2021 International Women’s Day: #ChooseToChallenge

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Adesayo Adelowo: On a Mission to Empower Women

Dr. Adesayo Adelowo, a survivor of childhood neglect and trauma, has been on a mission to empower women and girls for over two decades through teaching, providing practical tools, imparting knowledge, while sharing her experience, strength, and hope. As the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Fragrance of Influence, an organisation set up to prepare women for life through education, mentoring and coaching, her vision is to support 500 African girl-children to attain education while also creating as many life skills courses as possible to empower women at all levels. Mary Nnah reports

For the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Fragrance of Influence, Dr. Adesayo Adelowo, her life goal is simple- to empower women and girls at all levels. As a survivor of childhood neglect and trauma, she passionately uses her voice to speak to women and girls to identify who they are and stay connected to God so they can be all that God has called them to become.

Purpose to Influence

Fully loaded with good ideals, strength over adversity, and imperfections turned into benefits, her passion to equip teenage girls and women to become powerful, productive and maximise their potentials informed her decision to organise “The purpose to influence virtual women conference’. The vision of the conference is to help women become aware and draw on reserves of strength, courage, creativity and resilience that may lay dormant in them and invigorate their courage to connect to their purpose to influence.

Motivation for Fragrance of Influence

On the defining experience or motivation for founding Fragrance of Influence, Adelowo noted that “when we are born, our voice is the first sign of life. We enter this world hardwired to communicate through our voices. It’s as natural as breathing, I assume for some more than others. Somewhere along the line, many women become quieter and silenced as a result of negative experiences caused by discrimination, marginalisation and oppression of all kinds.

“In a culture that celebrates distraction over focus, women’s identity becomes a product of imposed cultural and social process and political relations. Their identity brings the possibility of being discouraged and frowned upon because they are deviants from the prevalent and acceptable form (the male child).

“Personally, I have experienced how women are allowed only to maximise their potential, so far it does not challenge nor violate the norm. Women are powerless, defined, delineated, captured, understood, explained, and diagnosed using the scale of the norm, patriarchy.

“So, it becomes a matter of production over purpose and noise over listening, because of these errors and evil committed against women, many women find their voice lost, compromised, and even ridiculed.

“However, women are made in the image of God to reign and rule over the earth and God blessed them and command them to be fruitful, multiply and replenish upon the earth, unfortunately, the society has its own inferior mandate for women, there are many contradictory voices to the voice of God, unfortunately most women have been robbed of the strength to challenge these contradictory voices, rather they succumb to listening to such voices, making it hard to hear and trust their own.

“These thoughts and experiences informed my passion to found Fragrance of Influence and coupled with the fact that growing up I saw my mother pushing back and resisting the dominant patriarchal voice.

“I am a product of a strong, assertive, though quiet woman who strongly believed in the best for a girl child, I am strongly inclined that women are not inferior to their male counterparts, I believe that women have all it takes to live a fulfilled life only if they are given the chance to do this.

“Also, the passion to found fragrance of influence stemmed from master’s in social work in 1997, there were two specialty that I was attracted to, Women development and medical social work, although I opted for Medical social work because at that time I was working in a medical setting, my heart was for women development, during my training my worldviews became challenged as I learnt about the possibilities that I could achieve as a social worker. I realised that I possess an amazing array of abilities that I can use to advocate and serve women by allowing them to gain and understand the importance of human relationships, dignity, and self-worth. As a social worker I give voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless and help to the helpless.

With this understanding, I decide that social work is a tool for me to spend time with the neediest and the most vulnerable people, especially women, so I willingly give myself so that other women may be empowered; hence the birth of Fragrance of Influence and its related services.”

Why Women Should be Empowered

Sharing why she strongly believes that it is important to ensure that women and girls are empowered, Adelowo noted that “it is important so as to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere. In most cultures, women are considered second class citizens, the weak, dependent, frivolous, seductive, and foolish one. They are thought particularly to be incapable of foresight and to lack the capacity to make and carry through sensible and realistic plans.

“Women and girls suffer all forms of violence in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation and harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

“However, women can be powerful agents of change. In this light it is pertinent that ensuring women’s and girls’ human rights is fully realised and their empowerment have a transformative and multiplier effect on sustainable development.

“Empowering women will ensure their full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision- making in political, economic and public. It is important to have gender equality and women’s empowerment and the full realisation of human rights for women and girls as it impacts on a transformative and multiplier effect on sustainable development and is a driver of economic growth in all nations.”

Vision

On her vision and measures put in place to attain it, she said: “My vision is to support five thousand girls who are from disadvantaged backgrounds in their education. The support could be in the form of scholarships and of education in socio-emotional and life skills needed to navigate and adapt to a changing world and make decisions about their own lives. I believe in holistic education for girls. It is shocking to know that in many countries, among girls who do enter primary school, only a small portion will reach and far fewer will complete secondary school.

“Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; have the opportunity to complete all levels of education acquiring the knowledge and skills to compete in the labour market; learn the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to a changing world; make decisions about their own lives; and contribute to their communities and the world.

“The question is, how many education institutes guarantee this holistic perspective, very few of course and if there are any, it would be at an enormous cost to the child’s parents. The big goal would be to develop a purpose to influence school for girls by 2030 and provide a fully funded education for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will transform the lives of 5,000 girls through a fully funded, wrap-around, boarding school education. I am convinced that girls deserve the opportunities. The more girls are helped to become leaders and role models, the better off our society will be. Transformed by the power of an excellent education, these girls will become the mothers, achievers and change agents.

“How will I attain this goal? I believe in the power of vision, if I can see it, I can have it, further to this, I am collaborating with some individual, non- for-profit organization to harness resources for this goal. I will be partnering with the World Bank, UN women and other international organisations to realise these goals.”

Communication Channel

Delving into various ways she has been communicating with women and how effective that has been, the coach said: “I believe women are uniquely formed. According to Max Lucado “You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You are not an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master Craftsman.”

“I communicate this truth to women through lectures both physical and virtual, secular, and church conferences, social media platforms, and I have published two books on Fragrance of Influence as it relates to women and leadership.

It has been effective because I have seen women’s lives being transformed as they embrace the truth that they are on earth on a purpose and they have the mandate to design their desired lives.”

Foundation

Sharing a bit about her foundation she said: “I come from a family where my father thought I did not count because I am a girl child, I did not have emotional support from my father. He was not interested in my wellbeing at all. I felt neglected by him most of the time and I felt trauma because I could not understand why he was not accepting of me because of my gender.

“When I turned 16, these were days of trials and darkness. As I mentioned earlier, I had passed enough subjects at O Level to gain admission in to a university but because, I did not apply for JAMB, I had to find something to do before the next JAMB exams, but my father had a different plan for me, firstly, he advised that I should go to Grade Two Teaching college, because that is what one of my uncles and cousin did, I didn’t even see any sense in that suggestion, so I did not consider it, after that he was able to find employment at Ondo State Broadcasting company as a radio broadcaster, oh mine! that was a very elegant job then in 1985, but because I knew his plans for me was just to get rid of me, I declined the offer.

“Why did I decline the offer? you may want to know, I remember that when my sister completed high school, my father was able to find a job at The National post office, Akure for her, and after a short while, he found a man who was genuinely in love with her, and my sister got married at 20. I am sure that was my father’s plan, start work as a broadcaster, work for a while and get married, sincerely, marriage did not appeal to me at that stage, and I did not want anyone to sabotage my journey, so I turned down his offer, left home, I did not know where I was going but it felt like I had to run for my life, so I did.

“A positive experience for me was when I got married I have two girls who are accepted and nurtured by my parents in love, it was like a dream having given birth to my girls and I watched how my husband celebrated and nurtured them.

“Another sad unforgettable episode was when I heard that my cousin passed in her sleep because she had concussion, apparently, she had suffered brain damage because of physical violence and abuse from her husband, indeed, and it was so difficult for me to grapple with.”

Doctoral Studies

On her research about how women have to adjust to the new society they immigrated to, she said: “

I completed my doctoral studies in 2021 exploring the adjustment of African women living in New Zealand: A Narrative Study! This research uses a narrative method based on Africentric philosophy and a unique storytelling tradition that reflects the beliefs, values, and ritual of African people to understand the experience of the African immigrant women as it relates to their psychological adjustment to New Zealand.

“The research found that the main purpose for African women to migrate to New Zealand was career development which could be realised through educational achievement.

“While the most significant stressor spoken about by the women was missing home and the losses associated with it. The most significant coping strategy the women used is communalism. The outcome of this research confirms that African women are resilient and highly focused; this helped me understand the nature of the support that is helpful for them.”

Life as an Author

As an author, Adelowo said: “I have published two books namely… The Fragrance of Influence, one of the few books written purposely to inspire women of this generation. It so beautifully illustrates how God can use anyone for His plans and how we, especially women, can fight our fears, influence other women positively, and bring glory to God.

“Through this book, I have helped the women folk to see that there is more to them than just getting married and raising children. The woman was given the same Dominion Mandate that the man was given, hence she is meant to bring glory and pleasure to her Creator – God – by excelling in academics, ministry, career, business, or whatever sphere of influence she finds herself.

“This book also shows us, through the Bible and contemporary days, women who exercised their God-given dominion to positively influence the lives of people and society at large. Hence, no woman should live less than who she was created to be – The Fragrance of Influence.

“The Fragrance of Motherhood is the story of mothers and girls. It’s about their radiance, potentials and winning streaks as they rely on their God-given abilities. Motherhood is golden! The fragrance of Motherhood is conspicuous in all aspects of life.

“The woman in all her essence and beauty, gifted with the womb and incubator of nations, without which the mandate to be fruitful and multiply would be impossible. Motherhood is a gift to the world by God, a gift that has birthed, shaped and still shaping many generations.”

Focus

On the gains of the past two decades and areas women need to focus on changing in the decades ahead, she posited that “for millennia, women endured inequality, discrimination, and violence in relative silence. Issues affecting half the human population went neglected by predominantly male policymakers, historians, artists, and leaders. But recently, because of technologies, women have been able to share their experiences more widely than ever before, anger over these injustices began to smoulder and then ignite.

“Some years back, girls were not considered worthy of continuing their education but were rather sent off for early marriage, that has changed drastically, now, there are women with college degrees, working and succeeding and leading. Now, more young girls are given the opportunities to grow and learn.

“Previously, in some countries, women were not outspoken about gender-based violence and domestic abuse. With more awareness, we see today women coming forward and taking the future in their own hands.

“As women’s voices rise into a global chorus, they are not only addressing gender-based violence. They are also rejecting centuries of stigma – calling for an end to period shame, for better access to feminine hygiene supplies, and for better data on long-neglected women’s health issues, like post-partum depression and gynaecological disorders. These changes have been accompanied by a rise in the status of women and girls. It is important for women to work and earn money so that they can meet their own needs and help cover household expenses.

“Around the world, women need to be empowered to take on roles that were once beyond reach. Feminist economics should work harder to reshape how policymakers understand women’s roles in the world, drawing attention to the unpaid work still disproportionately done by women. Unpaid domestic and care work falls disproportionately on women, restraining their economic potential as the COVID-19 pandemic additionally affects women’s jobs and livelihoods.

“Although women are increasingly seeking to become policymakers themselves, they still lag behind men in elected positions. Twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, progress towards equal power and equal rights for women remains elusive. No country has achieved gender equality.

“Women continue to be underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, representing only slightly more than 35% of the world’s STEM graduates. Women are also a minority in scientific research and development, making up less than a third of the world’s researchers.”

Advice

On her advice to young women aspiring for a fulfilling life, she charged them to constantly focus their attention on the things that are significant to them, especially on the values upon which they want to build their life, adding that “the characteristics of the person you desire to be, and the mark that you feel most called to make. For a woman to live a fulfilling life, she has to be aware of her identity, that is, who she is and whose she is, and draw on reserves of gold in form of strength, courage, creativity, and resilience that has been deposited in her and invigorate her courage to maximise her potential and the influence the world.

“The whole world must accept that women have the mandate to reign and rule and that leadership is not necessarily a result of inherent birth traits in the personality and nature of the individual, nor to be reserved for men because men naturally were more fit to rule and lead, instead, women and men are, and should be leaders because God created humankind to lead and rule”.