Lessons from Hadiza Bala-Usman: Why your active participation matters

Attendees with Hadiza Bala Usman (Founder, Bring Back our Girls + Chief of Staff to Kaduna State Governor)-2

Speaking up isn’t easy. For most of us, when there are problems in our community or society, we respond passively because we expect someone else to do something about it.

Hadiza Bala-Usman has stepped up and used her voice to advocate on behalf of women, children, her community and country.  A Nigerian activist and politician, she currently serves as the Chief of Staff for the Kaduna State government and is one of the leading voices for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, organising protests on behalf of the families of the kidnapped girls.

At SheHive Abuja, Mrs. Bala-Usman spoke about her career in public service, why she joined it, and how to get people to care about issues that they rather ignore. She expressed that her passion to speak on behalf of people who do not have the opportunity to speak for themselves was birthed from childhood and her desire to live a life that is beyond herself.

She recognised early in life that one doesn’t have to be in ideal situations and positions to add significant value to the society. When the BBOG movement started it did not have a formal structure or strategic plan in place to guide activities, what it did have was a group of people with different skill sets who were willing and passionate enough to congregate and make things work.

Here are some of the lessons we can learn from Hadiza Bala-Usman’s story as an active public servant and advocate.

Get involved with the process

The best way to influence positive change is to make the nitty gritty details that add up to an issue our business.

Using the #BringBackOurGirls movement as an example, she stated that the flawed system of government made it easy for the girls to be kidnapped and finding ways to publicly hold them accountable helped move things forward . It took emails, a series of street marches and social media campaigns for the government of the day to take the situation seriously.

It is one thing to admit there is a problem, another thing to wish for a solution but what really effectuates change is your commitment and involvement in the process.

Keep perspective

It takes little effort to be fatigued and overwhelmed when we do not achieve the desired results from our advocacy endeavors. Hadiza Bala-Usman shared that one way to find inspiration to keep going is to look beyond the immediate results and realities surrounding our work.

Using the #BringBackOurGirls movement as an example, she said that the rescue of the  girls is of utmost importance. However, the campaign has also influenced government policies around the girl child such as early marriage, economic empowerment and access to education.

Furthermore, families that are directly affected have found comfort in the fact that there are people in direct contact with the government who are speaking and fighting on their behalf.

You can add value

Because of the stereotypes women are expected to fit into, most women believe that what they have to offer will add little or no significant value to the big issue.

She emphasized that it is little individual contributions that add value to the bigger goal and encouraged that what matters is the quality your engagement not the quantity.

The take away is this: There is a lot you can do. Resist the temptation to be a spectator in your community and challenge yourself to seek creative ways to add value to people. Move from passive to active, from an onlooker to a participant, your contribution matters.