A teenager with a sauce, and dreams so high and beautiful. While many of her age are busy with trial relationships, slaying online and offline, following all trends in vogue without looking ahead and allowed themselves to be shaped by fake social media life, Surayya is busing building a future for herself and building her community alongside. I believe with more people like Surayya, the future of Nigeria is bright.
Can you please introduce yourself to us?
My name is Surayya Umar Tofa. An undergraduate student of Education Physics. I am a budding writer, a Poet, and a motivational speaker. Also, a budding digital marketer, and an advocate for rape survivors/victims. A women and youth activist, and I also see myself as a voice for the voiceless, and I am 19 years old.
Can you tell us about your background & how growing up was like to you?
I was born and brought up in Kano, Nigeria. My dad is from Maiduguri and my mom from Gombe state. My childhood was pretty okay. I have the best parents and I went to the best schools because I come from a family that values education very much. So my dad makes sure we have the right education
How did your growing up motivate you and what impact did it have in shaping your person & personality?
Well, growing up really motivated me and shaped me into who I am today, because I experienced and went through a lot at a very young age. Also my parents were very supportive. I grew up seeing my parents work hard for what they have today. And I also believe in self-motivation.
As for my personality, it was shaped by my environment, upbringing and the people I surround myself with.
Why did you become an advocate for rape survivors and victims?
Well, it all started this year when I saw how rape issues were rampant, and as a Poet I made a spoken word video titled “The tears of a bleeding woman”, which is a piece that briefly explains the astonishing concoction of trauma, pain and grief of a woman that has been raped. So I became an advocate giving them support.
I have inspired a lot of women to stand up and speak up through my spoken video. That enough is enough, let’s fight against rape culture. I have come to believe over time that what is important must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.
What do you think can be done by the government and citizens to curb rape in Nigeria?
By creating a culture enthusiastic consent, speak out against the root causes, redefine masculinity, stop victim blaming and stigmatization, educate the next generation, and most importantly a justified punishment.
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You are a budding writer. Can you shed more light on that?
Well, I love books and I read a lot. But I never had the passion to write until last year when a close friend of mine encouraged me to it. But being a writer is not easy at all. It takes a lot. So I consider myself as a budding writer.
You are a Poet and motivation speaker. Can you tell us more about that?
Well, it all started as fun and a hobby. But at first, I wasn’t really dedicated until I met people who were very much into it. So they inspired me, and motivated me through it. And I became very good at it. At least, I love to think so.
What’s your genre of poetry?
I don’t have any specific genre. It all depends on what I felt like doing.
You are also a digital marketer, how did that came about?
Well, working in a creative and digital agency, and a technological company, I have realized that the world is going digital and you can reach an enormous audience in a way that is both cost-effective and measurable. You can save money and reach more customers for less money than traditional marketing methods. You also get to know your audience and allow them to know you personally which can help to create brand loyalty.
What is the name of the agency you work for?
The MERAKI NG. I am a Communication Manager.
You are women and youth activist, what inspire you to take on such responsibility?
I want to live in a world of equity, not just “she is a woman, she doesn’t have the right nor the capacity to initiate an idea so bright”, or “she is too fragile and weak to endure”. I believe women also have a lot to contribute to the society.
I speak out because I have faced sexism. I know the sexism I have faced is minimal, compared with the barriers others face.
I am not a feminist nor do I practice feminism, and I also don’t believe in gender equality, just gender equity (i.e. fairness in all situations).
You seem to have a lot interest and it appears you’re all out to make all of them come true. How do you feel about that?
It makes me more proficient, and the ability to constantly learn new things and the exposure to various topics/disciplines can add value to the world around you. And to be honest, I’m ready for whatever comes my way.
It’s a lot of responsibility that I’m looking forward to.
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How do you handle school and work, without one affecting the other?
Well, The MERAKI NG was founded this year during the corona virus outbreak, and considering all schools were closed, I didn’t have that issue.
As of the rest, I was able to balance all considering I am a very passionate and dedicated person, and I have a schedule for almost everything that I do or plan on doing
At such a young age, you have defined a path for yourself, how does that make you feel?
Proud, Enthusiastic and Confident.
As a Poet and motivation speaker, do you have plans to write a book?
What are your principles in life?
I value respect and equity a lot, and commitment. Do exactly what makes you love yourself, focus on growth and always be determined.
What is (are) your advice(s) for those who wish to become an entrepreneur or tow your path?
They should never be afraid to pursue an unexpected path. And there would be people constantly judging you but it’s okay. It’s the human nature. Just focus and surround yourself with positive people, people that would bring out the better version of you, people that want to see you do good in life. People that would support you, motivate you and most importantly inspire you.
And your advice for Muslimahs, especially the ones in your age range?
Know yourself. Do not apologize for who you are, your belief and religion. Don’t be afraid to do what you love or are passionate about, as long as it is not against your religion, values and morality.
Thank you so much for your time
Thank you too.
Though, I would love to share a personal mantra I say to myself when I am on the verge of giving up.
“It’s your strengths and weaknesses that make you who you are as a person”