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Adebola Adefioye: Personal experience, racism inspired me to start Afro Women and Youth Foundation

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There are so many Nigerians living in the diaspora making us proud, Adebola Adefioye is one of them. She is not only raising the flag high but also empowering other women while at it.

A proven, resilient woman whose work with women and youth span over 10 years, she coordinated the For Girls the Only programme at The Real Woman Foundation, Lagos, Nigeria for some years. Aside from her natural interest in the social sector, she has also deployed professional services in the childcare sector. She is a Registered Early Childhood Educator in Ontario and an alumna of Coady International Institute where she studied Advancing Women Leadership in Conflict Transformation, Peacebuilding, and Community Development.

Adebola is a certified speaker, coach, and trainer with The John Maxwell Team and she founded Afro Women and Youth Foundation, an organisation she started to support the holistic development of vulnerable African women, girls, and youth. This is where she deploys her advocacy strengths and leadership skills to deconstruct the enormous, socially constructed injustices in the society while empowering, mentoring, and developing leadership skills of marginalised populations.
 
Married with three adorable children, her social entrepreneurship and educational commitment work got recognition recently as she was named the recipient for the 2020 HELIX Female Entrepreneurship Award and Walker Wood Foundation Early Childhood Educator Award at Seneca College, Ontario, Canada. She was also nominated as a Woman of Inspiration at Universal Women’s Network, Canada.

She is a professional member of the College of Early Childhood Education (CECE), Ontario, Family Support Institute of Ontario (FSIO), and Association of Early Childhood Educators, Ontario (AECEO) Canada.

Childhood Influence
Yes, growing up prepared me for what I am doing now. Growing up was good until things turned around when my father had to retire earlier than planned from his banking job in Nigeria because the bank wanted to recruit young graduates. Our family’s financial situation changed quickly because we are a polygamous family and the available funds were no longer enough for all. I had to drop out of the University of Ado-Ekiti and struggled a lot by myself after that event, but all the experiences helped me to build resilience and now I can relate when I see young girls going through a difficult situation.

Inspiration behind Afro Women and Youth foundation
I have always known that women and girls are very vulnerable, and as a new immigrant, I faced some difficulties. I experience subtle racism regularly and my daughter experienced it very hard from Grade 2-3 because she was the only black girl in class. I kept coaching her on how best to handle it. Eventually, she built enough confidence and she started speaking up whenever necessary. Last year, she won the award for Most Confident Child in grade 5.

My personal experience and that of my daughter inspired me to start the Afro Women and Youth Foundation.  At AWYF, we currently run monthly empowerment events for marginalized African women, girls, and youth in Toronto, Canada. Some of our past sessions include (The Resilient Woman, Be The Best, How to Handle Peer Pressure, Integration in Canada Positive Parenting Strategies, etc).

The journey so far?
It has been very fulfilling; helping others makes me and my team very happy. We just hope the people we are helping now will someday extend the love to other people.

Being the recipient of the 2020 HELIX Female Entrepreneurship Award, and Several notable Awards in Canada
I felt very good. I worked very hard as a club leader, mentor, and tutor to other students at the college and also support new African immigrants in my community. I am very happy and thankful.

Challenges of being a Social Entrepreneur
Getting sustainable funds to implement my transformative ideas has been the most challenging part of my work. This is because we are a new nonprofit. I am very grateful for the individuals and organisations that currently support my work and very hopeful for more support and collaborations.

Three women who inspire you to be better and why
My mother is my greatest inspiration; I watched her return to school after 6 children and moved herself out of dependency to becoming an independent woman. She has also faced many other challenges but she remains strong.
 
Pastor Adenike Adeyemi is another person I strongly admire and working at her organisation (The Real Woman Foundation) for 4 years as the For Girls Only programme coordinator further prepared me for the social developmental work I do today.
 
Mrs. Omowale Ogunrinde, the executive director of Field of Skills and Dreams, Lagos is another great inspiration to me. She employed me as Hat & Beads Trainer after I dropped out of the University and moved to Lagos from Ibadan. I watched her every day at work as she runs her business with strong principles.

Bridging the gap between my work in Canada and Nigeria
We recently started virtual training that is open to women and youth living in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. We just concluded a self-care training for educators last month and people joined from Burundi and Nigeria. We also did another one for youth and all who attended both events were given cash gifts by a sponsor as COVID-19 relief.

AWYF will be celebrating the 1st anniversary in September and to mark the event, we will be launching an Interest-free small business loan for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) victims who have established small businesses. This is coming with the help of a sponsor who is interested in fighting GBV in Nigeria. This intervention program will be delivered in partnership with Attitude Development International (ADI) and only those who have officially reported their experience and have started their businesses will be eligible for the funds. These are things Nigerian women can benefit from.
 
Being a social entrepreneur, research assistant at Seneca College, a mother, and wife, and managing it all
I am a strong-willed person and I think multi-tasking is one of my gifts. I also have a very supportive husband who is equally a social entrepreneur and believes in women’s empowerment.

The pandemic has made a lot of Nigerian women vulnerable, What coping mechanism advice would you give to these women at a time like this?
I would recommend regular breathing exercises. Every woman should regularly make a list of things they are thankful for as those can bring great joy in this difficult time. Also, it is important to hang out with good friends who make you happy. It could be a physical or virtual connection, but we all need that sense of connection at this time. Lastly, I’ll say, ask for help when you need it. I must also add that women should please speak out when experiencing any form of violence.

Being a Woman of Rubies
I have had many negative experiences over the years and through mentorship, coaching, and personal development, I have learned how to consistently bounce back and thrive in the face of adversity. Most importantly, helping others to do the same is what makes me a Woman of Rubies.


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