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Community Focus: Redefining African women through campus life

KOKH

Stepping into a new world presents its challenges and new opportunities. Here's how an organization is helping international students transition on campus.

Grace Olaleye celebrated her third birthday in 1986, at this point it had been one year since she left her home of Nigeria and she’s experiencing many firsts, like any kid.

"I did not understand English. My parents did not sit down and teach me, it was literally Sesame Street and I'm a big fan of PBS," Olaleye said.

Grace says her parents gave her all they could, she grew up in a predominately white neighborhood and it was hard for her to connect so she encountered many “hard" firsts.

"At the time it was difficult for me as an immigrant to be accepted in those spaces because I didn’t look like my age mates," Olaleye said.

Grace says there was one "defining moment" when she tried to “fit in” with her classmates.

"I went to go ask my white friends to play with them, and they said 'sure, as long as you’re the dog' and as a kid I just wanted to belong so I got down on my knees and I played as the dog so that I could play with them", Olaleye said.

Now a student at the University of Oklahoma, Grace admits she felt alone during her childhood and when the opportunity came around in her now “adult life” to speak her truth, she couldn’t wait to say “yes”

"These are the issues that we as women face," said OU student Tatenda Dvzimbo.

Linked by the fabric of their truth. Tatenda and other African students are planning to share their experiences as international students in Oklahoma.

"There's so much power in self-belief and there is so much power in knowing that you can. You don't have to compare yourself to anybody. You have to believe you can", Dvzimbo said.

The sophomore hopes to create a "safe space" for other African women on campus while trying to make their peers understand what its like to walk in their shoes.

"When I hear of Tatenda trying to start an organization that gives international students a safe place, it warms my heart because for some international students that have children this community is where they will feel safe. It's where they'll feel like they belong. Where they won't have to get down on their knees and play like dogs to play with friends," Olaleye said.

  • EVENT: Africa Talk Series: Redefining representation: Women Empowerment in Africa is a public event.
  • WHERE: OU's Headington College-Private Dining Room
  • TIME: 5:30-8:30pm
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