Someone to look up to

Habiba Cooper Diallo (18)
Hometown: Halifax, N.S.
Executive summary: Bilingual high school student (English and French); volunteer; founder and executive director of Womens’ Health Organization International (non-governmental organization dedicated to empowering women in Africa and the African Diaspora via improved health care and the dissemination of health education); one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 youth leaders.

Passionate advocate for women's he alt (photo courtesy: Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Passionate advocate for women’s he alt (photo courtesy: Habiba Cooper Diallo)

When I was 12, I read the story of Anafghat Ayouba – the young woman who inspired me to start obstetric fistula awareness and to subsequently establish WHOI. That’s when I realized that obstetrics is my passion.

One of my biggest challenges starting WHOI was the process of obtaining legal status. I drafted a set of by-laws that all had to be approved by the registry. I then began to design a logo. Next, I wrote out the acronym for the organization so it could be part of the logo. Finally, I collaborated with a friend of mine from Toronto who’s a designer and visual artist. I sent him the sketch and he drew the final image of the woman and the baby currently on the logo. Emotionally, I was coming to terms with my Dad’s death. He was one of my best friends and a number one fan of everything I did. His death made me look deep within myself and draw upon my inner confidence, which gave me the strength to continue my efforts.

My mother is my biggest inspiration. She is a very experienced and educated woman, holding a PhD in Black Canadian Studies and African History. In addition to her, all the other women in my community – my big sister, my aunties, my young female cousins – also inspire me. These women have been through the fire, and have managed to come out on top.

In 10 years’ time, I see myself just about finished my medical education including gynaecology and obstetrics, and married with two kids. By then, I plan for WHOI to be more established with a greater financial capacity for programming and awareness building.

Am I a typical teenager? I honestly don’t know. I guess that’s left up to interpretation, but I do know that I’m not like everyone else, and everyone else is not like me. We all have a particular spot on the spectrum.

Click here for extended interview with Habiba

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Dawn Chafe
About Dawn Chafe

For the past 19 years, Dawn has been editor of Atlantic Canada’s most award-winning and largest circulation business magazine: Atlantic Business Magazine. Under her editorial direction, Atlantic Business Magazine has won 14 Atlantic Journalism Awards, three TABBIE international business press awards and two KRW national business press awards.

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