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Hauwa Ojeifo: Mental Health Matters!

Our #OnePerson for the month is Hauwa Ojeifo, a 30-year-old indigene of Edo State.
From being a bubbly child to one ridden with what was perceived as “mood swings”, Hauwa had multiple gender-based and sexual violence experiences that changed her behaviour.
Her feelings of shame and guilt peaked in 2014 when she was sexually abused. This event led to her seeking help in the form of therapy.

She was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mild psychosis and suicidal idealizations in 2015.
In 2016, she had her first suicidal attempt, and that was the turning point.
Hauwa decided to turn the negative energy of feeling neglected and uncared for after her diagnosis into a rescue mission for herself and other people (especially women) in West Africa going through the same thing.

She started She Writes Woman, a non-profit organisation in April 2016, with the aim of ending the stigma attached to mental health as well as the total neglect of people with mental health conditions. It serves as a platform where other women and Nigerians dealing with mental health issues can pour out their struggles and get help.

She Writes Woman’s large following (on Instagram) led to the creation of Talk Black Thursday – a live stream on social media that addresses the issues of mental health.
Subsequently, Safe Place was established, and to date, it is Nigeria’s first anonymous and 24/7 mental health helpline and it receives several calls every day.

Hauwa has also worked and partnered with several organisations worthy of note, such as the Wiki Loves Women organisation, Airtel, a few health centres and other women empowerment bodies to provide subsidised mental health care to close to 500 women who have registered for Safe Place.

In 2019, Hauwa addressed the United Nations at the first ever (sexual violence) Survivors Town Hall in the run-up to the first UN Survivors Bill of Rights.
She also emerged as the first person in Nigeria’s history diagnosed with a mental health condition to testify in that capacity before the Nigerian Parliament on the rights of persons with mental health conditions in the run-up to Nigeria’s first mental health law since 1958. Her testimony caused the bill to be stepped down and revised.

In 2021, she gave an opening statement at the United Nations during the Conference of States Parties.

Recognitions, Fellowships and Awards

Hauwa’s advocacy has gained her numerous recognitions both in Africa and globally.

  1. In 2017, Hauwa was honoured as IWOW’s Possibilities Woman and in 2018, she was the only female to receive the Young Leader Award by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.
  2. In 2018, she was honoured with a scholarship from the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme to the One Young World Summit in The Hague, Netherlands; and given the Generation Change Award by the MTV Europe Music Award.
  3. In 2019, she became a fellow through the Africa Leader programme by the Obama Foundation.
  4. In 2020, she became a Marca Bistro fellow with Human Rights Watch and the winner of the Global Goals Changemaker Award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  5. In 2021, She also became a fellow with the Mandela Washington Programme for Young African Leaders.
  6. She received the Diana Samarasan Disability Rights Advocacy Award in 2022.

Hauwa is dedicated to encouraging people with mental health conditions to speak up and seek help early enough, and sensitizing society on the need to shun all forms of stigmatization against them.

In her words “To women struggling with mental health conditions. I want you to know that I hear you, I see you, your feelings are valid, your story matters, and your experience matters. There are thousands of women just like you in your area, who are calling on to each other. It is okay to reach out to receive the support you know you need.

To join the ‘ONE PERSON’ campaign:

  1. Upload a post or short video to Instagram/Twitter/Facebook where you talk about how ‘ONE PERSON‘, whether it’s yourself or someone you know, is leaving a lasting FOOTPRINT in your community.
  2. Tag us on the post @eienigeria.
  3. Use the hashtags #OnePerson and #ChangeAgent in your upload.

Submit the link to the upload in the form below, whether it’s your own or a nomination for someone else who is making a positive impact.