The New Age Journey of African Fatherhood
A girls first love is usually almost, always her father! This relationship shapes her self-esteem, self-image, confidence and opinions of men. Removing all other external components of child rearing, with a PRESENT, and LOVING father the psychological development of girl is bright. Girls that are loved on, develop a strong sense of self and are more confident in their abilities and strengths both personally and professionally. Have you met a woman whose father calls her princess?! She carries herself with the pride of her ancestors, and talks with the strength of her mother.
A new generation of fathers are deliberately combatting misogyny and traditional cultural masculine norms in our societies that are harmful to women and girls. Fathers like Dr. Ismail Badjie understand that to create a just-world it requires teaching their sons to do better and also, empowering their daughters to recognize and walk away from the toxic behaviors of the men in their lives.
This series will share the stories of young fathers raising African girls across our beautiful continent. We start with the amazing Dr. Ismail Badjie, a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), a husband, and a father. This is his journey!
Meet Dr. Ismail Badjie!
Our first #AfricanGirlDad to share his journey
Tell us your story. Who is Dr. Ismail Badjie?
I was born in The Gambia, raised in the US (New York) briefly, and then back in the Gambia for a decade of schooling, before returning to the states. I am the middle child of 5 siblings, born to an amazing pair of parents who never gave us a reason to look outside for role models. I am a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) by training but now wear many hats, one of which is working for a startup healthcare solutions company in Africa (Innovarx Global Health).
I am a fitness enthusiast and now live in Charlotte, NC with my two heads of household (My wife Adama and Daughter Isha Haddy).
What do you enjoy most about being a father?
Being a father gives me the opportunity to experience love in a way I had never felt before! An unfiltered, and unguarded expression that has allowed me to explore the depths of my emotional makeup which I’ve kept at bay my entire life. My daughter (Isha Haddy) has become my muse. My reason “”why”. She is intuitive, and curious in a way that both frightens and excites me. I see so much of myself in her, and she has a loving spirit that truly gives me life. I am most vulnerable, and free when around her because the love between us is unconditional.
What has been the hardest moment you have had being a father? Why was it hard?
My career path took a turn as I ventured into entrepreneurship as it came with a steep cost to my family. As a father, being away for extended periods of time and depending solely on technology to communicate with my daughter causes a deep yearning for her warm embrace and tactile interaction. It is my greatest insecurity, hoping the sacrifices being made do not lead to a level of dilution in our bond. It’s a heavy burden I carry around daily while equally grateful for her amazing mother who provides an anchor and a strong shoulder to lean on. Love and attention is always in abundance, even when daddy is away.
What tradition(s) did your father pass on to you that you will pass on to your daughter?
I think a healthy dose of confidence, and a sense of pride in her identity is definitely something I will pass on. Sometimes, the world has a visceral way of making children of African descent be very negotiable with their identity, I hope she remains steadfast in embracing the richness of her heritage. This can be manifested by teaching her and speaking our local dialects, encouraging her to explore her roots to the extent she can while also being empowered to not abide by certain traditions she does not agree with.
We live in a society where equality is still not a reality, as a Gambian father how will you prepare your daughter to combat the challenges she will encounter in both her personal and professional life?
I think it all begins with making her realize the nuances of our Gambian culture that are inherently patriarchal and sexist. Microaggressions are constantly masked as cultural idioms, and I hope she builds a knack for rapid identification and rejection. Our environment at home with her seeing the co-equal partnership in full display between her mother and myself will provide a firm foundation. She is also privileged to be surrounded by dynamic women in her aunts and grandmother who will shape her views on the world. I am prepared to have as many conversations with her to limit her acceptance of assigned gender roles that pervasively permeate within African societies, limiting the potential of so many women.
What’s the biggest life lesson your daughter has taught you so far?
My daughter has made me reckon with the fact that ambition itself can be a curse when it comes to creating a healthy work-life balance. I lived over three decades of my life with a tunnel vision on goals and aspirations, until she came into my life and made me realize no greater legacy project existed besides infusing all the love and nurturing into her. She constantly provides lessons of focused attention when she demands my undivided gaze in her presence.
How would you like to be remembered by your daughter?
As someone who loved her more than he ever loved anything else! As an imperfect person who made daily commitments to provide her with all the security to blossom into her own independent self, free of societal agreements. Most Importantly, I want her to remember me as a warm shoulder that was always there to listen and support in any way possible.
The Our Stories, Our Way Fast Three!
1. What is your favorite song at the moment?
Mariama by Gee and Jizzle
2. What is your favorite book to read to your daughter?
Princess Halima and The Kingdom of Affia
3. If you and your daughter could have lunch with any person, who would it be and why?
My Grandmother Aja Fatim Mbenga, she was the embodiment of feminism when it was least popular!