Speaking at a youth leadership conference at QF, Hanifa Nakiryowa voiced her belief that education is a tool nobody can take away from you
When Hanifa Nakiryowa was the victim of an acid attack, she lost part of her face and the vision in her right eye - but not her belief in the power of education.
And as she visited Qatar Foundation to giving a keynote speech at the recent 8th Qatar Leadership Conference (QLC), organized by THIMUN Qatar, she spoke of how many women in her society who suffer from similar attacks and other forms of violence are unable to face up to what they have been through due to their low level of education.
When she survived the acid attack by her ex-husband - a common occurrence in her home country of Uganda, and in other countries – in 2011, Nakiryowa started researching ways of overcoming her trauma even while she was still receiving treatment in hospital. For her, education has enabled her think strategically and look at life from a difference perspective; without it, she would not have been able to accomplish what she has.
It is important to equip yourself with education, because it is what makes us better citizens in the world.
“Education is a tool that no one can take away from you” she said during the three-day conference, which brought together around 900 high school students from 16 countries to develop their leadership skills. “It is important to equip yourself with education, because it is what makes us better citizens in the world. We are all human beings, and education is a human right.”
Nakiryowa did not only need a cure for her wounds, but wanted to leave her footprint on the world, create an impact, and help to build a better future. She devoted herself to helping others and to bring something positive out of her experience. That was how she established the Center for Rehabilitation of Survivors of Acid and burns Violence (CERESAV).
Being a mother, Hanifa Nakiryowa said that looking at her two daughters, she has a reason every day to “stand up and speak the truth” as she looks to be their role model. And seeing young people taking part in QLC and aspiring to be the leaders of tomorrow, Nakiryowa said: “This gives me hope that in the future - I can comfortably and confidentially step aside for them to take the lead.
“You have to realize that you cannot be a leader forever. That means you have to be a good mentor, so that you leave a legacy. And when you step aside people can take on the mission”.
Nakiryowa said that the future generation of leaders are equipped with all the tools for success, such as educational opportunities, resources and access to information - advantages she did not had when she was in their age – and that this has better positioned them to take up the mantle of leadership.
Asked about what makes a good leader, she simply responds: “Dreams. It is important to have ambitious dreams.
You can be uncomfortable with your fear until you create your comfort zone within that fear. What makes a leader is to always be willing to think outside the box.
“At a young age, you are going to think that achieving your dreams is going to be easy and beautiful, but as an emerging leader, you are will realize that not everything is going to work in your favor, and that is OK.
“Sometimes you will fail, and you will not meet your goals. It is OK to fail, but it is not OK to fail and give up. Fail, learn, and try again, until you perfect it”.
“The key thing that I usually tell young leaders is to step out of their comfort zone. You can be uncomfortable with your fear until you create your comfort zone within that fear. What makes a leader is to always be willing to think outside the box”.
And her final message to young leaders? “We all want to achieve world peace, but that cannot be done overnight or at the first attempt.
“Always try to make change happen, no matter how small that change is, because every great achievement starts from zero. Start small, but think big”.
THIMUN Qatar is a joint project between Qatar Academy, which is under the umbrella of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, and the THIMUN Foundation. QLC is intended to enhance the region’s leadership capacity and empower youth to shape the future, with its 2019 edition including over 130 workshops and 150 speakers from the fields of education and humanitarianism.