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How the old cliche "knowledge is power" pushed me from being my NGO coordinator to being a student

Moriam at Duomo, Padova, Italy, October 27 2021. Photo taken by a classmate.

My name is Moriam Afolabi- Rufai, I am Nigerian, and I am the founder of the NGO Be inspired to impact Mastery for High Africa Foundation (Biimhigh Africa). Incorporated on 14th July 2020, it is dedicated to providing advocacy, grassroots campaigns, and life-long empowerment programs for women, girls, and young persons. I have enjoyed 19 years in the Lagos State Legislative bureaucratic service, and I am a graduate of English Language and Law, with a masters in English Language. In this article, I will share my journey from coordinating my NGO Biimhigh Africa to deepening human rights and SDGs.

Well, my enrollment in the MA Human Rights and Multi-Level Governance is based on my activities as a Union Leader and profusely as an NGO founder. Indeed, although passion fuels my desire, it is not enough to sustain the mission. Only the technical know-how, combined with robust knowledge, put issues and ideas into perspective. My 'light bulb’ moment was when Biimhigh Africa organised the programme 'GirlsLearnSDGs' to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, on December 19th. The message was to groom girls who understood SDGs, thus showing how applicable it was to any future endeavours to live for the goals. At that period, I realized how limited was my knowledge of the SDGs, and it dawned on me that passion wasn't enough. To give credibility to my NGO’s mission, I had to become an expert and gain recognition from other stakeholders.

Furthermore, the 'GirlsLearnSDGs' was also the event that refocused my advocacy work into a wholesome brand. Before that, I was an avid volunteer organising projects, delivering lectures, and training women and girls on domestic violence and on youth leadership. Afterwards, I started relying more and more on the networks around me and I built partnerships with other organisations and institutions to start my project. Another major lesson learnt was the need for accountability to be officially documented with the government and, consequently, to access grants and funding opportunities. Moving forward, Biimhigh Africa has grown into a team with a Board of Trustees and permanent volunteers for programs and projects.

The event 'GirlsLearnSDGs' in Lagos, Nigeria, 12 October 2016. Photo taken by Efunyemi.

My experience on the field and in class has reiterated two things: firstly, the importance of having clear the core of your message; secondly, the necessity of collaborating and cooperating with other actors to leverage the achievement of goals. As time passed, I recall attending a lecture during the first academic year of the MA that deepened my conviction that I was on the right track. It cemented my belief that if we have to change the narrative of the human rights agenda, now and in the future, we cannot deemphasize the role of NGOs and we cannot underestimate the value of Human Rights Education to younger generations and to women, especially in my cultural milieu.

In conclusion, as an advocate of Lifelong empowerment, Policy Coherence for sustainable growth and development, I have realised you cannot ask for what you don't know, you don't understand, and you don’t have available around you. It is an old cliche but it remains relevant forever: "knowledge is power" and its positive application opens the door to an unimaginable future.

Written by Moriam Afolabi- Rufai Edited by Giulia Rosina

Pictures courtesy of: Moriam Afolabi- Rufai


Moriam Afolabi- Rufai has enjoyed 19 years in the Lagos State Legislative bureaucratic service integrating Legislative practice and procedures, Service delivery, Industrial relations and Human Resource and Administration. She is a graduate of English Language and Law, with a masters in English Language, an alumnus of the Cambridge Judge Business School on Transformational Leadership and Organisational Change, and of the UN Systems Staff College on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development. Lastly, she is a scholarship recipient for UN Summer Academy 2021.


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