Commodore Jamila Abubakar Sadiq Malafa overcame challenges of culture and religion in Northern Nigeria to become the first woman to get to the rank of Commodore in the Navy which is equal to Brigadier General in the Army.
She hails from Gombi local government area of Adamawa State, North-East Nigeria, and she is an international Maritime lawyer with the Nigeria Navy.
Commodore Jamila Abubakar Sadiq Malafa had dreams of becoming a nurse before joining the Nigerian Navy.
In 1988, a friend convinced her to join the Navy though she was apprehensive as she knew nothing about the military. She initially ran away from her training camp and was brought back where her hair was cut. With time, she slowly assimilated into military life.
When her training was completed, she informed her superiors that she wanted to return to school and was allowed to do so due to her rank of officer.
Currently, Commodore Malafa holds the position of Deputy Director Civil-Military Relations (Law Support) making her in charge of the law department at the headquarters.
Commodore Malafa remarks: “Honestly, I never saw the profession as male-dominated or any of its activities as challenging that will make me have a change of mind because I love what I am doing; well, we are given the same training with the men, and we are expected to do whatever they can do. I was among the first set to be commissioned as Mid-Ship Men.”
Commodore Malafa hopes to encourage other women to join the Nigerian military, but so far hasn’t had much luck.
She confess, “It is sad because now I am the only female officer from the core north and the most senior in the Navy profession.
“I had to extend my stay when I was told that a woman from Zamfara was interested and was coming over to Sokoto for the exams, and I was ready to allow her to write the exams alone but she never turned up.
“I also went on air to call on our women to join, but that did not change that perception up to date. The military is a profession you can join and still have a life, a home and a family.”
In an interview with BBC Pidgin, Commodore Jamlia Malafa talked about how she got to where she is today.
The first challenge when she wanted enrolling into the military
Her father was very strict and did not support any of his daughters joining the military except to go to school. She did not ask permission from her dad before she joined the military.
When she finally joined the Navy, fear did not allow her to tell the dad. When her dad finally found out about it, he wasn’t happy with her. He asked her to leave the Navy and come back home.
Commodore Jamila said, “My father was my first challenge when I wanted to join the military” because of culture and religion.
Social and religious challenges
“The number of northern women in the military was very low and many of them are finding it difficult to join.
“Many challenges which prevent northern women from joining the military include issues like marriage, society, religion and many others”, Jamila said.
She said even as she joined the Navy, it did not prevent her from anything, she dresses and lives her life the way she should as a Muslim woman.
She said she did not face any gender discrimination throughout her stay in the military.
She said the training and the rank are the same for women and men in the military.
“The only thing is that women in the military should not see themselves as ‘junior to men’, they should see themselves as equal.
She said she does not understand why Nigerians like fighting about tribe issues because the woman who made her join the Navy is from Ogoja. She had never met the Ogoja woman before but she made her join the Navy.
She believes the door is open for any woman that wants to join the military.