Celebrating Nigeria’s Women Advocates on International Women’s Day

As the world shines a light on the achievements of women on International Women’s Day, Nigeria stands tall, celebrating its own powerhouse advocates who are making a difference. From fighting for gender equality and social justice to championing education and economic empowerment, these women are shaping a brighter future for themselves and countless others. Today, we honor their dedication, their impactful work, and the inspiration they provide to future generations.

Olaoluwa Abagun: Leading the Charge for Gender Equality

Olaoluwa Abagun is a Nigeria-trained lawyer, feminist, and gender/international development expert, committed to advancing gender equality and girls’ rights. As the founder of the Girl Pride Circle Initiative in 2014, while still an undergraduate law student, Olaoluwa pioneered efforts to advocate for girls’ rights to education, equal opportunities, and safe communities in Nigeria. With over a decade of experience, Olaoluwa has excelled in grassroots and high-level advocacy, program management, and qualitative research, focusing on gender transformative education, gender-based violence, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Reflecting on the challenges faced in promoting gender equality in Nigeria, Olaoluwa noted, “Some roadblocks to advancing gender equality in Nigeria include deeply rooted socio-cultural norms that continue to depict women/girls as being ‘less’ than others in society; inadequate resources to sustain a cohesive and impactful feminist movement that truly works for and with Nigerian women; and the sad reality that women’s voices remain very far away from policymaking tables and corridors where there is real decision-making power in Nigeria.”

Asked how she has collaborated with other stakeholders she said: “Over the past decade, I’ve had the honor of collaborating with numerous NGOs across Nigeria, including the Initiative for Girls Rights and Health Development (IGRHD), Education as a Vaccine (EVA), Women’s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP), and the Gender Mobile Initiative, among others. These organizations play a crucial role in grassroots mobilization and advocacy on gender issues, underscoring the importance of support and resources from key stakeholders and community members. In addition to working with NGOs, I’ve partnered with Christian and Muslim religious leaders to promote a message of zero tolerance for sexual and gender-based violence within religious communities. I firmly believe that fostering connections both within and beyond the women’s rights movement is essential for building lasting relationships with allies and ensuring the movement’s enduring impact”.

On the progress made, Olaoluwa highlighted, “In recent years, Nigerian laws protecting women from domestic violence have been commendably strengthened, especially with the enactment of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act and the subsequent domestication of this law by a vast majority of the 36 states in Nigeria.”

Karimot Odebode: Paving the Way for Education and Gender Equality

Karimot Odebode is a lawyer, poet, and advocate, driving change through her Black Girl’s Dream Initiative, focused on education and gender equality. Recognized by the UN as a Young Leader for the SDGs, she’s deeply engaged in initiatives like UN Girl’s Education Initiative and serves as Generation Connect Africa Youth Envoy. Karimot authored “a woman has many names” and is pursuing a master’s in Education Policy and Analysis at Harvard University, cementing her dedication to transformative education.

Discussing the challenges faced, Karimot highlighted, “My biggest challenge in promoting gender equality in Nigeria will be the ‘intentional ignorance’ by men and institutional actors to silence women and girls.”

Karimot emphasized the need for continuous progress, stating, “We still have a long way to go in ensuring gender equality. This is a nation where the idea of a woman being the Governor of a state is still alien.”

Shedding light on the importance of collaboration, she said: “Collaboration with stakeholders is paramount in my line of work, and throughout the years, our organization has cultivated partnerships with various entities including the private sector, government, and community leaders to effectively pursue our objectives. An essential strategy we employ to foster cooperation and unity within the Nigerian women’s rights movement is aligning our goals. I collaborate with individuals who share a fervent dedication to advancing women’s rights, engaging with them on the basis of our mutual commitment to this cause”.

Adenike Oladosu: A Climate Advocate Empowering Women

Adenike Oladosu is an ecofeminist, climate researcher, and advocate for climate justice. She holds the distinction of being the first climate graduate in agricultural economics. With a diverse background, Adenike has been a fellow at esteemed institutions such as the panel on planetary thinking at Justus Liebig University, The New Institute on black feminism and the Polycrisis, and Amos Trust International – UK.

Currently, she is a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Adenike’s focus lies in promoting peace, security, and equality in Africa, particularly in the Lake Chad region. She is the visionary behind the “I Lead Climate Action Initiative,” dedicated to restoring Lake Chad and promoting green democracy. Through her initiative, Adenike has empowered over 10,000 women and girls by providing access to resources like organic fertilizer and indigenous seedlings.

Addressing challenges faced in promoting gender equality, Adenike emphasized, “Non-climatic factors such as tradition and culture interfere with women’s empowerment which also affects the passage of the gender bill.”

Offering advice to aspiring changemakers, Adenike stated, “Stay focused. Engage with a civil society group to enact change. Age shouldn’t deter you; whether young or old, your impact matters. Begin with what you have; small actions count.”

Roseline Adewuyi: Championing Women’s Rights Through Academia

Roseline Adewuyi is a dedicated advocate and scholar pursuing a PhD in French literature with a Graduate Concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Purdue University. Committed to advancing gender equality and providing equal opportunities for women, she actively organizes and engages in campaigns for societal change. Roseline prioritizes amplifying the voices of young women, empowering them to overcome societal barriers and stereotypes. With a blend of academic expertise, practical experience in gender-related issues, and a holistic perspective, she contributes significantly to discussions on women’s rights.

Discussing challenges faced, Roseline emphasized, “One of the major problems I have faced as an advocate in Nigeria is breaking through deeply set cultural norms and beliefs that support inequality between men and women.”

Reflecting on Nigeria’s progress, Roseline noted, “Nigeria has made significant progress toward gender equality in recent years. Reforms in the law like the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act have made a big difference in tackling crimes against women and other issues like domestic abuse.”

On how she has collaborated with other stakeholders, she said: “I acknowledge the rich diversity of experiences and perspectives within the movement, and I embrace collaboration with an inclusive approach. Active listening, empathy towards specific challenges, and seeking common ground are all essential elements when engaging with diverse individuals and organizations. Transparency and open communication with stakeholders are fundamental values I uphold, as they pave the way for meaningful dialogue and understanding. Providing platforms for discourse, such as conferences, workshops, and social gatherings, fosters exchanges of ideas and strengthens connections. Initiatives focused on economic empowerment or collaborative academic projects aimed at addressing shared objectives can cultivate bonds and yield tangible results. Furthermore, I consistently emphasize the critical importance of intersectionality in advancing women’s rights, recognizing the interconnected nature of various forms of discrimination and oppression”.

Offering advice to women aspiring to be changemakers, Roseline stated, “To all aspiring young Nigerian changemakers, I offer hope and empowerment. Embrace your unique strengths and perspectives—they are your greatest tools for positive change.”

As we reflect on their achievements, let us recommit ourselves to supporting and amplifying their voices, forging a future where every woman and girl can thrive. Together, let us honor their contributions, celebrate their triumphs, and continue the journey towards a more equitable and inclusive world for all. Happy International Women’s Day!

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