Hauwa Ojeifo


“Emotional wellness is not repression. Emotional stability is not denial. It’s not suppression, its expression.” This is why forgiveness must be at your own pace. Your emotions are to be expressed the way and at the pace they can. Forgiveness won’t take place in a day.But another very important thing to note is who you are devoting your energy to. Let’s face it, some people or situations are just not worth the stress.

“There is no love in marriage, friendship or family. Love is in yourself.”

Thirteen women gathered on the 24th of February, 2019, at Africa’s premier life clinic – Safe Place in Ikeja, Lagos for She Writes Woman’s Safe Place (mental health) support group. Since October 2017, She Writes Woman has run monthly women-only support groups in Lagos, and held some in Abuja, Ibadan and Kaduna. About 800 women have benefited from these groups.

Despite being a rainy day with elections just the day before, these women showed up for each other. We talked about things ranging from valid feelings to forgiveness, from important relationships to a formula for happiness. Our facilitator was Oyinkansola Alabi, an emotional intelligence expert and the founder of Emotions City.

The floor was opened with questions centered on friendships, dealing with romantic relationships and mental disorders, coping with heartbreak, abusive relationships, family issues, work-life balance, being emotionally intelligent and more. Truth is, when it comes to relationships, we all always have a lot to say, and lots more to ask.

Relationships are a very important aspect of our lives. They form the basis for purpose and a sense of belonging. Extensive research shows that having good and quality relationships can help us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems. Loneliness and isolation remain the key predictors of poor mental health. Research has also shown that poor quality or unhappy relationships have a higher negative influence than being alone.

With that in mind, our facilitator began the session with, “Your feelings are valid.”

How many of us truly believe that our feelings are valid? And how could we have? From a young age, we were continuously told, “Don’t cry, you’re a big girl,” “hold your lips” while crying, and we made to shut down as adults when we try to express our feelings.

Then someone asked, “What about forgiveness? Is it possible to forgive someone after years of hurt?”

“Forgiveness is a process,” Alabi answered. “The term, ‘forgiving and forgetting’ doesn’t exist.”

Ah! That hit me hard. Imagine my relief just hearing these words. The person who sold us this idea really pulled a quick one on us. I had always wondered what level of amnesia I needed to have in order to forget a wrongdoing. It just never made sense to me.

“You must forgive at your own pace depending on what you want to achieve. In fact, forgiveness is a three step thing – forgive first, restore second and reconcile last.”

I have seen first hand what the pressure of ‘forgiving and forgetting’ has had on us as a people. We have begun to suppress our feelings and expressions to just create an illusion that forgiveness has taken place. In real terms, what has happened is that we have transferred our anger and hurt (which are perfectly normal emotions) from the person or situation to a kind of resentment (a very deadly emotion) to our own selves.

Outlets like conversations, jogging and other physical activity, journaling, drawing, coloring, etc., are healthy ways to cope or release unexpressed emotions.

“Emotional wellness is not repression. Emotional stability is not denial. It’s not suppression, its expression.” This is why forgiveness must be at your own pace. Your emotions are to be expressed the way and at the pace they can. Forgiveness won’t take place in a day.

But another very important thing to note is who you are devoting your energy to. Let’s face it, some people or situations are just not worth the stress.

“Life is full of balls and eggs. Eggs are those things that when they fall, you fall. Spend 80% of your energy on your eggs. Balls are those things that when they fall, they bounce back up,” Alabi explained.

By far, this was my key takeaway. Key takeaways are perhaps the longest tradition of Safe Place support groups. At the end of every support group, we all take turns to share the one thing we’re leaving the session with.

Eggs could be your family, friends or anything so important to you that if something negative happens to them, you feel the impact in a dire way.

It hit me there and then that a lot of us have been doing this relationship thing all wrong. We invest much of our time, emotions and energy on people who are balls and then we live in this cycle of perpetual dissatisfaction and unfulfillment in our lives and relationships. Your balls will bounce back, your eggs will break. Think about it and let it sink.

We ended our session learning about happiness. After all, that’s really what we ultimately hope that our relationships will give us, right?

When people typically say they are happy, it’s because their current life’s condition or situations or happenings match their expectations. That means – Life Condition = Expectations = Happiness. When your life’s conditions don’t match your expectations, that’s typically when we experience what we call “unhappiness.” That is – Life Condition ≠ Expectations = Unhappiness

This means our great expectations from life and standards we set on ourselves may be the underlying cause of our lack or fulfillment. It might include where you want to be (career, relationship, living conditions, possessions, etc.), who you want to be and how to get to the place that would define success or happiness for you. It’s good to set goals and try to achieve, but sometimes our expectations are holding us back from enjoying life as it is in this moment.

So maybe you didn’t factor losing a life partner, parent, having an abusive partner, being fired from a job, not getting married by thirty. If that is the reality, you must first come to terms with it and then manage and adjust your blueprint or expectations. This means the expectations and standards you had previously set for yourself – consciously or subconsciously, especially in line with societal pressures – will probably have to change. And that’s okay.

For many of us who hold ourselves to very high standards, who value excellence and seem to want to control the outcomes of everything, this can be especially hard and almost seem like reducing our standards sometimes. But you’re not alone. The quest for mentally healthy relationships and living is laced with hard choices to unlearn and relearn new ways to choose our mental wellness over all else.

Join our next women-only Safe Place support group by texting SAFE to 0817 491 3329

About She writes Woman

She Writes Woman is a women-led movement that gives mental health a voice, takes back the misinformed narrative about mental health, normalizes mental health conversations, connects help with hope and creates Safe Places young people can talk without fear or judgment. Follow her @shewriteswoman and see www.linktr.ee/shewriteswoman for more features

Hauwa Ojeifo of SheWrites Woman, has been nominated for the MTV EMA Generation Change Award.

The award, which is being given out for the first time, recognizes inspiring, young changemakers of the world.”

The EMA described Hauwa as a “change-maker who founded a movement of love, hope and support to give mental health a voice in Nigeria.”



Want to vote for Hauwa to win the MTV EMA Generation Change Award? RT this post or tweet your own with + to vote!
Learn more ➡️ http://fal.cn/S6UF 

Others nominated for the award include climate activist Xiuhtezcatl “X” Martinez, the rapper who uses her voice to fight child marriage Sonita Alizadeh, 17-year-old Syrian refugee Mohamed Al Jounde, and 20-year-old LGBTQ+ and mental health activist Ellen Jones. 

You can vote for Hauwa by retweeting the EMA tweet.


Source: Bella Naija


Hauwa Ojeifo is a certified Life, Mind and Mental health coach, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner – helping individuals, groups and organisations maximise their potential and performance by cultivating the right thoughts, values, beliefs, emotions and behaviour. She is the Founder and current Executive Director at She Writes Woman – an award winning movement of love, hope and support for women living with mental disorders in Nigeria. She is giving mental illness a voice; taking back the existing misinformed narrative and normalising the mental health conversation in Nigeria.
Hauwa holds an MSc in Investment Banking & Islamic Finance from Henley Business School, University of Reading, England and has a career that spans 6 industries including health, finance, fashion, event planning, retail services and digital marketing.
She is the only Nigerian female recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders award 2018 by the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and voted as of the most influential young Nigerians in 2017. The beautiful mental health coach bares it all in this inspiring interview.

Childhood Influence
I believe my childhood was very instrumental to what I have become. From a very young age, I was taught to value excellence. Resilience was also big for me whilst growing up. It’s no wonder that though I was very unaware of what those teachings would do for me, they have been key to who I’ve become and what I do

Meet Me!
I am the last of four children. I’m from Ewu-Ishan, Edo state and I’m a Muslim. I graduated top of my class with a BSc (Hons.) Business Administration (specifics in International Business) from Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun state. I went on to obtain a Masters degree in Investment Banking and Islamic Finance from the prestigious ICMA Centre, Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK and INCEIF Malaysia. I have worked across 6 industries – fashion, finance, health, event planning, digital marketing and retail services – and own and co-owned 4 businesses in the last 10 years.


Venture into the mental health industry
I got diagnosed with bipolar II and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in December of 2015 and it completely changed my life. From delusions to suicidal thoughts, to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness to paranoia ad mild psychosis, I experienced a great deal of the spectrum of mental illness including issues with medications and therapy. What was most profound to me in my journey to recovery was the fact that complete healing didn’t lie in any 1 thing. It had to be a holistic approach. I didn’t set out to become a mental health coach, it happened to me.
When I started She Writes Woman in April 2016, it was purely to serve as an outlet for me and to somehow see if there was anyone who could relate to what I was saying. Today, She Writes Woman has impacted over 7000 Nigerian women directly and over 15,000 women globally indirectly. We run a mental health helpline, monthly support groups, quarterly outreach to psychiatric patients, social media live streams, a creative gift and souvenir store as well as the mind and mental health coaching practice. We have presence in 6 states and counting.
I now talk about my mental illness – diagnoses that are theoretically speaking, incurable – in the past tense because I haven’t had any of my symptoms in over a year. People often ask me how I did it and why their recovery is much more lengthy and cumbersome than mine seemingly was, the answer for me is in how holistic the approach is.
I learnt and got certified in coaching and therapy. I also consult and train individuals and organisations in mental wellness. This is largely because this offers me the opportunity to proffer an integrative and holistic approach to mental wellness. Many people are in an extended state of mental, emotional and behavioural dysfunction because they don’t have a 3D approach to mental wellness. As a mind and mental health coach, I can give you that.

The journey so far
It has been fantastic. People have been overwhelmingly receptive towards the work we do. I often say that considering how quiet the mental health space was prior to when we came in compared to now, I believe lots of Nigerian women were waiting for someone to speak up and echo their silent whispers. When I began to drop bits and pieces of my story, I got a lot of “me too”s in DMs and emails. People make anonymous donations and seek partnerships with us. It was beyond having a medical practitioner talk about mental health, people need to see faces behind the stats and someone to take the lead, and that’s what we did and continue to do.

Being the only Nigerian female recipient of the Queen’s young leaders award
It’s very humbling to be selected as the only Nigerian female recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award 2018 by the Royal Commonwealth Society, Comic Relief and The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. I feel validated for the work I do in the mental health space in Nigeria and to think that Her Majesty has seen that is such an honour. Mental health is so important and this exposure and visibility gives me even more credibility and a much bigger platform to keep doing the good work. I can’t wait to meet the other QYLs across the commonwealth and collectively learn, network and get mentored to create even more impact.

Greatest reward
Hmmm…this one’s tricky. I’ve gotten quite a number of prestigious awards and recognition over time which I’m truly grateful for. These are fantastic. What I’ll say are the greatest rewards are the testimonials of people across Nigeria who send in mails and text messages telling me that I saved them from taking their lives or that my story inspired them to speak up and seek help. This is my greatest reward; being the instrument of another person giving life another shot, and not only overcoming their present state but living out their fullest purpose and potential. It reinforces to me that there is truly purpose in pain and as the Qur’an says,’…with every hardship there is ease’. It further tells me that really and truly when a woman decides to unapologetically speak her truth, she gives other women the permission to do same. What’s even most profound is that IF I didn’t step into who I was meant and destined to be, the lives of the people who were tied to that single decision could’ve been lost.

Never giving up
There was never such a time I felt like giving up. That’s not an indication there weren’t challenges, but it just never occurred to me or crossed my mind that giving up was an option to consider. I take what I do very seriously. It’s my God-given purpose.

Who and what inspire me to be better
People often say that I’m “deep”. LOL. I guess that’s largely because I draw inspiration from big and seemingly mundane things and experiences. I must say also, that I’m highly self-motivated even though I understand the impact many spiritual teachers, thought leaders and social entrepreneurs across the world have had on me. I find the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and his companions very profound and highly inspiring. Allah says in the Qur’an (3:110) that “You are the best of nations to be created (as an example) for all of mankind…” I take that very seriously. Excellence is my DNA.

My other projects
At She Writes Woman, we initiated the first-ever privately held 24/7 mental health helpline in Nigeria. It’s a first point of call for mental health first aid, information, finding mental health care around you, caring for a loved one living with mental health challenges, information about healing and recovery, referrals to mental health professionals etc. With the helpline, we have also successfully managed crisis situations like suicide in over 26 women till date.

Our monthly mental health support group – Safe Place – is a confidential and anonymous group that meets to release, be vulnerable and have honest conversations. It’s a healthy mix of professionals, enthusiasts, advocates, victims, survivors and carers.

Hope Visits is our initiative that seeks to reach and empower the most vulnerable people within the mental health ecosystem in Nigeria. By visiting neuro-psychiatric hospitals across Nigeria, we carry the message of Hope for a life beyond the mental health facility. We provide clothing, toiletries, provisions and render skill acquisition programs to empower them socially, financially and economically.

Is the Government doing enough in mental health advocacy and are Nigerians well informed?
The short answer is NO and NO. The longer answer is that though the tides are shifting, majority of Nigerians are either uninformed about mental health or ill-informed about mental health. In the area of advocacy, we’ve honestly barely scratched the surface. Our work is very much cut out for us and collectively, we must amplify our voices so as to cause ripple effects and echoes across the country.

The government can do so much more in supporting, promoting and providing mental health solutions.But here’s the thing, we can’t honestly say that Nigerians generally are ill-informed and somehow expect that our lawmakers are better informed. Stigma and prejudice is no respecters of social class, religious or cultural orientation, gender or position held in society. The very people who occupy positions in government are also a product of generations of misinformed narratives about mental health. Mental health problems – be it structural or social – are a Nigerian problem, not a government problem. The more we advocate and educate about mental health and the true narrative, the more we cause Nigerians (be it government or otherwise) to unlearn the prejudice and biases they hold toward the space. This in turn will lead to better informed decisions (politically as well) and urgency in mental health care in Nigeria.

Being a woman of Rubies
Rubies are exceptionally durable, they command the highest prices for any coloured gemstone and break records at auctions. Yet they have imperfections in them including colour impurities and inclusions of needles. These qualities of rubies are exactly what I see in myself.

People using bitterness and toxic behavior to cover up depression on social media
Hurting people hurt people. And there’s a difference between giving help and receiving help. If help is given to someone who doesn’t want help, they won’t receive the help even though they go ahead to see a therapist or even start taking medications. Let’s also not forget that there’s flat out bad behaviour and there’s mental illness. If we are seeing a spike of bitterness and toxic behaviour on social media, it just means that we too need to amplify our voices of love, hope and support on social media. All they need to know is that there’s a Safe Place. Love is the answer.

Women dealing with mental health issues but in denial
Don’t wait till you have a mental breakdown before you seek help. If you’re wondering whether or not you should seek help for something, that’s exactly the right time to seek help. If you’re worried about being judged by family or friends, come to She Writes Woman Safe Place support group (www.shewriteswoman.org/safeplace). If you’ll like to make sense of what’s in your mind, please call or whatsapp our helpline on 0817 491 3329. The same way that seeking help when you have malaria seems like a no-brainier, is exactly how it is with mental health. There’s help all around you. You just have to want it. There’s help, there’s hope and you’re definitely not alone. Our social media pages @SheWritesWoman are very good companions too.

The Queen’s Young Leaders programme has announced that three Nigerians, Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph, Isaac Ezirim, and Hauwa Ojeifo have been chosen as three of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners in recognition of the lead they are taking in their communities to change lives.

The prestigious Awards programme, now in its fourth and final year, celebrates exceptional young people aged 18 to 29 from across the Commonwealth and the work they are undertaking to improve lives across a diverse range of issues, from supporting people living with mental health problems, helping children to receive a quality education, to promoting gender equality.

Kennedy, Issac and Hauwa will now join the Queen’s Young Leaders network of 240 Award winners, a unique community of influential change-makers, who represent all 52 Commonwealth countries. The winners  will receive their Award from Her Majesty The Queen at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, UK, next year.

Meet Hauwa Ojeifo

Hauwa Ojeifo has experienced a darker side of life. A bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis in 2015 led her to start She Writes Woman in April 2016, when she could not find any support group to help her through her mental illness.

She Writes Woman is a movement of love, hope and support for women with mental illness. In July, just three months after its creation, She Writes Woman launched the first 24/7 mental illness helpline in Nigeria and have received calls locally and internationally since, helping people better understand mental illness and most important providing them with the right professional help.

In the words of the 25-year-old Business Administration graduate and fashion enthusiast, “Mental illness is not a death sentence, it is not wearing rags by the road in a bin pile. That’s the picture that always comes to mind even unconsciously. I always tell people that you can live an extraordinary life even with mental illness. I don’t try to be normal, I am extraordinary despite and in spite of my mental illness”. Hauwa is living the dream, here’s her story.

Speaking on her award, the 25 year old activist has this to say; “It’s such an honour to have been chosen to receive a Queen’s Young Leaders Award – a rare privilege to become a part of this diverse group of young people who are selflessly serving their communities. I can’t wait to meet the other Award winners, learn about their work and how this programme will further empower us for social change. I’m really excited to see what the year ahead will bring.”

Queen’s Young Leaders programme was established in 2014 by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in partnership with Comic Relief, The Royal Commonwealth Society and the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education, in recognition of The Queen’s lifetime of service to humanity.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners receive bespoke training, mentoring and networking opportunities, and take part in a residential programme in the UK, to help them build on the work they are leading in their communities. They join a now complete network of Award winners and, in tribute to Her Majesty The Queen’s lifetime of Service, will continue to connect and collaborate and change lives for years to come. Award winners will attend a residential programme in the UK in June, when they will receive their Award at Buckingham Palace from Her Majesty The Queen.