Opinion: Why I speak up and you should too.

Writing has given me the opportunity to speak up, make my mark, use my voice, pass my message across and make a big difference. When I was younger, I wanted to speak up but my teachers told me to be quiet. My teachers wanted me to be a quiet girl and to be good. Being good was equivalent to being quiet. “Only bad girls speak up” My class teachers Mrs. Maureen said to me. “Bad girls are loud, they talk too much and they scare people away.”

I was never going to be a bad girl. I was going to be a very good girl so I never spoke up in class. I sat at the back, never answered questions in class, never spoke to my classmates especially boys (Mrs. Maureen said only bad girls talk to boys or like them), never wanted to be seen and I always worked very hard in school (Mrs. Maureen said good girls got good grades). The last part about getting good grades was good but the part of being silent was not a good message to impact on an eleven-year-old child.

I remember one day I went to school and some bullies were shouting on Kristine. The bullies were yelling at her and calling her all sorts of demeaning names. I felt bad but remembered Mrs. Maureen asking me to be silent in the past and mind my business. Good girls always mind their business she said earlier when I told her I did not like how Mr. Richard spoke down to his students. This particular day I felt something inside me telling me to speak up and stand up to the bullies. I wanted to do what would be right and not let them get to hitting her. Bullies in my school hit their victims when there was no witness or anyone to stand up for those victims. I stood up from my chair and said to the bullies. “You know what, Kristine is a good girl and does not deserve what you are doing to her” The two girls laughed and said,” Good girls do not make a difference.”

I was shocked. “What do you mean?” I had asked. I wanted to understand them better. That could not be true. “Who are you?” One of the bullies had asked me. “My name is Oluwatobi and I am a student here” I replied boldly. They were not going to pass today with making me feel inferior and worth nothing. I had enough of the bullying but could not do much to save myself. I reported them to Mrs. Maureen but she said bullying was a rite of passage. She explained further to me that it was normal in school to get bullied.

That day I stood in between them and Kristine and said no. I would not let them hurt her anymore, I was going to speak up. I was not going to sit down and watch things go wrong around me anymore. I was going to stand up and speak up for those who could not do it for themselves. I then decided to report the bullies to the principal. They did not get more than a warning but I knew that there were not going to bully us anymore. After a warning, they could go on suspension or even be removed from school so I knew the two girls were not going to bother us anymore. At least not in school, I was scared they would make me a victim at home.

That day was the beginning of me speaking up. It was hard and Mrs. Maureen kept calling me a bad girl. She said I was answering questions more than I should, she said I was talking to other classmates and said I had changed for the bad. I knew deep down that I was not a bad person for participating in class and even encouraged other girls to do so (Mrs. Maureen did not want girls to talk at all in class, any girl not just me).

I felt liberated, I felt powerful even at that young age. I felt so much relief from years of silence. I felt like I could use my voice in any space and nothing was going to stop me from using my voice. I knew deep down that I was awakened and I would be full of life from that day on. I just knew that my voice was for social justice. I could not stand to see anyone gets hurt. I could not bear to see anyone being maltreated or in pain. I knew I was going to have to speak up more because I had a voice and I could use it.

I spent the next six years working on my voice. I read a lot in school, made it a point to discuss questions in class with my teachers, I always met my classmates for further group discussions on what was taught in class, I further met my teachers after class for further explanation except for Mrs. Maureen who was not a subject teacher but a class teacher and I am sure she would not have liked it but she would have still explained things to me. I further taught myself the topics in class after others explained it to me, I then started volunteering to teach kindergarten kids of three years how to read. I had to use that voice that was silenced for years. I most of all found my talent.

My talent was writing. Writing was the one thing I was good at but I did not understand how to express myself without people thinking I was boring or just ranting. I was worried as usual about what people would say about me. What would people think of me and my writing? I was worried that Mrs. Maureen would faint for real if she saw that I was going to take any voice further. I was really scared that people were going to judge me for using my voice and putting it in writing. I was very worried about my writing.

I published my first article and it was for my school newspaper. I wrote about my true life story and my challenges. I wrote a vulnerable piece about how my mother had maltreated me at home and my bullies in school. It was a life where I had no peace because I was being bullied everywhere. My family bullied me and my Peers and seniors did the same. Many were not happy that I was making use of my voice. Many felt I talked too much and was a nuisance. Some felt I was too forward and others felt I just wanted to get noticed or I was craving attention. I knew deep down that I wanted my story to help others.

I wanted to share my story to help the world. I was ready to start writing about anything. Pretty much everything. I love to share ideas and opinions. I love to start a conversation that could possibly lead to a change of heart. I love to help people and I say that in my writing so that people can ask me for help. I have written about the most vulnerable parts of my life. I have written about issues affecting students like me, in fact, that is what I wrote about most. I have shared deep secrets that hurt me in the past and I have shared my future goals with the world.

I have gotten my fair share of criticism from the world, I have gotten people saying things about me that are untrue, I have had classmates who have said I still talk too much and I still doubt myself but I have learned to write in spite of fear. Writing is my way of sharing my messages with the world. A writer once said, “Writing is my way is sharing stories with the world and I cannot afford to be silent in a world which is already silent.” That writer is me. I want more women to speak up about their issues and share their story, not for pity but to encourage others. I want to use my story to help others and ultimately share my life with others even if they do not agree with my ideas or opinions.

Writing has given me a way to be important. Earlier stated that felt inferior and like I was not worth anything. I felt like I was not good enough but my writing helped me to heal. I wrote my way to healing from maltreatment, bullying, and harassment. I wrote my way into progress and success. I wrote my way into freedom. I even wrote my way into being happy and living the purposeful life that God wants me to have.

I would like to also talk about my future goals since I have spoken about my past. I would like to speak up further for the world at the United Nations in future. Therefore, I am committed to using my talents at the United Nations. I am committed to the sustainable development goals, and my area of focus is gender equality. I believe that women are as creative as men, and women need to be given more opportunities to exhibit their creativity. I am a future advocate, feminist, writer, politician and motivational speaker. I believe that small steps can turn into big progress in the future. I know that I can achieve all my goals because I am determined to succeed. I will be going to graduate school when I am done with my bachelor’s degree. I hope to study International Development and Gender Studies so that I can work with the United Nations in the future. I believe that I can make a difference with all my involvement in St. Cloud, which will enable me to work at a higher international organization in Washington Dc D.C., and then I get to travel all over the world to make a positive difference in the lives of those who are less privileged.

I believe that Mrs. Maureen shaped me to be who I am today and I am more than grateful that she told me that girls and women were not good enough to speak up because it has helped me to become an advocate that would champion for women’s rights and that would start by writing. I would keep writing until I am heard. I would write blogs, books, articles, and journals. I believe writing would help me make the world a better place.

I have written for my school newspaper, several students blogs, and even my local newspaper. I have given myself to writing. I write in two languages and believe that one day my works would be translated into several languages. I am very passionate about traveling to Developing countries to speak to women, interview them and publish their stories so that they can be seen in a world that does not see them.

To know that someday, I will put a smile on this people’s faces makes me so happy. I want to be a person who can touch lives and make a difference in people’s lives. I want to work for an international organization and make a positive difference in the world. I want to help families in the community so that they can reach their goals. I want to help people get the education they need. I want to provide opportunities for the education of girls.

In future, I would like to be featured in the New York Times. Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Daily Times and am Network. I have high goals for my writing and I want to take creative writing classes in future so that I can keep working on myself. I will never give up on my writing no matter how many rejections I get or what critics say to bring me down. “I will always speak up for what is right.” 

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Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi

Oluwatobi is a college student trying to make things work. She loves writing and listening to music. You can always see her with a pen trying to jot down notes. Oluwatobi loves to learn and meet new people.

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