Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Some years ago, this would not have meant much. If you mentioned the term #mentalhealth in Nigeria, people thought you meant “madness”. Some still do. It was during my PhD research study* that I realised the severity of mental health issues faced by young people and, even worse, the continued lack of discourse around it.
Mental health [noun] – a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being
Now we’re in 2020 and with all that this year has brought with it – the coronavirus pandemic plus (pertaining to Nigeria) the rapes and killings of young women, industrial strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the current #EndPoliceBrutality campaigns, we can only imagine how much worse the mental health cases will be. Should there not be a wider discussion on this matter?
I am particularly concerned about female students who remain at home “doing nothing” due to many reasons beyond their control and will continue to advocate for their welfare and wellbeing, whether emotional, physical, economic or political. Some of the blog posts featured in this website will cover these issues and are a good place to start from.
Today, 11th October, is the International Day of the Girl (IDG). Given my professional interests and experience in working with young women, I thought it perfect timing to launch the website with this blog post. Pictured above is my niece, Zee. A mini-me. She has been described as a happy, energetic and wise girl. To me, she’s a fearless, feisty go-getter and I just love these traits in her! I used to be like that. Some things changed. And I cannot help but wonder – will she always be this way?
Feisty [adj.] – (of a person, typically one who is relatively small) lively, determined, and courageous
By the time Zee goes through the patriarchal education system, influenced by some of her peers and subjected to the limitations of societal expectations, will she lose the essence of who she is and is supposed to become? Some girls experience abuse and harassment on a regular basis. How do they cope with all that? How can we continue to value and nurture the girls that we know and live with? What mechanisms have we put in place to enable and support them through life?
Faced with these hard questions, and very few answers, I ended my PhD thesis with a personal commitment and some words of HOPE (adapted slightly below).
Hope that individuals will experience personal welfare and wellbeing as each one desires.
Hope that young women, and in particular, female university students will someday have equitable opportunities to realise their agency and achieve their functionings.
Hope for societies that see girls as human beings to be nurtured and respected.
Hope that girls will strive to achieve all that they seek to be and to do what they value.
Hope that future generations of girls are empowered through the efforts and sacrifices of those that have lived before them.
Hope for diminished postcolonial legacies and patriarchal influences in countries such as Nigeria and in Sub-Saharan Africa.
And finally, hope to realise a better future for both girls and boys.
Until we can achieve these ideals, let’s celebrate Zee, each and every girl – who they are right now and who they should grow up to be!
“Do you remember who you were before the world
told you who you should be? She’s still there. Go after her.”
~ Erica Layne ~
*My PhD research explored the personal welfare and wellbeing of female undergraduate students in Nigeria.