foreign country can be stressful, so it's important to

prioritise self-care. Make time for self-care activities and discover ways to manage

stress, such as exercise or meditation, to remain focused and perform at your best.

4: You were featured on the Voice of America - Such an achievement - please tell us about it!

I have been featured in Voice America since 2021. Majorly because of the fact that my team and I at

the Special Needs Initiative For Growth have been fortunate to use technology, policy, capacity

building, and career development to empower persons with disabilities to the best of their abilities.

Due to the demonstration of leadership in doing more to provide learners with disabilities the

right learning opportunities in achieving more, my team and I were announced and recognised

by the United Nations Secretary-General Envoy on Youth as one of the 10 young leaders inspired

to change the world during the COVID-19 crisis. In 2021, the Zero Project in Austria also

recognised our organisation as the leading Nigerian Civil Society Organisation for best

innovative practices in employment and ICT for persons with disabilities.

Our Project on Career Development Initiative For Mothers with Cerebral Palsy Children in Nigeria

was selected as the 2021 Champion for the World Summit on Information Society - ITU 2021

Prizes in the Enabling Environment Category.

Google named us Google Leap Takers for our project as one of the best examples of IT's

incredible impact on our world. All of these trajectories in our work to bridge the gap between

inequalities for persons with disabilities and access to work and decent living, has been some

of the motivating factors for the Voice of America - discussing with us and featuring our work.

Also, I have had the privilege to share with the Voice of America the right to participate in

political and public life according to the national laws. I was able to share strategies on how to

put in place reasonable accommodation and other support measures consistent in secrecy of

the ballot including ensuring accessibility to polling units for persons with disabilities to partake

in free and fair elections. It has been quite an educational and insightful experience sharing the

knowledge with the Voice of America and my audience to inspire positive attitudes and change

towards the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

5: The awards you have won and affiliations are incredible! How did you get involved and what

advice do you have for women who also want to advance their profile?

Well for me, I would not say I got involved chasing awards, I think for me it was all about putting a lot

of hard work and smart work along with my team members in my organisation to uplift the lives of

persons with disabilities. I really did not think about earning awards. I feel strongly that those awards

and recognitions organically came because of the amount of effort and support we have been

providing to persons with disabilities in this developmental space. Basically, we did not chase the

spotlight, the spotlight chased us due to the consistency, efforts and genuinely we had put into the

work we did all this while.

And so my advice for women who would want to advance their profile or career no matter the work you do, would be: focus on developing your skills and acquiring new knowledge. This will help you stand out in your field and increase your value to your employer, clients or the audience you serve. You need to manufacture new skills that meet the demands of what problem you intend to solve or you are solving out there. It is a process of evolution.

Secondly, build strong connections with other professionals in your field can help you learn

about new opportunities and gain valuable insights. Attend industry events, join online

communities, and reach out to other women who are succeeding in your field. You can never

tell how powerful one or two of these connections could help you advance your profile.

Thirdly, never be afraid to speak up and ask for what you want. This could mean asking for a raise or

promotion, seeking out leadership roles, or pursuing new opportunities within your organisation.

It could also be seeking out partnerships or grants to support the work that you do.

Fourthly, look for someone who has already achieved what you want to achieve and ask them to be your mentor. They can offer guidance, advice, and support as you work toward your goals. Lastly,

never be afraid to take on new challenges or try something outside of your comfort zone. Taking

calculated risks can help you grow and develop new skills.

6: What is life like for you in Scotland as a female expat? How do you find the lifestyle, culture, etc?

Scotland is a welcoming and friendly place to live, with a rich cultural heritage and a strong

sense of community. Interestingly, although I come from a region in Africa that is tropically hot, I

enjoy the weather so much. Scotland offers a high quality of life, with good healthcare,

education, and social services. I find that the pace of life is a bit more relaxed than in other parts

of the world, and that there is a strong emphasis on work-life balance, which gives you a sense

of appreciation of life. I enjoy its warmth, hospitality, and friendliness. The country has a strong

tradition of storytelling, music, and dance, and is famous for its bagpipes, kilts, and haggis. The

Scots also have a long history of innovation, with contributions to science, literature, and art.

Ever since I got here, I reckon a lot with their traditional food such as Haggis which is Scotland's national dish made from sheep's offal. I also love the Scottish broth - quite tasty soup that is

made of lamb or beef and herbs etc. I enjoy the Ceilidh dancing. This involves a group of

persons dancing together in a series of formations, led by someone; who gives instructions for

the steps. Ceilidh dancing for me is too energetic and this is one dancing I enjoyed during social

events such as Christmas or St Andrews Day. Holistically, Scotland is home for, because of the

amazing relationships I have established here with students from the University of St Andrews,

the staff, the local community of St Andrews and other colleagues from different walks of life.

7: As a global leader & citizen, what are some of the most pressing issues women face at this

current time and how do we overcome them?

For me, I would mention a few. Firstly, when we think about the representation of women inclusive of

women with disabilities in entrepreneurship, politics, creative economy, leadership, technology etc.

There are quite a few. This limits their opportunities and influence to make a positive change in their

communities. For me to overcome this, I think it is essential that policies that support women in

leadership positions and by increasing diversity and inclusion in all areas of life.

Secondly, women inclusive of women with disabilities experience significant barriers to equality in

aspects of life such as education, employment and politics etc. These barriers can be a

stumbling block for them to make significant progress within these fields and contribute their

quota. As a benefactor of scholarship education, I understand the power of education in

transforming my thinking and approach towards complex problems. To break this cycle, it is

important for us to begin to start providing equal access to education for girls and women is key

to breaking down gender barriers and promoting equality.

Thirdly, violence against women such as domestic abuse, sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women including of women with disabilities in rural communities are still widespread and have serious consequences for women's physical and mental health. To overcome this, we require cultural change, education, and enforcement of laws that protect women from violence especially vulnerable women who face a multifaceted challenge. Lastly, women in many parts of the world still face significant barriers to accessing basic healthcare, including reproductive and maternal health services. It is highly crucial that we governments, organisations, and individuals work together to improve access to basic healthcare services for women.

8: As a mentor, what advice do you have for young females looking to move abroad, start their

career or make a difference in the world?

Have confidence in your abilities and believe in your potential to achieve your goals, no matter

where you are. Prioritise learning about the culture and customs of your new country to better

integrate into society, make friends, and avoid cultural misunderstandings. Building a strong

network by attending networking events, joining professional organisations, and connecting

with people in your field is crucial for both starting a career and making a difference in the

world. Find a mentor who has experience in your field or in the country where you are moving to

can offer valuable insights and guidance to help you succeed. Being adaptable and open to new

experiences can help you adjust to your new environment and thrive in a new country. Setting

specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals can provide a clear direction

and purpose to stay motivated and focused on achieving your dreams. Maintain a positive and

optimistic attitude by focusing on your strengths and successes, and learning from your failures

to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals.

9: What do you do in your spare time?

I enjoy meditating just taking away at least an hour or two out of my phones and laptops or any

digital device to just reflect through my actions and think ahead for progress. I enjoy reading and

researching. I am a Christian and so I find some spare time during the day to pray and meditate on

the word of God and its essence for my life purpose and ambitions. I also take my spare time to

catch up with my family, and loved ones. I take time to treat myself to a movie or comedy. Anything

that makes me feel happy I go for it without thinking too much!

10: Lastly, where would be your dream place to Live/Work/Travel to?

Perhaps in the next five years, I would share this aspect. Because for me life is a process my

preference could definitely change or be redefined in a minute, day or a month’s time. I think I

would rather just leave my curiosity to wonder of my dream place to Live/Work/Travel for now.

For now, it is what it is. Thank you.

Connect with Racheal:

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