Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi: Women’s rights activist and community mobilizer
By Toyin Falola
Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is defined by her versatility, in addition to her compassionate dispositions in favor of altruistic humanitarian services. A woman always brimming with energy, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi exemplifies a capability that is generally rare among her contemporaries— the ability to multitask with efficiency, commit herself to goal-driven objectives with fixated attention to success, and the tendency to show effervescence of brilliance. For anyone unfamiliar with her life story, a brief expedition into her childhood trajectory and transition into adulthood would more exclusively reveal the underlying dedication and perseverance that she has demonstrated and the circumstances that fostered these qualities.
Born in Liverpool, England, on June 11, 1963, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi had been exposed to a cultural and political tradition that places an important premium on every individual contribution to the advancement of their immediate society. To be raised in England within the temporality of her development engrained an ambition to build a worthwhile legacy because of the understanding that every human being has the potential to contribute to their community. In translating this understanding to personal contribution, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi asserts that the prospect of contributing to human society can only be secured when one is armed with knowledge so that the issues of life can be solved by reflective thinking rather than relying on other people.
In 1984 and 1988, respectively, Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi acquired her B.A. and M.A. in history from the then University of Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). Studying history granted Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi a competitive edge by allowing her to gain an understanding of the complex relationships between past conflicts and present states. Armed with her background in history, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi gained the tools to become an effective historian, a sort of social scientist who could utilize her knowledge about the interrelations of the past to produce solutions and projections of modern conflicts. Using her degree as a foundation, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi diversified her knowledge by procuring additional academic merits, further leading to her contribution as a social science researcher and advocate.
Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi went on to pursue studies in Gender and Society, and received an M.A. degree from Middlesex University, UK. Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi’s interest in gender studies influenced her decision to work toward the interrelationship and the interdependency of the disciplines she studied. Following her education, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has worked tirelessly to fulfill many roles. She is a writer, a feminist activist, and social entrepreneur. All these engagements demonstrate her versatility and quest for social transformation so that distributive development can be ensured for people. The roles allow her to work toward voicing the struggles and needs of a marginalized community of women that have long been repressed.
Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has impressive and undeniable records of her contributions to better society through her various acts of humanitarian service, leading to her being widely respected and revered in contemporary times. In an irredeemably patriarchal system, the suppression of female voices and the subjugation of their identity have affected their confidence and victimized them, sometimes beyond what they are capable of bearing. As a feminist, she has represented women by lending her voice to issues and matters affecting women’s relationship with men, especially in terms of power. She has deployed her intellectual resources and used her social relevance to project the agitations of diverse groups of women. It should be noted that advocacy for equal treatment is more than just raising one’s voice against injustices, it implies actively employing one’s beliefs in their cause in their daily lives. When one’s life is a living example of the course one believes in, it erects a formidable knowledge in people’s minds and creates a sense of purpose. Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi, to this effect, does not only offer her voice to project the anomaly that is entrenched in human society for critical examination, but she also exemplifies to women the beauty of being intellectually independent.
As an entrepreneur, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi was exposed to the material challenges of the society, and because she was well-groomed in her academic career, she was able to offer great advice to the government on how to build a fair society where the dreams of the marginalized can be achieved. Her actions have allowed to integrate aspects of intellectual, financial, and political equality for all members of her society. She demonstrates that having financial freedom gives people the power to negotiate their space in society, sending a message to women that they must be ready to make some hard concessions in their quest to have an impartial society that allows them to maximize their potentials. This shift in human thinking would make women understand the significance of work, as it forms the basis for the respect that they yearn for.
Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi is a philanthropist who offers financial assistance to individuals undergoing certain life challenges so they can achieve their life goals and objectives. This cannot be true of everyone because giving requires making the well-being of others a priority, though she has managed to inscribe her name into the hearts of many because of her generosity and kindness. Her compassion for people who are pushed to the margin wins her respect and the admiration. Socially, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has rendered herself important in spearheading social movements that would benefit the oppressed. She has become and developed support systems for many people through both her public and private endeavors through her indescribable determination.
Her emotional and cultural association with Africa and its people, has inspired her work as a dedicated human rights advocate whose engagement of the political system does not have a physical boundary. She has played front-line roles in pushing for the enhancing and sustenance of African rights in Africa and the United Kingdom. She has often lent herself to movements advocating for racial equality and justice in the UK. As a result, the international respect she commands continues to grow through her never-ending contributions to the general concerns of the people. Before she made herself relevant in the political negotiations and power dynamic of the United Kingdom, she constructed for herself an identity of a purposeful and goal-driven life whose ideals are admirable, even adaptable in many cases, because she was always willing to render her services to others. Working as an Administrative Officer in the Department of Health of the United Kingdom for example, she was able to represent the interests of many people through policy formulation so that all their expectations of public health would be reasonably achieved and the institution respected.
For a decade, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi represented African women in areas where issues concerning them have been condemned to silence for ages. Serving as the Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), whose headquarters is domiciled in Kampala, Uganda, between 1991 and 2001, she promoted the African women’s agenda in the United Kingdom. Her contributions to their immediate involvement in key areas speaks volumes of her dedication to Africa, Africans particularly, and the human cause in general. Within this period, the number of projects executed under her leadership cannot be underestimated. For example, she was able to reaffirm their mission by educating them on their responsibility to the advancement of society and the government’s duty to them. Since she served as the connection between the masses and those in power, she was able to fight for those who were underserved. With this, she restored their reputation and shaped them a great future, creating a monument of social and political importance for herself. She achieved an unprecedented economic recovery and psychological well-being for the women in the society within a decade of uninterrupted service. Making herself available for the people and increasing people’s access to her provided an opportunity for bonding and personal relationships.
It is to her testament that while she was still officially committed as the Director of AMwA, she was able to simultaneously create another group with a similar mandate to ensure that the goals of transforming the lives of the people and making them more valuable in the society were rapidly achieved. The group, which she co-founded, is called African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI). Their impressive records of success within a short time indicate their sequential and captivating strategies designed to achieve their predetermined objectives. Nothing better captures the significance of AWLI to the collective course of women’s emancipation than their record of training approximately 6000 African women across the continent. Many of these trained women are vibrant front-liners in their respective fields of interest today, as Ministers, Members of Parliament, academics, civil society leaders, and more.
By implementing these training programs, the exposure of women to knowledge and skills would emancipate them from the shackles of financial and economic challenges. In the same spirit, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi in the year 2000, co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a fundraising and granting firm with a continent-wide influence. Since the women trained in these programs and organizations understand the complex nature of their experience, AWDF was created to answer the questions of funds that would liberate the women accordingly. In fact, over 2000 women have been awarded funds in 42 African countries to help grow small businesses around them.
Beyond the empowerment of women in providing both intellectual and financial assistance to them is the demonstration of leadership gaiety in the course of their emancipation struggles. The contemporary political structure of the world dictates that the challenges facing a people must not be limited to their temporal and political space. Therefore, what is usually needed is to get the world’s necessary political and economic powers to accord the necessary attention and concentration to tackle the challenges. This inspired Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi to get involved in women-related agitations, as women’s rights are in effect human rights, advocating for an all-encompassing approach.
As the Vice-Chair of the National Association of Women’s Organisations, England and Wales (1992-1994), she dedicated herself to lead a delegation of African women in Europe to the 1993 United Nations Human Rights Conference in Vienna, Austria, to push further the agitations of women across the global community. She would not be complacent with the achievement recorded there and became more instrumental to the course of women’s freedom and coordinated a 20-woman delegation from Africa and Europe to the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. In all her manifestations of purposeful leadership, her selflessness makes her outstanding among her contemporaries.
Having someone with pioneering influence in rewriting women’s history should not be without the befitting recognition of her efforts. Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi’s efforts have significantly impacted society, and important groups observe her consistency in the process. Due to her uncompromising commitment, waves of recognition greeted her performances as an advocate of gender equality and an ambassador of collective development. In 2005, she was recognized by Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK) with an award of outstanding leadership in promoting women’s rights, an encouragement for others to strive for the enormous contributions that Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has made and continues to dedicate herself to. Interestingly, the award prize that is pegged around £100,000 is devoted to combating HIV/AIDs for African women, further demonstrating her dedication.
Despite demonstrating a high level of selflessness in this endeavor, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi did not relent in her efforts to restore women’s dignity through negotiations of power and the education of the concerned. She founded the Ekiti Development Foundation (EDF), which is dedicated to promoting women’s affairs and youth emancipation. Though her contributions seem numerous and intimidating, there is no limit to the level of investment that can be dedicated to the course of women because the prospect of the marginalized people in a society is determined by the amount of motivation and interest they attract from the power base of their environment. As a result of the program organized by Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi, the annual Gender Summit was introduced, and it has gained much prominence in the society. Within Ekiti, for example, countless women receive medical attention, welfare packages, and empowerment funds meant to improve their lives and transform their poor economic conditions.
Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has been recognized with awards and tributes by recipients of her hands of goodwill. In addition, as a general recognition of the impact she has made in human history, she has been bestowed chieftaincy titles such as Ochiorah of Imezi Owa, Ezeagwu Local Government, Enugu State; Erelu of Isan kingdom in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State; Ajiseye of Ado-Ekiti; and Iyalode of Ilafon-Ekiti. This is in addition to the different awards she has received on other occasions. All of these are indications that this two-time First Lady of Ekiti State has persistently worked to improve the conditions of the people generally and the women especially, with a zeal that has not been equaled in recent time. She continues to fight for the causes she believes in—emancipation, freedom, and equality for everyone, regardless of gender or social class.
In the next Toyin Falola Interviews, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi would be engaged on topics related to the advancement of African women. The interview will be an opportunity to garner knowledge from her. Do please join us on:
Sunday, June 27, 2021
5:00 PM Nigeria
4:00 PM GMT
11:00 AM Austin CST
Register and Watch: