Not many people can go through unspeakable life experiences and live to tell the tale. Hauwa Ojeifo is an embodiment of turning pain into purpose and how our painful life experiences can serve as a catalyst to help change the lives of others.
Sitting at Hiba a couple of weeks ago for the first Honest Conversations meet up, I didn’t know what to expect. But in a few minutes I felt connected to women who just moments prior were strangers to me. The conversations that we had during the gathering was a testament to the hard work of Hauwa over the years in providing safe spaces and support groups for women.
Whilst I have been following her work through social media over the years, one thing that struck me whilst listening to her life story was how she was able to talk about really difficult moments openly. This got me to reflect on how shame prevents us from talking about our stories. We worry about people’s perceptions, what they will say and what they will think if they hear about our struggles or aspects of our lives that are not picture perfect.
If there is one thing that I have learnt from Hauwa’s journey, it is that
owning our story not only grants us healing it can be an incredible source of power that liberates us. Owning our stories gives us the freedom to speak our truths in a way that can change the life of a stranger or save the life of a friend.
Somewhere out there is someone who is waiting for us to share our story so they can say “me too.” And find comfort and solace in knowing that we survived our pain and so they can too.
It was an incredible privilege to share space with the women that I did on the day. Hearing their stories – stories of vulnerability and courage – reaffirmed to me that we are all vessels of knowledge and experiences. Most of all, I was inspired by Hauwa’s courage in sharing intimate details about her journey without shame but with introspection. That is freedom. And we all need the space to have honest conversations.
Hauwa Ojeifo is the founder of She Writes Woman, a support group for women focused on mental health support and outreach in Nigeria. You can learn more about the organisation’s work here, follow their social media platform here and read more about Hauwa’s Queen’s Young Leaders Award here.
Join the conversation below by sharing your thoughts on whether we have enough spaces in our communities to talk candidly about mental health and what we can do to generate those spaces.