Khadija: On finding success outside your comfort zone

What you need to know:

  • The founder and leader of Pink Hijab says women need to support one another and encourage one another in pursuit of their dreams and goals as well as empowering girl children

Dar es Salaam. When you speak of a devotion that cuts across various sectors in Tanzania, the name Pink Hijab Initiative Tanzania pops up.

Behind the non-profit organisation is Khadija Omari, its founder and leader.

Khadija explains why it is important to sometimes get out of one’s comfort zone if one is to make a difference in life.

She explains that her aim is to bridge the gap between women and opportunities in business, entrepreneurship and social economic aspects, hence, her determination to try and influence society through the Pink Hijab Initiative.

Khadija says that her initiative is not about religion, and those engaged with the Pink Hijab initiative come from all backgrounds and faiths. She says there is no discrimination of any kind under the initiative.

“When people hear about Pink Hijab, their minds tell them that it has something to do with Islam. The name hijab is to represent those decent clothes for women. So, the organisation welcomes all people,” says Khadija wearing a broad smile.

Narrating her life journey to where she is today, she says her passion developed from her family. She admits that it was not a well-to-do family but it was the one that taught her to value human life and develop the passion for helping others to grow into successful people.

“Upon finding a job, I always felt my sphere of influence was limited. So, I chose to quit and establish Pink Hijab. The reason of doing this is because of the passion I have for helping other women. So, I invested all my time in and committed to this vision and alhamdulillah, I found my peace and utmost joy doing my passion,” says Khadija.

Every entity has its own style of enabling members or workers to work their way up the ladder to management level--some use performance and commitment as the criteria, while others do so via the ballot box.

According to Khadija, she managed to hold her position as the chief through unanimous decisions. This resulted from her work with various groups during which she demonstrated skills and abilities, her vision and how she overcame the challenges to rise to the top.

“Various women’s groups have always had trust in me and believed in me that I can help them to realise their dreams. So, it is through voting that we let leaders reach the top,” she says.

“I always dreamt of being a path for others. I never really thought I would become what I am today,” Khadija says smiling.

She narrates further that as she grew, she was exposed to various opportunities, came into contact with various people and projects, all of which contributed to building her passion for helping others and providing leadership that people wanted.

“I tried to find my areas of strength and link them to my passion. The pieces fell into place as I continued doing what I knew best -- serving others with all my heart,” Khadija explains.

Speaking about challenges in her career path, she says, it is never possible to completely escape them, but how one deals with the challenges defines them.

Khadija explains that as she grew up and realised that she was a woman, she learned that she was somehow excluded from some activities in society, mainly probably because of the mentality that women were weak.

“Seeing women being excluded made me question myself a lot. This made me want to help fellow women with whatever resources that came my way. I overcame the challenge by committing myself even more to my passion for supporting women.

“Penetrating into decision making positions was difficult. This led to some disappointments and at one time I had to question my career, but it was through devotion and commitment that I overcame it,” narrates Khadija.

According to Khadija, her most memorable experience that made her believe she was on the right career was when she led a delegation of 30 women abroad to learn and explore about business ideas.

“Last year, I travelled with 30 women to Turkey, Egypt and Dubai to explore and learn about business opportunities. The group consisted of entrepreneurs whose skills needed to be horned further for them to reach the next level of their businesses,” says Khadija.

In the social aspect, she develops programmes aimed at increasing the value for women and youth to fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV).

These include women healthy and social inclusivity programmes, leadership training and capacity building. These programmes have helped her to support women build confidence and transform their mindsets.

Khadija says that what kept her motivated and become what she is today is her background and the knowledge that she has a lot to accomplish in life.

“Women are still longing for more and I still have the capacity to achieve it alongside with them. I have walked a very rough road with a lot of challenges and I have achieved a lot, I can still achieve more for women and youths,” says Khadija.

She says that sometimes people try to find a perfect formula to bring them success, but she says it is difficult to find such a thing, all that people need is to believe in themselves.

She shares a few tips that can help women succeed in pursuing their life dreams and goals. She says one must first of all invest in what they love most.

“First know your strengths, what you can do best and enjoy what you do. You should know what you want to achieve and have a better plan to get it. You must put in the highest level of discipline and commitment to your plans,” says Khadija.

She says she believes that no one was born as a full package.

“We all depend on others in order to grow. If a dream is well nurtured and commitment is kept, the possibility of failing is minimised,” Khadija says.

She says further that having women in leadership positions is all about making bold and wise decisions.

“Women leaders are good at team building, apply more dialogue rather than force, they want cooperation and a set up just like the way it is in a family. So, businesses have a bigger chance of succeeding with women at the helm,” says Khadija.

“Women are usually termed as weak in various aspects, if we have very competitive women in business, then they will always fight to make it better and transform society’s mindsets, this increases the working morale and perfect execution of responsibilities.

“Africa still has the problem when it comes to empowering women to rise to the top positions, and this is all about trust and exclusion.

“Women are never entrusted with leadership position, the patriarchy system has locked doors for women to champion their dreams which they currently do, so the bigger problem was the patriarchy system and no trust in women as well as fear,” she says.

However, Khadija is optimistic that things are changing in Tanzania when it comes to gender inequality.

She is encouraged to see that Tanzania has women in top leadership positions starting with President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Speaker of the National Assembly Tulia Ackson and various ministers and permanent secretaries.

Khadija tells The Citizen that addressing gender inequality in leadership roles, women need to break their fear and stand for their rights.

“Women in leadership positions must display the top characters and quality of leadership, they must be reliable and dependable as well as committed to their societies,” says Khadija.

She concludes by saying that it is important that women must support one another in their endeavours.