Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Nigerian Peacebuilder

Nigerian Peacebuilder

Hajiya Amina Ahmed photo by Adi Eguche UN Women

Hajiya Amina Ahmed photo by Adi Eguche UN Women

“Hajiya Amina Ahmed is a peacebuilder from Nigeria who works across religious and ethnic lines to empower women and build peaceful communities.”

Isn’t that a wonderful description? And she actually does this work in Nigeria! UNWomen has her inspiring story.

Ahmed is Executive Director of the Women Initiative for Sustainable Community Development in Plateau State. She says she has been working for peace since 2001 when there was ethno-religious conflict in Jos, capital of Plateau State.

She says, “My work involves countering violence against women and girls and promoting their involvement in development processes. This is something I am passionate about. I want us to move away from treating women as second-class citizens. I want to reach a point where the prejudices against women are reduced to the barest minimum, if not completely wiped off.”

UN Women trained her along with 120 other women as Women Peace Mentors. The program was funded by the European Union. As part of her work she is encouraging traditional leaders to include women in their councils.

According to the article, she is finding success. Her work contributes to two of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Do you know which ones?

Buhari’s Return to Nigeria

Buhari has returned to Nigeria. He addressed the nation this morning at 7 am. An article and a summary of his comments is in today’s New York Times.

He spoke about the ethnic tensions that have surfaced during his absence. He said the unity of the country is non-negotiable. He did not address the economy which is in recession, or the millions affected by Boko Haram and now unable to return home.

“He seemed more focused on calming political disputes that had festered while he was away,” the writers said.

My husband Clem at Westport Astronomical Society

My husband Clem at Westport Astronomical Society

“Mr. Buhari’s long absences for an illness that officials have refused to identify have created tensions in Nigeria, setting off protests not only from separatists in the south but also from poor residents of oil communities who want a better life and from ordinary citizens who wanted Mr. Buhari to either come home or resign.”

He faces many challenges. I wish him well.

Solar Eclipse

Did you view the eclipse today? I did! Clem and I joined hundreds of others at the Westport Astronomical Society.

We arrived shortly after the 1 pm announced opening to be told they had run out of the special glasses! But we found my friend Judy Hamer who was with other friends. Judy had come earlier and had the glasses which she shared freely.

My friend Judy who had the valuable glasses

My friend Judy who had the valuable glasses

It was amazing to watch as the first bit of the sun was eclipsed by the moon, then a larger bite. Finally about 70% of the suns’s surface was blocked. But did the sky darken at all? I imagined it did a little. But as we discussed, one of the women said, “When we have a cloudy day, we still have plenty of daylight.”

There were four telescopes set up with filters and long lines at each. I finally saw through one and could see the eclipse effect. But watching through the glasses was the best.

What is the What

Dave Eggers’ What is the What was our book for discussion tonight at my Mount Holyoke Alumnae Book Club. The novel came out in 2006. I loved listening to it and reading it – mostly listening.

“It is based on the real life of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese child refugee who immigrated to the United States under the Lost Boys of Sudan program. It was a finalist for the National Book Award,” Wikipedia tells me. The novel uses his name.

It is a harrowing tale of a young boy’s trials, escapes, and life in refugee camps. Even after he comes to the U.S. in a refugee resettlement program, he finds further hardships. I was captivated by his determination against great odds.

Wikipedia’s entry says, “The book is typical of Eggers’ style: blending non-fictional and fictional elements into a non-fiction novel or memoir.” 

The entry says that Eggers and Deng held long conversations about the story. For months, Eggers did not know whether he was helping Deng tell his own story, or writing the story.

In the end, Eggers wrote the book. “By classifying the book a novel, Eggers says, he freed himself to re-create conversations, streamline complex relationships, add relevant detail and manipulate time and space in helpful ways—all while maintaining the essential truthfulness of the storytelling.[2]”

I think he succeeded brilliantly. And the narrator, Dion Graham, was excellent. He is an actor who has narrated many books. How did he manage to simulate the Sudanese accent so well? I wonder if a Dinka (Deng’s tribe) person would agree that it was well-done.

When I heard him speaking in this YouTube video, I could hardly believe it was the same person!

At our discussion tonight, one of the women asked what Valentino Achak Deng is doing now. I had seen that there was a foundation and he had built a school in his town.

We didn’t know what else. So I just looked. In 2015 BBC reported that he had become education minister in one province of South Sudan. The country became independent in 2011. I can find no later news. If you know more, please let me know.

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Ms. Ahmed’s story is a perfect example of why we need more women leaders. It heartened me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It was a fun day, Catherine!