Uzoamaka Doris Aniunoh is a writer, social media manager/activist, actor and the founder of HEAR HER – an online community where females across Nigeria share stories they would otherwise hold back on without fear.
Uzoamaka kicked off her career by working 9-5 jobs while nursing an interest for storytelling/writing, and social issues. In 2015, she decided to give it a shot by writing and expressing her views on Facebook.
In 2015, I took it a little more seriously by writing and expressing my views on Facebook. I had followers who encouraged me to start a reality blog and I did. Shortly after I started, one of my readers told me about the Farafina Workshop. I applied by sending in a story I had written to address emotional and psychological abuse in families as observed by a child.
When I received a congratulatory email from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I knew this was what I wanted, the workshop was the validation that I needed at the time.
Hearing other writers, including Binyavanga Wainaina, talk about how simple and human my stories were, gave me the push and strengthened me to explore some more. In the same year, I got admitted into the University of Birmingham, England, to study Creative Writing.
While I addressed social issues on Facebook, I often got messages in my inbox of people (mostly females) telling me how they saw themselves in situations I described. I could tell that many people wanted their stories told but did not want to put themselves out there. So I created the Hear Her category on my blog where females could share personal stories anonymously or with pseudonyms.
Although my blog is no longer open to the public, Hear Her is a growing brand and community that will break silences.
As a creative, Uzoamaka’s biggest challenge so far has been self-doubt which has made her pass up on opportunities because ”I spent too much time feeling unworthy, wondering why I was even considered for a project in the first place, instead of focusing on the actual work.” but she’s found a way out.
I am growing and I now know the importance of surrounding oneself with people who see you and your work, who understand your work, and most importantly, people who respect your work. When in doubt, I allow these people remind me of the reasons I do what I do.
Her experiences, the experiences of people around her, injustice, inequality, language, and life in general are Uzoamaka’s source of inspiration.
On projects and activities that further solidified her self belief, she said:
When I was invited to London by No.7 cosmetics to discuss beauty and writing, I felt like a super star.
Sitting there, getting my makeup done by professionals, getting ‘mic-ed up’ and sitting at the table with established authors; I knew I had to do more. I was then asked to write a piece on makeup and what it means to me.
I wrote about my mother and me. When I turned it in and the editor loved it, I lifted my arm and added an extra feather to my cap.
Also, when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie edited and published an excerpt of my memoir piece titled ‘Balcony’.
The foreword written by Ms. Adichie for that piece changed the way I viewed my work and solidified my belief in myself.
Uzoamaka (popularly known as The Goddess) who is currently taking an online scriptwriting course as well as writing her first script is not holding back as she’s looking forward to exploring everything that she’s passionate about.
I am doing it all now. I am putting myself out there– attending auditions, submitting stories, reaching out to organisations to manage their social media platforms, traveling.
On youth empowerment, Uzoamaka is of the opinion that it ”begins a little too late in this part of the world.” She however suggested that every youth should be empowered with the freedom to think stating further that if a people must move forward, the youth cannot be dependent thinkers.
I personally think that youth empowerment begins a little too late in this part of the world.
We often raise unhappy children who end up being traumatised youth.
The fixed idea of what it is to be successful is killing our creativity as a people. So from a young age, children are told what they’ll be when they grow up.
We see clearly that a child is really good with numbers or gets excited when painting, but they’re forced to see one way as the only way to be.
I would like a country where it is all right for students to freely (and respectfully) question educators without being shut down; a country where ideas are not rejected simply because they are not the exact same things in the textbooks; a country where the only ways to be successful isn’t to study Law, Medicine and Engineering; where writing and coding and acting and dance and sports and music will be encouraged in children, who will in turn grow up to be successful youth, not because they have billions of naira in their accounts, but because they go on to lead more fulfilled lives doing what they love and contributing to their communities.
We have lots of thinkers now in our generation who are doing great things, solving existing problems, and preventing future issues. Today’s youth are rejecting archaic ideas and questioning more and more.
They’re rejecting patriarchy and all other forms of oppression. They are promoting equality and rejecting the idea that we should remain the way we are simply because that’s how it has always been.
They are beginning to understand that the longevity of a practice does not make said practice acceptable.
I believe that if the youth are given the creative freedom to be themselves, we can achieve more as a people.
If the youth are allowed to think inside and outside the box, and be extraordinary, we will have a more balanced society where we know what works and what doesn’t even without being told, and our response then would be, how can we solve this? What can we do to move forward?
What we need now is to empower the youth with the freedom to think. If a people must move forward, the youth cannot be dependent thinkers.
I think, also, that dignity of labour is deeply underrated in our country today. Our youth need to learn about this. Rather than degrade certain jobs and uplift the others because of salary differences, we should have a discussion about the shameful thing that is the Nigerian minimum wage. If a cleaner earned enough money to pay their rent, feed and live a dignified life, would cleaning jobs be considered an abomination? The reality is that we cannot all be CEOs and MDs. So the earlier we review our minimum wage amongst other things, and get our youth having the right approach to work, the better for our society. And this would be half all the empowerment the youth would need.
You can connect with Uzoamaka via:
Facebook: Uzoamaka Aniunoh