Mental Health Awareness : 4 Women Leading The Call

1. Shudufhadzo Musida

The former Miss South Africa won the Beauty With a Purpose (BWAP) title back at the Miss World pageant event in 2021.  Musida created a project focused on her work on mental health, an issue for which she’s been a passionate advocate for years. She chose to spend her reign as Miss South Africa championing mental health awareness, through her Mindful Movement.

In February 2021, she launched #MindfulMondays — a series of live streamed discussions happening weekly on her Instagram. On #MindfulMondays, Musida talks with experts on an array of topics related to mental health including depression, anxiety and trauma, and PTSD.

To further her advocacy towards mental health awareness, Musida also wrote a children’s book called, Shudu Finds Her Magic, published in September 2021. The plot was inspired by Musida’s own childhood and explores the theme of bullying — something she experienced as a child after she moved to a new province and transferred to a new school. The book has been published in six of the official South African languages — English, Venda, Sesotho, IsiZulu, isiXhosa, and Afrikaans.

2. Hauwa Ojeifo

After being diagnosed of several mental disorders including PTSD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Hauwa decided to turn her difficult experiences around and started to create awareness on the far-reaching impacts of mental health in Nigeria.

In April 2016, she created She Writes Woman, a non-profit organization focused on providing mental health support for those who may need it in the west African nation.

There is minimal mental health awareness and there are not enough mental health professionals in Nigeria.

In a country of more than 200 million people, there are only 250 practicing psychiatrists, according to the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria.

Ojeifo told CNN that She Writes Woman started as a blog but she realized she could do more with it, “At first, I was just using it as an outlet to share my experiences and that of other women,” she explained.

3. Marie Alix de Putter

Marie-Alix de Putter is a published author and an award-winning Communication Leader for Africa who was born in Paris and raised in Cameroon. Marie-Alix is the Co-founder and Executive Director of The Okwelians, a Think Do Tank bringing together more than 125 Cameroonian men and women, spread over four continents and eager to promote, through ethical leadership, a culture of social innovation in Cameroon.

Marie-Alix de Putter has received several awards. In June 2022, she was named “Best Woman Leader in Africa” (special mention) at the Africa Investments Forum & Awards (AIFA) of the same year for her commitment to women and her innovative impact on mental health in Africa. In September 2021, she was named one of the 30 most innovative people on the African Continent by the American magazine QUARTZ.

4. Hassana Umoru Maina

Hassana is a lawyer, poet and Gender Consultant with over 3 years of experience. She coordinated a standstill rally across eight northern states in Nigeria to push for the domestication of the VAPP Act under the NorthNormal platform. She runs a weekly program on her Instagram, the #ABCsOFSexualViolence, where she invites guests from all works of life to normalise the conversations on sexual violence and break the culture of silence and shame that surrounds the topic.
Hassana Maina was also involved in the #SecureOurLives project as the research and documentation officer, with a job description that included documenting the profiles of people that have died in Nigeria due to the ongoing insecurity.

Hassana Umoru Maina won the Future Africa Awards Prize for activism in 2020 among other recognition.

She’s currently a master’s student at SOAS, the University of London studying Law with a specialism in development and globalisation.

She’s the Executive Director of ASVOIL Support Initiative, a non-profit aiming to create awareness of the dangers of sexual violence in the lives of children and young adults.

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