Idayat Yusuf, the founder and coordinator of Vision for Female Gender Empowerment and Development Initiative, popularly known as Vision XX (an NGO) was born and brought up in Kaduna State. Her father is a businessman and her mother also a businesswoman. She was born into a polygamous home of 22 children. She is the seventh in the family, but the fourth child of her mother. Idayat attended Labayi International School, Federal Government Girls College, Bakori, Katsina State and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where she graduated in International Studies. She is a wife and mother. She also works as Director of Operations at Tectonics Engineering and Consults Limited.
My name is Idayat Yusuf. I am the founder and coordinator of Vision for Female Gender Empowerment and Development Initiative, popularly known as Vision . It is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) committed to empowering women. I was born and brought up in Kaduna State. My father is a businessman. He is into pharmaceuticals. My mother was also a businesswoman but she died in 2004. We are 22 children in my family. It is a polygamous home. My father has three wives. I am the seventh in the family, but the fourth born of my mother. I attended Labayi International School and Federal Government Girls College, Bakori, Katsina State. In my secondary school then we had people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, but we related very well. Many of us are still friends till today. It is the kind of unity we are lacking today in Nigeria. I am pained to see today people are fighting, killing each other because of religion or ethnic group. I later attended the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in International Studies. My father was a philanthropist. My father then used to support the children of the community through education. We used to have lesson teachers that came to the house to teach us in the family house, but my father would ask other children in the neighbourhood to join the class and he would pay for all of them. In fact he built a big classroom in the compound so that it could accommodate all the children in the neighbourhood. That gesture has been a source of inspiration to me. Whatever humanitarian activity I am engaging in today is inspired by what my father did.
My childhood was fun filled. It was a polygamous home with the usual mischief, disagreements, someone would lie against another and you get punished for what you didn’t do and of course fights that came with it. But despite all that I had the opportunity of relating very well with my other brothers and sisters. Yes we had our fights, but mine is an interesting family. And I think one thing that helped so much was that my father never showed preference between the boys and the girls and he gave us adequate support to pursue our education.
However, my biggest challenge has been that people misunderstand me. Even my mother sometimes did not understand me. Whenever I take a position, they saw it as being in opposition and sometimes they don’t give me chance to explain myself. That almost destroyed my confidence. But over time I came to realise that there is nothing I can do about it, maybe it is just my nature, people will sometimes misunderstand you and you just move on with your life.
One striking experience which I had as a child growing up and which I still abhor even up till today was being punished unjustly. I hate being punished for what I did not do. And you know in a polygamous family with so many children, even our mothers everybody was trying to win the love and trust of our father and there was always the case of people accusing you of doing something that you did not do and at the end of the day you get punished for it. I hate injustice.
My childhood dream was actually to be a lawyer, unfortunately I am not a lawyer today. I had that dream because I wanted to defend humanity, to prevent the innocent from being unjustly punished. I hate social injustice. Again that is because of my own experiences as a child when I was punished for things I never did.
I had three wonderful teachers, Mrs. Wayi, who died three weeks ago. She was my house matron and my teacher. She taught me to be a maiden of decorum, self-confidence and to be a very strong woman and my sister’s keeper. The other teacher I cannot forget is Mrs. Umeh, an Igbo woman. She taught me how to be elegant, speak eloquently and respect people no matter their social status or their creed in life. Finally Mrs. Osakwe, another Igbo lady, taught me resilience. These are wonderful teachers that built me and I cannot forget them.
My mother was one of my role models. She was a loving but strict disciplinarian. She taught me time consciousness. My father is another role model. He is a philanthropist whom I am taking after now and of course my uncle Alhaji Suleiman Sariki Shittu, who taught me that life is very simple and to be generous.
Thought On Child Marriage
Thank God I didn’t come from a family where I was forced to marry as a child. If it had happened, I would have resisted it. You see in the course of running my NGO, that is the Vision for Female Gender Empowerment and Development Initiative, for about two years now, we have come across so many of such cases and what we try to do is to educate the parents on the dangers of giving out their children for marriage at tender ages. We also hold sessions with young girls, not necessarily to teach them to rebel against their parents, but to open their eyes to opportunities that await them if they are well educated or at least have some skills through which they can earn a living before marriage.
Career And Home
I must tell you that it is not easy managing both, but whatever happens, you must find a balance between your career and your home with proper planning. Whatever happens, I try to create enough time to stay with my daughter. Most importantly, you must have an understanding husband like mine. In fact he is a strong support for me, most times he gives me ideas on what to do. I must say I am lucky to have married a supportive husband.
The first lesson I have learnt in life is to accept where I am coming from, so that I will be able to know where I want to go and how to get there; I have also learnt not to look down on people because you don’t know where salvation will come from; I have learnt to accept failure as part of life, if you do that, it will be easy for you to learn lessons from the failure which will help you to succeed in the future; as a woman I have learnt never to compromise my dignity, my self-respect and my integrity and finally I am not in competition with anyone in the race of life.
Young girls should not miss the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the older women like their mothers, sisters, aunties and so on. Another thing is that hard work pays, hard work pays. They should work hard, pursue their dreams no matter what. They will fail a couple of times, they should just keep on pushing until they get to their destination. Along the line there will be challenges, but they should not compromise especially their self-respect, their self-worth.
I hope that between now and the next five years, I would have created a career path for many young ladies through this NGO.
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