OluwaTobi (Cohen) Lovv, is the first Nigerian-Isreali woman to join the Isreali Army (IDF).
In this interview with Daily Trust, Lovv tells how she paved the way in Africa, how she joined the IDF and her love for female empowerment and partnership between Israel-Africa and the wider world.
Who’s Tobi Lovv?
I am a Nigerian Israeli, 28, married and single. I was born in Kano, Nigeria, as an Urhobo mother and an Israeli father.
When I was growing up, I lived in various cities in Nigeria, including Kano, Kaduna and Abuja.
I speak pidgin (yes, indeed), English and Hebrew.
I am the founder of ShareLovv International, a unique initiative aimed at creating a strong partnership between Israel-Africa and between Israel and the wider Christian audience around the world, but especially in Africa.
ShareLovv, an Israeli ambassador to Africa, operates in four different areas: we provide liaison services for businesses that want to connect; we see ourselves as an unofficial diplomatic channel; we are involved in advocacy for Israel; and we are also active in the direction of female empowerment.
How did you learn the Hebrew language?
When we were growing up, we never spoke Hebrew at home, and my experience and encounter was in fact when I switched.
The first few months were difficult. These were basic training months and I can only remember shouting in a foreign language and not understanding much!
After living here for more than ten years, my Hebrew is now native.
What motivated you to join the army?
The spiritual reason is simply my love for Israel. I was not obligated to do so. But I felt that for me it was one of the greatest ways I could show my love and appreciation for Israel.
Note, by doing what I chose to forfeit part of my childhood, I mean 16 is still so very young.
This is the age at which I left Nigeria alone and moved to Israel. At the age of 19, I joined the Army and then became an officer. I completed my service in the rank of second lieutenant.
I can say that my time in the army has opened me up to so many experiences. It built me up in ways that were never expected. I know it’s a rare phenomenon for a woman to serve in the military, but here in Israel it’s the norm.
In fact, there is so much respect and appreciation for these young boys and girls who serve.
If you are the first female Nigerian officer in the IDF, how do you feel? Were there stereotypes?
This is an absolute honor. To answer your question, I will have to address it in two parts, to be the first Nigerian officer first. I do not think the priority really penetrated me after I finished military service.
Wherever I go in the world and especially in Nigeria, this status is so well received and honored. Even today, almost 6 years after my active service, I still reap.
The second part is good, feminine, it was so powerful in the sense that I paved the way for other girls to believe in themselves and their abilities. This is one of the key drivers behind the female empowerment that ShareLovv Intl is leading.
Do you have plans to get into politics?
As a strong woman of color, I know I can make a difference now outside the political arena, and that’s exactly what I do. In the foreseeable future, I still see myself touching diplomacy.
You see, I know that what I build is unprecedented. And because this type of path I have taken has never been taken, 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 this great continent has to offer.
Once this pandemic is over, I hope to tour. I want to meet with the churches and the leaders across Africa.
But until the borders reopen and security is restored, I work very hard in the virtual. I welcome leaders and churches to connect with us.
How would you strive to build the bridges between Africa and other continents?
I am a theoretical person, but I also understand the value of pragmatism. I want the leaders who trust the people. I want Israel to be as close to the African nations as it is to America.
Within this period, realizing that things are unlikely to return to the way they were before, we are now going very strongly into the virtual, because we know that many African countries are well connected to the internet. and most information is that this information is disseminated on the internet, we want to occupy the space in terms of information, but also that we want to start a joint collaboration between Israel, the church leaders, African enterprises, companies and leaders.
We are currently focusing a lot on the occupation of the digital space, the second is direct relationship between these churches which facilitates the round tables, conferences, launch programs and further strengthens the ties between Israel and Nigeria and Israel and other African countries.
In this regard, there are a number of key projects we are launching for 2021. Following the aftermath of COVID-19, businesses and organizations around the world had to reorganize.
We embrace change and see it as a wonderful opportunity for innovation and thinking outside 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 women who are not confident in pursuing their dreams?
Another passion of mine is encouragement and mentorship. You see I learned that you as a woman are automatically inspired when you see another woman cross a threshold, no matter what. I call it the language of women. We know, we can understand.
A special event soon to be available is a virtual meeting between female entrepreneurs from Israel and across Africa. Our goal is to open a dialogue and perhaps create collaborations.