WOMEN`S emancipation has been one of the key features of the 21st century. In Rwanda they actually occupy 64% of parliament seats which is a record worldwide. In many parts of Africa, women have also come to believe that they can achieve their dreams as their male counterparts.
On a recent Rwanda air flight from Johannesburg to Kigali, I happened to sit next to a 22-year-old student from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Nadia Ahmed is a psychology student at Midrand Graduate Institute (MGI) in Cape Town and was on her way home for a one month winter holiday. She is an open minded young woman whose face shines with a beautiful smile.
A look to a Hijab covering her head can tempt you to think that she is a conservative young Muslim woman who is there to be married soon and become a full time mother. When I engaged her in a talk I quickly realized that I was wrong. Though her mother sacrificed her career as a housewife, Nadia is not ready to follow her mum steps. “My father advised me to avoid a husband who would like to keep me at home”, she confided to me.
His father was born in Tanzania and his roots hail from Oman. He had to force his way to school against the wish of his father wish who wanted him to be a shopkeeper after primary school. As a young man, he was determined to finish high school then go on to the university. He left home against his father`s will to pursue his dream and was lucky to meet well-wishers who funded him to complete his education up to the University of Dar Es Saalam. For Nadia to have such a courageous father had a positive impact on her passion to pursue her education and a dream to a professional career in future.
She is actually in her second year in the faculty of psychology and is determined to achieve her dream. Being far away from home comes with challenges but also opportunity to develop her independence. Nadia has to manage her finances, social life as well as keep committed to her studies. “I don`t behave like local students who most of the time stay with their family”, said Nadia. She refuses to be distracted by late parties that her fellow classmates attend most weekends.
Off course as a young person, she has her own way of spending her free time. She carefully chooses serious students with whom she socializes. “We go to a dinner in a restaurant then later on go to a cinema and after that we proceed back home”, noted Nadia. She also trains three times in a week in a gym as a way to keep herself in good shape and stay healthy.
Nadia keeps reminding herself that the only purpose that brought her to South Africa is to get her psychology degree and practice one year to gain experience then go on with her graduate studies in Germany. Her school helps its bachelor degree graduate to get internships with institutions all over the country and they complete their studies with a license to practice as a counselor from the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
Being away from her family has contributed something to her financial responsibility. Nadia works part time jobs as a baby sitter as well as a tutor to primary pupils. In addition to that she works in the university library to increase her income. When she comes back from holidays Nadia will start working in the gym as a way of diversifying her revenues streams.
In each academic year she has two holidays one in winter time that last one month and the other in summer that last almost three months. In all these holidays she needs to go home to visit her family but it has decided to pay a flight ticket only once in winter holidays.
Nadia has to work all the above parts time jobs for her to afford a return ticket to visit her family and friends in Dar es Salaam. “I have a saving account where I keep my incomes and savings from my family allowances so that by the time winter holidays start I buy my ticket and fly home”, noted the bright young woman. She is also nurturing her saving culture so that she will be able to financially contribute to her master degree costs in Germany.
“My dad is the sole bread winner in our family and nearing his retirement so I feel like I don`t want my education costs to burden him”, said Nadia. Her dad has sacrificed a lot towards her four elder sibling’s education who attended university studies in the United Kingdom. The reason why she always wants to go home for holiday is to inspire her young brother to study hard so that he can earn a university scholarships in the United States.
As soon as she receives her bachelor degree, she want to work one year in South Africa to get experience and earn an income that will contribute towards her master degree costs in Germany. Nadia has fallen in love with Germany during many holidays she had with her family in Europe and would like to go there for her master degree. If it was not for languages barriers and her love for Africa, Germany would have been her destination for her undergraduate studies.
Nadia would definitely like to come back to Africa when she completes her studies in Germany. “The future is in Africa so I would like to have my career at home and serve the continent as I love to give back to the community. Her father has been a member of Rotary Club International in Tanzania and was recently elected as its president. She gets an inspiration from her dad to always do those activities that can better the world.
She is putting in much efforts in her studies and plan for the future. She wishes to get married and have a family of her own by the time she graduate. The only thing she is not ready to accept is a husband who would like to keep her home as a housewife. “I don`t like to see my degrees hanging on walls collecting dusts considering much effort and resources that are being spent towards my education”. Nadia Ahmed is ready to embrace a future of a modern woman without neglecting the customs of her religion.