Hi! My name is Mirabelle Morah. I am the Editorial & Communications Head at BlankPaperz Media.
I’m an open-minded and innovative media and communications specialist with an entrepreneurial background and I’m skilled at using leadership, literature, communications and digital media as tools for amplifying voices, encouraging positive social development and bringing results in a digital world.
Fascinated by the power of writing, storytelling and digital media, when I was 17, a few days shy of being 18 actually, I began BlankPaperz Media (BlankPaperz.com), an award-winning platform that amplifies the voices and stories of young Africans – especially writers – who are working towards social good. [Since then], I’ve grown BlankPaperz into a platform with over 120 contributors across Africa and other continents, and I’ve held in-person training sessions and collaborated with other organizations too.
BUT REALLY, ABOUT MYSELF: I grew up in Calabar, Nigeria and I enjoyed literature a lot [growing up]. Somehow, after Secondary School, my group of friends began to change. I joined a Christian youth fellowship that emphasized leadership, personal development and societal good. So I began volunteering for community service events or youth programs — especially while I was an undergraduate at the University. It fascinated people that I travelled around the world a lot, speaking at international youth events/conferences and sharing my knowledge on the importance of storytelling and amplifying young African voices and the solutions they’re creating (through BlankPaperz). I graduated as one of the top 5 students nonetheless.
After my final year, I moved briefly to Austria in the summer of 2019, to work with the marketing and communications team of Salzburg Global Seminar as an intern. I learned so much there and met a lot of amazing people, and lived/worked on the grounds of a wonderful palace known as the Schloss Leopoldskron, home of the Salzburg Global Seminar. I’m also currently serving as a country representative for a Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) Common Futures Conversations Platform; the project has its focus on fostering key policy dialogue between youths in Africa and Europe, also engaging key policymakers to effect change in areas such as climate change, education and inequality.
Some of my recognitions include being named an Ashoka Africa Youth Champion, a Global Teen Leader, being recognized by the U.S Department of State and by Malala Fund. [My work] has also led me to share my experience with others on local and international stages including the Impact Africa Social Entrepreneurship Summit in Johannesburg, giving the keynote speech on the International Day of the Girl Child in Calabar, speaking at the Social Enterprise World Forum in Addis Ababa, etc.
Company Name: BlankPaperz Media
Location: Calabar, Nigeria
Operating since: 2016
Company Website: www.BlankPaperz.com
Instagram & Twitter: @bpaperz
Tell us all about your organization. What services do you offer?
BlankPaperz Media documents and amplifies the voices and stories of African youths, writers, activists, and other young people who are using their words and social projects to address the social issues around them.
BlankPaperz does this by:
- Featuring and documenting the stories of young changemakers and writers on BlankPaperz.com, leaving links to them so others can reach out to them and get interested in supporting their projects.
- Organizing blogger and writers meet-ups, communication classes and storytelling workshops to teach about using social media for social good and also teaching about personal leadership.
- Acting as media partners to help NGOs and youth-focused events spread the word about their events on our social media platforms.
How did you get the idea or concept for your organization? What was your mission at the outset? Was there anything in particular that inspired you to start at the time you did?
Firstly, I started BlankPaperz a bit scared. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sustain it even for up to 6 months. I didn’t know if people would agree to submit articles to me. I didn’t know if people wanted to read about other people’s stories. The initial idea was just to create an online platform where I could put up my stories and ask my friends to send in their fictional stories too so I could publish them online and everyone would read about it. But the vision grew, as I became more involved in the development sphere and SDG awareness, and social activism as well. I realized storytelling and writing and the media are powerful tools for amplifying voices and raising awareness. That’s how BlankPaperz grew. I also was, and still am, inspired by Chimamanda Adichie and her books. My undergraduate thesis was focused on analyzing Gender Inequality in one of Adichie’s novels, Purple Hibiscus, as well as another novel by Femi Osofisan titled Wuraola Forever. I plan and look forward to working/collaborating with Adichie on some literary events and workshops soon, that involve leadership and media-centric topics.
Growing up, did you always intend to start your own company/organization?
Haha! Actually no! I didn’t know I wanted to start anything or that I would start anything. I just followed God’s leading to take some scary actions and things I was unsure of… And boom!
How have your past personal & professional experiences helped you to run your organization?
I volunteered a lot! Like I could miss some classes in school just because I was volunteering somewhere for some social event. Those were my first ‘initiations’ into the world of community development, storytelling and leadership. Being a volunteer also taught me how to treat people. Before I interned at Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria, which was super professional, I had been attending international meetings and conferences where I spoke to, talked with, and got acquainted with a lot of older people, ranging from ministers to top executives of multinationals, etc. I was also blessed with a mentor, Ben Kassoy who is the Editor-in-Chief of DoSomething.org. All these put together, gave me a lot of learning experiences.
What is the biggest personal/professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Me. I had to overcome my self-doubts. If I was good enough. If I knew enough. If people would listen to me. If things would grow. People probably talk about funding, yes that’s there too, but you have to first deal with the self before anything else. If not you’re going to just be doing things with negative vibes! But I was a student when I started BlankPaperz too. The ability to balance my studies and say NO to certain people who wanted me to do stuff for them when I couldn’t really do them was something I struggled with. So, I always felt drained, doing so many things at the same time and feeling dissatisfied with myself and my own plans too.
What’s your definition of success? Do you consider yourself a success? If not, when will you?
Yes. I’m successful. I’m listening to God, I’m going the God-way, I’m doing what God wants me to do and being where He wants me to be, because I know His plans for me are bigger than what I can imagine. To me, success is doing what God’s asked me to do – not what society has defined and not what trends demand.
Have the women around you helped you to rise? How?
Oh yes! My sisters and my mom are the best. There have been so many women around me telling me some hard truths, giving me feedback, helping me out in times of my need, etc.
What are some of your future plans?
I’m working on BlankPaperz, and by God’s grace I’ll keep making voices and stories that should be heard go viral, and I’ll help people get others to support their positive and life-changing causes.
What advice would you give to a woman starting out in your industry or starting her own company/organization?
Your friends can either make or mar you. Choose your friends wisely. Remember there are great but irrelevant opportunities on the way to success. Not everything that shines is gold so be careful the battles you choose to give your energy to. Always ask questions, stop assuming. Even if your questions seem silly, ask away. Your assumption might kill you. Learn to negotiate, and demand what you want. Be humble, always ask for God’s directions.
Describe yourself in ONE word.
Complete this sentence: “To be a girl or woman today is…”
If you loved reading about Mirabelle Morah and want to follow her personally, you can visit her website at www.mirabellemorah.com, follow her on IG at @mirabellemorah and on Twitter at @mirabellecruz.