‘Didi’ is arguably everyone’s favorite and that is simply because she comes as a diamond that has labored to stay unflinching even on the verge of circumstances from the positives to the supposed negatives. She is a fine rare gem who runs the ‘Partnering Youth Development Outreach’, an NGO plus owns the ‘ELY Detergent’ business. These two ventures have occupied young Augustina Dedo Adjoka’s time, as well as have given her the desire to go for gold in all that she touches. She is from a beautiful tribe in Ghana which is (used to be) branded in an unfounded way over some kind of primitive notions – in this interview, she tells us that she is not here to banter words but to use her lifestyle as a mirror to others. She spoke with our Ghana Editor. Enjoy…
Ever since we walked into this environment, everyone around you seems to call you, “Didi”, is that the name your parents gave to you? – Tell us who Didi is and what you haven’t told anyone about yourself?
I got the name “Didi” after I participated in one of the editions of Miss Buy Ghana; they made the name popular. It is a chic name and I appreciate the ambiance that it comes with. One of the things I haven’t expressed is the fear of getting pregnant, especially when I am not engaged or married. I am careful not to lead a life that will make my fear a reality.
How was growing up like for you, what kind of upbringing did you grow up with?
Growing up wasn’t that pleasant because I have faint memories of my parents since they both passed while still young; so relatives took care of me, though it was never the same as my parents but I managed to adapt and learn life the hard way. It was really tough for me because at a point I had to be driven out of the house with the excuse that taking care of me was no more a priority by my relatives. There were lots of negative examples from other girls who were in various kinds of relationships, who had children just to survive. I didn’t want to be a part of that example since I have always been scared of pregnancy out of wedlock. Survival on my own was a huge test because my values were put to test where people will only give you what you needed only when you offered your body. But I have stood strong because I know where and what I want.
The year 2017 started for some people on a high note, some low and some are still trying to find their feet, how has your own 2017 come out like?
Mine started on a little rough and tough path, with pressures from different spheres of life but thanks to God, I have been able to wither the storm, put to rest the noisome pestilences and as the case maybe, we are still surging on. It can only get better as we keep the faith.
You are from the Krobo tribe in Ghana and there is a perception (a kind of notion, maybe a stigma) that some people have had over the years, why is this so?
It’s rather unfortunate but I guess every tribe carry some kind of stigma of some sort. However I must say that in the past, there might have been a few bad examples whose lifestyles made people conclude that we are, ‘unfastened people with no morals’. But that’s totally untrue even based on my personal experience, I have come to understand and would like to tell people that they should be careful not to label everyone from the community as this or that just because a few past examples.
Do you think that some ladies’ lifestyle justify the perception of some people in Ghana?
Perceptions are just like opinions so anyone is entitled to his or hers. However I believe that some choices and lifestyles can give an indication of the kind of lady you are or not. If you keep dressing almost naked, culturally it gives a sense of one who lacks morals or one who doesn’t come from a good home. Sometimes perceptions out there are based on individual thinking.
Your NGO was born out of some of the issues we have discussed, so far have you been able to clear the vague notions some Ghanaians have towards some ladies from the Krobo land?
My focus is not to clear people’s opinions as to what they think or feel about others, mine is to help young girls live their lives fully so that in the end, negative notions and perceptions from observers become non-existent.
So far, with the progress you and your team have made, do you think that this stigmatization would come to an end – in your era?
Based on our discussion earlier, I hope that young girls don’t see themselves first and foremost as a ‘Krobo’ or ‘Akan’ or Ewe… but as girls who can realize their full potentials in life.
The ever smiling, Didi
You are an entrepreneur with a soap business and also has an NGO, how do you joggle both plus why did you decide to go into both?
It’s tough but I am trying to tell the young ones like myself that you (we) can be creative with whatever gifts you (we) have. I decided to go into the NGO to serve, as a platform to help young girls focus and realize their potential so their dreams and aspirations are not cut short. With the soap business, I am in it so as to generate enough cash to support the NGO. So as you can see, the two ventures are just intertwined and that is a good thing.
As a young entrepreneur making soaps, how has the journey been like for you?
Sincerely it has not been easy. I have invested so much into the business and I am sure that one day it shall yield fruits. It is tough but fulfilling. It can be nerve-itching sometimes because some customers are reluctant to try a new product and therefore they want to buy at the price they can afford.
In terms of funding, how do you think that corporate bodies or government can assist young entrepreneurs like you?
Government can have a fund for young people with ideas by supporting and guiding them. It is beyond just giving us ‘seed money’, but once they get to confirm the genuineness of the business, they can assist us to get accredited through an easier rout. Sometimes the process of getting licensed is too cumbersome and frustrating.
As a young lady, what is that passion that drives you and how far do you think you have come?
I believe we all have our purpose and for me, finding my purpose and pushing myself to fulfill it is what keeps me going.
Expansion obviously comes to your mind, how soon do you see this soap business spreading, even outside Ghana?
Well, I am hoping that pretty soon the product (soap) will prove its quality and catch fire on the market. Feedback indicates it’s better than most on the market and so hopefully within a year, we pray it would be a household name.
As an entrepreneur and NGO founder, what would you say are the highs and lows in the sector that you have gotten into, generally?
Funding is a big challenge. People give you hope but they don’t live up to their words; others believe that the issue surrounding ‘teenage pregnancy’ for example is overdone. For some, they expect that I should have hit up certain requirements before coming into this arena. With the soap the familiarity with similar products on the market like the containers or bottles used, give the impression it’s nothing different. But from our search, others will start patronizing us once our product gains popularity.
How would you encourage young ladies who stand somewhere and admire your bravery, and probably want to be like you, and finally, how do you advice some ladies who cry that there are no jobs out there for them, thus, they indulge in some negative channels which are unspeakable?
There is certainly no excuse for a young girl out there to indulge in immoral or negative practices that will stain their image with the excuse that, “there are no jobs”. Find that ‘thing’ you are passionate about is key to success. Read, learn, seek guidance from those in same field and you would be fine. It’s tough but passion and determination would see you through.