My name is Zainab Adakole and I am from Benue state. My mother is Fulani from Adamawa state and is a single parent. I grew up in Kano, a state in Northern Nigerian. I am from a family of 3, and because my mother was a matron at a federal hospital in Northern Nigeria, I got the best basic education. I had all I needed and we had a good relationship.
Things changed during my first year in at the Teachers College when I was outed by my best friend in school. I was made to face the college’s disciplinary board for having a sexual relationship with my partner at the time. I narrowly escaped being expelled but was not lucky enough to escape the hate and drastic action taken by my mother. I was taken for several Quranic prayer sessions because I was perceived as being possessed by an evil spirit. After many fruitless efforts, my mum decided to marry me off at the early age of 17, because she believed that it would change my sexuality.
It was the beginning of my problems.
Starting a new life with my husband wasn’t easy, as I was physically abused by my husband because I refused to stop seeing my girlfriend. For 4 years, I experienced physical and mental torture. I couldn’t talk to my mum or any of our family members because nobody wanted to listen to me. In August of 2012, I gave birth to my daughter at 21. I went online to search for help and I met a friend who was an LGBT Peer Counsellor. She became my confidant and helped me a great deal. I decided to make a change and in 2013 I filed for a divorce.
My divorce was finalized in 2015 and I moved back to Kano. I gained admission into the university to continue my education. I discovered various LGBT organisations and started attending trainings. In 2015, I became a volunteer at Women Action for Gender Equality (WAGE), an organisation that focuses on women’s right and the protection of girl child equality in the core north. After my graduation in 2016, I was employed as a Behavioural Change Communication Officer and a Peer Counsellor.
Right now, my life has meaning and a purpose. Knowing there are girls in my community facing similar challenges motivates me to do more. My passion is to reach out to them and let them know that they are not alone. We are created in God’s image and we are loved regardless of our sexual orientation.
I use my social media platform to carry out online counseling for LGBT persons. It has not been an easy journey but with determination and perseverance, I get through every day. I urge anyone who is going through similar challenges to be strong and patient.
Love will win in the end.