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

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