STORY: Chef, content creator, entrepreneur.
Sherifah Yunus Olokodana is carving a unique niche in Nigeria.
"One of the major push is to give women confidence that even from their homes, they can achieve a lot with their businesses.’’
But her ultimate goal is to shatter stereotypes - specifically those people hold about Muslim women.
‘I am telling people that the stereotypes about Muslim women isn’t correct, and now when people see women dressed like me they smile because they know that we have more than they see.’’
Sherifah - a Yoruba Muslim - has been a pastry chef for nearly two decades.
She shares her recipes online and sells her own award-winning spice mixes.
Sherifah also hosts a monthly online cooking show - teaching people how to prepare special dishes with natural spices.
But still, she faces prejudice about her work and her decision to wear a hijab.
Locator: Lagos, Nigeria
‘’Being a woman who dresses this way, I have to do ten times the work of the average woman because for people to even listen to me, I must have gotten to a certain stage. I have done this work consistently for over ten years, I’d say thirteen years in the spice mix business and eighteen years in the cake and pastry business and now that my brand is known, you can see how long it took and the major thing is how I am dressed.’’
But Sherifah continues to work in Nigeria’s Lagos, a country home to more than 210 million people.
It’s split between the largely Christian south and mainly Muslim north - where cultural norms often discourage women from pursuing their own businesses.
“Women in Hijabs continue to get negative vibes from people. The people who don’t wear Hijab say oh this doesn’t happen, but that is the problem. People who dress the way I’m dressed are looked down upon in Nigeria”
Not everyone shares this view though.
Among the Christian community is friend, social media influencer and fellow chef Rayo Ahenmokhai, who shows full support for Sherifah:
(Rayo Ahenmokhai / Social media influencer)
‘’I love the fact that she is a living example of what you can achieve from home and following your faith. You know people look at us and they say we are on two extreme divides, she is a devoted Muslim, I am a devoted Christian and yet we are able to come together, why? / We agreed on one thing, we want better health for Nigeria and we want women to actually be able to do what they want to do and to be successful in everything they do.’’
For Sherifah, it's all about changing hearts and minds.
“I am a pacesetter and I am so proud of that, being a pacesetter in the sense of Muslim women are given better regard, are more respected."