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The Story of Hauwa Ojeifo: From Tragedy to Change Maker

At the age of 29, Hauwa Ojeifo has become the voice and face of mental health in Nigeria. She received a Queen’s Young Leader Award in 2018 and was awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Changemaker Award for 2020. In 2016, Ojeifo was battling with thoughts of taking her own life after experiencing crippling symptoms of mood swings, constant exhaustion, and having to deal with the trauma of having been in a sexually abusive relationship. Upon the recommendation of a friend, Ojeifo went to see a psychiatrist, where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder with mild psychosis. Within two months of learning her diagnosis, Ojeifo was moved to use her challenges to bring hope to others. In a country of over 200 million, there were only 250 practicing psychiatrists, and to Ojeifo it was obvious that more had to be done in the area of mental health. In the spring of 2016, Ojeifo created the non-profit organization She Writes Woman, which empowered and provided mental health support for those in need of help.

Ojeifo sought professional training and was able to establish a support helpline for others battling mental health issues. She Writes Woman now offers a 24-hour mental health helpline for anyone in Nigeria in need of mental health support. Each caller receives referrals to a mental health professional and information on available therapies. Finally, in an effort to deal directly with the stigmas arising from domestic abuse in Nigeria, Ofeifo organized a support group called “Safe Place”, designed to empower girls and women suffering from the impact of domestic or sexual abuse.

In February 2020, Ojeifo was the first person to testify in front of the Nigerian parliament in an effort to advocate for the rights of people with mental disease. Ojeifo’s personal struggles inspired a passion which has brought the problems associated with mental illness to the forefront and can alter the tide of treatment for those suffering from illnesses previously unrecognized by the government.