“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” – Malala Yousafzai
This week, on June 16, the world celebrated the Day of the African Child with the theme: Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights. This day honors the participants of the Soweto Uprising in 1976, raises awareness of the challenges facing African children, and celebrates those who are working to improve the well-being of children in the continent.
With this as a backdrop, we are humbled to introduce you to this week’s #StrongEnoughGirl, Margaret Bolaji. A 27-year old resident of Zaria (Kaduna State), Nigeria, Margaret is “an incurable advocate for girl child education, health and youth participation for a sustainable and equitable world.” She currently serves as the Youth Representative on the United Nations’ Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Reference Group and works as a Program Officer with the Population and Reproductive Health Initiative in Northern Nigeria.
Here is Margaret’s #StrongEnough story:
- Tell us about (describe) yourself.
I am a young, creative and dynamic program officer with Centre for Girls Education (CGE), a program of Population and Reproductive Health Initiative in Northern Nigeria, providing marginalized adolescent girls with ASRH (Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health) knowledge, literacy and life skills in safe spaces. I am also the Vice President of UNFPA’s Youth Advisory Group and a member of the International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP).
I live in Zaria, Northern Nigeria though my parents hail from South- West of Nigeria. I am the fourth child in a family of seven children, all females. I am a graduate of English language and currently pursuing a master’s degree in Policy and Development Studies.
I represent youth at both national and global conferences, championing the cause of girls and young people.
I serve as the newly appointed youth seat representative on FP2020’s Reference Group shining a spotlight on the unique SRH needs of young people and adolescents.
- What are your hobbies (things you enjoy doing)?
Listening to music and building social networks
- What activities are you involved with in your community?
I mentor marginalized adolescent girls on life skills, literacy skill and ASRH knowledge in rural communities. I volunteer as a Presenter in a community radio station where I bring the voices of children and girls to limelight; celebrating their successes and discussing their challenges to proffer solutions. I also serve as an interface between my community and UNFPA, ensuring that priorities of marginalized girls and young people are reflected in their programmes.
- Who or what inspires you?
My mother! She is God fearing, hard working and determined. She stopped at nothing to ensure that she gave her seven girls quality education even when people around her felt she was only wasting time and resources on girls. She believes only in two things: God and the future of her girls. She is strong inside out. Against all odds, she produced world changers despite she has minimum formal education.
- Is there something you are passionate about? If yes, what is it?
I am passionate about girls. I push for girls’ rights, empowerment and participation. I am an incurable advocate for girl child education, health and youth participation for a sustainable and equitable world.
- What is the biggest challenge that you see facing girls in your community?
Girls in my community face diverse challenges ranging from religious, cultural, social and economic barriers. To state the biggest challenge; child marriage and its multiple effects on girls’ health, education and dreams, leading to needless loss of potentials and lives. Zainab’s story says it: Zainab is a girl I met at one of the fistula centres in Northern Nigeria. Beautiful and young, Zainab forced a smile through her tears as we exchanged pleasantries. She told how, at the age of eleven, she was married off to a man old enough to be her father. She ended up at the centre after delivering her first baby at the age of twelve. Unfortunately, the baby died and she was left with a fistula. Weak, sad and septic, Zainab’s life was ruined and in fact she died a few days after we met.
- What advice would you like to share with girls in your community?
You can be all you were created to be! Do not let your background put you down, GO FOR IT!!!
- Who is your favorite female leader/role model, and why?
Miss Dawn Minott- She is strong, dogged and humble.
- What do the words “Strong Enough” mean to you?
To remain strong in the midst of trials, standing tall with your head high and your feet down. Eleanor Roosevelt says it all, “A woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
- Do you have a favorite quote/verse/song lyric?
“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” ―Malala Yousafzai
We are delighted to know you, Margaret and to have your voice representing girls globally. We wish you success and fulfillment in your roles. We are proud of your efforts and we celebrate you as our #SEGoftheWeek. More grace to you!
Feel free to connect with Margaret via e-mail and/or her social media platforms as follows:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Skype: Bolaji.margaret Twitter: @BolajiMargaret
*Do you know an outstanding young lady (aged 13-30 years) in your community? Recommend her to be featured. Send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line “SEG of the Week.”*