“I grew up seeing many African women not able to speak up,” says Lara Odebiyi, editor-in-chief of Dabira magazine in Nigeria. “Some died in silence–unable to express what they were going through. This inspired my desire to help women by creating a platform where they can speak and be heard through writing and reading.”
Lara’s vision for Dabira magazine is to help women live better and thrive in life. She wants to reach out to women through every means possible, one of which is publishing.
“I always wanted something unique and different, especially for Christian content,” she says. “Something that could be a good standard that would change the face and outlook of Christian publications in Nigeria.”
Lara began by researching the most popular magazines in Nigeria in order to discover the reason they were successful. She found the common factors included excellent content, quality production, and beautiful layouts.
“I was determined to produce a Christian magazine with all these qualities. I wanted people to be attracted to Dabira magazine—first by seeing and feeling it—then by reading it,” she says.
She knew that to produce a good quality Christian magazine she needed to take part in training. As she began searching beyond Nigeria for opportunities to learn she came upon Magazine Training International (MTI).
Lara discovered MTI just as a two-week conference began in India in 2011. After Lara applied for and received a visa, only five days of the training were left. Nevertheless, she decided to go.
“I will say it anywhere that the decision not to give up and to attend the last five days was the best decision I made that year!” says Lara. “The training gave me all the resources I needed to start a good and well-informed Christian magazine just as I had wanted.”
Dabira magazine launched online in 2012 and in print in 2015. But Lara and the Dabira staff didn’t stop there. They expanded the reach of the publication, hosting a meet-up of its writers and readers. The community created by that event caused Dabira to become more than “just a platform to read, speak, and be heard, but a ministry that has helped women find strength, support, and empowerment beyond just reading,” she says.
The community also met the challenges and changes brought about by the pandemic as online groups were created where women posted magazine content and facilitated discussion about the articles.
After attending part of the MTI conference in 2011, Lara decided that once wasn’t enough. She travelled to India again in 2012 and 2016, to Kenya in 2018, and to Ghana in 2022.
“I always learn something new at each of these conferences,” says Lara. “I always go back home to improve and add value to Dabira magazine’s content, production, strategy, and impact. That MTI workshops are focused on real-life practices with group assignments, projects, and practical learnings make MTI training unique from other Christian magazine trainings I have attended both locally and internationally.”
In 2020, Lara joined the board for Magazine Training International.
“Being a part of the ministry has helped me to see the impact MTI is creating worldwide,” says Lara. “And, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to give back to an organization that has trained me—other than to give my time, expertise, and experience on the board.”
by Jennifer Howard, MTI Communications Director