Hikmat Baba Dua was born in April 1990 in Tamale, the conservative northern regional capital of Ghana. As a youngster, Hikmat’s father, who is more than proud of her today, told her that “educating a girl is useless.” The statement so distressed young Hikmat that it became a turning point in her life, one that sparked her desire not only to obtain an education, but also to help other females do so.
Ms. Baba Dua attended Ghana Secondary School, from which she graduated in 2006. Obtaining her degree from the same high school as John Dramani Mahama, the current President of Ghana, was empowering. Ms. Baba Dua struggled to obtain an advanced degree, but was able to complete a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Social Work at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), by 2012.
While attending KNUST Ms. Baba Dua was a proactive student leader. She founded the organization the League of Young Female Leaders in 2011 and was recognized at the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Awards with the Personality of the Year Award in 2012. The League of Young Female Leaders became a registered non-profit organization in 2013 and Ms. Baba Dua currently serves as its Executive Director. Ms. Baba Dua’s organization focuses on advancing the status of girls and women in Ghana through mentorship and advocacy. It seeks to demonstrate to Ghanaians the importance of investing in females’ education.
The League of Young Female Leaders operates a mentoring program for girls in high schools. It makes use of traditional and social media to advocate against child marriage and encourage girls to remain in school. Mentors include women from institutions of higher learning and professionals from a range of fields. The idea is to give girls role models and to demonstrate to them that women can be successful in a range of realms and that they too should aim high. The League of Young Female Leaders also reaches out to underprivileged girls, including those in orphanages.
Ms. Baba Dua also serves as the Tamale Regional Coordinator for the HerStory Initiative of LitWorld International and its partner organization Global G.L.O.W which seeks to close the literacy gap worldwide by supporting girls aged 10 to 16 through “Litclubs” where they are offered safe learning environments, given mentors, and empowered to author their own stories. Some of the girls attending the Litclubs have never been to school.
In 2013, Ms. Baba Dua was named one of 28 MILEAD Fellows by the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa. Fellows were drawn from 25 countries and represented the most promising young women leaders, aged 19 to 25, in Africa. As a MILEAD Fellow, Ms. Baba Dua was able to meet one of her role models, Ms. Leymah Gbowee who was the guest of honor for the Fellows’ opening ceremony. Ms Gbowee led a women’s peace movement that helped to bring an end to Liberia’s Second Civil War in 2003. She earned the Nobel Peace Prize for her actions. In 2013, Ms. Baba Dua also served as an expert on Women’s Empowerment at Global Startup Youth, a side event of the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Ms. Baba Dua is one of 500 A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors at work in 80 countries in the world. Through the program she advocates at home on behalf of the 58 million children in the world that are not receiving a formal education. She is also a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania’sInternational Development Summer Institute at KNUST in Ghana, and a 2015 Fellow of the Vital Voices Leadership Program which supports a global network of emerging and established women leaders who provide unusual and sustainable solutions to pressing problems that have impeded women’s and girls’ progress to participate fully in society and the economy.
In May 2015, Ms. Baba Dua was selected as one of 200 new Young Leaders from developing countries for a three year fellowship in the Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. The same year, she was also selected to join the highly competitive 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows program, through which she received six weeks of Civic Leadership training at Rutgers University in New Jersey in the USA. The program included in-classroom training, visits to the United Nations, the National Defense University, Johnson & Johnson, and the Community Planning and Advocacy Council, and opportunities to meet with leaders, including Congressman John Lewis, the Mayors of Newark and Camden, and even Ms. Leymah Gbowee. The highlight of the Mandela Washington Fellows program for Ms. Baba Dua was the honor of being able to hear President Obama speak and field questions at a Town Hall meeting and to serve as a facilitator for the Presidential Summit Leadership Simulation alongside White House officials. Ms. Baba Dua is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in Development Studies at the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Ghana.
Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Ms. Hikmat Baba Dua been so successful in her undertakings?
Some key characteristics come to mind:
Ms. Baba Dua ENGAGES IN WORK THAT SHE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT. She has a strong desire to see women and girls empowered. She stands up against the forced marriage of children and all forms of violence and discrimination against girls and women.
Ms. Hikmat Baba Dua PLANS AHEAD is gaining the skills that she needs to realize her dreams. Her long-term goal is to continue to pursue issues related to girls’ and women’s advancement and to establish a ‘summer’ academy that offers educational opportunities for girls when most schools are not formally in session.
Heidi G. Frontani is a Professor of Geography at Elon University in North Carolina in the USA and former Fulbright Scholar in Kenya. This story originally appeared on her blog on September 26, 2015. To read more of her stories, follow her blog: https://africandevelopmentsuccesses.wordpress.com/