Uloma Ogba: Whenever I get serious about something, I get what I aim for

Tell us about the NGO you started in Nigeria. How do you run your NGO when you live abroad?

One of my oldest childhood friends got married and I was lucky to be one of the bridesmaids at her wedding. The thing was, like myself she had also lived in a couple of different places and so of the 7 bridesmaids she had, none of us knew each other. She started this Whatsapp group months before the wedding and through this group we got to learn about each other before the big day.

There was this one girl in the group, Hauwa who had just finished medical school and was writing her board exams. The way she talked about different things made me realize I had found a kindred spirit. Around the same time my father, my constant motivator in life, was pushing me to find ways to be more involved in things going on at home. So, I had started thinking of the possibility of starting an NGO in Nigeria.

The more I got to know Hauwa over Whatsapp, the more I had this feeling that she was someone I wanted to work on this idea with. One day in June, I just presented the idea to her and she was receptive from the beginning. Long emails were exchanged followed by Skype calls and more emails. By the time we met in person in August, we had already agreed on a direction and name for the NGO. After meeting, we were sure we wanted to do this together and we haven’t looked back since.

give-girls-a-chance

Our NGO is called Give Girls A Chance and our mission is to improve access to quality education for girls from low-income communities in Nigeria. There is a widening gender gap in Nigeria and we believe that one way to close this gap is through education. We want to adopt a more holistic approach to the issue of girls not being enrolled in and graduating from primary and secondary schools at the same rate as boys.

In addition to providing need-based scholarships, our programs offers mentoring. We also work with families and communities to advocate for education and ensure that the girls receive the support they need from home. Digital literacy is more important than ever so we work with the schools in our programs to improve their ICT capabilities that all students can benefit from this as well.

As of January 2017,  we will be sponsoring 10 girls from 2 schools in low-income areas in Abuja. As we get more funding, our goal is to expand the program throughout the country. Although I live in Zambia and Hauwa lives in Nigeria, there is a good division of labour between the two of us. We often joke that Hauwa is the face of the organization and I’m content to be behind the scenes.

For @OgbaUloma, a career development plan involves me talking to people she holds in high esteem Click To Tweet

What are you reading right now and what is particularly memorable about it?

Right now I’m reading “The Rift” by Alex Perry. Alex Perry basically travelled through Africa interacting with all kinds of people from professors to warlords, from smugglers to entrepreneurs. What he does is paint a picture of what he sees as the heart and soul of Africa, the parts that tend to get brushed aside by the world and mainstream media.

Perry takes all the same old concepts that you’ve heard in connection to Africa, corruption for instance, but tells these stories of how it really happens in everyday life, how its not just a black and white issue. These are all the issues which scholars, pundits and world leaders constantly debate about when it comes to Africa. What we should do or not do to advance, progress, develop etc. Perry turns all of that upside down and makes you think about the whole situation of what’s going on in Africa in a different light.

What I like is that “The Rift” not a tale of doom and gloom. From the rich accounts he narrates, I feel this sense of pride and that things can change for the better if only we are able to connect the dots.

Looking back at 2016, what would you say were your biggest achievements this year?

My biggest public accomplishment of 2016 was definitely surviving the UN application process. It has been a big self-confidence booster. It helped reinforce for me the fact that whenever I get serious about something and really put my mind and all my energy towards achieving it, more often than not, I get what I was aiming for! And so ,I’m letting that win drive me to set new goals and work towards achieving them.

On a personal note, I have shared on SLA some of my struggles with mental health issues. I honestly believe that mental health issues are something that we need to get more comfortable acknowledging and dealing with. For me, I’ve been dealing with an eating disorder for over 15 years. 2016 marks one full year in recovery without any major setbacks, so that’s something I’m really proud of and working on maintaining. It’s not easy, but then again full control of my mind and body is something worth fighting for.

To truly understand people & be of service to them, you have to be willing to listen - @OgbaUloma Click To Tweet

How will you be celebrating the holidays?

I will be heading to Nigeria for the holidays and honestly I can’t wait to be home. I will be in Abuja first, meeting with Hauwa to talk through our strategic plan for Give Girls A Chance in 2017.

And then I’m heading straight for my village Abiriba popularly known as “Small London”. There I intend to spend 10 days eating, dancing and catching up with my family —and of course crashing weddings of people whom I barely know.


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About Rafeeat Aliyu

Rafeeat loves food, learning about pre-colonial African history and watching horror movies. She writes weird and speculative fiction sometimes.

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