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Challenging Gender Norms at A Young Age-: The Story of Naomi Adakole, A Four Pillars PLUS Female Mentee


The sound of the drum beat could be heard from a distance as one after the other students and teachers filed into the event arena where the annual inter house sports competition of Government Secondary School, Federal Housing Estate, Calabar was billed to hold.

A casual look at the band beautifully entertaining guests and coordinating the march past, would leave everyone with the thought that this was an “all boys band’ cladded in their white T-shirts and jeans trousers. But that was not entirely true. While it was 99% male, a closer look will reveal a young girl among those boys playing the ‘tenor’ drum.  Her girlish face becomes more noticeable when playing on the School Assembly in her female school uniform. This is Naomi Obochi Adakole, a 14-year-old female student in SS1, who shares her feelings about being the only female member of the school band and what motivates her. She continues her narration…

I have always loved the school band and enjoy watching them play with style. For a long time, I admired them but also noticed that the band was made up of only boys. I wished I could become a drummer too. As I nursed the idea and wondered about its possibility, I joined the Four Pillars PLUS mentoring session where my mentor kept reiterating the need for us to be tenacious about our goals, never letting anything limit us and always striving to follow our passion.  We were told that it doesn’t matter what sex we are. That anything boys can do, girls can do too and if you focus, you can even do better. My confidence grew over time after each session. I summoned courage and approached the band lead repeating under my breath ‘If boys can do this, so can I’. And so today, I am a tenor drummer. Being the only female on the band is not as difficult as I had envisaged because almost all the other members are mentees on the Four Pillars PLUS mentoring program. They were a little surprised of course when I first started but I guess that the topics we are taught at the sessions have impacted them too as they make me feel comfortable and do not discriminate against me.”

Her advice to young girls – “Never see others as superior to you or see your goals as beyond reach. Just as I summoned courage to join the school band and remain there, you can be anything you choose to be. Today, I am an encouragement to other girls. We now have 2 girls who are understudying me to also join the band. I feel happy that I can be an inspiration to others”. On girls and women taking up leadership positions, Naomi has this to say “I think girls and women in leadership positions should use their position to encourage more girls not to back down even if they are defeated. Rather, they should encourage them to persist till they get to their goal.”

Naomi aspires to become an Electrical Engineer- another profession generally dominated by men. But she is not deterred. She just wants to break boundaries and follow her passion.

Naomi is the last child in a family of 6. Her father is a retired officer of the Nigerian Army. Her mother, Grace Obochi has also been participating in the Four Pillars PLUS community dialogue sessions and is proud of her daughter and how at a young age she is already a role model.  “Naomi is always talking about her mentor- Eni Kommomo, and all the things she is learning at the mentoring sessions. I particularly like how her confidence is increasing by the day I am happy that she is following her passion. We will continue to provide her all the support she needs. Personally, I am learning a lot at the community dialogue sessions which is helping me to communicate and understand my children better’’.

Naomi is a beneficiary of the Four Pillars PLUS project implemented by FHI 360 with funding support from the GE Foundation.

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