Overcoming Low Self-Esteem by Gima Okhiulu

Gima Okhiulu delivering her speech at the Half the Sky Speech Contest in Akure, Ondo State. We attended Half the Sky, a speech contest commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child in Akure, Ondo State, and it was at this event that we met GimaOkhiulu, a student from the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Group of Schools in the State. Gima was amazing with her storytelling, linking each of her points to the next in a way that just made you stay glued to what she was saying. And because of how well she delivered her speech, we gave her a cash price and promised her a spot on the blog for any article of her choice. Here is Gima’s piece on her struggles with low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is like a silent destiny killer in the lives of growing kids, especially girls. A lot of unfulfilled destinies can be attributed to this ‘plague’. With a low self-esteem, a person sees themselves as useless, unappreciated and if you may, ‘down the ladder’. It is a state of strongly believing that others are better than you. It is a false sense of believing that nothing good will come out of whatever you do… a Siamese twin to hopelessness. I’ve had to deal with serious low self-esteem, varying from feeling unimportant and useless, to feeling like I was born stupid and back to feeling useless and hated. Although, this was hidden from my parents, it wasn’t from my older brother – Remen – who was the only person I occasionally opened to and God, whom I prayed to about it sometimes. And even though my parents didn’t know about my struggles, my dad and Remen were constantly trying to boost my self-esteem and my mum was my spiritual backup. And yes… God helped me too! Since I’ve been dealing with this, I feel like it is my duty to encourage people in similar situations. Low self-esteem starts when you start comparing yourself to other people and viewing them as being better than you. Like Remen said, ‘Everyone has their own star and their different ways of shinning.’ If you compare yourself to other people, you will blind yourself to seeing how important you are and your mind will begin to focus on what it may have convinced you is your ‘uselessness’. Like I said earlier, I had always thought I was born stupid, one reason being because my parents are really smart. Some things I found hard to do, my younger brother would just do like it was nothing. I would be like ‘Gima, you’re such a dumbass!‘ But lately, with the help of Remen, I recognized that I am actually sharp when it comes to making accurate calculations; sometimes looking like I prophesied it. The reason most of us feel like we’re not smart enough is that we are not looking at the bright side; we are too focused on the negatives. Also I felt unimportant because many times, I felt denied of what I wanted and it seemed like my sister always got what she wanted. Eventually, I discovered that there was always something I really liked that was kept for me. Thinking my sister got everything and I didn’t affected me because I was negative, which is why I now believe that another way to get over low self-esteem is to be positive. The last and best option is to go to God in prayer. This was the most effective method that worked for me.

Girls Hold Up Half the Sky

Participants at the Speech Contest I have been volunteering with Sow Purpose Initiativesince 2017. At that time, it was called SOW Foundation and the general mandate was to empower young (and vulnerable) women and girls by reaffirming their worth, addressing societal bias that keep these women and girls struggling to catch up with men and boys in this century, and promoting a culture of excellence for them. When the founder, Dr. Victoria Kumekor, reached out to me in 2017 to give a talk to the girls about body positivity, I was excited to do it. A number of students were chosen from different schools in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria, for the pilot event. It was a beautiful event where we got to bond with students from different backgrounds and ideologies. I knew that I was invited to teach the girls, but it really was a give-and-take session; I learned so much from our interaction. Seeing how much we inspired these young women, I decided that I would continue to volunteer with the Initiative as long as I was required to. So when Dr. Victoria, or as I call her – Vick, reached out to me to talk about the event planned for this year, I knew that I was going to make myself available. While the first two sessions had happened in Zaria, this one was going to happen in Akure, Ondo State. I remember when I saw the theme for this year’s event; ‘Half The Sky’. I wondered what it was about and asked Victoria to explain. She sent me the working document for the event.   When I finally understood what she meant, I was even more excited. But more than that, I was pumped that the format for this year’s event was a little different from the previous two. SOW Purpose Initiative was going to organize workshops on educating girls and discussions on equality in the different schools they had reached out to, with a speech contest by representatives of each school serving as the culmination of these workshops. These workshops were meant to dispel myth and misconceptions about the place of girls and women in the home, their immediate community and the world at large. After months of planning, the events began to draw near. The team started with workshops in each of the schools and on October 12, 2019, the speech contest was held in commemoration of the International Day for the Girl Child. The workshops were eye opening…but not as shocking as I would have expected. I think I am now jaded but that is a conversation for another day. When the conversations started with the students in their schools, two major talking points were focused on; 1.     Career choices the students felt were off-limit to girls; and 2.     Their thoughts on basic equality, human respect and rights.   Photos from the Workshop Most of the students – and it begs to be emphasized that this includes male and female students – believed that girls shouldn’t be in engineering, construction, mining, carpentry, politics, professional driving (and they didn’t mean Formula 1), and a couple of other supposedly male dominated careers. They all agreed that these jobs were ‘inappropriate’ for women and girls as they were not ‘strong enough’. In similar fashion, when asked if girls should be respected the same way boys are, there was a resounding ‘no’. The reasons were many: ‘Girls were made to serve boys by God’, ‘Boys are more special than girls’, ‘Boys are physically stronger than girls’, ‘Girls are incompetent’, ‘If given same level of respect girls tend to misuse it’ and the ever present and usually unsurprising, ‘Girls are not equal to boys’. They were literally parroting what the greater society thought and felt towards women and girls. But as unsurprising as it all was, I was still sad that at their young ages, they already had these beliefs that seemed so set in stone. Could we really change their views? Not to be daunted, the Initiative explained why these postulations were untrue and why it was of utmost importance that these students unlearn the things they held as truths. Each of the schools were then tasked with presenting one boy and one girl who would speak about girls holding up half the sky at the speech contest. The day finally arrived. As the students began to trickle into the venue of the event, I wondered what I was going to be hearing from them. I was to serve as a judge for the contest and I think I was probably more nervous than the students. I am very easy to read, and I needed to get my poker face on. Soon enough, we were good to go.   The Judges. From left to right: Mr. Eze Chinedu, Dr. Oguntade Funmilayo and Ramatu Ada Ochekliye (me). It was interesting hearing the students speak about the topic. With many of the boys and girls, you could tell they were just going through the motions. With others, their belief shone through. Two girls in particular caught my interest; Okhiulu Gima from Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Group of Schools and Nancy Orisamolor from Becky Parker School, both in Akure. Gima was amazing with her storytelling, linking each of her points to the next in a way that just made you stay glued to what she was saying. It is important that I mention that she was soft-spoken; something that could have worked against her as most of the other students were boisterous. But her cool and calm, coupled with her storytelling technique, kept me rivetted. Nancy on the other hand brought her points home. While most of the other speakers were mentioning Malala Yousafzai – I mean, everyone mentioned her! – Nancy led by sharing the work of Becky Anyanwu-Akeredolu: an aquaculture farmer; proponent for early detection of, and curing cancer; and First Lady of Ondo State. Nancy mentioned other women who were Nigerian, before she spread out to

Here Comes the Bride 2

Sad Muslim Girl.Image: Deposit Photos This series starts here. Catch up on it and enjoy the sequel. The number of people in front of her compound was daunting. Salamatu Yakubu smiled as she thought of that word; daunting. She had seen it in the newspaper at the principal’s office when she had gone to get chalk. She memorized the spelling and got her teacher to explain the meaning. As usual, her teacher had told her to find it out herself; urging her to search the dictionary starting at ‘D’ and then, the next letter. She couldn’t help but smile at how much she was learning, which was far better than her classmates and especially, than ALL the boys in her class. Her smile dropped when she got closer to her compound. There seemed to be an air of sadness hanging heavily around the entire compound. Her feet dragged, wanting to be spared the impending destruction to her little cocoon. Abubakar ran to her. He was her immediate younger brother and a real pest in her life. She was about to warn him to stay away from her when she saw his tear-streaked face. She squinted to see if he was trying to play a fast one but saw that for the first time in his entire 12 years of existence, he was genuinely sad. ‘What happened?’ she asked in English before remembering to switch off school mode for home. She asked again, but this time, in Hausa. ‘What happened? Why are you crying?’ Abubakar did something that shocked the shoes off her feet; he crumbled into a heap at her feet, put his arms around her and wailed. She dropped her school bag and bent to him. She was surprised by the flood of emotions that came over her. She held him until the teary fits wracking his body subsided. At that point, it didn’t matter that they had been taught not to hold members of the opposite sex or that their mothers were different. What mattered was that they had finally bonded over something she was still to find out about. ‘Ba…ba… Baba has died.’ he said. Salamatu flinched. She was not close to her father; had never been. That fact didn’t stop the temporary moment her heart clenched and the overwhelming that sadness came upon her. She gently pushed her brother away, picked her bag and started walking…walking away from her house…from the reality of her shattered life…from the end of what she knew. She didn’t know when she started running; running till her heart almost exploded in her chest. Her brain led her feet to the school library; her safe place. She paused long enough to check if there was anyone about before diving in. She went straight to the third row of books, the place farthest from the door. Unlike a true library, there were no sections with major headlines and easy access. The community was too poor to afford that. A corps member who had come in to serve was the one who built the library and got her church to donate books. Since she passed out, no new book had been added to the library and many were dog-eared from overuse. Salamatu sunk between the shelves and took the fetal position. She began to cry in earnest now. Her life was over. She was in deep trouble. And yes, she wasn’t crying that her father was dead. In fact, he had been her biggest problem since she started to understand what her life was about. She hated him and quite frankly, was glad he was dead! *** Mallam Suleiman Yakubu was an average farmer. He did what everyone else did; planted crops in season, worked his farm, harvested and waited for the next season to begin planting again. That was his life; simple and straightforward. He had four wives and so many kids popping out every 10 months, that at the last census, the number of his kids present at the count was 40. Thankfully, he had more boys than girls who could help in the farms and ensure that food was never a problem in his house. He was very religious; studying the Holy Qur’an at least twice a day. He said his five daily prayers on time and lived according to the tenets of Islam. He was also against everything Western. He hated Americans and Israelis – even though he had never met any of them – and he was against everything they stood for, one of which was formal education. He had sworn never to send any of his kids to the so called ‘school’. The school had sent many entreaties to him and even the local community leaders had asked him to send at least one child. They had all received the same answer; NO! His boys had to be on the farm most of the time and his daughters had to be prepared for marriage. He was not going to let anyone corrupt any child of his with Western ideas. His kids had a healthy fear of him. They cowered in his presence…well, almost all of them did. His daughter, Salamatu, was defiant. She was the only child of her mother and was very stubborn. She refused to be afraid of him. In one incident, she shocked him by questioning why they needed to pray five times daily. When he told her she must do so because he said so, she told him that if he had said because Allah said so, she would have accepted it. She went further to say that his word was not absolute, as he was but a man. He remembered how he beat her to unconsciousness. That was not the last time either. She found ways to rile him up with her constant questions and opinions. If Salamatu had not been a spitting image of him, he could have sworn that she was not his child. She questioned his audacity to marry off his

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