Dear Young Aidah Hanifah,
Syukur Alhamdullilah, I am able to share my collection of stories as an inspiration and motivation to the younger world outside there, so that my journey in life’s lessons would be heard and could possibly result in a positive ripple among women in our beloved country, Negara Brunei Darussalam.
Therefore, I am writing here to provide you, my younger self, a guidance, strength and support as you sail through the waves of life with challenges ahead through the journey to think, lead, promote and creating initiatives towards moving the country’s economy, in this case, in the development of the agricultural and agrifood industry in Brunei Darussalam.
The beginning of adulthood was not constantly easy. Making sacrifices and distancing from family when going to further studies in Malaysia and Nottingham, United Kingdom was one of the examples of balancing freedom and responsibilities.
With passion and dedication, I consider myself to be one of the local women who ascertained a noble contribution to our country, developing the agri-entrepreneurship while implementing programmes and projects to ensure the consistent and increase of agricultural commodities production for the national food security as well as food safety in order to contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through embracing modern and high-technology farming, increase in productivity and exploring export markets.
These activities are on-going and must be strengthened from time to time. Increasing the gross output of the agriculture and agrifood industry during my tenure as the Director of Agriculture and Agrifood from 2010 to 2018 was not a smooth sailing one. Nevertheless, with concerted efforts, innovations, great motivations and hardwork, we were able to establish more progressive farmers and entrepreneurs. The gross output of the agriculture and agrifood industry has increased exponentially from BND$227 million in 2010 to BND$436 million in 2018. This will be continually strengthened in the coming years.
Of course, giving back to our people and country has always been my yearning eternally. The most important thing is job satisfaction, which keeps you on the move, thinking out-of-the-box, innovative, creative and to be a leader by example, in the world and hereafter, and nurture yourself continuously to be a good Citizen, an obedient Muslimah, a motivated worker, a good wife and a great mother.
Looking past experiences of father who had reared chickens ain the backyard; venturing into a small business with grandfather as a side income to accommodate 11 kids at home, besides being the Headmaster of Sekolah Ugama Keriam, Tutong, I discovered that I was once a farmer’s daughter. My father owned a 5-ha fruit orchard at Kg Birau where we savoured varieties of local fruits during fruit season. Incognizant of this was, of course the beginning of my agriculture background, having fun with my brothers and sisters, when collecting the fresh eggs & packing eggs with old newspapers for customers coming to our house and harvesting fruits for family & relatives. Remember when father took us sailing through the sea? The skies were limitless and so were our possibilities. Only Allah knows how we, most of our siblings, have become senior officials and make our contributions in our own ways to our beloved Brunei Darussalam. Alhamdullilah, we have made our parents very proud by the grace of Allah SWT.
My dear younger self, you wanted to travel the world, broaden your horizons and create great memories, having posh cars and a big house. Father used to say to me and my siblings, “Belajar rajin-rajin” (Study hard). Look at you now, at this age, you have traveled half the world, still enriching your knowledge and representing your country in various regional and global meetings, delivering speeches and presentations, brainstorming with significant responsibilities.
Dear self, there will be a time when you will be questioned by many, and the trials of life, opinions and expectations might push for self-validity.
Failures will lurk around in every opportunity and in addition, there will be pressures of society, parenting and economy. Hold onto yourself, these are only temporary and let your intelligence radiate peacefully and seek for Allah’s guidance through prayers and practising Al-Quraan.
One of the important things in life, never forget Allah the Almighty, make prayers, read Al-Quraan sometimes during the days and the nights, and put your trust in Allah whole-heartedly. InsyaAllah, the journey will be easier and fully guided by Allah.
Continue to discover and progress yourself. Nurture courage, perseverance and passion as you will need this for better leadership and people management. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being is to be always checked and balanced. One day, you will become a role model to our young and powerful women, thus continue to exemplify wisdom and be full of inspiration. Let’s not forget about relationships, as these are where good communication will be greatly needed. A great leader does not command, but leads with skill, teamwork, commitment and be a leader of a great family in the department. Show love, friendship, softness but remain determined, and instill trust as well as good leadership among officers and staff. Know that one day, you will make a great difference!
Being young and extroverted, there is nothing wrong with desiring top designer products, such as Chanel, Prada, Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton etc. In fact, you will look flamboyant donning the Gucci Marmont attending wedding ceremonies. But oh dear, please always remember, materials possessions will not last forever and you have to save for a better future. Wealth is a blessing not all may have, therefore never forget the needy and provide some charities in the name of Allah. May you be blessed with abundant sustenance. Aamiin.
Finally, I promise you a brighter future, as long as you always remember Allah SWT, to take my advice and to hold onto them dearly.
It will take time which would test your patience and build your circles. Always listen to our advice which we derive from our past experiences, trust your instinct in making decisions, express your true feelings in communications and through writing more poetry as you always did. Don’t forget to be beautiful always, exercise, be healthy, be loving and caring towards family, friends, officers and staff. Learn to stay patient and calm always. Be a true, good as well as an action-oriented leader, hope you always meet deadlines and emphasize on achieving targets. Nevertheless, above all, you must have a strong self-discipline. And last but not least, please enjoy the journey!
Mrs Aidah Hanifah
Former Director of Agriculture And Agrifood (February 2020)
Department of Agriculture And Agrifood
Ministry of Primary Resources And Tourism