Stories that will inspire you to become your best self from our 'Becoming Series'
The Woman Running for President
A former refugee who learned to read and write at age fourteen, Fadumo Dayib has consistently defied the odds throughout her life. Now, she hopes to make history as Somalia’s first female presidential candidate in the country’s September elections.
I am where I am today because of a very strong woman. All those men in high offices are where they are today because of strong women. It’s time for women to understand that we are the backbone of our continent and our countries. We need to formalize this leadership. We’ve carried these countries, these people on our backs for so long, and it’s time to have it recognized. Women are much stronger than many people would like us to believe or like us to know. People think my biggest challenge is my gender, but it’s also my biggest strength.
The War Survivor Who Never Gave Up
Clemantine Wamariya was a refugee of the Rwandan genocide. After starting her formal education at the age of thirteen, Clemantine went on to graduate from Yale University and was appointed by President Obama to serve on the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She travels throughout the US sharing her message of personal resilience and advocating for action to advance human rights.
“My purpose in life is to remind people that there are others who are struggling to exist within spaces of war and poverty. I would do anything to make people understand and see that. I want to take the stereotype of what a refugee is or what a war survivor looks like and say, ‘that is me’.”
Becoming Michaela DePrince
From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
Michaela DePrince grew up in an orphanage in Sierra Leone during the civil war. Today, she is a ballerina with the Dutch National Ballet. She shares her incredible story in her memoir, Taking Flight.
“I think that many people see me as a role model, and perhaps as a heroine. Sometimes that’s a heavy burden to carry, and it would be so much easier to have people see me as just an ordinary girl who happens to be a ballet dancer.
I would like to be the Ruby Bridges of ballet, and open the doors of this beautiful art form to girls of every race.”
The Champion of Change
Haben Girma has an impressive resume. The daughter of an Eritrean refugee, she is a magna cum laude graduate of Lewis & Clark College and Harvard Law School’s first deaf-blind graduate. Haben, who was named a White House Champion of Change in 2013, currently works as an attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.
“Throughout my life I have had many experiences where I wanted to read a book but it was not accessible to me. I became a lawyer in part to help increase access to books and other digital information for persons with disabilities.
Negative cultural attitudes act as the biggest barrier to access for people with disabilities. We are all different in some way, and it’s the community as a whole that makes decisions regarding what types of differences are embraced or rejected. Communities thus have the power to choose to change their attitudes and design their shared spaces to be more inclusive.”
Becoming Vivian Onano
The Born Activist
Vivian Onano is a youth advisor to the UN Women Global Civil Society Group and a consultant at Africa 2.0. In 2015, she gave a keynote address at the UN General Assembly.
“I consider myself as being an activist from birth. I focused on women because of where I came from, and seeing the struggle that they go through, even today: lack of access to education, lack of economic empowerment, gender-based violence, early marriage, not having a voice, not being empowered, these motivated me to focus on women. I am fortunate, I have an education, I have a voice, I am empowered.”
Becoming Hannah Giorgis
The Unsilenced Voice
Hannah Giorgis is a NYC-based writer and organizer of Ethiopian and Eritrean descent whose work addresses the intersections of race, gender, immigration, class, and culture.
“If I didn’t have faith that people are fundamentally capable of loving one another and honoring the depths of each other’s humanity even in a world that trains us not to, I don’t think I could do any of the work I do.
Alice Walker said activism is the rent she pays for living on the planet. I think a lot about that sentence—what are we doing to make this planet a place where people who are discriminated against can thrive?”
Becoming Zuriel Oduwole
The Girl on a Mission
Zuriel Oduwole has interviewed some of the world’s top leaders including former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and former President Rawlings of Ghana. Her passion for women’s issues led her to create the Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up project and create documentaries, and she’s still in high school!
“I would say that if you want knowledge, go to the Internet, but if you want wisdom, talk to God Almighty. I like wisdom better. It’s cool to have some.
I want people to know that they should dream, but dream big otherwise they won’t go anywhere. They should believe in themselves and not share all their dreams with everyone. Look what happened to Joseph and his brothers in the Bible.”
Unapologetically That Girl
Hayet Rida is a successful Chicago-based Ghanaian lifestyle blogger and photographer who has built a reputation being bold and unapologetic. She speaks her mind on her blog, That Hayet Rida.
“I had a period of trying to find myself. I got to a point when I realized I don’t need to find myself. I am myself. No need to look for her. She’s here. I started to accept myself exactly how I was.”
The Leader of the Next Generation
Rachel Nyaradzo Adams is the founder of Narachi Leadership, a leadership consultancy aimed at developing deep resevoirs of leaders for the African continent. After years studying and working at elite institutions from Oxford University to McKinsey and Company to Yale University, Rachel recently returned to her native Zimbabwe to help nurture the potential of Africa’s emerging leaders.
“Like many youth I encounter across Africa, our youth are yearning. They are gifted. They have great ideas and energy. They are innovators and entrepreneurs. But they are also challenged by the circumstances of our struggling economy and limited opportunities to thrive. And so many of them are left yearning for an environment that will allow them to manifest as their most capable and talented selves.”
Becoming Safia Elhillo
The Wordsmith on the Rise
A Cave Canem Fellow and a poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly: a journal of black expression, Safia Elhillo is Sudanese-American poet and spoken word artist.