Jemila Abdulai on Making a Difference | 30 Days Unchained: Day 25 Sunday 03 February, 2013


30 Days Unchained/#30Unchained | Day 25 2/3/13 | Inspiration: Jemila Abdulai Young, brilliant, driven, Jemila Abdulbai is quite the well-rounded individual, with an inspiring passion to change the world. A journalist focused on African development issues and editor of her blog Circumspecte, she recognizes the influence and responsibility of the media to affect positive change. […]


30 Days Unchained/#30Unchained | Day 25 2/3/13 | Inspiration: Jemila Abdulai

Jemila Abdulai

Young, brilliant, driven, Jemila Abdulbai is quite the well-rounded individual, with an inspiring passion to change the world. A journalist focused on African development issues and editor of her blog Circumspecte, she recognizes the influence and responsibility of the media to affect positive change. Through her journalism, she seeks to, “change the somewhat default image of the starving African child to include the image where talented individuals are making a difference despite the poverty and what-not. Like any developed country we have challenges. But we also have opportunities; it’s important to show both.”

We often think that only the likes of Jemila, i.e. the genius and productive, are capable of impacting our world. Jemila, however, disagrees with that notion and contends that any one can make a difference given whatever resources and abilities they have at their disposal: “many people think it’s only a certain type or group of people who can make a difference or pursue their dreams. I beg to differ. So long as you have something to your name – even if it’s just your name – you count.” Jemila’s words of encouragement are the inspiration for today’s challenge….

Challenge (Find, Create, or Remix an image that answers the question): How can you make a difference?

Share your image(s) on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and be sure to tag @liveunchained and use the hashtag #30unchained so we can shout you out! Be sure to follow us on FacebookPinterest and Twitter to keep up with the latest #30unchained news. 

Live Unchained: Can you tell us about your background?  Where are you from?  Where have you been?

Jemila Abdulai: I’m from Ghana. My family is Muslim and both my parents are educationists, so from a very young age, the importance of seeking knowledge –a requirement in Islam – was instilled in me and my four siblings.  I’m the eldest of five kids: four girls and a guy who’s smack in the middle.

As a child I was extremely inquisitive and often very troublesome, but surprisingly, as I grew up – and apparently used up the excess energy – I became calmer. I have a whole range of interests, and I always try to explore them. In high school, I was given the “most all round student” award for my involvement in many activities.

I’ve had the opportunity to experience many facets of my personality – as a book-worm, a song-writer, HIV/AIDS peer counselor, actress, basketball player, goalie, activist, and now, I’m exploring my journalistic side. Where I’ve been – recently went to France, visited Senegal for a leadership program in Summer ‘08, lived in Norway for a while, then came up to the U.S. for college.

I am very hopeful about the prospect for development in African countries and I also value information-sharing – hence my blog Circumspect. I’m looking to get back into school soon for a Masters degree.

Jemila Abdulai

LU: How would you like to see Africa develop?  What is your vision of the continent at its strongest?  What role do women play in this picture?

JA: As I mentioned earlier, I believe in access to relevant information. From my experience, this has been one of the main elements influencing the opportunities I have been blessed to encounter. I come from a middle-class Ghanaian family and I cannot say I, or my family, had any particular “connections” before I came to the U.S. What I had were parents who value education and who allowed me to go off and do “research” whenever I wanted to. My parents were strict about going out at night and on weekends, but they were always supportive when it came to books, research and education.

Having access to the computer and Internet from a very young age – five years I think – made me privy to accessing relevant information and making the most of it. That’s what Circumspect is about: providing a platform for sharing and accessing relevant information. Once Africans have the necessary information, they can make informed decisions. Informed Africans – and people in general- are invaluable assets.

How I would like to see Africa develop. That’s a tough one, but I’ll give it a shot. I would like Africa to develop holistically with vision, commitment and unity. I would like African governments to design and implement policies that are strong enough to deal with current issues, but flexible enough to take future developments into consideration. In this regard, research is essential. I would like Africans to adopt a holistic approach to development; realizing that the economy is as much related to health care as it is to agriculture, and as such mismanagement of resources cannot be afforded.

Additionally, I would like Africa to develop with Africans at the helm. Meaning, if we’re basing our development on policies used by the West, we fine-tune it to our respective circumstances. And, we should be committed to taking charge of issues ourselves. In that vein, unity is the key. Nobody is going to come and save us; they haven’t in the past and if history is anything to go by, they won’t in the future. Everyone has something on their plate; it’s time we take charge of ours. There’s a lot of untapped potential out there, it’s time to unleash it.

The continent at its strongest – our diverse culture would be appreciated and integrated into our daily lives. Everyone would be enjoying basic human rights; we would be managing our resources well –both human and natural, and finally, there’d be peace and harmony. So much is lost from wars, or people being stubborn and not wanting to work together. It’s crazy.

Women’s role – it’s undeniable. We’re the majority. And that’s not even counting the future kids we’ll usher into the world.

Women are important in every aspect of life. That’s the beauty of it, but it’s also the curse. If our issues are ignored, we’re not only ignoring the majority of the present population, we’re setting future generations up for failure. I know many people consider this feminist-talk. But it’s not. What you deny a woman, you deny humanity. Men need to realize their issues are strongly linked to ours, and we need more men coming on board.

Many movies explore the notion of the end of the world. I don’t think an alien invasion is going to end our era; ignoring women’s issues however, could just do it. They should do a movie on that.

LU: Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?

JA: Living unchained means living passionately. It means pursuing what I love, striving to make my contribution to humanity, AND keeping an open mind.

It means never allowing past mistakes or the perceptions of others to hold me back.

It means realizing that history is being made right this moment, and that despite the challenges, I have the power to decide how mine will be written.

Sometimes you just have to try, give it your best and see. It means being willing to take risks in getting to know and love myself.

This interview is excerpted from a full feature with the artist. View the original article here.

30 Days Unchained/#30unchained is an interactive creative countdown to the Live Unchained Anniversary Celebration . Everyday for 30 days, we’ll share some of our most popular interviews with Live Unchained featured artists. They include women creatives of various disciplines from across the African diaspora. Her creative journey will be the inspiration for your challenge. To participate simply respond to the challenge question with images (not words). Share it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and be sure to tag @liveunchained so we can shout you out – it’s that simple. Learn more about 30 Days Unchained, including rules and prizes hereGet your daily challenge from Thursday, January 10th through the day of the big bash on Friday, February 8th at

Written by Kathryn Buford and Nesrien Hamid 


One Comment

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