I sat down at a large table facing my boss to talk about great Northern Nigerian women that we could interview, because it is hard to hear about one, it is as hard to make a long list for Northern Nigerian women as it is easy to make a long list for Eastern or Western Nigerian women who do great exploits in their fields. Our list was incredibly short and we were bothered. One name that always comes up and without a shred of doubt attached to its greatness is Amina Mohammed.
She is the daughter of a Nigerian man and a British mother and she has risen to some of the highest ranks we have ever seen a Nigerian woman attain, she continues to make history, the kind of history that I believe will be celebrated even more after our time on this Earth.
I went through a core values research paper that spoke about the values people in specific regions in Nigeria hold dearly and fashion their lives around. The research clearly shows that Northern Nigerian women value family and community above everything else. It comes before money, goals and even greatness. It is not only what is desired but also what is more often than not, expected of a Northern Nigerian woman.
Somehow, our Amina Mohammed has managed to make family, community and greatness a part of her legacy. Somehow, just somehow, she made it work.
She is our Honorable Minister of Environment here in Nigeria and has been tapped as the next Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. The United Nations of the planet Earth! If she hasn’t broken through stereotypes, boxes, challenges and glass ceilings to get there, I don’t know who has.
So it is very interesting and also somewhat funny that people have been confusing her with another woman, whom I must say, is just as amazing. There is another Amina Mohammed on the other side of the continent who serves as Secretary (Minister) of Foreign Affairs in Kenya. She also comes from a modest background and has held key leadership positions internationally. The word is, they each keep getting flowers meant for the other Amina.
Kenya’s Amina Mohammed is on the radar for the AU Secretary General. Beyond sharing the same name, they’re both experts in environmental law, have taken on global leadership roles and were both born in 1961. One almost wonders if they should be living in parallel universes.
It’s great and it is inspiring. For every moment that anyone doubts a young Amina from North Eastern Nigeria or another young Amina in Kakamega, there will be examples to counter any argument against their potential to be great. Let every father and every mother realise that a woman can lead and break boundaries in her own way.
Save The Children, in their Girls’ Opportunity Index report, ranked Nigeria the 9th worst country in the world to be born a girl. One of its indicators is the number of women in parliament. It is a known fact that in Nigeria, only about 7% – 8% of parliamentarians are women. The statistics are not exactly encouraging.
When I was in secondary school, the expectation of my peers for women reaching their highest ranks was in the position of a first lady or as a wife; don’t get me wrong, those are important roles and I have met some great women who accomplished great things within those roles. I just wanted something a bit different for myself and I still do. I hail from Adamawa, a North Eastern Nigerian State and my family’s culture is very much a traditional one although I believe we are also is a bit progressive.
I’m someone who’s quite ambitious, partly because I have been raised to be so. My father smiles during any conversation where I bring up thoughts of becoming a political leader, perhaps a member of the Federal House of Representatives one day. Apart from my father, many reactions aren’t very hopeful or encouraging. It gets discouraging when I wake up and the news of the day is that the Equal Opportunities Bill has been rejected or parliamentarians did not show up at the public hearing for the bill.
Then there are days when there is news that’s not only encouraging but also inspiring. Headlines like ‘Amina Mohammed, Nigeria’s Environment Minister, Named UN Deputy Secretary General’ or ‘Rising Profile of Amina Mohammed’ make my day that much better, they make me a lot more hopeful, they remind me to focus and they push me on days that are a little bit more difficult to get through. As a volunteer for YIAGA, I advocate for youth inclusion as well as women in leadership. At the moment, I am a member of the Strategy Team for the Not Too Young To Run campaign- a campaign that has a bill in the House of Reps and another in the Senate, which seeks to reduce the age for elective office and allow greater participation of Nigerian youths in the political process and governance in Nigeria. I am deeply passionate about it. I continue to be passionate because of people like the HME, Amina Mohammed.
God has been on my side because I was able to meet the Honorable Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed and she is every bit as intelligent, elegant and knowledgeable, as she seems to be from afar. She is indeed a role model for me and many others and is contributing to the growth of a new generation of Nigerian women so I will end with a quote her daughter, Nadine, shared about her online:
“This woman is just the most incredible person I know. I feel the need to celebrate her every day. You have accomplished so much in life and just when I think I can’t be any prouder you do something even greater. Thank God for your life and I pray and hope you get everything you want in this life”