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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

Column: ‘Africa is not a single country, many countries and cultures make up the continent’

Africa Day celebrations are taking place nationwide this week. Here, writer and broadcaster Carol Azams writes about her life in Ireland.

Carol Azams

I’M ORIGINALLY FROM the West-African country of Nigeria and hail from Bayelsa State in the Niger-delta region of the country. I am a mum of five kids and my husband and I moved to Ireland 12 years ago, in 2002, to seek asylum with four of our children. We were fleeing from the risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for my three young girls.

My fifth child was born here in the same year we moved and we were then able to withdraw from the asylum process. We re-applied on the Irish Born Child (IBC) scheme and were granted permanent residency on the basis of having a child born in Ireland in 2005.

When we first got here, our kids were aged between three and 12 years old, with the eldest just about to enter secondary school. They now age between 11 and 24 years old, respectively. My two eldest are both university graduates now, one with a master’s degree from DCU, and the other with a bachelor’s degree from Institute of the Technology Blanchardstown. My middle child, who only started in Junior Infants when we arrived here, will be going to college next year and my second youngest is doing well in secondary school. The baby of the family, born here in Ireland, can’t wait to start secondary school next year.

Ireland has been a huge blessing for me and my family

I won’t pretend to say that it’s been easy for us the entire time because it hasn’t. We’re pretty much well settled in after so many years living here, but the journey to settling down in a foreign country is not always straightforward or easy for anyone. My family has had our fair share of struggles to get us to where we are now, particularly in terms of learning to do a lot of things differently in order to fit in with a new culture.

And there was also the issue of racism; unfortunately, I have personally experienced racism in Ireland at different levels and in different forms both from individuals and institutions. I know it’s not an ‘Irish thing’ and it happens all over the world. If I had the divine power to change one thing, it would be to eliminate racism from the planet. People should not be treated differently because of their race and cultural identity.

Ireland has been a huge blessing for me and my family in many ways for which I will always be grateful. Living in Ireland has provided me with opportunities and allowed me to achieve things that I could otherwise only imagine. I feel empowered to do the things I really love and since I have been living here. I have gone from being a housewife and stay-at-home mum, which is a very rewarding role of course, to learning a lot of new things and be able to educate myself in many ways.

I have been able to run my own crèche as a qualified Early Childhood Education practitioner, write books, and become a publisher and radio broadcaster (on Dublin’s Phoenix FM). I have plans in the near future to run a college in the city centre alongside my husband, who has an MSc in Marketing and Advertising from Leicester University.

Educating young children about the countries of Africa

I am delighted to be involved in this year’s Africa Day event in Dublin on 25 May 2014, where I will be at the African Bazaar reading from my children’s book, titled “The Children of Africa” at the Nigerian Diaspora Radio stand.

My book has been dedicated to Africa Day celebrations and it’s the story about all of Africa’s countries profiled as the main characters in the book. It gives each of the countries a voice to speak about their importance in the continent of Africa. The main reason I decided to write such a book is to educate young children about the countries of Africa, their differences and distinctions, and for them to have an understanding that Africa is not a single country – many countries make up the continent.

Africa Day celebrations, supported by Irish Aid, are taking place nationwide this week and the national Africa Day flagship family festival takes place in Farmleigh Estate, Phoenix Park, Dublin 15, on Sunday 25 May from 11am to 6pm and is free of charge. Follow Africa Day on Facebook and Twitter @AfricaDay #AfricaDay. For more information visit www.africaday.ie.

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