As far as she’s concerned, marriage and parenting are no reasons for any woman to give up on her dreams. Read the inspiring story of Dr. Deborah Lawal who hawked salad and Adire fabrics before her breakthrough!
My name is Dr. Deborah Temisan Lawal. I was born in the late 1980s in Ilorin, Kwara State. My parents gave birth to six children, and I’m the second. I grew up in a middle-class family.
My father, who was the major breadwinner in the family, was working with the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria as a surveyor. My mother was also working to support the family.
I was raised in a Christian home. My typical routine included attending church services regularly.
I was greatly influenced by my parents. My father was very strict, and he ensured that we did everything properly and at the right time. Meanwhile, my mother is very patient and tolerant. She is also a strong and prayerful woman.
I had my primary education at the Federal University of Technology Staff School in Niger State. Since my father loved education, he enrolled us in the best schools. After I passed the common entrance examination, I was posted to Government Girls Secondary School, Minna. I stayed there for one year before I transferred to the Federal Government Girls’ College, New Bussa, Niger State.
Living in a boarding house was both challenging and interesting. Back then, most of the students were from affluent families, and the level of competition was very high. As a junior student, it was difficult to blend in. Seniors often took advantage of my naivety. But I started mingling very well when I became a senior student. I also became a popular figure because I was the leader of the Dominion Voice Choir, a choral group I founded.
After I passed out of secondary school, I wrote JAMB twice, but my score was below the required cut-off mark for admission. My father wanted me to be a doctor, so that’s what I applied for. However, in the third year, I decided to change the course from medicine to music.
Since I was born, I have always loved singing and writing songs. So, I wanted to pursue my passion instead of following my father’s dream. When the results came out, my score was very high. I hid the information from my father and hoped that he would accept my choice when I’m finally admitted into the university. Unfortunately, it was during that period that he had an accident and died.
After my dad died, it seemed like everything was falling apart right in front of us. My mother was given a sack letter at her place of work just one month after we buried my father. Things continued to go downhill. We couldn’t afford good meals, my elder brother needed money for his final year project, and my younger siblings were sent home from school because of school fees.
On several occasions, I had to beg the school owners to pardon the delay in payment. It was in the midst of all these that I got a letter of admission from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
When I saw it, I had mixed feelings because I knew that my mother couldn’t afford the fees at that time. However, I was just hoping for a miracle. When my mother noticed my worries, she said, “I have prayed, and God said I should tell you that, ‘It’s not by power, neither by might, but by my Spirit.’ So, don’t be afraid.”
Thankfully, God showed up by providing and touching the hearts of people to support us financially. That was how I commenced my undergraduate studies at the University of Nsukka in Enugu State.
My first year in school was not easy. I could barely eat three times a day. Every little money was spent judiciously because I didn’t know when or where the next one would come. I cannot remember how many times I prayed and cried, asking God to change our story.
The temptation was so strong to do what other girls were doing, but I resisted it because I didn’t want to break my mother’s heart.
During one of the semester holidays, I travelled to Abeokuta and bought an Adire blouse for myself. When I wore it to school, some people told me that they liked it. They even asked me to buy it for them. That’s how I came up with the idea of selling Adire fabric on campus.
During the holidays, I would go to Abeokuta to buy the fabric and sell it for twice the price in school. The business actually blossomed, and I was able to pay my school fees and other fees until I graduated from the university.
I got married in 2012, and that was immediately after I left the university. So, I started living in Abeokuta with my husband. When I tried to get a job, I couldn’t find any good one, so I started selling vegetable salad.
I took some plates of salads to a school nearby and asked the teachers to sell them to parents and students. After some time, I noticed that the sales were low, and later they told me that they didn’t exhibit the product because they were afraid of their boss. That was how all the salad I made got spoilt and I lost my capital. I was really hurt because I had borrowed part of the money from my mum.
After that business failed, I started selling female slippers, shoes, and clothes. Despite being a certificate degree holder, I was moving around, begging people to buy my goods. It was not easy at all. I met some people who bought the clothes on credit, and those who requested that I should give them for free. Despite the stress and insults I was receiving, I had no savings. The business eventually failed due to various challenges.
My foray into academics
I’m blessed with a wonderful husband. I don’t think I would have come this far without his support. A time came when I told him that I wanted to go for my Master’s degree, and he gave me all the support I needed.
I obtained my Masters in Music Education from the University of Lagos, Akoka. While schooling, I was travelling frequently from Abeokuta to Lagos, and he was always looking after the kids during my absence.
Whenever I hear some women giving excuses for abandoning their education, I always smile. I wrote one of my exams six days after I had a child. My mother had to travel with me to Lagos to take care of the baby while I was in the exam hall.
I experienced financial challenges, too, but God saw me through. Your situation might be different from mine, but one thing is certain: if you are truly passionate about something, you will not give up until you have achieved it.
I obtained my PhD from Ignatius Ajuru University of Education and I am currently a lecturer at the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta. Although the journey was not smooth, today, I’m happy and enjoying the experience.
Life as a personal development coach
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.” When I was younger, I used to suffer from procrastination. I was really bound by it until God delivered me.
Did you know that there are many people blessed with ideas and talents, yet they don’t maximise them because of laziness and procrastination? I decided to become a personal development coach to motivate and guide people on the smart ways to achieve their goals.
Due to my life experiences, it is easier for me to understand the challenges of other people. Most times, after participating in my training, I receive feedback like, “I was inspired to start my business”; or, “Now, I realised what I have been doing wrong, ” and so on.
Through counselling, I have also saved the lives of some people who were depressed. Whenever I hear such testimonies, I feel very happy and thankful to God for making me a useful vessel.
I relax by listening to music. I enjoy reading good books, especially motivational ones. I also love my job because I have a flexible work schedule which allows me to spend time with my family.
I have observed that some women are unhappy and full of regrets in their later years because they abandoned their careers when they started having children. God knows that you can still achieve all your dreams while building your home; that’s why He gave you a dream.
Don’t use childbearing or family as an excuse to give up on your dreams.
You have only one life, and when it is over, you will give an account of how you used the talents and opportunities that came your way.
Don’t hide your potentials anymore. The world is waiting for you, so, rise up now and shine.