Barr. Zainab Marwa, a philanthropist and politician, is a cofounder and trustee of the defunct The Beehive Initiative.
She is passionate about building people and the nation.
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She also founded the Aspire Women Forum, a non-governmental organisation designed to promote gender equality.
The mother of fi ve children, who has been married for 11 years, shared her life experiences with Tambari.
- Educational background
I graduated with honours from the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom, with a degree in Law at the age of 19.
In my quest for more knowledge, I returned to Nigeria to complete my Bar Part 1 studies.
Being an avid scholar, I returned to my alma mater, this time to obtain an MSc in Service Management.
Upon completion of the Bar Part 2 studies, I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2004.
- Career background
The milestone career moves I made was first to work in one of Nigeria’s foremost home-grown consulting firms called Phillips Consulting Limited, where I worked in the Human Resource Department.
I went on to work with Albarka Air Services as their service quality expert.
Being passionate about the field of service delivery, I secured employment at the Presidency and was posted to SERVICOM Unit (an acronym for Service Compact with all Nigerians), an initiative of the Department for International Development (DFID) of the British government set up in Abuja, which seeks to improve the quality of service delivery of various ministries, departments and agencies in Nigeria.
In SERVICOM I served in a triple capacity as the special assistant to the national coordinator.
I also served as a trainer and facilitator for ministries,
departments and agencies for the DFID in the SERVICOM institute.
I also headed the complaints department of all SERVICOM units nationwide, which I built from the ground.
Being immensely zealous about service to God and mankind, I moved away from the corporate world and founded a non-governmental organisation in 2006 with headquarters in Abuja, called Zawram Islamic Global Foundation (ZIGF).
ZIGF’s track record centers on expansion initiatives to raise funds in seeking to cater for the less fortunate, bring relief to those in need, reinitiate peace through interfaith and cultural dialogue, knowledge sharing and ultimately improving the quality of life of the needy.
I am a cofounder and trustee of the now defunct Th e Beehive Initiative.
Furthermore, in 2019 I launched the Aspire Women Forum, a socio-political institution with keen focus on promoting gender equity, fi nancial inclusion for women and girls, and motivational behavioural coaching for good governance and sustainable development for women.
It is a nongovernmental organisation aimed at inspiring women to achieve self-actualisation by equipping them with soft tools.
In a bid to achieve political participation for more women in Nigeria’s politics, I ran for a seat in the House of Representatives for AMAC/Bwari federal constituency in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja in 2018.
Albeit unsuccessful, I believe I made some impact in the political space and became the national coordinator of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Female Aspirants Forum and the national woman leader of the APC Aspirants Forum.
I was a member of the 2019 Women and Youth Presidential Campaign Team of Dr. Aisha Buhari, wife of the president of Nigeria.
I was also a member of the Presidential Campaign Council.
Th e main challenge I am facing now and have been facing for the past year or so is balance.
I spent 10 years being a housewife and stay-at-home mom, stepping out only at my own time to implement interventions for my nongovernmental organisation.
To go from that world, where I run my life at my own time and pace, to being in a world where oftentimes you have to be at the beck and call of others and appear at meetings at a moment’s notice, is earthmoving for me.
I am still trying, as I am sure most women do, but my family remains my top priority.
And with five kids, I must say it is quite challenging to achieve total balance.
- What was growing up like?
Growing up was an adventure, we moved around a lot.
It was fun meeting new people and seeing life from different perspectives.
My mother is Igbo from Imo State and my father is Fulani from Adamawa State, and I got the best of both worlds.
I grew up in a home surrounded by love and laughter.
We had a lot of fun and games in our house.
- Life lessons
You cannot please everyone, no matter how hard you try, nor are you meant to do so.
As long as you are following God and doing your best, you will be fi ne.
Secondly, you don’t always get what you want.
As John Lennon said, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.
Pray hard, work hard and be open to your dreams.
In the same vein, be content with the idea of not getting your dreams as you dreamt; be open to God dreaming a different dream or indeed a bigger dream for you than you dreamt for yourself.
The last is gratitude, which goes a really long way.
Being grateful to be alive is a starting point, then take it from there. Things can always be worse.
- Fond childhood memories
I look very fondly at my childhood days, when we, as a family, would play volleyball or basketball in the backyard.
- We would oft en get in the car and take long drives with my parents on Sundays.
My parents were young when they had us, so we had a lot of adventures, driving around America and discovering new places.
We took a lot of trips and I really enjoyed that.
I spent my last years of secondary school in Kaduna and made lifelong friends there.
- What is the most rewarding part of your career?
Th e most rewarding part of my career has been to see the small impact and changes I have been able to make in my tiny corner.
- What were your aspirations growing up?
My aspiration growing up was to be a mother.
I always wanted lots of kids, and by God’s mighty grace, I have five absolutely gorgeous little bundles of joy. God Alhamdulillah!
- Joys of motherhood
Th e joy of seeing and doing well As they pass through growing pains, we every challenge, by the grace of God.
When a child is born, a mother is born, so we are learning and growing together.
These kids are the love of my life, and I see motherhood as an honour and privilege, which no human deserves.
You are their superstar.
When you come home, they rush to you like you are this mega star, and it fulfils me and feeds my soul.
Motherhood is full of unspeakable joy.
- Top 5 things on your wish list
I have a huge project I have been working on for years with my non-governmental organisation, the ZIGF.
I want that to come to fruition.
I wish to build my dream home.
I also wish to achieve my economic, political and social ambitions.
Again, I want all the kids to graduate with first class from an IV League university.
Finally, I want self-fulfillment and actualisation.
- Favourite music on replay
90s R n B.
- First app you check in the morning/bedtime?
WhatsApp or Instagram.
- Favourite fashion items
- Flats or heels?
Heels that feel like flats.
- Most expensive fashion accessory
Mine is priceless, Confidence.
- What wouldn’t you be caught wearing?
Anything that shows more than my face and hands.
- Best travel destination and why?
My best travel destination right now would be Sambisa Forest in Borno State because I know that the day I go there, the menace of terrorism in the North-East would be a thing of the past.
May God show us that day soon, amin.
- How do you relax?
I relax by watching the kids play and have conversations.
It still blows my mind when I see them forming thoughts and conversing, especially my 6 and 3-year-olds.
- What is your favourite quote or saying?
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
- Favourite food
I like two very different foods, one is danwake and another is lasagna.
- Your definition of style
I think style is more than what you wear.
Style embodies your whole aura, how the mood shift s when you walk into a room.
Your style is the way you dress, move, act, talk and even walk.
Everything comes together like a symphony, you are the conductor.
- Favourite fashion designer
I love this very talented lady in Abuja called Damilola Elemo; she owns Sidaglo.
They make everything I wear.
My clothes are very simple though.
She designs and executes works of art.
She is extremely talented and you all should check her out at the city center mall on Gimbiya Street in Abuja.
- Favourite perfume, designer bag and shoes
I love Hypnotic Poison by Christian Dior. My favourite bag is the Louis Vuitton Epi Speedy 30.
For shoes I don’t look at designer labels much; I look at comfort.
I have a pair I used to campaign with my pregnant and swollen feet, and it served me so well, but I don’t even know the designer.
Mum’s advice that stuck with you over the years
Be kind, do things for the sake of God.
- Favourite sport, colour, car and weather
My favourite sport is shopping, colour is purple, car is Audi TT, and weather depends on my mood, but breezy and cool.
- Favourite day of the week and why?
Wednesday because I was born on Wednesday.
- Beauty routine
I clean my makeup with coconut oil, then I wash my face with black soap and turmeric and cleanse with rice water.
I use Factor E oil from Forever Living under my makeup.
- Role models
My parents, Chief Mrs Zainab Marwa and General Mohammed Buba Marwa (retd) are my role models.
- Looking back, what would you tell a younger you?
Keep away from people you think are bad.
Disloyal and bad friends can destroy lives.
Also, travel more.
- What advice do you have for women?
Keep pushing, it is an uphill climb, sometimes it seems impossible to do it all.
Taking care of everyone else is important.
I encourage women to grow each day to fi nd ways to better themselves, to rest also and take care of themselves.
You can’t give what you don’t have, so women need to be full in their own cups so as to pour for others.
It’s all about balance.
I also encourage women to mentor, help, talk to, inspire and love one another.