Nollywood actress, Winifred Ugwu-Iwunze…Sexually abused by uncle

By Josfyn Uba and Tochukwu Ojukwu
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She belongs to the new generation actresses whose entry into Nolly wood had brought some breath of fresh air into the industry. She is every man's desire and what her fellow women aspire to be.

She is fresh, beautiful and gorgeous. And by all standards, she is a successful actress having featured in many flicks and commands a large audience of both young and old.

An accomplished actress, whose prowess on the screen made her one of the most sought after actresses, Winifred Ugwu-Iwunze proved herself in the competitive industry
However, underneath Winifred's beauty, success, fame and glamour lies a bitter and most harrowing experience that not only has haunted her till date but has remained indelible in her memory.

The actress was sexually abused by her uncle as a child. She wouldn't disclosed how and where the ugly incident happened, but she was quick to say that she had been healed by God.

She told us that God had equally given her the grace to cope with the distress and trauma of such terrible experience. She dealt with the trauma knowing well that God has a purpose for her life and forgiven her uncle.

Today, Winifred has a new song. She has completely dropped the toga of acting and been divorced from the part that had brought her fame and fortune. She is not only being addressed as Evangelist Winifred Ugwu Iwunze, but “old things have passed away” and she has picked up life anew.
Evangelist Winifred is fully engaged in rehabilitation of prostitutes. A wife and mother, the former actress is determined to add value to the lives of many young girls whose families and even, the society had written off.

Her story is as captivating as she looks.

Lesbianism and indecent exposure
Reliving her experiences as an actress, Evangelist Winnie said that although, she knew about some female actresses who were engaged in lesbianism but never had a personal experience.
“I heard that people practised lesbianism in the industry but I was never involved. I never had a personal experience.

About indecent exposure in movies, she however told Saturday Sun that she was once involved in a flick entitled “No place to hide where she starred with Hanks Anuku”.

Sexual harrassment
Have you ever been sexually harrassed?
Yes I was sexually abuse by an uncle when I was a child. But Jesus has healed me.

Life as an actress:
My experience as an actress is such that can lead you to many things and I find it very hard to forget. You learn a whole lot of things; meeting different categories of people had taught me another side of life.
I came into the industry 2000 and I have 29 movies to my credit but the movie that gave me a niche was entitled “Aki and Ukwa”. It was a great experience acting in that movie and it brought me instant success, to say the least

Between acting and reality
Yes, my life as an actress was good but it had its up and down. Yes! Heaven's gate was one of my best movies because when we began the production, I had already become a minister of the gospel so starring as a bad girl was a bit challenging because people would always see you as a bad girl.
It is a bit disheartening that Nigeria has not developed to a standard where the audience can clearly differentiate between you as an actor and the real person. And so it is not easy coping with that. Acting exposed me to a lot of things, different kinds of people from different walks of life that ordinarily I wouldn't have met if I was doing another job. There are times when you walk into a place and get a first class reception. People would appreciate and adore you for what you are doing. It was an experience I wouldn't forget in a hurry

Most traumatic experience as an actress
It is not an experience I would like to go through again or even wish my enemy to go through it. It was when I produced my movie but didn't make a kobo from it. I consider all the movies I starred in as good movies but there are some that are so dear to me and as such, would remain memorable. My role in Aki na Ukwa that brought me into limelight and also Heaven's Gate, a soap opera

Life as a minister:
I was brought up as a good Christian but I was what people would call “Sunday Sunday Christian”. In 2002, I had an encounter with the Lord and was ordained an Evangelist in 2006 by Bishop Chris Ngwu in Cameroon and since then, I have not looked back.

The main lesson and issue for me in this circumstance is if I go back to my former life, God will not only be angry with me but will definitely kill me because that was what He told me. I heard it clearly from Him. And so my calling is very different and of course, I don't want to die yet.
I 'd like to inform you that God is in a state right now of using whosoever He wants to and I want to please Him. Right now I go everywhere, the streets, churches and other places to share the word of God. It is a privilege to be able to speak about Jesus Christ. I didn't call myself. But I believe that God opened my eyes to the truth that has always been with me. I have come to realize that God can turn anybody into a tool for the gospel.

A trace of doubt
Years back, if somebody had told me that I would become a full time minister, it would have been naturally hard to believe. But then, there is even more joy and enjoyment in His presence.
It hasn't been easy because people don't believe that I have truly changed and is deeply involved in evangelism. It is also hard for them to believe that I have abandoned acting and that I am no longer that crazy actress people used to know

. When I talk to people, there is this look on their faces. There is an expression of total disbelief and doubt about my new status but I try to convince them that nothing is impossible for God. Change is the only constant thing in our lives

Why now?
I have God's mandate to bring back lost generation of young girls who are prostitutes. I have a call to regain their self esteem. This, I do through a ministry called “Daughters of Zion International”.
Born again Winifred told Saturday Sun that her ministry is not a church but a convenient place of convergence for the divine struggles to take root, germinate and be reaped by the servants of God
What I am doing is not a passion. No, I wouldn't want to call it that rather it's a revelation and a mandate from God. My ministry is not an optional thing, it is compulsory. My target is for those condemned in the society, the prostitutes.
God wants me to take them off the streets and rehabilitate them. These girls are down trodden, they have being rejected in the society and that stigma is always there. I teach them to regain their self esteem and God has been faithful to me and my girls.

My main aspiration is to be recognized by my peers and to be taken seriously by my former colleagues. Most of them think that I am just passing time or that I am playing a game of deceit.
I want to raise these girls to be virtuous women. In fact I have a lot of things for them. Our objectives and goals are to bring these girls out from brothels into gainful businesses, career pursuits and to experience God's forgiveness and life transforming power completely. Raising them to be women of integrity and of strong character is my priority. We intend to build hostels because most of them repent but they had to go and live there due to no accommodation and it has been a kind of a hindrance to the ministry's progress. But we are working towards that.

I have a radical approach to my ministry, the Daughters of Zion because of how God called me. The desire to make a difference and striving to be the best in whatever I do but most of all, to carry out my divine mandate with the girls remain my greatest aspiration Initially, this divine call was a surprise to me but now I am no longer surprised because I know Who is with me.

It sounds so easy but I know that it has not been easy for me to get these girls to listen to me and to convince people of my call. Life in itself is a challenge. Waking up is a challenge and going about your daily activities is also a challenge.

I endeavour to cope with them. Challenges come particularly in the area of funding and forming a bond with these girls. Getting them to trust you, believing that God can change their lives and that you are always there to help them.

People's reaction:
It hasn't been easy because people don't believe that I have changed from my crazy way of life as an actress. Their reactions are sometimes negative and sometimes positive. But those who understand God understand that He's using me for a purpose.