This piece was contributed by Amina Mubarak, an Africa Matters ShE is Empowered Leader from Nigeria, as part of her engagement with the Personal Development module. This module focuses on self-esteem building, finding your why and understanding your purpose.
[I graduated] from a primary school where we were only 3 [girls], though I was a child then and in a community where girl-child education was not prioritised, I am so fortunate and blessed to have a supportive father who believed in me and my potential. I grew up learning about the stories of Malala Yousafzai, Prof Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa'i (former Nigeria Minister of Education) Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala among other leading Nigerian women from my father. From listening to their stories, I realised how important girl-child education is and how powerful their voices are in shaping the world and transforming our societies.
Recognising the reality of the kind of society I live in, I realised how lucky I am to have a supportive father which many other girls in my society do not have, something within my inner self told me girls do not need to be lucky to gain access to quality education and a better life. It isn’t supposed to be a privilege but rather their right to access to quality education, that is how I find my PURPOSE and that is how my journey for advocacy began.
In my society, it is not within tradition for a woman/girl to be outspoken, so the journey has been tough, challenges everywhere. I lost many friends and almost all my extended family members are against me and want my father to marry me off so as to silence me. I have received numerous threats that no one will marry a lady like me. That what I am doing is against our religion and cultural norms of the society, that I should just STOP. I keep hearing these voices in my ears even when they aren't talking, then at some point I say let me stop. Let me be what this society wanted me to be, let me be a normal young lady like my other peers. When I attempted to stop that is exactly when I realised my WHY because after reflecting on all what these people were saying I still cannot give up because it wasn’t worth stopping what I am doing.
Seeing as it is not seen as normal, or doing something against the cultural norms is often draining and it feels lonely. It is like society is against you and there is this FORCE that is constantly trying to bring you down. Last year I struggled a lot with my mental health that I had to take a very long break away from all my social media handles.
After a careful review of my previous year, I want to do better for the year ahead. I used to allow myself to focus more on my weaknesses and that helped in draining my energy. I let people’s opinions of me get into my head that I don’t see the good things I have achieved.
For the year ahead I want to personally focus more on my strengths and reflect more on the positive things about myself, I will celebrate myself on every single success I achieve big or small. I will surround myself with positive people who will cheer me up and support me. I want to achieve the level of building my self-esteem and move forward to self-actualization.