Back problems and a dodgy knee isn’t going to stop single parent Zina getting to the top of Mount Malunje as she believes she still has so much to be grateful for.

A romantic at heart and a committed Christian, Zina is looking forward to meeting the women of Malawi and using her legal background to help raise awareness on the issues of human and specifically women’s rights and has already set the wheels in motion to return to Malawi post the expedition to speak further on this important topic.

Zina’s story is probably not too dissimilar to many women in that she had always hoped and believed that, as in all good films, she would grow up, get married and live happily ever after. However, as is all too common, the last part didn’t quite work out. The first part was great – she met her now ex-husband across the library books while she was studying for her legal conversion exams having qualified in Nigeria and he was studying for his medical conversion exams. Following what felt like a whirlwind romance, she fell in love, got married and children followed quickly. Zina changed careers to support her husband and children and retrained and became a Project Management IT Consultant a role she still holds alongside her other work.

Gregarious by nature and heavily involved with her local church, Zina had difficulty in coming to terms with her marriage ending and cites the heavy feeling of shame and failure as being one of the only divorced Nigerians in her local community leading to her suicidal thoughts (even though it was only later that she has been able to recognise these feelings).

Zina admits that she could not process what was happening to her in her personal life – she had always been a strong positive person. She’d had the tears, the “Bridget Jones wallowing in ice-cream moment” and maxed out her credit cards but while she continued to put on a brave face, Zina knew that she wasn’t feeling right but couldn’t quite put her finger on what was wrong. Having read and researched as much as she could, Zine realised that she could get her life back on track and the answer could be found in coaching others.

Unknown to her, she had a natural flare for helping others through coaching and had helped a lot of people at her local church but had never for one moment thought of making a career out of it. When giving a speech at a professional self-development seminar, she was encouraged to consider it but to focus on coaching professional divorcees with strong personalities who have trouble showing their vulnerability as they hide it behind a mask – the professional veneer of not wanting to appear weak.

Zina could not recognise herself as either being vulnerable nor able to reconcile the thought of helping divorcees as her self-limiting belief was that divorce was fundamentally against her Christian upbringing as, in Zina’s words, “God hates divorce”. However, after a couple of years and with continued encouragement, Zina managed to find an inner equilibrium with her faith and desire to help others; in 2012 she set up her company “Believe and Live Again” which she describes as “basically helping women from whatever background move from ‘we to me’.” She has published a book in 2017 called “Reinvent You – How To Move From We To Me After Divorce”.

Zina has watched Comic Relief over the years and often thought how wonderful it would be to have a chance to go somewhere and really help the locals; Malawi will provide her with an opportunity to do so for herself. She is under no illusion however that it is going to be easy and recognises that she will miss the home comforts but feels that seeing and sharing first hand quite how different and challenging life is for the women of Malawi will be inspirational and also a reminder that life in the UK isn’t quite so bad. She is also hoping that by the League of Ladies sharing their own experiences – some very traumatic – that the Malawian women will understand that no matter where you are, there are challenges – by no means comparable as they are worlds apart – but challenges are challenges to those affected by them.

A chance to collaborate and spend time with the others in the group is also exciting prospect for Zina who has been inspired by time she has spent so far with the group in getting to know each other – it’s the hope and desire to build strong links and life changing strategies that is such a prevalent thread throughout all the interviews and meetings that is so infectious – coupled with Zina’s laugh!

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