The returnee series: From Barnard to Lagos, Nigeria; a young Feminist’s wahala
“Africa needs you and in time, you’ll need Africa too.”
How does it feel to be back home after years of college?
It’s really very much of a mixed feeling. It’s exciting and interesting, I missed the food and family. At the same time, it feels a bit too much at times because there a lot of frustrations here in Lagos that you forget about: no 24/7 electricity, the traffic, the crazy drivers, and the bad customer service in general. Some days are good but there are days when I wonder if I made the right choice (these decrease as time goes by). Also, by coming back after being exposed to so much, I find myself wondering what exactly makes me Nigerian because there are some days when I don’t feel Nigerian at all, or I don’t feel at home.
What are you up to in Naij?!
I am working in fashion! I work in branding and marketing for a fashion start up called Eve & Tribe that is based in Lagos. Eve & Tribe is a lifestyle brand for contemporary African women that equally celebrates women’s empowerment (trust me to end up in something like that). So everyday, we navigate the mind of the Nigerian woman, her worries, fears, joys and choices because they inform the production of our clothes.
What did you miss when you were in the US? What are you already fed up with now that you are back?
When I was in the U.S. I missed food and family and having my Nigerian friends closer instead of in D.C. Virginia or some place equally far . And I just missed being around people who looked and spoke like me. What I am fed up with? Lots of things but mainly I miss 24/7 light, I miss the ease of mobility (NYC subway to the rescue), I miss the relative cheapness to which I could live and the standard of living that came with it. And I miss great customer service
Looking back on the last year, what would you differently if you were a senior in College again?
I would have traveled around America more. And I most definitely would have spent more of my weekends exploring every nook and cranny of NYC. You never know what you have until it’s gone
Feminism in Africa as compared to your college years, what’s the overall feeling? Is Nigeria or other parts of Africa you visit catching up with the feminist movement?
Sigh. There are definitely more feminists in Nigeria today than there were a couple of years ago but we still have a lot left to be desired. A good amount of strong women in Nigeria push for us to have careers, to build ourselves as women without the support of men. But marriage is still a huge deal; its still an accomplishment that is more important than your Masters or PHD. Moreover, the men in Nigeria are still finding it hard to let go of the patriarchy and exalt in that position. A good friend of mine said something in an interview with Eve & Tribe that explains the dynamic in this country and I will quote here: “In the Nigerian society, a woman is demanded to satisfy many impossible expectations. She is expected to be sexy, yet classy. She is expected to be outgoing, yet demure. In her fifties she is expected to be the spiritual backbone of her family, yet in her twenties she is expected to know when to put her Bible down and pick up the tequila. And finally, she is expected to be intelligent, but never ever intimidating. At whatever point she falls short of these expectations, there is a ready-made label for her over which she can be placed on a shelf“
What are some of the experiences you’ve had that are inspiring hope for Africa?
Overall, the amount of startups by Nigerians in Nigeria. It seems that we are waking up and we are applying our own intelligence to overcome barriers in our country with innovative solutions. At Eve & Tribe, I am a part of this. Why not Africa for Africa? Why not indigenous brands we can be proud of? Everyday, Africans are waking up and realizing that we can each do something and it is honestly inspiring
One moment it seems Africa is hopeless, in another it appears there is a revolution, which is accurate? what do you see on the ground?
Exactly that. The same way I have good and bad days, so does Africa. Some days, it seems corruption is overriding everything and we cannot make progress and on other days, we seem to be blossoming and moving in great ways. The fact that there are always still good days is the hope we should hold on to because those days are getting more and more as time goes by.
Any advice for folks tryna move back home?
Be ready and don’t be ready. Come with the knowledge and ambition you have but also come with an adaptable and flexible mind. Expect what you know is there but also allow yourself to experience what you might not have had in mind. You will remember some things as they are and some things might surprise you but at the end of the day, there is more opportunity in this continent than can be found anywhere else. Africa needs you and in time, you’ll need Africa too.