Margaret Ojochide Aligbe is a graduate of Kogi State University and Uppsala University, Sweden (MSc in Sustainable Development), currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Transdisciplinary Sustainability at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. An enthusiastic foodie with a penchant for chronicling everyday tales, she’s a versatile reader spanning various genres and is now a recognized author. Her compositions grace platforms such as BusinessDay Nigeria, The Eco-Instigator, Bella Naija, and more.
Margaret boasts a diverse background in community development, social enterprise, project management, data analytics, communications, and content creation. Driven by a fervour for community growth and tangible sustainability, she’s a beacon of inspiration. Explore her work and musings on her website: https://www.skinfullybooked.com/
Her latest creation, “Candid Conversations: Life. Lessons. Growth,” draws from personal dialogues and life encounters that have profoundly influenced her journey. Delving into subjects like social media, navigating life as a Black international student in three distinct nations (Nigeria, Sweden, and Canada), securing a full scholarship for postgraduate studies overseas after turning 35 with family commitments, adapting to life as a Nigerian abroad with insights for personal growth, all while harmonizing motherhood, marriage, and defying odds to triumph.
This insightful book is now available on Amazon in both paperback and hardcover editions.
Yes, all my life I have always loved reading, writing and traveling. I am the type of person you could easily connect with just by talking about reading and books. So yes, somewhere in my childhood and adulthood, there is a bridge that connects the dreams I had and the goals I am pursuing now.
Leaving Nigeria for Studies Abroad
I left Nigeria to study abroad for the first time in 2019, even though I had gone on tourist trips, this was the first time I was going on something related to a long-term goal. The journey to Sweden was an answered prayer as I have always wanted to go back to school after my first degree in 2007/2008. But being a married woman with children and being over 35, a lot of opportunities are limited, so you have to dig deeper, and work extra smarter for spaces and opportunities that have room for women like me. Hence, in 2019.
I got the Swedish Institute Scholarship for Global Professionals (SISGP) to pursue my Master’s degree in Sustainable Development at Uppsala University Sweden. This was after my second attempt and since then I have gone on to win other scholarships and fellowships.
Academic Journey Across Different Countries
My background in community development work is intertwined with sustainability. This was the foundation of my work in Nigeria, Sweden and Canada. Anyone who does NGO work understands the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its practical application and measuring the impact. This includes being able to show the work you do and applying for grants and connecting with donors/partners. While back in Nigeria, a lot of these sustainability-related issues were more of theory than practical.
We continue to talk about the SDGs but there is still so much to do in practically bringing it to life, and seeing the sustained impact in the life of the people at the bottom of the social economic ladder. (This is a space where the knowledge I now have is useful, I am still looking for opportunities to apply my knowledge in Nigeria and people to partner with).
Hence, it became important for me to begin my graduate studies abroad in 2019 in the field of sustainability in Sweden; a country known for how advanced its systems are and how well they continue to score high on the yearly sustainable development index. The experience allowed me to better understand the challenges we face in Nigeria regarding issues of community development, and gain practical knowledge of sustainability because living in Sweden was me living it daily.
My Book “Candid Conversations” and Its Impact
One major conversation is the limited opportunities for women over 35 years and even more difficult for married women with children. Too many opportunities are pegged at 18-35. Many business competitions in Nigeria, mentorship competitions, job opportunities and the like. Once you are outside that age bracket, you have to either start on your own or continue to digger even deeper for very rare opportunities, but they exist. The experience became a catalyst to seek funded study opportunities abroad.
My Passion for Sharing My Experiences
I have written about my scholarship journey being a married woman of over 35 with children; climate change impact, Carbon footprints of wars, flooding, Nigeria’s sachet economy and life as an international student. I tend to write about topics that I have practical relevance and sometimes, on topics I have experienced because I don’t struggle with putting the words to paper and I can put them in a better context.
Integrating my Various Skills into My Current Pursuits and Projects
The field of community development and sustainability is a perfect space to bring these skills to action. It is a field that combines broad interdisciplinary collaboration in dealing with complex problems which different in each context. The skills I have allow me to be versatile across roles and partners, an essential requirement in bridging research, policy and practice. My present research in transdisciplinary sustainability is aimed at looking beyond a siloed approach to research and collaboration. Hence, all these skills combined are been vital for my Ph.D. journey and for thriving professionally in Canada.
The Motivation Behind my Website; “Skinfully Booked
After all the recent drama with social media, I decided that I would get a website where I can connect with people with or without social media because as a user, you basically cannot dictate anything. The owners can just wake up and add or remove a feature that could impact your engagement on the platform but there is little to nothing you can do other than rant. So, I designed and launched my website https://www.skinfullybooked.com/ myself in early 2023.
The decision has proven to be positive as I can now show my portfolio outside social media, building my subscriber community both online and offline. Also, I have just launched my store embedded on my website. The website has allowed me to better amplify the skilfully booked brand I am building.
My Journey as a Black international student across three countries
I would say racism and being the only Black person in some spaces; this is a fight in progress. Coming to terms with racism as a Nigerian who moved abroad, not for tourism as an adult was new for me. Defining racism based on your experience, like finding the right words for what you feel is a learning process, and it takes time to recognize what racism and othering people only because of their skin colour means. To read the signs, allow yourself to feel the trauma; to be better equipped to deal with it instead of being positively blinded by the japa rave; to feel like because you want a greener pasture then you can bear discrimination, no matter how much your rights are trampled upon. Because how much can you take? How long will you continue to suck up knowing that you become just an EDI statistic and when you hustle, there is already a system designed to cap your rise as a Black person.
The other challenge would be juggling children and academics. I have been blessed with the gift of extended family when I first moved abroad alone leaving my children and husband behind before my nuclear family came to join me. The experience was really difficult being separated but the end goal remained a motivation for all of us. My husband is also supportive which allows me to attend conferences, do some work and school. I can practically chase my dreams as a married woman, and I am blessed that my husband supports my dreams. I also had a baby during my MSc in Sweden but since it was not my first, I was able to manage the emotions of pregnancy, nursing a baby and still graduate in good time.
The Women Who Inspire Me
I have many women who inspire me, but I would mention these three below.
Myself: I am a self-starter and this has been one of my biggest blessings because self-inspiration as a life-long skill has been helpful while I was living in Nigeria with all the “over 35years woman” challenges, navigating opportunities abroad, finding scholarships, jobs and coping with failures.
Luvvie Ajayi Jones because of her style of writing awaken my inner genius to act on my dreams and deal with Imposter syndrome.
Viola Davis because she inspires me to genuine self-love in my Black skin, own my journey and be compassionate towards myself no matter how messed up it gets.
Once children are involved you have to wear your multitasking hat to be able to juggle successfully. I work with a schedule, and I am task oriented. So, knowing what I need to do at specific times with deadlines helps me to stay organized. I also, I am a very spontaneous person, it allows me to act on my goals without overthinking.
Plans for the Future
My goal is to finish my Ph.D. and make the Skinfully Booked brand more visible and profitable. I also would love to collaborate with people in Nigeria and other parts of the world in the field of community development and projects aimed at bringing the SDGs to life. I mean projects that are sustainability-inclined seeking real impact and real people.
You can connect with me on my website: https://www.skinfullybooked.com/
Also on Twitter and Instagram: @madeeveryday