“Trust and Enjoy your journey, Worry less and Don’t burn bridges.” LLAInterview- Meet Raquel Kasham Daniel, Founder Salt and Light Girls.

If you look past the pretty face or the exotic name, you would realise RKD as she is called is what you would refer to as “passion on steroids!”. Raquel is passionate about Women and Education. She founded “Beyond the Classroom Education” as a response to the social and educational needs of underprivileged children. She is also the founder of “Salt and Light Girls” and currently sits as a mentor for the “Queens Young Leader’s Network”.

On #LLAInterview this week, Raquel Kasham Daniel, sits on the ‘hot seat’ and as usual, we asked a broad range of questions bordering on lifestyle, mentoring and career.  Her answers to the questions “the greatest misconception you had about marriage as a single woman that you consider balderdash now” and  “Do you think a woman can have it all” are epic. Watch out for those two questions and of course the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Hello Raquel It’s great to have you on LLA. Congratulations on your wedding. It’s been almost a year (I believe) but congrats all the same. So how are you settling in? Tell us, what is the greatest misconception about marriage you had as a single woman that right now seems like balderdash? Thank you so much for having me. LLA is a platform I admire and I’m beyond pleased to be granted this opportunity. Yes! It’s been over a year since I got married and a lot has happened since then. I love my new family, new job, new city and of course the home I’m building with my husband. I settled in just fine. If I’m honest with myself, I entered into my first marriage with a few misconceptions.

One of the greatest misconception I had about marriage as a single woman is that the first year of marriage will be hard. I heard it a lot from married couples and people who haven’t been married at all, but it wasn’t the case for us. After our first quarter evaluation, (something we do every quarter as a family) we realised that we’re doing just fine. To kill that misconception, we deliberately started working on ourselves keeping in mind that just because a lot of couples noted that the first year will be hard doesn’t mean every couple feels that way or had a difficult first year. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary two months ago and when we looked back, it was blissful. Don’t get me wrong, just like other couples we had our disagreements, but because we’ve built such a strong foundation we’re able to work through them within 30 minutes. We believe any year in marriage can be hard. The first year can be beautiful, it was for us.

Your name Raquel sounds quite fascinating, what does it mean and what does it represent to you?
That’s actually a conversation starter anytime I’m out to a new place or meeting new people. People want to know where I’m from, where and how I got the name. Raquel is the Spanish and Portuguese variant for the Hebrew name “Rakh’el” which means Lamb of God and pronounced “Rachel” in English and “Raychelle” in French. My name does represent me. It’s a Biblical name, I’m a Christian and I believe in Jesus the Lamb of God that was slain for sins of world. The Bible also describes the Rachel in the Bible as beautiful.

That’s beautiful! So Raquel anyone that hears you speak or read you write can practically feel your passion for women. It is like a fire that burns so fiercely, it is palpable. What is your story and how did it lead you to what you are doing right now for women? I’m not sure you’ve heard me speak. Lol, Just kidding!… You actually nailed it. My passion for young women and teenagers especially is like a fire even to me. It started with a burden to share my story with teenage girls when I got into the University and a simple meeting where we discuss the teenage life and Jesus evolved into a Ministry. I don’t think I can say everything in one interview however, I’ll summarize my story.

When I was 16, I lost my precious Dad and I automatically became an adult. From a place of suffering and lack, my dear Uncle came up with a great idea: to marry me off so that my brothers can go back to school and my family can have someone to support us. I overheard and ran off. I lived on the street in Obalende, Lagos till I was about 18. To stay off prostitution and drugs on the street, j was offered a deal: to clean the brothel where I stayed and wash the clothes for the girls who lived there. Which I took gladly. I started my first business with N200 making and selling Zobo drink and eventually left the street after escaping rape 4 to 5 times. My mum took ill and died leaving me with two teenage boys and a 6 year old. (That summary should give you an idea of the kind of life I was faced with) My life was a roller coaster and I’m grateful to God for that journey because it brought me into knowing what Gods purpose is for me here on earth. This path led me to the work I’m currently doing with the young girls.

Salt and Light Girls is an outreach for teenage girls and its aim is to connect young girls with mentor figures who can nurture them even as they navigate their faith walk. How do you prepare your girls for the harsh realities of (the secular) life. For context: At times faith creates a comfortable cocoon of some sort and you literally think the same way everyone is nice in church is the same way everyone is nice in the whole world which isn’t exactly true. So for the impressionable young girls at Salt and Light, how do you strike that balance?
What we do at Salt and Light Girls is beyond nurturing the girls in their faith walk. We also mentor them about their career, leadership and the “harsh” realities of life as your question stated. Faith is not easy for them at this stage in their life. Majority of them haven’t even found themselves so it’s very difficult to even see their faith as a comfortable cocoon. Some of them run away from being led to God because they feel it’ll stop them from “enjoying” life. To balance this, we teach on our WhatsApp group weekly with examples of women in the Bible and real life examples who went all out for God and still had an amazing life.

Great! Can you share some impact stories you have had so far from the initiative?
For us, the first and most important impact will be to see the girls give their lives to Christ, surrender and follow Him. We have had so many of them do this and we count it a privilege to be a part of their faith journey with God. Some who had no opportunity of furthering their education are currently studying in different schools and three just got into higher institutions this year. The joy for us is not that they eventually got into school but that most of them got in to Study the courses they want and not something random. And for those who accepted just any course because they just want to go into school, we encourage them to enjoy the journey. We also encourage them to learn skills that will sustain them while in school and join associations on campus that will help them develop and be better women.

Great! You also run “Beyond the Classroom” What motivated its creation and how has the reception been so far?
I didn’t see that question coming. Beyond the Classroom Foundation was inspired by a little boy whom I followed to school on my way to my own school one morning while in University of Lagos. Seeing the teacher flog the children for not having socks broke my heart and I decided immediately to do something about it. What kept me there was the state of the educational system and the hope that we can make an impact on the children even if we can’t make one on the system. The reception has been pretty good in the last 6 years and although I’m on break to get a new direction and approach, we still have 8 children on scholarship with us. We receive applications from time to time from parents asking us to sponsor their children but it’s not been easy taking up more children. We’re hopeful that the little we’re doing will go a long way.

At heart, you are an educator, in what specific ways do you think the educational system in Nigeria can be overhauled for good?
One of the many problems of the education system is the rigidity of the curriculum. We need to do something about it fast. If the curriculum remains as it is, Nigerians will continue to lag behind other countries of the world especially in the field of technology. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the needs of the society has changed and we ought to change the curriculum to meet such needs. My recommendation will be for the curriculum to be reformed and then undergo intermittent reviews in both methods and contents to address the immediate needs of the environment such as producing entrepreneurs who create jobs and including technology into the teaching process.

You are pro-woman and also very passionate about your faith. A lot of people believe Christianity and feminism should be mutually exclusive, what is your take on that?
As much as possible, I’m trying my best to stay away from the topic of feminism and Christianity because I honestly don’t understand it anymore. I believe we’re in the fourth wave of the feminist movement or so and it’s not what it was when it all started. We now have radical, liberal and so many other feminist groups. The Bible recognises the value of women, because women just like men are made in God’s image and likeness and admonishes us to speak out against all forms of injustice. If I do that, which is what I do, I’m only being a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ and nothing more.

What does mentoring mean to you? Can you share with us some of your mentor figures?
Mentoring has helped my life tremendously in ways I can’t put in words. Looking back at my life I’ve been blessed with mentors who have given and still giving their time to ensure I’m a better version of myself. I don’t see my mentors as “figures” I see them as individuals and I have a personal relationship with them. The people I see as mentor figures are merely role models to me.

Do you think a woman can have it all?
I’m a realist, and as much as I’ll like to go all Spiritual about things, I know NO ONE can really have it all. It’s time for us as real women to stop fooling ourselves. We can only do our best to keep the family together while working to earn a living and build our own careers but we can’t have it all.

3 things you would tell your 25 year old younger self?
Trust and Enjoy your journey. Worry less. Don’t burn bridges. (Relationships and friendships).

Your greatest pet-peeve?
I have a lot. lol, The greatest will be, people who speak loudly on the phone in public, especially in a banking hall.

Pizza or chocolates?

3 books you need to reread?
Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

2 things you would say to any young girl that looks up to you?
Don’t just stop at looking up to me, look deep within yourself and look to Jesus.

The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women. It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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