OluwaTobi (Cohen) Lovv, is the first Nigerian-Isreali female to join the Isreali Defence Force (IDF).
In this interview with Daily Trust, Lovv talks about how she’s paving paths in Africa, how she joined the IDF and her love for female empowerment and partnership between Isreal-Africa and the wider world.
Who is Tobi Lovv?
I am a Nigerian- Israeli, 28, married plus one. I was born in Kano, Nigeria to an Urhobo mother and an Israeli father.
Growing up I lived across different cities in Nigeria including Kano, Kaduna and Abuja.
I am fluent in pidgin (yes indeed), English and Hebrew.
I am the founder of ShareLovv International, a unique initiative which aims at creating strong partnership between Israel- Africa and between Israel and the wider Christian audience across the globe but especially in Africa.
An ambassador of Israel to Africa, ShareLovv operates in four different areas: we offer liaison services for businesses looking to link up; we see ourselves an unofficial diplomatic channel; we are involved in advocacy for Israel; and we are also active towards female empowerment.
How did you learn the Hebrew language?
Well growing up we never spoke Hebrew at home so in effect my real experience and encounter was when I enlisted.
The first few months were tough as hell. These were basic training months and I just remember being screamed at in a foreign language and not understanding much!
Today after living here for more than 10 years my Hebrew is now on a mother tongue level.
What motivated you to join the army?
Well, the spiritual reason is simply my love for Israel. I was not obligated to do so. But I felt that for me that was one of the biggest ways I could show my love and appreciation for Israel.
Mind you, by doing that I had chosen to therefore forfeit part of my childhood, I mean 16 is still so very young.
That’s the age I left Nigeria on my own and migrated to Israel. At the age of 19 I joined the military and went on to becoming an officer. I finished my service at the rank of second-lieutenant.
I can say that my time in the military opened me up to so many experiences. It built me up in ways never expected. I know it is a rare phenomenon for a woman to serve in the military, but here in Israel it is the norm.
In fact, there is so much respect and appreciation for these young boys and girls who serve.
Being the first female Nigerian officer in the IDF, how do you feel? Were there stereotypes?
It is an absolute honor. To answer your question I would have to address it in two parts, first of all being the first Nigerian officer – I don’t think that the precedence really dawned on me until after I was done with military service.
Wherever I go in the world and most especially back home in Nigeria, this status is so well received and honoured. Even today, almost 6 years following my active service I am still reaping.
The second part is well, being female, this was so powerful in the sense that knowing I had paved the path for other girls to believe in themselves and their capabilities. This is one of the main driving forces behind the female empowerment that ShareLovv Int’l leads on.
Do you have plans of delving into politics?
As a strong woman of colour, I know that I can make a difference now outside of the political arena and that is exactly what I am doing. In the foreseeable future I see and continue to see myself involved in diplomacy.
You see, I know that what I am building is unprecedented. And because this type of path that I have set on has never been undertaken, there has never been a better time to be in diplomacy.
What are your plans for Africa?
Africa is my top priority with ShareLovv Int’l. There is so much that this great continent has to offer.
Once this pandemic has passed, I hope to tour. I want to meet with the churches and the leaders all over Africa.
But until borders will be fully reopened and security restored I am working very strong in the virtual. I welcome leaders and churches to get in touch with us.
How would you strive to build the bridges that exist between Africa and other continents?
I am a theoretical person but I also understand the value of pragmatism. I want the leaders that the people trust. I want Israel to be as close to the African nations as it is to America.
Within this period of time, recognizing the fact that things probably won’t be going back to how they were before and so now we’re going really strong into the virtual because we know that a lot of African nations are well connected to the internet and most of the information is this information is dispersed to the internet, we want to occupy that space in terms of information but also that we seek to initiate a joint collaborations between Israel, the church leaders, African businesses, companies and leaders.
We are currently focusing a lot of our efforts into occupying the digital space, the second is direct relationship between these churches facilitating roundtables, conferences, launch programs and further strengthen ties between Israel and Nigeria and Israel and other African nations.
In connection to that, there are a number of key projects we are initiating for 2021. Following the aftershock of COVID-19, businesses and organizations around the globe have had to restrategize.
We embrace change and see this as a great opportunity for innovation and thinking outside of the box.
In summary, our plans for Africa involve thinking of innovative ways to build unprecedented bridges between Israel and Africa
What would you say to females that aren’t confident in themselves to pursue their dreams?
Another passion of mine is encouragement and mentorship. You see I have learnt that as a woman, when you witness another woman passing a threshold, regardless of what, you are automatically inspired. I call it the language of women. We know, we can understand.
A special event coming soon is a virtual meeting between female entrepreneurs from Israel and across Africa. Our aim is to open dialogue and perhaps create collaborations.