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Meet First Female UNICAL SUG President, Blessing Alim

Blessing Alim, against all odds, became the first female Students’ Union President of the University of Calabar during the era of the first female Vice-Chancellor of the school.
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Blessing Alim, against all odds, became the first female Students’ Union President of the University of Calabar during the era of the first female Vice-Chancellor of the school. It’s like breaking a forty-nine-year jinx. In this interview with Edugist correspondent, South-east, she shares her journey into leadership and plans.

Congratulations on being elected as the first female SUG President of the University of Calabar! Can you tell us about your journey to this position and what inspired you to run for SUG President?

Thank you so much for the honour, Edugist. I was inspired by the desire to always make a difference and also challenge the status quo. For the past 49 years, we’ve always had men leading in the union, which is the Apex leadership position, and we know that we have the majority of females as the population in a university community. So, making a difference, I felt that my gender should also be represented. We should also be given a stake when it comes to the Student Union, which has to do with the office of the president.

What were some of the key issues and goals in your campaign, and how do you plan to address them during your tenure?

This will take us back to my manifesto. The key issue I identified has to do with the environment. If you notice, we have dirt littered around the university premises and the hostels. So, we intend to have a clean environment whereby people can breathe in fresh air and live healthily. In my campaign, I am trying to see how we can intensify the campaign on ending gender-based violence for both men and women. Gender-based violence is not a one-sided thing. We have a lot of things we intend to do, and as time unfolds, people will get to hear more about it.

What are your main priorities as SUG President, and what initiatives do you hope to implement to benefit the student body?

As for my priorities, I am always reminded not to forget that my studies are the first reason why I am in school. Also, another priority is to serve the student body, taking into consideration their welfare, which is of utmost importance. I believe that if you are not thinking about the students’ welfare, then you are not a leader and you shouldn’t be in that position.

My long-term goals are to continue with my education, complete my BSc, go for Masters, PHD, start my own family, set up my business, and work in my dream company.

Also, all the initiatives I have will unfold as time goes on. One of them is that we intend to have a lot of volunteering opportunities for students. We will also get them involved to learn skills that will benefit them after they graduate from higher education. I believe it’s one thing to have a certificate and it’s another thing to have a ‘sabificate,’ as they call it.

How will you balance your academic responsibilities with your extensive volunteer work and now your role as SUG President?

The way I have been balancing it, such that my studies do not clash with my volunteering work, is the same way I will balance everything with my role as the SUG President. I will just have to streamline some of the activities I was so engaged in so that I can perform effectively well in my new position.

You have a significant background in volunteering for NGOs. Can you share some of the most impactful volunteering experiences you’ve had and how they have shaped you as a leader?

I have volunteered with the Girls Power Initiative since 2017, which is a very long time. I have also been with another foundation where I learnt how to do HIV testing and HIV awareness campaigns, also with UNFP and many others. I have learnt a lot from all the organisations. With the Girls Power Initiative, I am a facilitator, and we do a lot of advocacy, and this has helped me a lot.

What motivates you to dedicate so much of your time to volunteering?

As a person, I am not content with the little I know. I always want to know more. I see my peers back then doing exploits. So, I ask myself that if I can see people doing exploits, then nothing is stopping me. I also ask myself that after school, employers will be asking you about your work experience. Just being a fresh graduate, someone will be asking you for four years of experience. Then I told myself, let me use this opportunity to gain skills that will benefit me in the future. In volunteering, we should also understand that it is free but it pays off in the future. It pays off when people see how committed you are to things you are not paid to do; they’ll dedicate even bigger things into your care.

University of Calabar SUG President
First female VC and first female SUG President of UNICAL

Can you highlight some of your other achievements?

One achievement that people might find funny is getting admission into the university. I see it as an achievement because it took me several years. WAEC wasn’t smiling at me as it took me years because I wasn’t good at mathematics. So, being admitted into the university is my biggest achievement. Even though it didn’t come at the time I wanted, I believe it was all planned by God. If I had gained admission since 2015, when I graduated from secondary school, I am not sure this historical feat would have been achieved today.

Outside of your leadership and volunteering role, what other things do you do?

I make shoes, I make dresses, I do video editing with my cell phone. I also do communication work, public speaking, and moderation for events. People might think Blessing does everything, but all these come as a result of my desire to learn. I believe you are bailing yourself out if you are not paying money for certain things. Just get the skills even if you are not monetising it. There are places you will get to that you will need to save yourself with these skills that will come in handy. I was basically driven by, you know, learn this and that and then specialise in the particular skill that you think you really want to do.

What advice would you give to other students interested in getting involved with NGOs?

First of all, don’t think of money. Yes, we are all money-driven. We all want money as the end product for our services. But if you put money at the front when you are beginning life, you won’t make it. That is one thing that has helped me. I have not thought of, ‘oh, I am doing this and making money.’ But as time goes on, when you develop skills that people appreciate, you won’t be the one asking them for money; they will be the one paying you for your services. Yes, you are money-conscious, but if you must succeed as a volunteer, do not be so focused on what you get as stipends. I remember when I started volunteering with my first organisation, the stipend that I got was £5,000 (five thousand naira). What can that money do? You’ll buy data, this, and that. But do it and also try to get engaged in activities that will pay you, and that’s why I learnt different skills. If this one is not paying me, this other one will give me what I want.

Beyond your term as SUG President, what are your long-term goals and aspirations, both professionally and personally?

My long-term goals are to continue with my education, complete my BSc, go for Masters, PHD, start my own family, set up my business, and work in my dream company.


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