AFFIRM Shero: Ramatu Umar Bako

This month is the start of a new series known as AFFIRM Shero – an opportunity to honour and celebrate female role models who have made significant progress in their personal development and are a positive influence on the younger generation. An AFFIRM Shero is someone who, despite the challenges of societal expectations and barriers, is courageous enough to choose her field and walk her own path. This blog post features Ramatu Umar Bako on AGING GRACEFULLY.

A message to all young women,

Looking back at my life, I can only thank the Almighty for everything!

As I reach my late 40s, I look forward to the next phase of my life with hope and optimism.

I still cannot imagine that 50 is gradually knocking on the door oooo. Like joke, like joke, as they say. In those days, when we hear about women aged 40 and over, it’s like we are thinking of our mothers and aunties. Now, we are those mothers and aunties!

When I speak to a lot of women, I hear the fear in their voices when they talk about growing older. I hear the worry when they share certain health symptoms, and someone suggests that it is menopause.

I cannot count the number of times that I have heard women my age or younger say “God forbid!” whenever it is mentioned.

I have always had a ‘healthy’ attitude to aging or growing older. I have never worried about being old generally. I mean, it’s not like I don’t think about it. I do but not in the way other women seem to think about it. Many women dread growing old. It’s normal.

When we see older people, especially those in developing countries and the way they are treated, its normal to be worried. In our African culture, old men are treated with respect and called elders, but women are treated like lepers and pariahs and are referred to in many derogative terms – witches and old hags! They are excluded and derided and made to feel like they are no longer of any use.

A group of older women in Africa [Photo credit: Guardian NG]

Aside from societal influences, it’s a time of multiple series of worry for women: empty nest syndrome as children go to boarding schools, off to universities or get married. As women, you see you looks diminish – wrinkles, bags under the eyes, different health challenges, thinning and grey hairs, etc. Then, if you are married or in a relationship, you may see your relationship gradually change or shift as you either grow bored of each other or become so familiar that you are more like siblings etc.

All the above concerns are valid and its normal to experience some level of apprehension, but it should be fleeting. Aging is a normal process which if God grants you long life, you should enjoy. Imagine being a toddler or a teenager forever? Hian! Imagine being as ‘naïve and foolish’ as many of us were in our 20s? Hian!

I have always realised that every stage in our lives is only for a season – good or bad.

Many times, I have wanted something so badly, that I thought I would die. Like a particular job, a particular item etc I remember the heartache and the worry until I realised that it was not meant to be when I did not get it. With time, maturity and experience, I have come to believe in God’s will. If it’s meant to be, it will be and there will be no stress, no anxiety and no obstacles! It took me a whole lifetime to learn this simple fact of life. And I am still learning!

The simple message of this post to young women is this – we will all grow older as long as we are alive. However, how we approach the aging process is up to us, individually. Your lifestyle choices, your food, your health, your grooming and hygiene, your support groups, the quality of your thoughts and choices – are all up to you and will determine how you enjoy this transition. My advice to every woman is to learn to appreciate and enjoy each phase of your life for the experience and learning it brings.

Train your mind to appreciate yourself

In spite of physical health challenges due to a fall in the bathroom last year, and the recovery process, I feel vibrant and full of life. I have always taken pride in my grooming, I still love dressing up and despite grey hairs and wrinkles here and there, I still feel beautiful. I don’t need any validation and I don’t expect any. Train your mind to appreciate yourself and have the confidence that your opinion of yourself matters more than those of others.

Aging gracefully… with love,


Ramatu Umar Bako has numerous qualifications including an LLB (Hons) in Law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, and an MSc in Global Conflict and Peace Processes from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. An alumna of the UK Chevening programme, her love for continuous learning and personal development has led her to pursue additional qualifications.

Ramatu has over 18 years of experience in international development with a focus on good governance through human rights, gender equality, and youth empowerment. She has worked with various international organizations including British Council Nigeria, Oxfam Nigeria and Save the Children International. She is the former Country Director, Speakers’ Corner Trust Nigeria, and a one-time Executive Director of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).