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This story was written by Dr. Maymunah Kadiri, VV GROW Fellow and VV 100 woman leader

February 2021 – As 2021 has brought in a new sense of hope and purpose, I have reflected on one of the more difficult years of my life: 2020. I am certain that I am not alone in the struggles faced during the past year, but, on reflection, I am thinking of how fortunate I am to have had the experiences given to me by my work with Vital Voices, and the continuing support the organization has given me throughout my endeavors. Joining this wonderful coalition of women as a VV GROW fellow to becoming a member of VV100, my Vital Voices family remains one of the treasured safe places that I am honored to belong to.

Despite the traumas of the pandemic, I was able to continue growing in my advocacy, leveraging my background as a Psychiatrist & Psychologist in assisting with pandemic relief efforts. During the national lockdown in Nigeria, our staff faced exhaustion and burnout due to constantly serving our patients’ mental and emotional health needs. Through our Employees Assistance Program (EAP), we are currently serving over 70,000 Nigerian employees and their families, hopefully reducing even a small part of the burden COVID-19 has placed on all of us.

My experiences with the VV GROW program have given me invaluable exposure to the world, fueling my drive to promote and sustain the wellbeing of all individuals through concrete and sustained action. Recently appointed as the Psychological team lead for the Lagos State COVID-19 Think Tank, I am thrilled to continue in my leadership while drawing from my knowledge gained as part of the Vital Voices family. Plus, I have recently been chosen to be one of the 25 new fellows in the Aspen New Voices program. Much like Vital Voices, this program has invested in my expertise as a leader in the mental health field, allowing me to further enhance my leadership skills and better support my community.

This past year, I have also been blessed enough to have been honored for my work in Nigeria. Recognized as one of the 60 Women Champions and Changemakers in Nigeria and, by extension, Africa, has been a wonderful achievement. Additionally, I have earned the Exquisite Lady of the Year (ELOY) Recognition Award for Healthcare Professional. As they say, with these great awards comes great responsibility. Therefore, taking my lead from the incredible VV100 mentors who have allowed me to learn and grow, I am aware of the responsibility I have to do the same for those who I inspire.

Vital Voices’ continuing belief and investment in leaders such as myself has greatly supported my ability to author three books on anxiety, depression, and drug abuse, as well as create and produce a world-class mental health board game, MINDFUN. Both will be released this year. As we put 2020 behind us, it is with these accomplishments, which have been aided by my time at Vital Voices, that I enter 2021 with a heart full of hope, sure that the work we are doing is crucial, touching the lives and minds of every future leader.