Celebrating Amina J. Mohammed: A Woman Working For Humanity – By ’Dayo Adebayo

Passion and commitment are two words that can drive a man to his goal. For a woman, however, these words make her an exemplary role model. That is the story of Amina Jane Mohammed, the current Nigerian-British Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Although there are conflicting stories about her place of birth, Amina hails from Gombe State and holds dual citizenship (Nigeria and Britain). She had her primary education in Kaduna and Maiduguri before attending the Buchan School in the Isle of Man. In 1989, she gained admission into Henley Management College.

CAREER JOURNEY
Amina started her career journey in the private sector with Archcon Nigeria between 1981 and 1991. The Nigerian company collaborated with Norman and Dawbarn, UK. She worked with architects and engineers in a social environment that catered for the project management of constructions in the education, health and public sectors. Afterwards, she founded the Afri-Projects Consortium, a multidisciplinary firm of Engineers and Quantity Surveyors, and served as the Executive Director between 1991 and 2001.
Having cut her career teeth in the private sector, Amina joined the UN and served as coordinator of the Task Force on Gender and Education for the body’s Millennium Project between 2002 and 2005. Later on, she served as the Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In 2005, she coordinated the annual $1 billion debt relief funds meant for the attainment of the MDGs in Nigeria. Among other things, she was charged with budget management and the implementation of a Virtual Poverty Fund to reduce poverty in the land. She also played advisory roles in public sector reforms, poverty and sustainable development.
In recognition of her accomplishments and laudable projects, Amina was honoured with the Order of the Federal Republic under the Obasanjo administration in 2006. A year later, she was also inducted in the Nigerian Women’s Hall of Fame.
Amina founded the Center for Development Policy Solutions and served as the CEO. The Center was set up as a research institute in development and civil society to provide solutions to policy and knowledge gaps within the corporate, government and legislative sectors for robust advocacy materials.
At the same time, she has served and is still serving on many international advisory boards and panels, including the Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, the Institute of Scientific & Technical Information of China (ISTIC), the African Women’s Millennium Initiative, the Hewlett Foundation on Education, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, Girl Effect, the International Development Research Centre, the ActionAid International Right to Education Project, the Millennium Promise Initiative, 2016 African Union Reform and the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
She also chairs the Advisory Board of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Monitoring Report on Education (GME) and serves as a Governor of the International Development Research Centre in Canada. Amina is also an Adjunct Professor for the Master’s in Development Practice program at Columbia University.
In 2012, Amina was appointed as the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Post-2015 Development Planning. She played vital roles in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the goals, acting as the link among top stakeholders. She was also on the Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development in 2014.
Amina was appointed the Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 2015 and 2017. Before this appointment, she had served two other Nigerian presidents. As the Minister of Environment, she tasked herself with climate action, natural environment protection and the conservation of resources for sustainable development. Whilst a Minister, Amina was also Nigeria’s representative in the African Union (AU) Reform Steering Committee, chaired by Paul Kagame.
When she resigned from the Nigerian Federal Executive Council on 24 February 2017 to take up her new appointment at the UN, Amina had served three Nigerian Presidents over six years.
Amina became the Deputy Secretary-General to the United Nations in 2017, after the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, announced his intention to appoint her to the office in January 2017.

CHALLENGING THE ODDS
Amina is married and a mother of six who rose on a long career path to becoming the UN’s second in command. She is the daughter of a Nigerian vet and a British nurse. Her parents met while her father was studying in Britain. Amina is the eldest of five daughters.
In the wake of the Trump administration’s directive to reduce the US funding for the UN, Amina has at no time been bothered even though the US president dismissed the UN as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” Reacting to how she intends to persuade Trump, she said, “we don’t always communicate very well the effect that we have on the ground and the lives that we change. That needs to be done better and, once we have the changes, we will see the United States doing probably even more.”
Those familiar with this woman won’t be surprised by her reaction. Amina has been used to battling against the odds for a very long time. She braces herself up to take on the most obdurate crises and developmental challenges ravaging the world. When she wanted to study abroad, she raised £4,000 on her own after her father told her he had no money to give her. She challenged herself to embark on a 76km walk from Kaduna to Zaria to raise the cash, even though everyone told her she couldn’t do it. She raised the money, went to Italy, and studied hotel catering management.
After her studies in Italy, Amina returned to Nigeria on a father’s instruction. Although he promised her a job at the American consulate in Kaduna, there was no job apparently at the end of the day. She ended at Archcon Nigeria, an architectural design firm in northern Nigeria, where she worked for 11 years (1981-1991). As a single woman going into offices, she found herself in a tough corporate environment designed for the male gender. Despite the adversity she encountered, she adapted and made a success of herself. She started her company, a multidisciplinary firm of Engineers and Quantity Surveyors, in 1991, and served as the Executive Director till 2001.
In her capacity as the DSG, she remains focused on the 17 sustainable development goals that she was instrumental in streamlining from 500 by member states. Although the Trump administration is bent on sabotaging her efforts with its public disdain for climate issues, Amina continues to stress the importance of shared responsibility. She tries rallying nations that might waver on the journey towards the accomplishment of the process. In one of her encouraging speeches, she said, “I think there is a collective responsibility for major emitters, and that underpinned everything we did in Paris.”
After Paris, Amina visited her childhood place, Lake Chad region, to see the consequences of climate change first-hand. She placed a spotlight on the devastation of the environment and the sense of hopelessness in the living conditions of people in the area. One of the things she attributed this disturbing situation to, was lack of governance, which she determined will not be condoned at the UN. In 2018, she was named among the BBC 100 Women for her contributions as the UN DSG.

TAKING IT HOME
Amina J. Mohammed’s CV has been described as a marathon. From a primary school by Lake Chad to the UN’s second in command, Amina herself acknowledged the journey has been long, even though she had taken it one step after the other. She has relied on her education to make a difference.
Other recognitions received by Amina include, the Ford Family Notre Dame Award for International Development and Solidarity (2015), Diplomat of the Year Awards (2017), Sarraounia chieftaincy title of Niger (2018), the Global Citizen Prize World Leader Award (2019), and the Forbes Power-Women list working for humanity (2019).

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