NIGERIA: My personal experience and backround as African woman influenced my career

Keturah Shammah
Posted October 5, 2016 from Nigeria

Dear Sisters,

I am sitting in my chair writing my story and I'm thinking about you, wondering who you are, what struggles you are facing and how you are feeling being a woman. A bitter taste in my mouth, as I remember mystrugglesas a girl and now a young wife and mother. I know the feeling of being overwhelmed by the obstacles in getting an education, feeling like I will never make it. Ifelt the pang of guilt after snapping at my parents' sacrificial effort because of the chaos around me. I became so frustrated because Icouldn'tget what I needed.As I long to share my story with you, I know from personal experience that my words is not what you really need. However, whether you realise it or not, like no other time in history, women and girlsare looking for real answers to life situations. Andso, I consider it a great privilege given to me by worldpulse to share with you a bit of my life journey and hope you'll consider reading it with power to comfort , encourage and strengthened you.

My life is a study of the amazing grace of a Loving God.Born of September 25thin a Christian family where love, care and sharing were the norms, I became aware of gender discrimination only in the society and now in my marital relationship particularly in the African context. I was brought up by my parents along side with my siblings (three boys and four girls) equitably with absolutely no sense of privilege based on gender. Everything that saw me attains my education came from my parents' sacrificial commitment who despite extreme poverty and criticism of all sorts from the community, they refused to give up on our education.

One of the tragic experience of my life is having my father's Job terminated by his employer in my fist year in the university in order to prevent him from supporting my education as a girl. My resilience through self-advocacy, hard work and determination, in as much as I vow to reach my God ordained life and dream, I ensured I graduated with a bachelor degree against all the overwhelmingodds. I could not allowed myself to be victim of drop-out, I availed myself to became engaged with the school to do some work that has earned me scholarship until I graduated. One lifestyle I adopted was Contentment. I never allowed financial disability to serve a barrier to my education. I stayed committed to my education and continue to do the same for girls in similar circumstances, being the consistent voice reminding communities to change attitudes that are detrimental to the growth and development of the girls. My personal experience as an African woman coupled with poverty influenced my career choice in Girls Rights and Protection.

When I look back at the community I grew up and see the number of girls that could not make achievement as far I had, I feel encouraged and inspired by the visible hand of God in my life. But challenged by the rampart of drop-out syndrome among girls in my community eitherbecause of the widespread poverty in the community or the parents could not make the financial sacrifice to send their daughters to school just because they were girls. Under such circumstances, I founded Girls Education Mission Internationalto inspire and empower girls through sheer hard work, innovation and commitment to educate girls. I thrives on positive, proactive and results-driven attitude and practice.

Begun in 2007 with just 15 Girls, my organisation (Girls Education Mission International) provided integrated package oflivelihood to 60 households, scholarship to 250 girls, Sanitary pads distributed to 450 girls, vocational training and mentoring to 500 girls/women around Nigeria.With over 30 national and international volunteers called ‘GEM Impact Ambassadors’ from over 15 countries, today, dozens of young women and girls have been empowered through family, school and in the community, and the #GirlsEducationNowOrNever Campaign I launched in 2014 has since been adopted and spreading like wild fire within and outside Nigeria. My work has been recognised at Local and international level. Me and my organisation has earned over 13 awards and honours.

As we celebrate this year's International Day of the Girl-Child #IDG2016 — To all adolescent girls out there - our future mothers and leaders, adolescenceis such an exciting time! The world opens up to you, and we learn in so many different ways. I want to encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities around you. Seek out knowledge,skillsand experiences that will enrich your lives and empower you. Make the most of this wonderful time in your life. However, childhood also has its challenges. Too often, the dreams of our young girlsare compromised by things like teenage pregnancy, forced/earlymarriage, drop-outsyndrome,sexualabuse, and especially HIV and AIDS. The skills and information you need to saveyourselves from these tragedies is available. It is up to you to makeyourselvesavailable totake action, to change the course of your life andmake a difference. I urge you to take full advantage of the invaluable integratedpackages ofresources, materials,knowledge, skills and expertise you come across. Education is the key, the better alternative to yourempowermentand afoundation to your success.

Itherefore,urge you our teeming young women and girls out there to explore and make use of every opportunity to challenge the myths and misconceptions thatexist in our society. Most importantly, take pride in who you are. Take control of your destiny. Value yourself and respect your body. I want to see all of you living healthy, strong, empowered and productive lives. I have great faith that we can work together tocreate a world free of gender violence and discrimination! Itwasn'tan easy job for me to be what I am today. I needed to make great sacrifices to achieve my goals. I needed to study hard anddisciplinedmyself. Finally, I put what I learned into action in order to achieve success. I know that you can do this too. For me…Education is the better alternative for empowerment.

Happy International Day of the Girl-Child #IDG2016

This story was submitted in response to Growing Up Girls.

Comments 1

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Oct 05, 2016
Oct 05, 2016

Congratulations! You are giving women and young girls a very good example by doing what you do. Education is important and it can take you very far in life.